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


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.

Questions, Topics, Quotes, and Links:

  • 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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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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