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.



At September 16, 2010 at 6:08 AM , Anonymous Andy Wagner said...

Fabulous book for the lean community.
Hard to describe better than you did, but truly fabulous and informative.

At September 18, 2010 at 9:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds riveting - pun intended.

"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. "

You mean it IS being recognized that LEAN is a cult? A year ago stickers by every stapler said "stapler", this year no one cares. Sounds like a fast moving shift to me.

At September 18, 2010 at 1:21 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

@Andy: Yup, great book. Hope all is well with you Andy.

@Anonymous: I'm not sure what you are asking. What the shift is that you are referring to...can you elaborate?

At September 24, 2010 at 6:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The shift to which I was referring (and which you ask about) means..... a shift in perception of how certain LEAN practices evolve in the importance hierarchy in an organization. The important focal points shift.

For example, first time Leansters (those new to LEAN and getting started applying the principles in an organization) apply (for example) labeling tape to the shelf where the stapler goes, they audit this, do the gemba walk checking that the stapler is in it's proper location. They focus on this as a measure for their success. It's a tangible touchpoint. Then one year later, no one cares if the stapler is by the label that says stapler.

This means that Leansters have evolved in their understanding of LEAN principles to realize that there are bigger issues to deal with than whether the worker's not so important stapler is placed in the labeled space marked stapler.

So it (focus) moves off the horizon of placement - shifts, if you will, in focus to not as important. This is evolution. Good evolution to me (and that may require more explanation).

I am reading the Puritan Gift now and it is very captivating so far.

I thank you for accepting comments. I would love to start an anonymous blog to document some of the Lean craziness we have experienced - but fear anyone knowing identity and possible repercussions. Would you support a view from the worker?

At September 25, 2010 at 12:15 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

@Anonymous: Thanks for the clarification. Would I support a view from the worker? Yes! If you want to remain anonymous, that's fine, but we will have to work out some sort of way for you to post. We have two options: 1) Drop me an email at bryan@twiservice.com and I'll give you blogging permissions, or 2) you can continue to post comments, but I'll have to edit and post myself, which is kind of inefficient and a source of delay. If you contact me via email, confidence is assured.

Thanks and look forward to understanding Lean from your point of view!



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