The Lean Practitioner’s Handbook: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: May 20th, 2013 by bobmorris

Lean PractitionersThe Lean Practitioner’s Handbook
Mark Eaton
KoganPage (2013)

A lean explanation of how to introduce or improve effectiveness of Lean initiatives in almost any organization

In a remarkably informative Introduction, Mark Eaton explains why he wrote this book, briefly reviews the history of Lean dating back (at least) to 1473 and the Venetian Arsenal’s use of a continuous flow manufacturing process to construct an entire ship in less than an hour, and, explains what his narrative provides and how the material is organized. I commend him on introducing each of the chapters with a set of questions to which he responds in the given chapter. He makes clever use of other reader-friendly devices when concluding chapters, such as Figures, boxed “What you need to do,” and “Closing thoughts” sections which will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key points later.

Eaton provides a wealth of information, insights, and counsel to help practitioners master the most important Lean concepts as well as the tools and techniques needed to apply them effectively, at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. He also focuses on various Lean concepts as well as initiatives that include “scope” improvement projects, “Value stream events,” management of daily improvement efforts, increasing the quality and extent of engagement of members of cross-functional teams such as those that remove barriers, improve cycle time or reduce first pass yield.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Eaton’s coverage.

o A brief history of Lean (Pages 3-7)
o Planning a Lean project (12-16)
o Overview of the Toyota Production System (25-32)
o The five principles of Lean (39-48)
o An overview of scoping (56-58)
o Tactics for making scoping easier (83-84)
o Key concepts in value stream mapping (86-95)
o Three-stage value stream mapping (95-108)
o The practicalities of value stream mapping (112-114)
o 3P events: Product and process planning (129-130)
o Managing for daily improvement: everybody, every day (180-185)
o Embedding the change after a Rapid Improvement Event (187-190)
o Creating a culture to support Lean (192-201)
o The behaviours of Lean leaders (201-203)
o Closing thoughts (250-257)

Keep in mind that this is a handbook, not a textbook. For relatively inexperienced with Lean, it offers a rock-solid introduction to fundamentals. For those with extensive experience with Lean, its greatest value will be derived from timely reminders of those fundamentals as well as from what may be different perspectives, points of emphasis, and at least a few do’s and don’ts of which they were previously unaware.

Albert Einstein offers an especially relevant reminder: “Make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.” By all means eliminate waste wherever it may occur and measure much more accurately whatever you must manage. However, use Lean thinking to identify and cut “fat” but never “muscle.” I congratulate Mark Eaton on the wealth of information, insights, and counsel that he provides. Bravo!

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