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The Gold Mine
by Freddy Ballé and Michael Ballé
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Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award recipient


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A growing number of successful companies are turning to lean thinking to maintain a competitive edge in a global economy of falling prices, rising quality, and relentless competition. Yet while there are many excellent resources that teach both the tools and principles, no single book addresses what might be the most important lean discipline of all—the human challenge of creating and sustaining the commitment of the people doing the work.

The Gold Mine deftly weaves together the technical and human pieces of implementing lean manufacturing in an engaging story that readers will find both compelling and instructive. Authors Freddy and Michael Ballé have produced the first integrated and systematic approach to a set of ideas that have maximized value and minimized waste throughout the world.

At the heart of The Gold Mine is Bob Woods, a curmudgeonly sensei coaxed out of retirement by his son Mike to help boyhood friend Phil Jenkinson save his struggling company. Despite terrific products and a backlog of orders, Phil's company cannot generate enough cash from its operations to pay its bills. And so Mike enlists Bob to help his pal fix this crisis.

“You're trying to deal with your mess as if it was a technical problem,” Bob tells Phil. “Move this machine here, change this design there, which it is to some extent, but … it's all about people. You have a leadership problem not just a production or business problem.” As Phil begins to tackle the key challenges necessary to improve his company's operations, he comes to understand the deeper points of lean. Readers will also draw powerful insights from his journey.

The Gold Mine presents all the key lean principles, ranging from well-known ideas such as pull and flow, to lesser-known yet equally important principles such as jidoka and heijunka. The book also reveals lean as a system—using a realistic story to show how the principles are interrelated and how they lead to useful tools such as kanban or 5S. Freddy Ballé draws from his authority of one of Europe's preeminent lean veterans, bringing his knowledge to life in the context of a dramatic human story of managers and employees struggling to apply these tools and ideas in a successful turnaround.

“Mastery of the technical details of lean thinking is never enough. A transformation will fail without the most important element: the engagement of the people doing the work,” says publisher James Womack. “The Gold Mine is the first book to comprehensively introduce all the lean tools by means of a vivid personal story showing how hearts and minds are won over. It will spark ah-ha's from everyone who has been there and provide profound insight for those who are just getting started. I can't recommend it highly enough as a way to teach your people the key lean tools that always lead to success while also teaching, in the words of Bob Woods, that 'it's all about people.”

“Reading The Gold Mine is like eavesdropping on a sensei dispensing gems to a client,” says co-publisher Daniel Jones. “The Ballés draw from a remarkable perspective of wisdom and experience. Readers, especially those individuals working on the shop floor, will gain revelation and inspiration by living through the experiences of the hero. This is an experiential novel that will resonate deeply with people who relate it to their own lives. Managers and executives just beginning a lean transformation will learn valuable insights about how to sidestep the technical and people problems that lay ahead. And experienced lean thinkers will discover fresh insights about overcoming resistance to change.”

While The Gold Mine represents LEI's first book of fiction, Womack envisions it as a natural complement to the workbooks that have established themselves as the leading guides for learning lean. “The Gold Mine was created on the premise that people have different learning styles, and that a set of ideas based on the shop floor—where the action takes place—can be grasped intuitively by illustrating how one particular company responds,” he says. “It complements our established products by presenting a different but equally vital method of sharing knowledge.”

For every 5 copies of The Gold Mine purchased, you will also receive one free copy of A Leader's Study Guide to The Gold Mine.

Publisher:  Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.
ISBN-10:  0-9743225-6-3
Publication Date:  May 9, 2005
Number of Pages:  360
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Freddy BalleFreddy Ballé started visiting Toyota plants in Japan in the mid-1970s while head of product planning and later manufacturing engineering at Renault, where he worked for 30 years. Upon leaving Renault, he pioneered the full lean system implementation at Valeo as Technical Vice President, then at Sommer-Allibert as CEO, and later at Faurecia as Technical Vice President. With his son, Michael, he has founded ESG Consultants (www.esgconsultants.com) to advise CEOs and senior executives on making lean transformations.

 

Michael BalleMichael Ballé, Ph.D., is a business researcher and consultant and has studied lean transformation for the past 15 years. He is Associate Researcher at Télécom ParisTech and the co-founder of the French Lean Institute (www.institut-lean-france.fr) and the Projet Lean Enterprise (www.lean.enst.fr). With his father, Freddy, he coaches CEOs and senior executives in using lean to radically improve their businesses' performances and establish lean cultures.

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