LEAN BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: Seeking True-North Value

by Benjamin Snipes

Verdict: In LEAN BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY, Benjamin Snipes works to build a philosophical paradigm through Lean business management principles. The resulting philosophical near-treatise is not for beginners, but fellow Lean adherents will find a home in its pages.

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3.7

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LEAN BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: Seeking True-North Value by Benjamin Snipes builds a philosophical grounding and an expansive paradigm for devotees of Lean business management. Rather than explain the tools of Lean management or provide a précis of Lean transformation, however (work that Snipes leaves to the many other books on the subject), Snipes works to underpin Lean—its precepts, its doctrine, and the reverberations of its implementation—with a roaming exploration of Lean’s philosophical underpinnings.

What is Lean? Since at least the 1980s, when Toyota began to dominate the car manufacturing industry, businesses have sought to emulate what has become known as the “lean management” style Toyota implemented through Toyota Production System. This management style depended on a systemic and fully integrated customer-oriented re-visioning of a business’s purpose, process, and its people. In that sense, it’s neither simply a model nor a set of methods. It’s a business’s transformation toward what is called “true-north value”: the maximalization of customer value and minimization of any-/everything extraneous to that value.

In LEAN BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY, Benjamin Snipes builds out the philosophy undergirding Lean, including and especially what it is that constitutes true-north value. Snipes therefore organizes the book by value streams, a schema that allows for a paradoxically rigid but relatively free-form examination of what defines a value stream, what determines its particular power, and how it can contribute to Lean business.

For example, “Value Stream 2: Money & Economics,” discusses money’s “existential and physical value” through lessons in economics, a series of loose case studies, and several market-based examples depicting the ways that value shifts or becomes relative (particularly vis-à-vis consumer perspectives). Ultimately, the value stream-based discussion considers the ways that Lean valuation both accommodates and exploits the limitations of price (for example) to more efficiently denote customer-perceived value and to therefore contribute to a business’s true-north value.

Due in part to Lean’s ontological aspirations—it imagines an all-encompassing way-of-being for business—a Japanese-inflected lexicon communicates much of Lean’s doctrine. While many practitioners eschew this usage, Snipes embraces it, offering a Lean Lexicon in the book’s first pages. This is the perhaps clearest tell that this book is not for beginners. In fact, it’s not even for intermediate practitioners. LEAN BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY is for advanced and perhaps impassioned devotees. Readers who are not only familiar with Lean principles but who are comfortable speaking Lean language will find much to mull over here.

~Molly Gage for IndieReader

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