April Fool: Announcing my Next #Lean Book Project – Baby’s First Lean Book


bookAfter the nice response to Lean Hospitals and  Healthcare Kaizen, I often get asked, “So, what's your next book going to be?” (other than the upcoming  Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen, that is).

I've had people suggest writing something about Lean in ambulatory care and outpatient clinic settings. Or maybe an introductory Lean book for another industry.

What I've decided to work on (and have already written, actually) might surprise you. But, I think you'll like it. And your kids will like it too!

There's already a nice little book called Everything I Know About Lean I Learned in First Grade. It's often said that children are the future. Can our precious little futures really wait until they are six years old to be exposed to Lean thinking? No! Of course not.

Baby's First Lean Book is Here

That's why I am proud to announce “Baby's First Lean Book.” My wife and I don't have kids, so of course that makes me a natural consultant to parents, schools, and whoever else interfaces with young resources in their cute little value streams. The book provides a complete, necessary, and sufficient indoctrination into Lean thinking, including the core principle of “Respect for Poppa and Meemaw.”

Here's the cover:


My initial “MVB” (that's Minimum Viable Book, not Minimum Viable Baby) was tested with some early adopter babies. After a few pivots (including the development of a paper that's more resistant to drool and spit up), I think the final product (as final as anything can be in a culture of continuous improvement) is pretty awesome.

After the controversy over Asian-style “Tiger Mother” parenting, I spent three years leading an MIT research team studying the child rearing habits of children in Japan, North America, and Europe. Supposedly serving as the “chief improvement officer” of the software company  KaiNexus  was the perfect cover story for keeping this research under wraps… until now, as we finalize the publication of the book.

The data and evidence show these practices work and will certainly be adopted by parents and schools all around the world. I think this book will truly be the “Mr. Machine That Changed the World” (a term inspired by a favorite toy of my childhood  in the 1970s).  These “lean parenting” techniques are proven to raise smarter, happier, and more productive babies, reducing the “time to market” of a fully-mature college graduate from 22 years to just 15. These “Lean Baby” methods like to  measurable improvements in childhood development and parental satisfaction.

So, after all this work, the book is almost out. Ironically, it takes about NINE MONTHS to get a book through the traditional publishing process. That's a timeframe that's familar to babies…

Lean for Babies from Babies

MarkBabySMThe book features a cartoon version of yours truly (I don't think it looks like me, either) who introduces your babies to cartoon versions of the leading Lean voices in a cute and unintimidating manner. Baby Mark explains some of the common misperceptions that are already appearing in the Lean Baby world and how there's a big difference between Baby Lean and “B.L.A.M.E.” – Baby Lean As Misguidedly Explained (ala regular Adult L.A.M.E.).

Babies will love helping parents learn SMED, or  Single Minute Exchange of Diapers.  While your baby is in the womb, you can teach him or her about “quick changeover” principles to help reduce the length of labor (won't mom appreciate that?).

The book will teach your baby how to 5S their toys, doing a “pasghetti diagram” of their process for putting the toys away. If your child is “resistant to change,” they will certainly respond to data showing how much more efficient that new playroom layout can be. If there's anything babies love, it's data!

TaiichiOhnoLeanBabySMBaby Taiichi Ohno will teach your baby about heijunka and how to level load their feeding schedule… which leads to a level loading of their diaper changing of course… something both parents will appreciate. There's a nice sidebar about installing a crib-safe baby andon cord so they can call for your assistance without crying.

There are tips for parents, including understanding if your baby's first word was indeed “kaikaku.”

There is an advanced chapter about engaging your baby in a collaborative “3P” design process  so they can design the layout of their nursery, playroom, and bedroom. As baby grows older, they will appreciate having created a flexible layout that adapts from crib to a “big boy” or “big girl” bed!

There is also a case study about teaching your baby how to use the FMEA methodology  to avoid dropping their binky on the ground, thereby reducing the number of times they fall down and go boom.

JamesWomackLeanBabySMBaby Jim Womack introduces the core concept of Flow. He shares an amazing case study about a child who converted his “Easy Bake Oven” from a batch process into continuous flow! There are no monuments in a Lean Baby's play room!

The book has great tips for teaching your child to deal with the “toy-heads” they will inevitably meet in pre-school, as they meet babies whose parents attempt to use “Lean Baby” methods without reading this book!



KaiNexus for Kids – Baby Kaizen

kainexus-kidzKaiNexus, the software company I've been working with as it moves from being a corporate infant to a toddler, is happy to announce that we now “make improvement easier” for babies, as our technology is now available on the popular LeapPad children's tablet. Click here to learn more on our “KaiNexus for Kids” page.

In the Lean Technology section of the book, a  cartoon Eric Ries (not pictured) explains how a baby is the ultimate “Lean Startup.” Your future programmer babies will appreciate Baby Kanban – as a way of limiting the WIP of toys being played with at any given time.

Baby Kata & Baby A3 – Baby Lean Thinking

MikeRotherLeanBabySMMike Rother, left, contributed an excellent chapter on Baby Kata. The five kata questions  are applied to the classic question of “why won't that baby share that toy?

  1. What is the target  condition? I want that toy.
  2. What is the current condition?  I don't have that toy.
  3. What obstacles do you think are preventing you from reaching the target?  That baby is a poopy head.
  4. What is your next action?   Throw a tantrum and shriek loudly.
  5. When can we go and see what we have learned from taking that action?  I don't wanna.

Rother explains that a Toyota baby nursery leader would ask the baby what alternative countermeasures they considered, such as hitting the other baby (a behavior we don't endorse!) or sitting and pouting. Classic Baby PDCA!

johnshookBabySMBaby John Shook will get your baby started with an A3 they will be revisiting and editing for the rest of their life! This is the real “Baby A3.”

I'm really excited that the book will be out soon! You can  pre-order the book today via Amazon.

You can also check out this fun “Baby's First Lean Book” merchandise, including shirts, mugs, and water bottles. Any proceeds will be donated to the Louise Batz Patient Safety Foundation.

Let me know what you think and let me know if you have a “Lean Baby” case study that you'd like to submit for consideration.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Love it Mark!

    Got a sneak peek of it’s development a few weeks ago.

    Trust it delivers on the promise ;-)


  2. Mark, congratulations! As a parent, I am overwhelmed by appreciation for what you’ve done for us all but also personal sadness that my daughter is too old for this now. Next year, I encourage you to tackle Lean for Teens, which I suspect will prove to be a far trickier prospect (imagine the five kata questions completely ignored or met with sullen grunts). Thanks for your hard work!

  3. Too funny Mark, a perfect book out of the chutes, so to speak. Thanks for making my day!

    BTW- you would think your Foreword writer Bob E would have gotten Real Lean for Teens together by volume 4. Needs to go back and do a bit more S of PDSA…boy is he milking it!

  4. I hope it is not too late to change the title. You might want to use “My Baby Can Lean”. For all of the parents that look for the videos and flashcards to help their kids READ they might stumble across your important contribution to the Lean literature (AKA “Story-time”).

    As the father of a toddler I wished this book was available three years ago!

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