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In Everything I Know About Lean I Learned In First Grade, author Robert Martichenko takes us back to  Grade 1 to remind us about the first time that we were unknowingly exposed to the lean philosophy.  This is perhaps why those who have never ‘unlearned’ these lessons taught at primary school find lean such a natural extension of what they do in their everyday lives.

Everything I Know about Lean I learned In First Grade reminds us that lean is about nurturing a learning culture with thinking people.  In the book Martichenko highlights the key principles found in schools and lean organisations including visual management, 5S, root cause analysis, scheduling, planning, clearly communicating expectations and focusing on the basics.  He reminds us that it is not the tools, but the reasoning behind the tools that makes the philosophy work.

Respect for people and the value of doing regular Gemba walks is highlighted when the narrator – a parent of one of the Grade 1 students who is visiting the school as part of an open-day on his daughter’s first day of school — bumps into the principle whilst she is doing rounds and observing the classes (in lean this is called a gemba walk). When the narrator asks the principal how she finds the time to do this every day, she replies that she deems this her most important activity.

Two core messages in this book are that learning is the most vital component of the human experience and that the roots of problems are often due to basic process management factors.

Martichenko ends with a conclusion on why he considers lean works particularly well in some organisations.  He states that successful lean implementation is achieved by organisations that understand that the complexity of lean is in its simplicity.  Lean is a way of thinking, the tools themselves are not the end game, and they are only tools to allow for teaching.   It is when organisations lose sight of why they are using the tools, or only implement the tools without applying the lean philosophy alongside the use of lean tools that lean fails.

The book was originally self-published in 2008, however it has been reissued by the Lean Enterprise Institute and is available via their website:

Who should read this book?  This book is a great introduction for those new to lean, however seasoned lean practitioners would also find value due to the simplicity of the book; it highlights what is important and takes us back to basics.

Title: Everything I Know About Lean I Learned In First Grade
Author: Robert Martichenko
Publisher:  Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc.
ISBN-13:  978-1-934109-34-2
SKU:  9342
Publication Date:  March 8, 2012
Number of Pages:  105

Review written by Charmaine Cunningham

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