Creating a Lean and Green Business System: a Book Review by Bill Bellows

6 August 2013
Bill Bellows reviews ‘Creating a Lean and Green Business System’ by Keivan Zokaei, Hunter Lovins, Andy Wood and Peter Hines.

“The boundary of the system…may be drawn around a single company, or around an industry, or as in Japan in 1950, the whole country. The bigger be the coverage, the bigger be the possible benefits, but the more difficult to manage. The aim must include the future.” W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics

Beginning with his first visit to Japan in 1946, Dr. W. Edwards Deming encouraged organizations to see their internal operations as a system, with an endless connection to suppliers and customers. According to Dr. Deming, management of an organization or a work group requires management of the parts and management of the relationships among the parts of the organization.
In doing so, his cyclical model for seeing production as a system bears a strong resemblance to the cyclical model used by environmentalists to remind us that “what goes around, comes around.”
Amongst the hundreds of executives inspired by Deming during his 1950 lecture series was Shoichiro Toyoda, whose efforts to improve the quality of Toyota’s automobiles led to a Total Quality Control effort that is integral today to Toyota’s Production System. Fast forward to 1991, when Toyoda offered this testimony, “There is not a day I don’t think about what Dr. Deming meant to us. Deming is the core of our management.”
The ability to see the parallels between “Lean” and “Green” may be lost on those who associate Lean narrowly with a multitude of tools and techniques of industrial engineering, many copied from Toyota’s renowned Production System, and those who associate “Green” with a primary focus on one relationship, with the environment, and focus less on relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which they operate.
In writing Creating a Lean and Green Business System, Keivan, Hunter, Andy, and Peter have provided a highly valuable beginners guide to the possibilities that may emerge when Lean practitioners look beyond their tool box and focus on the environment, the open system their organization operates within.
With a generous basic perspective on both Lean and Green, the authors have also provided an invaluable guide for “Green” advocates to expand their environmental systems perspectives to include systems that operate within organizations.
Beyond the well-documented basics of both Lean and Green, the authors progress from essential theory and informative background to highly detailed and wide-ranging application examples, beneficial to both newcomers and experienced practitioners.
The dedicated chapter-length accounts of how three well-known companies, Adnams, Tesco, and Marks and Spencers, continuously engage employees to seek new opportunities for investment, provide easy to understand examples and explanations that a sustained systemic view of organizations yields results that can be measured in terms of undeniable superior profitability.
The financial results of these efforts represent the essence of sustaining any new order of thinking for how organizations operate. These accounts and evidence provided by this book offer an exciting reminder from Dr. Deming to Lean and Green leaders that “The bigger be the coverage, the bigger be the possible benefits.”
You can buy ‘Creating a Lean and Green Business System’ here.

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