Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation

Article excerpt

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, revised and updated by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones. Free Press (a division of Simon and Schuster) (http://www .simonsays.com), 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020, 2003, 400 pages, $30.00 (hardcover).

In their superb book Lean Thinking, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones offer hard-hitting, practical principles on banishing waste and improving productivity in organizations. Success for the leader is the ultimate destination, and that depends on the tools we bring with us. Lean Thinking will help leaders develop the skills they need for a successful journey in combating waste. As defined by Womack and Jones, "lean" involves the ongoing elimination of unnecessary, non-value-added steps within a process, which contributes to bottom-line results, increased competitiveness, and improved levels of customer service. As prescribed in this book, lean thinking offers a way to make work more satisfying and challenging by providing regular feedback on efforts to convert waste into value. Differing noticeably from the recent emphasis on process and organizational reengineering, lean provides a way to create a new methodology and design for work rather than just destroying jobs for the sake of achieving efficiency. A classic, this book serves as a map, guide, and manual on how to create real, lasting value in any organization. In several respects, Lean Thinking is relevant to Air Force Smart Operations for the twenty-first century since it addresses continuous process improvement and makes sense of the concept and practices of lean. A powerfully compelling aspect of the book is that it strategically considers not only how to think of lean but also what to think of it.

The authors have written a timely, intelligent, and comprehensive text that addresses provocative ideas for driving greater efficiency in eliminating waste. Their innovative strategy encompasses initiatives touching all of an organization's business functions and processes. They correctly argue that waste is the enemy. In their judgment, to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return is dysfunctional, counterproductive, and potentially devastating to any activity. It is obvious to the reader that the more savings we achieve, the more committed we become to finding even more opportunities to further improve the way we do business and generate additional savings. If companies wish to survive, continuous improvement in reducing waste must become a priority organizational value. This is a clear imperative in any highly competitive global environment. The authors contend that practitioners who have a passion for improving the way they operate need a simple-to-read and simple-to-use source, coupled with improvement strategies that bring usable tools to the workplace. By correctly utilizing these methods, and providing proper leadership and commitment, they can make a major difference in the conduct of work.

Appearing on Business Week's best-seller list of business books, Lean Thinking consists of four interrelated parts. Part 1, "Lean Principles," explains actionable principles for creating lasting value in any business venture. This requires a conscious attempt to precisely define product value, capabilities, and prices through a dialogue with customers. Applying these principles in a step-by-step process necessitates close observation of the entire set of activities entailed in creating and producing a value-added product or service. Part 1 considers redefining the work of functions and departments within organizations, submitting that the reengineering movement has recognized that departmental thinking without a broader organizational vision can become one-dimensional and suboptimal. A key aspect of this involves employing the principle to shift attention from organizational categories (departments) to lean, thus value-creating strategic processes. …