If you’re like me and you’re relatively new to Lean and continuous improvement, there’s an overwhelming number of books available to show you the ropes. Where do you start? Here I’m sharing a list of Lean books that’s a combination of what I’ve read and what our customers and partners recommend.
You could certainly find more than ten great books about Lean, but this is a good start.
This book, by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, is the first book many people read about Lean over 15 years ago. It’s a more readable overview of Lean principles, taking Lean beyond Toyota and the rest of the automotive industry (as The Machine That Changed The World covered). In this book, you’ll learn about core concepts like value, value streams, flow, pull, and the pursuit of perfection.
This was the first book in what’s become a long series of “Toyota Way” books by Jeff Liker. This book introduces the 14 high-level management principles that form the Toyota Way management philosophy. This includes principle #8: “Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.” Our customers like the sound of that.
Our Greg Jacobson, MD got his start with Masaaki Imai’s first book on continuous improvement: Kaizen. We also recommend Mr. Imai’s second book, which was recently updated to a second edition, Gemba Kaizen. This is a great place to learn about the mindsets and practical details of Lean and improvement.
I liked this book, so that doesn’t make me a dummy. KaiNexus’ own Mark Graban turned me on to this book that he liked, as well (listen to his podcast interview with the author). This is a very readable and solid intro to Lean concepts, tools, and mindsets.
To dig deeper into “Lean culture” and the role of managers, our customers recommend this book by David Mann. It’s even recommended by healthcare leaders, as it’s a very versatile book. What is “standard work for leaders?” This book will explain this and many other daily Lean management practices.
Many of our customers swear by this book by Mike Rother as a way to teach and practice disciplined problem solving and process improvement. See our page about kata and watch Michael Lombard talk about this methodology.
Many “Lean purists” (whatever that means) swear by the original books by Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo about Toyota and the Toyota Production System. The Workplace Management book is a more recent compilation of thoughts and wisdom from this Lean innovator.
This book by Eric Ries is all about the application of Lean thinking to the formation, validation, and growth of startup companies. We find this book to be very helpful and inspirational, even though KaiNexus was founded before this book was released. As Ries teaches, we try to not just ask “can we build something?” but also “should we build it?” from a customer and market perspective.
These last two books are by our colleague Mark Graban. Since many of our customers are in healthcare, it’s natural that they would read this book as an introduction to Lean methods, mindsets, and principles as adapted to and practiced in healthcare. We recommend this as a great overview for healthcare customers.
Mark’s second book, co-authored with Joe Swartz, is a book we recommend to a couple different types of customers. We recommend it for organizations that are still just getting started with continuous improvement, as the Kaizen method is a great way to get started with small, simple, low-cost ideas. It’s also great for organizations that have been practicing Lean for years, but have been doing so just through formal improvement events.
It was hard to limit this list to just ten books. What other books do you recommend? What are your favorites? Leave a comment and let us know, or please comment on my list.