Lean Manufacturing Book Recommendations (Updated Frequently)

I made a post about 7 years ago on lean books that I was reading or recommend. I’ve learned a great deal since then so I wanted to refresh that list. 

Lean Bronze Certification

For the Lean Bronze Certification from SME, there are 4 books that are required reading:

  1. Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to Continuous Improvement Strategy Second Edition
  2. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation
  3. Lean Production Simplified
  4. Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA

Gemba Kaizen and Lean Thinking delve deeper into the framework and leadership culture required to create a sustainable lean business. Lean Production Simplified is a good overarching guide to lean tools and techniques. Learning to See specifically focuses on value stream mapping and does a pretty good job for someone new to the tool. A really good summary of these books is in “The Lean Handbook: A Guide to the Bronze Body of Knowledge“. The handbook certainly isn’t a replacement for the other four books but its a good “CliffNotes” version.

Most Commonly Referred Back to Books:

  1. Creating Mixed Model Value Streams by Kevin Duggan – pretty much every time I run a mixed model value stream mapping workshop I refer back to this book at least once.
  2. Factory Physics – this is an old textbook that I have kept from college and I’m glad I didn’t sell it for pizza money. In terms of the math required in manufacturing (OEE, queuing, cycle time, capacity analysis) this is the ultimate guide.
  3. Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversion by David Mann – of all the lean books I’ve ever read, this is probably my favorite. I say that because it cleared up any question or confusion I had around leader standard work and Gemba. Every lean leader needs this book in their library.
  4. Toyota Kata by Mike Rother – The Kata approach has been a major step forward for the lean community in the last few years. It almost seems like a missing link in terms of coaching, learning and problem solving. Drives home the point of setting clear targets and experimenting to the ideal state.

Books I refer back to at specific times:

  1. Creating Level Pull by Art Smalley – if I’m creating a pull system, I always refer back to this book to make sure I’m not missing anything
  2. Hoshin Kanri for the Lean Enterprise – I usually pull this one out towards the end of the year when we are building the x-matrix – again, just to make sure I’m not missing something
  3. Mapping the Total Value Stream: A comprehensive guide for production and transactional processes – If you are doing a value stream map where the functional processes (purchasing, finance, supply chain) are playing a huge role, it may be necessary to do a “total” value stream map which combines business process and value stream mapping
  4. 5S for Operators – 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace – This guide has been around for a while now which is a testament to how well-written and simple it is to follow.  If you are launching a 5S program, you may want to make this required reading.

Leadership Books

  1. Love em or Lose Em: Getting Good People to Stay – wondering why your supervisors and engineers keep leaving? Well this might be a good book to read.
  2. The First 90 Days (Expanded) – I think for anyone that’s changing roles either within the same company or to a new company, this book is required reading – it discusses tools and techniques to be successful as quickly as possible
  3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – For me this book highlights the importance of time management and focusing on the right priorities which is a critical skill if you want to be successful in any field
  4. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – Servant leadership is all about putting other people first and this book explains the importance of that in an engaging way

Have a book you love? Please share it in the comments.


  1. I read ‘ managing to learn by John shook & Kaizen event field book by Mark Hamel, both recommend by you.
    They were fantastic books.

    ‘ This is lean’ & ‘gemba walks ‘ also good for Lean thinking

    looking for good book that demonstrate Lean in project management.

  2. If you could recommend best book that address below questions/ subject
    1) Lean philosophy
    2) Most practical & effective Lean transformation strategy ( steps)
    3) leadership personal capabilities for transformation.
    4) How to maintain speedy still sustainable Lean culture development.

  3. 1) Lean philosophy – David Mann’s Book
    2) Most practical & effective Lean transformation strategy ( steps) – Toyota Way Fieldbook
    3) leadership personal capabilities for transformation. – Coveys 7 Habits
    4) How to maintain speedy still sustainable Lean culture development. – Again, Mann’s book

  4. Domo Sensei,
    If you could shade more light on the difference between meaning of

    Essential attributes for: project implementation & Ongoing operations

    that David Maan is trying to explain in table 9.1 of his book ‘creating a lean culture ‘

    What I think
    #Project implementation = use of core skills to sustain the improvement or open up a dialogue with team & individuals to engage them for lean transformation
    # Ongoing operations = how you apply lean to your own work.


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