Lean Thinking is Reading

“The secret of culture is to learn that a few great points steadily reappear…and that these few are alone to be regarded…these are the essentials...” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I try to avoid absolutes, but it’s fair to say that most lean thinkers are avid readers. Reading goes with the territory of being interested and passionate about a topic. And when lean thinkers read, they do so with purpose.

books library.jpgThey read to validate their current thinking, uncover new ideas to build upon their current thinking, and search of ways to learn from others who have gone before them. They read to support their colleagues who take the time to live the virtue that the pen is mightier than the sword.  They read to be the devil’s advocate, the detractor who stirs it up in a helpful way by saying, "Hmmm, I'm not sure about that.  That is not what I have experienced.  Tell me more!"

They read to be leaders in their fields.

It’s a good thing to be a reader because there is a lot to read. My quick internet search for “lean books” generated over 10,000 possible titles. Recognizing other similar concepts to lean, I searched for “continuous improvement” which generated over 1,000 possible titles. That’s a lot of books, and each one has its rightful place in the lean library.

Common Themes – What Do You Think?

I sincerely wish I could say that I’ve read every book on lean, operational excellence, continuous improvement, supply chain management, and other closely related topics. I’m not all the way there, but I’ve read my share, and they create a formidable bookshelf of knowledge. One Christmas, I undertook a neat experiment in research and development. I went through as many lean and business books as was possible over the break. I was on a literary campaign! I looked for common themes, as I had a burning question in my mind: "If we normalize for terms, frameworks, and metaphors, do we see clear similarities in what authors are advocating as we pursue to build cultures of excellence in our businesses?"

For example, in the topic of continuous improvement, some key themes emerged:

  • Kaizen
  • Process capability improvement – shift the mean
  • Continual improvement
  • Constantly improve the system of production and service
  • Process approach to continuous improvement
  • Complete the cycle and find the next constraint
  • Confront the brutal facts
  • Sharpen the saw

…and the list continued.

Throughout this literary campaign, I summarized the key points from popular books through an algorithm and database configuration. (This tool would compete with any tool from tech companies in the Silicon Valley!) After 13 hours of searching, analyzing, synthesizing, and concluding – an answer was provided:

Yes, there are four main themes that are evident across all lean texts. These common themes show us that a successful deployment of lean and operational excellence requires four things.

Can you guess the four themes?


Posted by Robert Martichenko

blog author

Robert is CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group. He is also a speaker and award-winning author of several business books - including "Discovering Hidden Profit" and his first novel - "Drift and Hum." Robert has spent over 25 years learning and implementing lean and operational excellence with a focus on end-to-end supply chain management across a wide array of industries. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and an MBA.

LinkedIn Google+



Lessons in Lean : Lessons in Leadership - The Blog

There is no question that building an organizational culture of continuous improvement is a progressive evolution that takes time. In this blog, Robert Martichenko discusses his lessons learned while building these cultures in our new world of constant disruption - sharing key knowledge that will lead today’s business leaders down the path toward discovering hidden profit. 

Interested in a particular topic or have a question? Let Robert know!




Subscribe Now!

Recent Posts