The Best Lean Books in a Recession

A lean strategy is valid for both good times and bad, and should not be viewed only as a way to cope with a downturn. But at the same time, I recognize the current recession may give a new sense of urgency to managers wanting to improve processes. You may be looking for materials to help you do that.

Which book is right for you depends, of course, on what you want to accomplish. So I conferred with my colleagues here at Productivity Press to assemble a list of timely books, at least some of which you may find useful.

Maura May, our publisher, offers several suggestions. One is Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing the Lean Enterprise by Brian Maskell and Bruce Baggaley. This book will help you focus on cash flow, on the financial implications of freeing up capacity, and so on.

A downturn can be a good time to get back to fundamentals, so Maura also suggests the classic Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production by Taiichi Ohno. And since a recession may also be a good time to update training of your staff, she recommends The TWI Workbook: Essential Skills for Supervisors by Patrick Graupp and Robert Wrona, as well as our entire series of Shopfloor books.

When times are tight and you can’t invest in new equipment, maintaining the old equipment is a top priority. Therefore Maura also recommends either Uptime, 2nd Edition: Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management by John Dixon Campbell and James Reyes-Picknell or TPM in Process Industries by Tokutaro Suzuki.

Mike Sinocchi, our senior acquisitions editor, believes that a downturn is a good time to focus on building or strengthening a lean culture, to keep all employees feeling that they are contributing to the greater whole. A strong culture can keep employees focused and involved and looking down the road more so than just week by week. Therefore, Mike recommends four books that can help do that:

To their suggestions, I add some of my own. During a recession, companies often hunker down and focus just on surviving rather than coming up with new ways to serve customers. If that’s what your competitors are doing, now may be the perfect time to innovate and be creative. Therefore, I recommend a couple of books on product development: The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process, and Technology by James Morgan and Jeffrey Liker, and Value Stream Mapping for Lean Development: A How-To Guide for Streamlining Time to Market by Drew Locher.

These are just suggestions. I welcome your comments as to other books that you have found valuable or believe may be especially relevant to current times.

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