Top 10 Books on Lean Thinking

Here is a highly subjective list of the top 10 books on Lean thinking.

Toyota Talent: Developing Your People the Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker and David Meier
This book has the benefit of being new, and providing very practical and relevant means to addressing challenges faced both by Gemba and our clients, in making it to the top of the list. It is a great introduction to Job Instruction, Job Breakdown, and Toyota’s mindset towards understanding a job through documentation and the ability to teach it. A few too many pages at some points, but we can probably look forward to a Fieldbook.

Today and Tomorrow by Henry Ford
An amazing book by an amazing man, far ahead of his time.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean by Jamie Flinchbaugh & Andy Carlino
The book is arranged in a series of five concepts with valuable take-away learnings about Lean thinking and Lean leadership, in each chapter. Not all of the lesson are new, but they are framed as a whole that is cohesive and consistent. There is great value here for your reading time invested. Keep this book in your pocket as you go along your Lean journey.

Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno
A personal favorite. What can I say. The man speaks directly to us, from his time, in his own words. It is not a primer on the detailed workings of the Toyota Production System, but helpful in understanding the thought process of the man arguably most responsible for developing Lean thinking.

Toyota Production System by Yasuhiro Monden
A textbook written by a professor who had unparalleled access to Toyota, understood management accounting, and who was one of the earliest to give Toyota Production System his full intellectual attention. Don’t plan to read this from cover to cover in one go, as the reading can be difficult. Be sure to pick up the latest and updated version which has very detailed explanations on kanban and heijunka.

Beyond Strategic Vision: Effective Corporate Action With Hoshin Planning by Michael Cowley (Author), Ellen Domb
This is the best straight-ahead book on the topic of Hoshin Kanri. This book offers a wealth of guidelines, techniques and ways of identifying a strategy and focusing on your vital few. The section on how the 7 new tools (a.k.a. management and planning tools) should be used for problem solving and strategic thinking by itself is worth the price of the book. Even if Lean deployment and hoshin kanri are not on the horizon for your organization, this book can help.

All I Need to Know About Manufacturing I Learned in Joe’s Garage by William Miller
A great short, entertaining read to bring the basic ideas behind Lean into practical perspective. This book should be part of the curriculum for any aspiring manager, manufacturing or otherwise.

Factory Physics by W. Hopp and M. Spearman
The laws of the universe agree: Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma work. Toyota Production System may be “practice, not theory” but the axiomatic and scientific underpinnings of why the theory works is quite reassuring.

Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions by David Mann
This book may not contain all of the tools or knowledge you need to sustain Lean conversions, but the practical examples and methods for engaging team leaders, supervisors and managers in the daily maintenance of a Lean operating system through an expanded definition of standard / standardized work, makes this highly accessible book required reading for anyone attempting a serious Lean deployment.






Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production by Taiichi Ohno
This is not a great read but it is a simpler read compared to Moden. This book contains some great quotes, and it is undeniably the Toyota Production System described by the man who knew the first 40 years of its development most intimately.


  1. Luke

    August 31, 2007 - 5:05 am

    #1. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer
    by Jeffrey Liker
    #2. The Toyota Way Field Book
    By Jeffrey Liker and David Meier
    #3. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated
    by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones
    #4. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate Muda
    by Mike Rother and John Shook
    Foreword by James Womack and Dan Jones
    #5. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
    by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox
    #6. The New Manufacturing Challenge: Techniques for Continuous Improvement
    by Kiyoshi Suzaki
    #6. The Machine That Changed The World: The Story of Lean Production
    by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos
    #7. A Study of the Toyota Production System from an Industrial Engineering Viewpoint
    by Shigeo Shingo
    #8. Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization
    Jean E. Cunningham and Orest J. Fiume with Emily Adams
    #9. The Gold Mine: a Novel of Lean Turnaround
    by Freddy Ballé and Michael Ballé
    #10. Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
    By Robert Coram
    #11. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
    by Michael Lewis

  2. Mike L

    August 31, 2007 - 2:00 pm

    I’m new to Lean, so I don’t have a top 10, but here’s my top 8:
    #1. The Toyota Way
    #2. The Toyota Way Fieldbook
    #3. Profit Beyond Measure (Johnson & Broms)
    #4. Lean Thinking
    #5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean
    #6. Creating a Lean Culture
    #7. Lean Solutions (Womack & Jones)
    #8. Learning to See
    On my bookshelf:
    Toyota Talent
    Workplace Management
    Toyota Product Development System (Morgan & Liker)
    Andy & Me (Dennis)
    Lean Production Simplified (Dennis)
    Gemba Kaizen (Imai)
    Any suggestions on which one I should read next?

  3. Mark Graban

    August 31, 2007 - 7:52 pm

    Toyota Talent is OUTSTANDING, definitely read it next. Lean Production Simplified is pretty good too.
    I think Lean Thinking and The Toyota Way need to be on any “top 10 lean books list.”

  4. John Hunter

    September 1, 2007 - 11:08 am

    Great post, thanks.

  5. Yasser

    September 3, 2007 - 10:38 am

    i think the most interesting book is Toyota…
    Its the house of Lean

  6. Owen Berkeley-Hill

    June 2, 2008 - 10:10 am

    No Lean Top 10 should exclude The Leader’s Handbook by Peter R Scholtes. It is a decade old but still very, very relevant. It does not mentions Lean once and this is why it may not be considered received wisdom by the Lean Taliban. Scholtes is not a “guru” or a “consultant” and so is that rare animal who gets you to think for yourself (and isn’t learning what Lean is all about?). The book has some great examples from history of both Lean and not-so-Lean Thinking, and should be a reference work on every Lean bookshelf.

  7. Owen Berkeley-Hill

    June 5, 2008 - 7:17 am

    Another “must have” would be John Bicheno’s The Lean New Toolbox. It is not a toolbox in the accepted sense but an excellent summary of all the methods applied under the Lean umbrella together with references for further reading. What may surprise many is that John takes an inclusive rather than an inclusive view of Lean; that Lean goes and must go beyond just what Toyota carved on tablets of stone. For example TRIZ and Ubuntu are included. If you wonder why these are included, it’s because we must,yes, understand the great contributions of Toyota, but also begin to think for ourselves.
    I have to declare an interest as John taught me when I did my Lean MSc at Cardiff, but I hope this very useful book will be judged on its merits.