I just finished one of the best business books I've read in a long time -- Art Byrne's Lean Turnaround Action Guide. Whether or not you've read his first book, this is an invaluable resource for business leaders, middle managers, or even consultants. Unlike his earlier book, in which he made the case for embarking on lean by explaining why lean is the only sane business strategy, in this book he shows the reader how to take the first steps down the lean road.

The Action Guide is a case study covering the initial steps of a lean implementation at a fictional company, following the process that Byrne has used for the past 30 years. Where appropriate, he discusses core philosophies -- for example, "lead from the top" -- but the focus is on what that means, and how to convince executives to actually do it. What do you say to them? What are the likely arguments from the resistors? How do you overcome them?

At the same time, Byrne doesn't bog down in a discussion of tools. After introducing tools like kaizen events or standard work combination sheets, he quickly pivots to the more important issue -- how and when to introduce these tools to the leadership team. You'll need to go elsewhere for detailed explanations of how the tools work. As a result, by the end of the book, you're left with a clear roadmap for how to orchestrate the conversion to lean: what language to use; how to choose the functional areas to start in; how to involve the leadership team; and how to deal with the inevitable obstacles that will arise. 

The approach Byrne describes stems from his own successful experiences at Danaher and as a private equity investor.. But I wonder whether his approach would work for all companies. What about the companies that he didn't buy? Could he have followed this model with those other firms? Or is there something about the management and culture of those other companies that precluded this aggressive approach and mandated something slower -- and perhaps even led him to not invest in them? Is it possible that a slower, more gradual introduction would result in equally good results over the long term? Paul Akers, for example, is doing impressive work at his company, FastCap, but he's not following Byrne's shock and awe method. 

Notwithstanding these questions, the Action Guide is a terrific addition to anyone's lean library. It's well-written (and CAUTION -- Kellyanne Conway moment ahead -- fabulously edited by my own editor, Tom Ehrenfeld) in a brisk, direct tone that I imagine to be reflective of the way Byrne talks. It's a fast read and well worth the investment.