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Best Books to Buy: "The Joy of Lean" by Dodd Starbird -

This month’s book is The Joy of Lean: Transforming, Leading and Sustaining a Culture of Engaged Team Performance by Dodd Starbird.

About the Book:

Joy of Lean -“…productivity goals don’t make people productive!” What??!! Did we hear that right? Yes, in the midst of describing how to improve productivity, Dodd Starbird makes a compelling argument – setting productivity goals is actually counterproductive. He comes to these, and other sound conclusions, by working with both leaders and frontline employees and describes the journey in this new book which builds on his earlier work, Building Engaged Team Performance.

The Joy of Lean is a deft mix of in-depth process improvement case studies, a step-by-step process guide to Lean transformation and enlightening quotes from both thought leaders and process participants alike. Mr. Starbird’s approach keeps the reader engaged while providing a highly documented roadmap for applying his particular blend of Lean and Engaged Team Performance.

He ends each chapter with challenging questions for Leadership – “Do you need to change your culture? If so, do you really want to change?” He tells of impressive, documented successes but resists sugar-coating the sometimes bumpy road of culture change by acknowledging failures. He’s generous, as are his clients, with samples of their work – time study sheets, performance logs, process maps, trend charts and whiteboards which showcase how time detailed studies build the foundation for process and performance improvement.

His personality comes through as he provides a hilarious story about “crappy handoffs” and his army training comes into play as he uses the Battle of Gettysburg as a teaching point for leaders. He’s quick to acknowledge his industry forbears – there’s a great Appendix with a condensed history of process improvement – and his work gives nods to the teaching of quality gurus like W. Edwards Deming by highlighting the counterproductiveness of the annual review and by beginning with the advice to “First, Find your Purpose.”

One of the underlying messages of this work is that efficiency is the best form of job security. This is a valuable take away and increasingly relevant as industries everywhere work to stay profitable and provide good jobs. There’s a great recipe here for those ready to embrace the challenge.

About the Author:

Dodd Starbird has been the Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Implementation Partners for the past 12 years. A graduate of West Point, Mr. Starbird spent time at Johnson & Johnson and Coors Brewing Company kickstarting his 25+ year quality career. On a more personal note, Dodd volunteers his time to an Iowa nonprofit working to ease homelessness and he coached youth basketball for 20 years. With former Olympians and professional athletes in his family tree we’re lucky that Dodd applied himself to gold medal quality efforts!

Practical Tools and Concepts Covered:

Who should read The Joy of Lean?

Lean Six Sigma practitioners with some experience looking for:

  • A way to advance their skills
  • Detailed instructions on how to rollout large improvement initiatives
  • A step-by-step guide on how to run a top-notch time study
  • Guidance on how to achieve a problem solving culture
  • Ways to use data to change hearts and minds
  • A way to bring joy into work

From the Page:

  • “More motivation doesn’t make a task go faster; team members still have to hit the same keys on the computer and enter the same information, regardless of how motivated they feel that day.”
  • “As Peter Drucker famously said, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’”

So true.

Check out our Amazingly Awesome List for more book reviews as well as a comprehensive list of Lean Six Sigma and process improvement books! Also, make sure to listen to our interview with Dodd Starbird from this month’s podcast, “The Just-In-Time Cafe!”

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. For over 30 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Marriott International, Inc. build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.

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