Lean Book Review: The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper

The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos
I really want to share this book with Leansters, The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and William Hopper. However, I don't quite know how to describe this book to people. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, The Puritan Gift is high on my list of favorite books. It's one of those things you can't really explain, you know? This dillemma stems from the fact that the Hopper brothers tell a 350 year old story about management. I've found its hard to summarize over three centuries into five minutes around the water cooler. But as Leansters, do we even take five minutes of time to learn from the past as we shape the future? Why should I expect to explain it if we aren't willing to look for it? Here is a great piece of work that tell us in a very compelling way, the obvious: the answers are lying right under our noses, if we only care to look.

The second reason Leansters will be interested in The Puritan Gift is that there is some considerable content around "the Japanese Miracle." For TWI zealots out there who appreciate the original manuals, you will not be disappointed. In particular, much is centered around the groundbreaking work done by the CCS, or Civil Communication Service, led by Homer Sarasohn in the post-war rebuilding era. For this second point, I will leave you with this, if you like the origins of lean, the fundamentals of management and the history that is wrapped around all of that - buy The Puritan Gift for that reason alone. While you wait for your copy to arrive, you can follow these links to more info on Homer Sarasohn and to the CCS manual.

The third reason I liked this book is that there is a compelling message for all of us and that is this: American industry was really good at leadership and we lost our way for some simple reasons that are now a part of our complicated culture. Its going to be hard to unravel some of the damage done to industry. There are a lot of very good reasons about why we lost our way, but there is one that will, quite frankly, anger some, if not  a lot, of Leansters. In Part IV of the book, The Cult of the (So-called) Expert, a section is titled Dr. Deming Rides to the Rescue and Fails. Interested yet? You should be, because the whole notion of professional management is shredded to pieces in this book. I found myself drawing parallels to the management cult described in The Gift with the professional flavor adopted by many Leansters today. The proof that the Lean cult exists today is hard to dispute. Heated debates on forums, industry credentials, the six sigma clan of Black Belts, and high-priced workshop consultants (even those that know their stuff) are all contributing to the creation of an unskilled workforce that can't solve their own problems. That's a bad thing, and Brothers Hopper describe how this Cult of the So-called Expert has infiltrated the professional ranks of American leaders in almost all industries and played a role in getting us into the current mess that we are in.

O.k., at this point, everybody is walking back to their cubicle. Water cooler break over. How many Rivets, Rosie? A solid 5 of out 5 rivets and is on the favorite bookshelf.

Coming Soon: an early excerpt describing an implementation of flow manufacturing of railroad cars in the late 1800s. Yes, THE 1800s.