Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in full of waste? Why not use the concept of kaizen, or
Your Corporation. James P. Womack and Daniel T. continuous improvement, to drive the company?
Jones, Free Press, New York, 2003, 396 pages. The authors stress that any firm wishing to transition
to Lean needs to have a change agent. This is a person
Lean is a technique that has been embraced by all who is knowledgeable and adamant about the value of
branches of the military. The Army has merged the Lean and who can, if necessary, force changes upon
concepts of Lean and Six Sigma, and the Air Force the firm. The authors spend considerable time on the
has AFSO–21 (Air Force Smart Operations for the problems of culture change in firms and the necessity
21st Century), which incorporates Lean, Six Sigma, to use Lean principles continually to eliminate waste.
and the Theory of Constraints. However, making Lean In short, the true Lean company is never satisfied with
a policy does not ensure that the individuals in the where it is but is always striving to improve or reach
organization understand the theory of Lean. This is perfection, even if perfection is an unreachable goal.
where Lean Thinking comes into play. While authors Employee buy-in is a necessity, and it is crucial that
James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones certainly did not employees do not view Lean as another reengineering
invent Lean, they did manage to compile the concepts attempt to reduce employment. Many of the authors’
that make up Lean in one, easily readable book. I examples (after an initial reduction of the workforce)
would suggest that anyone interested in Lean make guarantee that no employees will be terminated because
this their first reading assignment. of Lean events.
The authors begin with the basic concept of “muda,” The book is replete with examples of successful
or waste. They contend there are various types of waste Lean implementations that are broken down by size
everywhere. Lean thinking is the antidote for muda. of firm, type of industry, and country of origin. It
Lean is the elimination of waste—anything that does also includes a general action plan for implementing
not create value. And value can only be defined by the Lean. Repeatedly, the authors emphasize the difficulty
customer in terms of a specific product at a specific of implementing and continuing a Lean strategy. In
price at a specific time. Thus, Lean is a value-added many cases, success is a firm’s worst enemy, as the
concept based on customer satisfaction. emphasis switches from the continuing elimination
of waste to simply managing the initial success. The