Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book Review: Gemba Walks by Jim Womack

Jim Womack has done yet another wonderful service for the Lean Community with his most recent book "Gemba Walks".  I've already greatly benefited from it on a first read.  Why?


Repetition.  Creative, clear, shapeful repetition. 


Jim brings a remarkable clarity to the task of explaining, encouraging and directing lean implementations.  In this book, he pulls together his written record of walks through a multitude of companies over the past ten years.   He published these records in monthly email newsletters during this time, most of which I remembered reading.  This text shuffles the observations into themes.  Womack adds depth, context and linkage with brief paragraphs before each one.   


And the core theme comes through.  Repeatedly. 


Look.  Find the problem.  Work hard to find root cause.  Fix it.  Repeat.  Experiment relentlessly.  


With story after story, Jim explains how this simple pattern works when applied relentlessly.  And how getting bored with repeating this pattern is a plan for mediocrity or worse. 


Jim's relatively recent observation of outdated management systems undermining genuine excellence comes out in two new essays in the collection. 


For a person new to Lean, "Gemba Walks" will quickly teach much.  For those of us in the trenches, there is both encouragement and more than a few good kicks in the pants.  For senior execs trying to understand Lean, this is way better than more Power Point slides.

In many ways, this book may well also serve as an excellent reference.  Jim organized the chapters to align with common sets of problems we see.  One simple read of a chapter will take less than 10 minutes and I found each would trigger 2-5 quality ideas to test.  Soon.  


Simple steps, done repeatedly and consistently, work.  Womack explains this clearly.  Well worth the read.  

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