Freddy 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 Ballé, PhD, 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.
I highly recommend this book. It follows the style of Eli Goldratt's "The Goal" (1984) to teach in form of a business novel - in this novel about a turnaround using LEAN. Even though this novel does not use the socratic method to let you, as the reader, figure things out for yourself before the protagonist, it is still a great collection of really good explainations about the why, what, how and when of using LEAN tools that I have not seen in many of the regular textbooks about LEAN.
After 15 years of using LEAN in office environments, I still learned a lot about how LEAN tools work and reinvorce eachother and to better see how a LEAN Management System works.It also gave a great look into how LEAN solves challenges on the shopfloor for those of us not having worked there. The story shows much clearer how managers play a role that is different in LEAN for it to work - a role that can be incompatible with most thinking of the manager's role. This is also explaining why so many LEAN efforts fade away and are given lip service after the low hanging fruits are captured. Very insightful. A reframing of management may be needed to be highly successfull with LEAN.
The writing is engaging and you care for the characters in the story. Not a pageturner like Dan Brown's books or from other fiction writers, but still pretty good - and you learn something as well! A must-read for those interested in LEAN.
The first in a series that will teach you more about lean than most consultants can teach you. I use this book for teaching my manufacturing employees about lean and continuous improvement. Initially they are nervous about reading and discussing this book with me but once they get into the story they often read ahead and tell me "Phil's company sounds just like us!"
Listen to a new Q & A from the audio book
Original Q & A from the book The Gold Mine, with authors Freddy and Michael Ballé
The truth is that part of what makes lean difficult is the linkage between change management and the lean tools. Most books that tackle both lean thinking and change management tend to approach these subjects separately. First they'll describe the lean tools, and then they'll go into change management theory. With The Gold Mine, we've tried to deal with these two themes concurrently, progressing on both fronts at the same time.
Q. How does The Gold Mine fit in with existing literature that teaches lean thinking or change management?
This approach also addresses one of the reasons that it's so hard to find any workable lean “recipe,” which is that the tools, or at least their level of implementation, must be linked to the management's lean maturity. For instance, we would argue that lean is fundamentally about rigorous problem solving and involving operators in kaizen. Fine. But in most working environments, if you start there, as most TQM or six sigma programs do, you will end up with disappointing results. People will get confused about which problems to solve, how to go about change, and what kind of attitude to adopt when dealing with resistance or recurring problems. In a factory it's usually easier to start a lean program with the basics, such as seven wastes, 5S, red bins for quality, reducing batch sizes by increasing tool changeover, and moving progressively to eliminating variation in the operators' work cycle.
This is why senseis have a hard time giving the whole story upfront. They need to enable people to realize small and tangible results, which they can then build on. This is the only meaningful way to move forward. We've tried to capture this way of learning in The Gold Mine. It's a very different-and effective-approach to change management.
In fact, we had originally planned to write a book about lean and change management, but soon realized that precisely because it does not fit with the accepted theories of change management, we would end up with a heavily theoretical book trying to explain just what the senseis actually do, from a management practice point of view. In the end, we decided the tools and principles would be more accessible if we just tried to describe them in action.
Q. Are you saying that the experience of companies that embark on the path to lean differs from the models set out in the leading literature?
Not exactly. In fact, the model of value, flow, pull, perfection, and progression, articulated by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, certainly describes the way that most turnarounds that we've observed unfold. But very few of them start with a shared understanding among the workers of where they will eventually end up. The turnaround starts by increasing the tension in the system, and then resolving problems as they arise. This process will make the players start by defining value, and then solve the flow problems, move to pull and finally endlessly kaizen the process to perfection. So they do end up following this path. But it's virtually impossible for the change leaders to plan it as such, because you need to move from one practical implementation to another.
In fact, this marks another way that The Gold Mine differs from most change management literature. The story format treats both change and lean techniques concurrently. And the underlying change model, while characteristic of lean, challenges mainstream change management approaches in its dependence on the role of the sensei, who acknowledges progress, certainly, but also provides endless constructive criticism and challenge so that no one stops at the first results, but continues to improve endlessly.
In terms of lean thinking, we don't claim to add much to existing literature of lean tools. We have tried to present the techniques in a slightly different way, however, thereby helping readers see how the tools and principles are tied to one another. Firstly, we do try to point out that just-in-time and the flow techniques such as kanban, heijunka and pull, are only one pillar of the Toyota Production System (TPS), and we re-emphasize the lesser known jidoka pillar, which is equally important. Secondly, we strive to establish the links between the different elements of the system, such as kanban and jidoka. Kanban can't be successful if quality is not already under control, for example, or if employees aren't responsive to problems on the shop floor. A systematic study of the links felt like a daunting task, so we've used dialogue to point out the most obvious links to keep in mind when implementing the tools.
Finally, now that most of the tools are known and published, we've placed less emphasis on the tools per se, and more on their purpose within the lean system. Five S, for example, is not a “clean your room” technique, but a fundamental tool to work on standardization and employee involvement. In this respect, we believe we've occasionally highlighted different aspects of tools that have been already much discussed, and we believe that even the veteran lean practitioner can find food for thought in some of these discussions.
- Go and See: why go to the gemba and what to do when you are there
Featuring Michael Ballé, PhD
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Read the Presenter's Weekly Column The Gemba Coach
- Making Lean Stick: What Do Leaders Do?
Featuring Michael Ballé, PhD, and Freddy Ballé
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- Building a Complete Lean Enterprise
In this interactive workshop, Michael Ballé, author and Gemba Coach columnist, will introduce you to several fundamental leadership skills required to build a complete lean enterprise with a sustainable culture of problem solving and continuous improvement. In the course of the workshop, you will review several case studies to see how the application of these skills produces desired results.
- Gemba Coach
What do you do when you get to your gemba? Just showing up isn't enough. Why are you there; how should you behave; what do you need to look for; what does it mean to “show respect”?... Michael Balle will discuss these questions and more, focusing on several critically important skills leaders need to develop in order to effectively support the culture of problem solving and continuous improvement in their organizations.
- Downloadable abbreviated study guide
- Download all the charts, maps, and illustrations of key concepts in The Gold Mine:
- An illustration of the breakers assembled by Phil Jenkinson's company
- Operator Balance Charts (OBC)
- Original plant layout
- STR value-stream map
- A sketch of how to create a levelled schedule based on takt time
- An illustration of how increased change-overs and deliveries lead to reduced lead-time
- Kanban in a heijunka box