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

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, we search for 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 lean manufacturing books are mentioned to determine overall popularity. Then we apply some ranking factors to finalize the results.

#The links below are paid links.

The goal of this book is to deliver the lean manufacturing concept in plain English. Each chapter starts with a short quote from a leading expert. Bulleted Lists are used throughout the book to emphasize important points. Charts and graphs are simple but effective.

The first chapter will introduce readers to the birth of lean manufacturing. The following chapters will explain to readers important lean tools, namely, 7 wastes, 5S, visual control, A3, 5 why, and so on. A chapter about standardized work will show the actual checksheets. The Glossary section is quite useful for someone new to the lean concept.

If you're familiar with the format of the “Dummies” series, you will love this book. It starts by using the first 4 chapters to introduce readers to soft skills like the basic concept, lean organization, and people aspect of lean manufacturing. The real meat starts from chapter 6 (customer value). The following chapters are used to introduce readers to lean tools and our impression is that it tries harder (than the first book on this list) to teach readers how to use each tool in a step-by-step manner.

It's a collection of lean manufacturing + six sigma tools. Each chapter is categorized by issues/problems readers want to analyze. Each tool tells readers when to use it, how to use it, and some tips. We don't expect readers to read this book cover-to-cover but you can refer to it to find some ways to help you deal with the problems and pick one or two tools that are easy enough for you.

This book will teach readers how to capture the current processes of business, gather important data, present the whole system from start to finish. After that, it will teach readers how to create improvement and present the new system to relevant parties. If you really want to implement a lean manufacturing concept, learning value stream mapping is a MUST.

The key difference between this book and books for beginners like Lean Production Simplified or Lean for Dummies is that it tries to translate various lean tools into 14 byte-sized management concepts. So readers won't feel that they are reading a very theory-oriented book. If you're familiar with reading case studies from Harvard Business Review, you'll definitely love this book.

Many books about lean manufacturing use examples directly from Toyota and its affiliate company but this book is not. For example, the author explains customer value via an example of a travel company, explains process maps using cola cans, or explains the flow of material using a bicycle plant. As a result, readers will get ideas of how the lean thinking concept can be implemented outside the auto industry.

In order to identify “wastes” as per lean thinking, you can't just sit inside your cubicle. What readers need to do is to “go see” things for real. How hard could it be? The purpose of this book is to show readers how to walk to see real problems, collect some data, interact with people and present your findings to create the improvement.

How We Rank Lean Books

- Recency: we remove out-of-print and obsolete lean manufacturing books from the list. 

- Relevancy: we remove lean manufacturing books about minor concepts such as lean product development, process development, lean software development, and lean analytics. 

- Industry Awards: we check if each book gets industry awards.

- Endorsement: we check if lean manufacturing books get strong endorsements from international business leaders such as CEOs of lean organizations, top management of Fortune 500 companies, leading lean manufacturing experts, and lean managers on Amazon.com and in the "forward" section of the book.

- User Reviews: we also check user ratings on Amazon.com to determine the quality of the books.

- Editorial Decision: we carefully evaluate the actual lean manufacturing books, apply the rating and make the final list.

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.

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Last review and update: July 5, 2022
About the Author and Editor:
Ben Benjabutr is the author and editor of Supply Chain Opz. He holds an M.Sc. in Logistics Management with 10+ years of experience. You can contact him via e-mail or Twitter.