Good Books

Click here for The Lean Thinker’s Bookshelf at

The Original List:

(Click on the images to read more on the Amazon page)

Good to Great

Collins’ book really gets to the core of what differentiates long-term sustained improvement and growth vs. the much more typical “spike and crash” pattern most businesses go through. He emphasizes the importance of committed, engaged and altruistic leadership, and a total focus on the core fundamentals (the “hedgehog concept”)

Certain to Win

Very few people in industry have heard of Col. John R. Boyd. But in military science academic circles, he is regarded by some as one of the most influential strategic thinkers since Sun Tzu in 450BC. Chet Richards is a protoge of Boyd, and has adapted the thinking to business. If you read this book, and do a little research on related works, you will quickly realize that the Toyota Production System is organized almost perfectly to give the kinds of strategic advantages that are outlined in this book.

If you have been reading through my posts, you know what I think of this book.
I will copy from my original post.

Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath have addressed head-on one of the biggest problems with implementing change in people’s thinking and behavior — crafting the concept in a way that makes it compelling.. “sticky” in their words.

The book is an extension of the concept described in Gladwell’s The Tipping Point which outlines “stickiness” as one of the things required for an idea to catch on and spread.

Read this book, then take a look at your presentations and training materials, and compare the messages with the examples in the book.

Sources of Power

Gary Klein’s research looks into how experienced experts evaluate a situation and decide on a course of action. His research subjects were firefighters and other emergency services people. What makes this book interesting is that he started out to prove an assumption – that people would evaluate a situation, mentally develop a few possible courses of action, select one based on some mental criteria, and implement it. Since he was looking for the criteria that they used, he was quite surprised that they usually worked by analogy followed by experimentation until they had a workable solution.

The book gives good insight into how people make decisions under time pressure, and some very likely sources of mistakes – especially when a situation appears to be something familiar, when in fact, it is quite something else.

The model he develops in the book is also functionally identical to the “OODA Loop” that Col. Boyd developed, and is discussed in “Certain to Win,” above

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Christensen describes a common model which predicts how one technology displaces another. The shift from sails to steam; from props to jets; from cables and winches to hydraulics; and multiple generations of mass data storage technology have all followed the same pattern.

The book was written some time ago, but it successfully predicted the transition from film to digital – including Kodak’s initial response (denial and then surprise at the speed of transition) and the kind of transition they are having to make.

If you are in an established technology, and ignoring a small, specialized niche competitor who may be eating into your lowest margin products, you do so at your peril. If you are in the business of producing that up and coming technology, be prepared for an explosion in growth when you hit a threshold of function that may be well below the mainstream.

Greg Eisenbach’s excellent blog, Grassroots Innovation covers this topic, as well as others.

The Fifth Discipline

Back in the mid- and late 1990’s, this book was on the hot reading list of companies everywhere. Of course like most management fads, things quickly faded to the status quo once people realized that there was actually work involved.

But the message of the book remains, and is totally sound. If you read “Good to Great” and want to understand more about what “level 5 leadership” is like, take a look at the “personal mastery” section of this book.

Today we talk about the Toyota Production System as providing an structure for the organization and the work that provides the opportunity for the organization to rapidly learn. In the context of Senge’s models, what the TPS does is structure the organization and the work to systematically reveal, understand, and simplify complex interdependencies, and manage those few which remain. Senge’s work is about understanding that these interdependencies exist, and accepting that it is actually possible to understand them – with a little work and getting out of denial about things like delayed responses.

I’d like to say that every company organization should pick this up and master the concepts, but it is hard work, and most won’t.