The Lean Mindset - Ask the right questions

Mary Poppendieck & Tom Poppendieck

Published by






Reviewed by

Danny Williams MBCS CITP


5 out of 10

The premise of this book is great - it promises an insight into creating stunning products and delivering amazing services based on Lean practices. Unfortunately it doesn't deliver on at least half of that promise as I couldn't find any explanation of what Lean really is and how to use it.

My brief research took me initially to Wikipedia, which provided this definition: ‘a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and thus a target for elimination.

So I expected that I would receive some guidance on how to take the Lean principles and apply them. What I found was essentially a set of case studies, explaining how a number of companies addressed five topics:

  • What is the purpose of our business
  • How to energise our workers
  • How to delight our customers
  • How to achieve genuine efficiency
  • Delivering breakthrough innovation

These are laudable and interesting topics and certainly have some relationship to Lean. I found the innovation chapter particularly interesting with some practical recommendations about creating an innovation culture in an organisation.

The book is easy to read and the case studies are relevant. The authors created two characters, Otto and Anna, who pose questions throughout the book to help the reader learn the various concepts that are introduced. It's a cute technique that some readers will find valuable.

I'm sure that the authors have a wealth of experience in assisting organisations in adopting Lean techniques. They might assume the reader has a certain level of knowledge and understanding of Lean. They might also assume that the reader can easily take the examples in the case studies and apply them to their own organisation. Unfortunately I don't have this basic knowledge of Lean and often struggled to establish how to apply their case studies to my own work so I was left feeling rather frustrated and unfulfilled.

Further information: Addison-Wesley

December 2013