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Ative at Work

What's Your Favourite Lean Books?

People often ask me about recommendations for the must-read books for lean and agile software development.

Here is a list of some of my favourite lean books:


  • W. Edwards Deming - the grand old man of the field, building on a strict statistical discipline. His book Out of the Crisis is a wonderful treatise on his thinking including his famous "14 Points for Management". This is definitely a must read that will change the way you think about management and quality!
  • Taiichi Ohno - one of the greatest industrial innovators of the 20th century, the father of the Toyota Production System. After spending his career relentlessly optimizing manufacturing at Toyota he wrote the book Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-scale Production that describes his work.
  • Womack & Jones - Their books are great and it is well worth to read them all to see a lot of the principles and case studies for lean thinking. Also, it is quite interesting to see that software development is now rediscovering some of the things that manufacturing learned much earlier - in the case of Toyota as early as in the 1950s and 1960s. Begin your studies with The Machine That Changed the World, a five-year study of the global auto industry from MIT and go on with the Lean Thinking and Lean Solutions. They give a fascinating perspective on manufacturing and plenty of examples of the lean principles and they applications. These are the books that brought lean to the mainstream.
  • Mary and Tom Poppendieck - with a background in manufacturing and software they have translated the concepts of lean to software development. They have written two great books and Implementing Lean Software Development and Lean Software Development - an Agile Toolkit. Both books are well worth reading a present a both the principles and lot of cases in a friendly, colloquial manner. Highly recommended!
  • Matthew May - I really like his approach to elegance and simplicity. May has worked with Toyota and their corporate university and his book The Elegant Solution offers insight into their innovation process - the principles it is built on and the practices that make it work.
  • Jeffrey Liker - his The Toyota Way is a very good introduction to the application of lean methods at Toyota. This is one of the best lean books I have read. Definitely a favourite!


What is missing? What are your favourites? Don't hesitate - post a comment now :-)

Published feb 11 2008, 01:39 by Martin Jul
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John Hunter said:

Great list.  There is a new translation of an Ohno book that is excellent: <a href="">Workplace Management</a>.

februar 13, 2008 3:39

Martin Jul said:

Here is another great lean reading list on InfoQ:

maj 8, 2009 5:38

About Martin Jul

Building better software faster is Martin's mission. He is a partner in Ative, and helps development teams implement lean/agile software development and improve their craftmanship teaching hands-on development practises such as iterative design and test-first. He is known to be a hardliner on quality and likes to get things done-done.
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