Book ReviewsLean Manufacturing

Reading Lean for Dummies

By Jon Miller Published on March 17th, 2007

I just finished reading Lean for Dummies. It covers a lot of ground in 362 pages. It’s full of diagrams, lists and other useful visuals. It is light and accessible reading. Parts IV “The Lean Enterprise” and Part V “The Part of Tens” are particularly valuable as reference and for setting the tone for how you will approach TPS implementation.
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, and by no means is our work error-free. In the spirit of kaizen, I am dissatisfied with the product. I criticize because I care.
On page 21, both pillars of the TPS house read “Jidoka” when one of them should be “Just In Time”. Oh the irony, to have made a quality error by doubling the pillar for Jidoka, standing for Built-In-Quality! Perhaps final inspection was eliminated.
The meaning of kai (改)is “change” and the definition of zen (善) is “good”. Zen does not mean “to see, or to gain wisdom from doing” (p. 118) in Japanese. As long as you do kaizen I don’t care what you call it or how you explain kai and zen. But if you think “zen” is “to see, or to gain wisdom from doing” rather than “good” you can make a “change” that is “bad” and “gain wisdom” from it without doing any good. This is not kaizen. This definition is potentially misleading.
The book claims (p.119) that companies like Toyota and Canon receive and implement 100 suggestions per person per year, more than two per week. The source is not cited. The number typically quoted by Toyota is one per month per person, implemented. Canon only went through their TPS conversion a few years ago, so for a short period of time they may have had two per week. The 100 suggestions per person per year number is misleading and unrealistic.
Page 121 discusses PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and introduces something I have never heard of before, SDCA (Standardize, Do, Check, Act) as a way to start when you have no standards as a basis for improvement. The “Plan” portion of PDCA defines the gap between current condition and ideal condition. If the current condition is that there is no standard, the Plan would be to “study and establish a repeatable standard”. If so, do we need SDCA?
The lack of mention of production preparation, either as 3P (Production Preparation Process) or simply equipment and process design to support one-piece flow, was disappointing. While one book cannot cover all Lean principles and tools, given the critical role of process design, a few paragraphs would have been fitting. To be fair, there is no good book on 3P in the market today, and not a lot of material other than on blogs or occasional articles. Production preparation know-how is one of those technical areas that Toyota does not share as readily with the outside world.
I am glad that Lean, TPS and kaizen have now become even more accessible to the masses through this cheerful yellow Lean for Dummies book.


    March 18, 2007 - 1:09 am

    Excellent information sharing on Lean. Quite helpful for understaing

  2. Graham Hill

    March 18, 2007 - 4:51 am

    SDCA, like PDCA is part of Shoji Shiba’s famous WV model of process improvement.
    SDCA is about the management of work within set boundaries, whereas PDCA is about reactive improvement once the results of work have gone outside the boundaries.
    There is also a proactive improvement cycle that companies can use to carry out root and branch improvements.
    See for more details of the WV model.
    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager (at Toyota)

  3. Mark Graban

    March 18, 2007 - 6:34 pm

    Thanks for posting the review, I still haven’t cracked the book open really other than just glancing.
    It makes me wonder about books… you get pretty much one chance to get it right. In my last podcast with Jim Womack, he talked about how after “The Machine That Changed the World” was published, they learned about errors or things they learned anew and he wished they could have put out the equivalent of model year change revisions of the book each year, but that’s not economical for the publishing industry.
    Is the book, particularly the non-fiction book in its current form bound to be obsolete? Will the Dummies publisher put out corrections in the second printing (basically version 1.1 of the book when you do a new printing).

  4. Chris Nicholls

    March 19, 2007 - 1:55 am

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for the post about Sakurai-san he was my Managing Director in Ricoh UK Products Ltd back in 1984 when I started my career at Ricoh.
    Seven Japanese & seven British worked together to set up Ricoh’s first Manufacturing plant in Europe, we had a great time and I learnt a lot about Kaizen and the Japanese. However it was only as recent as 10 years ago that I realised that what Ricoh had taught us in the early days was originally taken from TPS.
    Following your previous post about Lean for Dummies I was intrigued enough to order my copy from Amazon, but I’m still waiting for it to come from the US. I’ll correct the mistakes you pointed out as I read it.
    Thanks & regards

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