Book Recommendations - Episode 1

Which Book do I recommend?

There is the cliche in the business world ‘Leaders are readers’.  I am a big subscriber of this saying.  Particularly when I look through audible books and use that as an opportunity to select something that may be a bit left field, a diversion from the usual topics that I gravitate towards when buying the real thing.

Over the past 12 months, this tactic has served me well, particularly with the long drives around NZ, I have something to listen to.  Here is my tip around audio books though - keep away from the heavy technical stuff.  It might just be me, but when there are constant references to graphs, figures and diagrams it is impossible to wrap my head around.  I try to keep that stuff to the hardback variety so I can take in all of the references and understand all the information in context. There are so many great resources out there, I won’t cover all of them in this blog so expect the theme to continue on the blog.

Here are a few favourites and surprising gems I have stumbled across over this year.

  1. Permission to Screw up - Kristen Hadeed
    So easy to listen to.  Taking us through her own journey as an accidental entrepreneur and all the mistakes she made while trying to ‘fake it.  It is not a Lean book, Kristen doesn’t even refer to the topic.  Despite this, I rank it as one of the best Lean Leadership books, the lessons, the takeaways are massive for anyone in a leadership role. This was such a great accidental gem.

  2. Slow Productivity - Cal Newport
    A real interesting take on a topic I love.  Bringing in a fresh perspective to performance and outputs in a modern business environment.  The traditional view of productivity is based on producing stuff i.e. widgets made per person per hour worked.  It was lovely until we invented roles, jobs, businesses that are now mainly based on thinking, creativity and all the things you can’t put into a nice easy box.

  3. The Lean Builder - Joe Donarumo & Keyan Zandy
    Starting a movement is hard, but these guys are doing a great job doing it.  Making Lean Thinking accessible to the construction and building industry.  They have storified the content and topics.  A foreman new to his role uses one of his old mentors to bring Lean (and specifically The Last Planner System) into life.  If you have read Eli Goldratt’s ‘The Goal’ it is written in a very similar style.  They cover many tips on how to address the naysayers, do what you say you are going to do and many other key leadership skills.

Now to some of my favourite Lean Books. Some of them are not so well known titles.  There are so many valuable books focusing on the big picture or specific elements or tools.  To get started, these are the titles I usually recommend.

  1. Avoiding the Continuous Appearance Trap - Patrick Adams.
    I love the way Patrick approaches Lean Thinking.  It is simple, straight forward without all the technical BS that can come with an expert on the topic.  In this edition, he calls out the fake, superficial actions of leadership that are aimed at vanity metrics.  It all looks great, but what about the deep cultural actions of everyone in the team? Do you look good or are you actually good when no-one is looking? In this, there is probably the best chapter I have read on Leader Standard Work.  This is so important to get right, if you want to truly create a culture of continuous improvement.

  2. The People Side of Lean - Robert Brown
    A core foundation of Lean Thinking is the respect of people, so it is no surprise to come across a book that is focused on this topic.  It guides the reader quickly through all the topics you would expect.  Company vision and Mission, teams, tools, change and engaging people.  Now I have browsed though it again, it is going back on my reading list for a refresh…… not the worst thing.

  3. The Toyota Way - Jeffrey Liker
    A seminal text really. This is for those wanting a bit more of a deep dive into more of the technical aspects of Lean.  Introducing the philosophy of systems thinking, value of flow, people and problem solving.  This is possibly one of those books you don’t read cover to cover but go to the relevant chapters time and time again to keep your axe sharp on a particular topic. If you are serious about Lean, this will be one your shelf.

There are so many more recommendations and wonderful authors who have made a massive contribution to the topic of Lean Thinking.  I will get to these over time but if you are like me and have 6-7 books on the to read pile….. One piece flow.


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