I just finished reading Practicing Lean, edited by Mark Graban. It's one of the most refreshing lean books I've read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is, well, practicing lean in their organizations.

The book is an anthology with contributions by (as of this post) 16 different authors. It's the variety in tone, content, and style that really gives the book its charm. Unlike so many of the turgid, overly long books on lean already in the market, Practicing Lean doesn't beat you over the head with obligatory success stories, convoluted models, fancy diagrams, derivatives of Toyota houses, and the dreaded authorial air of omniscience that makes all points seem obvious and inescapable. (And by the way, I'm including my own two books in this critique.) In contrast to the lecturing and dogmatic tone of most other books, Practicing Lean feels like talking to your buddies over a beer about what they're doing and what they learned that day. It's not a didactic lecture from a teacher. It's a peer-level discussion between you and the contributors. 

Not every point resonated with me -- which is fine. My experiences are by definition different from those of the authors. But at least once in every story I recognized something that I had done myself (often wrongly!), or an insight that I also had in working with clients. The pleasant surprise that comes from having a similar experience as the writer hooked me, and made me pay closer attention to the writer's other experiences or reflections. 

Practicing Lean isn't a reference book that you'll use when learning to implement a tool with which you're unfamiliar. It's not part of the lean canon like Ohno's, Womack's, or Shingijutsu writings. And that's a good thing. Instead, it's a book in which you'll occasionally read a chapter here or there when you want to see how someone else -- like you -- dealt with a real problem, at a real company, while facing similar headwinds. 

Sometimes you don't need a lecture from a professor (or god knows, a consultant). Sometimes you just want to hear how your buddy handled something. Practicing Lean is just that.