The 3 Ls of lean management

The Routledge Companion to Lean Management has hit the book shelves. Here is a summary of its main conclusions. The key message? Any lean transformation—regardless of the sector and application area—is dependent on the three essential Ls of lean: Leadership for Long-term Learning.

The Routledge Companion to Lean Management provides a deep investigation into one of the most celebrated, used, and criticized business concepts of our time, namely lean management. Today, “lean” is on everyone’s lips—not only across all functional areas of the traditional manufacturing enterprise, but also in many different industries. Whereas other business concepts have proven to be short-lived and faddish, lean has maintained a strong position for three decades; what is more, it is gaining momentum. Lean is spreading far beyond its original environment on the shop floors of Toyota.

A lean world

In the Companion’s first chapter, The Evolution of lean thinking and practice, Dan Jones and Jim Womack write:

Lean thinking and practice has arguably become the most successful approach to business improvement of our generation. It has outlasted many other improvement approaches and been taken up by organizations in all kinds of industries across the world. Almost every large organization now has some form of lean program or internal lean improvement group and lean has spawned an army of lean consultants.

We witness a wide-spawned movement towards a lean world. In the concluding Chapter 40, my co-editor Dr Daryl Powell and I, summarize how we can understand this movement as it continue its spread beyond the inception in automotive assembly lines.

Leadership for long-term learning (3Ls)

As a concept, lean has clearly evolved over the last three decades. The 72 contributing authors describe and discuss what “lean” looks like in different settings – from production to sales & marketing, from automotive to healthcare and higher education. To our surprise, the various chapters make clear that what is lean in one setting can be non-lean in another. Based on our reading of all chapters, we suggest that the essence of lean—as it applies to all functional areas of the enterprise and different industries and sectors—is continuous improvement, with learning at its core. We conclude:

Present-day lean thinking is ultimately about creating the learning organization. A precondition for this is developing a long-term perspective. In addition, fostering organization-wide learning requires a special form of leadership. We call these the three essential Ls of lean—learning, a long-term perspective, and leadership.

Why read the book?

Routlegde Companion to Lean Management

You need this book if you are working with lean, because:

  • it collects an extensive sample of expert global lean knowledge in one place,
  • it provides a detailed description of lean management across all parts of the lean enterprise, and
  • it offers important perspectives for applying lean across different industries.

The Routledge Companion to Lean Management can be purchased at or most other large book retailers.

UPDATE APRIL 2017: The Routledge Companion to Lean Management has won the prestigious Shingo Research Award.

4 thoughts on “The 3 Ls of lean management

  1. Sounds like a very interesting reading, I am looking forward to it. I like the concept of leaders for long-term learning, it grasps the essence of the whole Lean experience.

  2. Pingback: Routledge Companion to Lean Management | Ed. Torbjørn Netland | Michel Baudin's Blog

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