7 Best Lean Books Ever Written

In this article, we will rank books based on lean tools, popularity, endorsements and awards from lean leaders. And the result is the list of 7 best lean books.

Finding the Best Lean Books

Lean manufacturing concept has been adopted by companies of all sizes in virtually all industries, from the manufacturing industry to the retailing industry, service industry and even in the hospital. Because it focuses on improving quality, customer service and how information and materials flow and it provides principles to create value and a roadmap for organizational transformation.

Lean manufacturing concept is the result of a 5-year study project about how Toyota Motor Japan (which is now considered the world's greatest manufacturer) transform their company using Toyota Production System. The study was conducted by James P Womack at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and later published in the book "The Machine That Changed the World." The word "lean" was used to describe the manufacturing process without the 7 wastes (also known as Muda such as waiting, overproduction, transportation, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary motion or unnecessary movement and quality issues or defects) which enabled Toyota to respond to the market and reduce the cost more effectively. Today lean manufacturing concept is behind the innovation to create radically successful business operations around the world. Even Steve Jobs was inspired by the lean manufacturing concept when he visited many factories in Japan.

We are requested by a reader who is a new lean manufacturing manager to suggest good books and develop a lean culture and team. In order to recommend the good lean manufacturing books to read,

- First, we search for lean manufacturing books, books about Toyota Production System, lean thinking, six sigma and lean six sigma on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, LinkedIn.com, News Sites and blogs related to lean manufacturing. The idea is to check how often the books about lean are mentioned to determine overall popularity.

- After that, we remove out-of-print and obsolete lean manufacturing books from the list.

- Then, we group the lean manufacturing books based on each lean tool, namely, Basic Concept, Kaizen and Continuous Improvement, Value Stream Mapping, A3 Reporting, Statistics, Single Minute Exchange of Die, Workforce Management, 5S, Mistake Proofing and Lean Accounting (please note that we don't include books about minor concepts such as lean product development, process development, lean software development and lean analytics.)

- We check if each book gets positive reviews or industry awards.

- After that, we check if each book gets strong endorsements from international business leaders such as CEOs of lean organizations, top management of Fortune 500 companies, leading lean manufacturing experts and lean manager on Amazon.com and in the "forward" section of the book.

- Finally, choose the best lean manufacturing books based on each lean tool.

- The links below are #paid links.

Best Lean Books are as below:

  1. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer

  2. Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy

  3. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA

  4. Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization

  5. Statistics for Six Sigma Made Easy!

  6. Taiichi Ohnos Workplace Management

  7. 5S for Operators: 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace

Do you like lean books on this list?


- Womack, J. P., Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (1990). Machine that changed the world. Simon and Schuster.

- Pavnaskar, S. J., Gershenson, J. K., & Jambekar, A. B. (2003). Classification scheme for lean manufacturing tools. International Journal of Production Research, 41(13), 3075-3090.

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Last review and update: August 31, 2021
All contents are written by Ben Benjabutr unless marked as [Guest Commentary]

About the Author and Editor:
Ben Benjabutr is the author and editor of SupplyChainOpz. He holds an M.Sc. in Logistics Management with 10+ years of experience in supply chain management. You can connect with Ben via Twitter, and Quora or drop him a line via e-mail.