Podcast #372 — Karen Gaudet on Lean at Starbucks and “Steady Work”

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My guest for Episode #372 is Karen Gaudet, author of the excellent book Steady Work, which was published by the Lean Enterprise Institute.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a former employee of LEI and they provide a review copy of the book.

In today's episode, we discuss her experience with Lean at Starbucks. It's a fascinating story that includes a transition from the old way (the Seattle HQ figuring out “best practices”) to a new way (where store managers and baristas were taught how to design “playbooks” and to continuously improve the way the work is done in a particular store).

I hope you enjoy the conversation!


Streaming Player:



For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/372.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher or Spotify.


  • Purchase the book via LEI
  • Purchase the book (Kindle, paperback, or Audible) through Amazon
  • Please introduce yourself, what's your current role at LEI?
  • How did you get introduced to Lean (at Starbucks)
  • How was Lean pitched to you and Starbucks associates and leaders?
  • Tell us about the old “Seattle HQ figures it out” approach, pushing “best practices,” and teaching people Lean methods that they can use themselves?
  • Why do you say “standardization sets us free”?
  • What's the idea of a “playbook”?
  • Some say “standard work means we always do everything the same way” – but that's not always practical or helpful, so what do you do?
  • How do you manage it when standardization that benefits the store and most customers causes problems for some?

Thanks for listening!


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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

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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.

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