12 Best Lean Management Books

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Best Lean Management Books

The Top Lean Books

Today you can find a large selection of books on almost any subject and Lean Management is no different. What we have tried to do here is find 12 of the best Lean Management books that focus on the key principles and ideas behind Lean.

These are books are for the general reader with an interest in change management, business improvement and business management.

This selection of the top 12 Best Management Books covers the traditional Lean Manufacturin plus Lean in Service, Lean Strategy, Lean Startup and how applicable Lean is in today’s society from a Leadership and overall management perspective.

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Lean Manufacturing Books & Lean Service Books

1 - Lean Thinking - Banish Waste And Create Wealth In Your Corporation

by Womack & Jones

While many refer to The Machine That Changed the World as the foundation of the Lean Revolution, I would still, without doubt, recommend Lean Thinking as the best introduction to Lean. It’s more accessible and while written initial in 1996, it was updated in 2002. The examples throughout the book remain meaningful and its a great mind opener for the world of lean. Definitely, the best introductory read for anyone interested in learning more about lean.

2 - Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together

by Womack & Jones

After Lean Thinking, Lean Solution is a great book that takes Lean thinking to the next level and begins to review actual industries and identifying the gap between customers and providers. With greater choice and greater flexibility, it highlights how providers need to be adding greater and greater value to customers.  There is a great chapter on the automotive sector which has almost become visionary.

3 - The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer

by Jeffrey Liker

The Toyota Way was the first general readership book which looked at the concepts, management principles and philosophy behind the success of Toyota. These 14 Management Principles have stood the test of time since publication and today, these principles are as relevant as before.  (Learn more about the 14 Management Principles).

The best book on the Toyota Production System

4 - Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

by Mike Rother

The Toyota Kata takes a look at the ideas behind the way Toyota managers it’s people and how it develops the best out of its people. It takes a look at the employee-management routines which underpins so much of the continuous improvement cycle. It takes a look at Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata – routines to leverage the best from our processes and our people.

5 - The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

by Eric Ries

In the Lean Startup, Eric Ries applies the concepts of Lean to innovation identifying why so many companies fail and how much of this is preventable. He highlights how the first step of any innovation is identifying what customers not only value but what they are willing to pay for. The idea is to learn fast by testing through the minimal viable product.

6 - The Machine That Changed the World

by Womack & Jones

The Machine That Changed the World was the catalyst for Lean Production as the authors conducted a groundbreaking study and analysis of Toyota and the entire Lean Production system. Even today, you can see how Ford & GM struggle but Toyota continue to grow from strength to strength. This was the first book that coined the term “Lean” and often seen as the starting point of Lean in Europe and America.

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7 - Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production

by Taiichi Ohno

Written by Taiichi Ohno, who many consider being the inventor of the Toyota Production System, this books covers the key concepts of waste, Just In Time thinking and looks at the overall Lean Production approach. “All you are doing is looking at the timeline … from the moment the customer gives an on order to the point when we collect the case. And we are reducing that timeline by removing non-value-added wastes.

8 - The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement: Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance

by Jeffrey Liker

The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement was the winner of the 2012 Shingo Research and Professional Publications Award.  TIn this book Liker helps its reader develop a vision for continuous improvement within their organisation and begin to plot a path to turn the companies vision into a measurable reality. A great book which links the core concepts with actionable ideas to start your companies lean journey.

9 - The Lean Strategy: Using Lean to Create Competitive Advantage, Unleash Innovation, and Deliver Sustainable Growth

by Michael Balle, Daniel Jones, Jacques Chaize, Orest Fiume

In The Lean Strategy, the authors take Lean from the front line of operations to how to develop and build a corporate strategy based on the ideas and concepts of Lean, just like Toyota have done. The authors look at how Lean can become a strategic and competitive advantage by using the tools but also by engaging the workforce and the people who make the difference.

10 - Design for Operational Excellence: A Breakthrough Strategy for Business Growth

by Kevin Duggan

Organisations do not go on a lean journey to drive our waste or to go through the continuous improvement cycles, they implement Lean because they want to achieve Operational Excellence argues Duggan, and he may be correct. This is a great book for the helicopter view of what happens or what could happen when Lean works and is implemented well.

2 Bonus Lean Management Books

11 - The Lean Toolbox: The Essential Guide to Lean Transformation

by John Bicheno & Matthias Holweg

This is not a book you pick up and read for the beginning to end, but something you delve into as you need to or when you a particular questions. It covers the tools, system, and principles of Lean. While it covers the tools with excellent examples that are well written, it also covers The Lean Philosophy and discusses a number of Lean Transformation frameworks for organisations. I reviewed this against the 4th Edition which I own.

12 - Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda (Lean Enterprise Institute)

by Mike Rother

This is not a book you are going to read from start to end. Its more a step by step guide on how to value stream. If you are going to do any value stream, I would suggest that this is read in advance and kept by your side during the sessions. It’s a great resource to help and will help get a much better result.

NEW - The Simplicity of Lean

by Philip Holt

Initially, I had some reservations about this book but I must say that it is one of the most practical Lean books I have read. The way the book builds up the approach across Culture, Kaizen, Projects and beyond is excellent and very few books have managed to capture the practical implementation of Lean. It is almost a Lean Playbook and it has grown on us to be one of our favorites.

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  1. Good books…

    1. Thanks, Qamar – any others you might include for general readership? I was thinking about Lean Sensei or Gemba Walks but wasn’t quite convinced that they should be included in the top 10 to 12. Thoughts?

  2. I shall be looking into those books for further reference, much appreciated.

    1. Hi John – from a Lean viewpoint – I would definitely recommend The Simplicity of Lean. We have just added it to this list. It’s one of those books that has really grown on us the more we pick it up and its a brilliant source for anyone looking to leverage the Lean Thinking we believe is so powerful.

  3. Best course to learn

  4. I shall be looking into those books for further reference

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