Far from the Factory: Lean for the Information Age, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Far from the Factory

Lean for the Information Age, 1st Edition

By George Gonzalez-Rivas, Linus Larsson

Productivity Press

325 pages | 95 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2010-08-18
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If you currently employ knowledge workers who do most of their work on computers or with computers, access the Internet, utilize internal and external databases, use e-mail or other new messaging technology, then this book is for you. Quite simply, this handbook is for any organization with a lot of Web DNA that wishes to cut costs, improve performance, and stay perpetually competitive. It is for change agents or managers within those organizations who work with information and want to leverage the latest crop of tool sets to deliver on the promise of Lean for the modern, information-rich office.

… packed with new ideas … breaks new ground in so many directions … .

— John Bicheno, Director, Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff Business School

… excellent … on several levels … … teaches us how to visualize the depth of hidden wastes in our complex information flows and the large opportunity for improvement that this suggests.

— Keith Russell, PhD, Global Continuous Improvement Leader R&D, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

Very interesting view on operational excellence, helpful to readers without a background in this area of expertise.

— Bert Nordberg, President and CEO. Sony Ericsson

Congratulations to all the readers holding this book! … These Lean ideas must be an integral part of the daily operations of your business. I am going to get each and every one of my management team a copy of this brilliant book at the start for our own Lean journey.

— Lennart Käll, CEO, Wasa Kredit

It’s one thing to develop a concept. It’s another to make it sing. This is the hymnal.

— Dr. Don V. Steward, CEO Problematics, Professor Emeritus, Sacramento State University, inventor of DSM

… a must read for CIOs everywhere."

— Julian Amey, Principal Fellow, Warwick University


This is one of the best books I’ve seen on Lean for knowledge and project workers. Most books on Lean implicitly focus on repetitive processes—doing the same thing over and over—whereas this book recognizes many of the challenges of understanding and improving a process that might only occur the same way once. This book will certainly help project workers eliminate the waste from their process improvement efforts.

—Tyson R. Browning, Associate Professor of Operations Management, Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University

a must read. Filled with examples, diagrams, and other tips for success, the authors have captured the power of process and updated it for a global, diverse, and technology driven economy. It’s a great learning tool that takes you from the origins of Lean and brings it into modern day applications.

—Lisa W. Hershman, CEO, Hammer and Co., co-author of Faster, Cheaper, Better: The 9 Levers for Transforming How Work Gets Done.

Wow! What a book! Welcome to the new age of Lean! This is a long overdue book of the impact of web 2 on Lean thinking. As I said when I received this book for the publisher, 'This book is packed with new ideas, and breaks new ground in so many directions, for a traditional Lean thinker like me! I have been continually surprised, amazed, and delighted at your many new insights. It truly breaks new ground in areas as IT, knowledge management, project management, office lean, and more that have been very much under-thought-out in transferring thinking from the factory to the office.' … Even if you are skepticalor a 'traditional' Lean thinker you will enjoy the many entertaining observations and sideline comments. My Lean 'Book of the Year'. Easily.

— John Bicheno, Director MSc in Lean Operations at Lean Enterprise Research Centre, Cardiff Business School, in the Lean Management Journal, October 2010

...an excellent book that I experienced and enjoyed reading on several levels. It is very useful - filled with good practical advice and tools adapted and designed to suit Business improvement in information-oriented areas such as Research & Development. I look forward to experimenting with some of the novel approaches described. It is thought provoking - rich in new ideas and concepts bringing together classical Lean principles with the tools and capabilities of a modern Web 2.0 environment. It teaches us how to visualize the depth of hidden wastes in our complex information flows and the large opportunity for improvement that this suggests. Finally it was fun to read a book that so creatively integrates and weaves together such a diversity of ideas and approaches and instructive stories into a much needed fresh adaption of Lean for knowledge workers…. just like me and everyone I work with in Research & Development.

— Keith Russell PhD, Global Continuous Improvement Leader R&D, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals

Very interesting view on operational excellence, helpful to readers without a background in the area of expertise.

— Bert Nordberg, President & CEO of Sony Ericsson

Do you have access to better web-based productivity tools at home than you do at the office? Is your corporate email inbox polluted with well-meaning but productivity-draining administrative emails? Is corporate IT a help or a hindrance to serving your customers? Do your internal projects spend more time competing for resources and attention than serving the organization? If any of these apply to you, then you must read this book! Far from the factory: Lean for the Information Age is a lively and fascinating read containing several lifetimes of wisdom, experience, and insights. This book is a must-read for today's knowledge worker, IT manager, project manager, Lean neophyte, or Lean guru. It is filled with thought-provoking and entertaining anecdotes, illustrations, and tips that highlight the problem of waste in information-intensive processes. The book is filled with many practical tools and ideas from the Lean Body of Knowledge and expertly outlines how they can be put to use in driving out waste and improving information flow. While earlier texts have done a good job of explaining how Lean techniques can be adapted from shop floor to office floor, this book is the first to truly make the leap to the knowledge-intensive, email-filled, and utterly chaotic Information Age.

— Tim McLaren, MBA, PhD Assoc. Professor of IT and Supply Chain Management, Ryerson University and Project Leader, Korva Consulting Ltd.

It’s one thing to develop a concept. It’s another to make it sing. This is the hymnal.

— Dr. Don V. Steward, CEO Problematics, Professor Emeritus Sacramento State University, inventor of DSM.

A very inspiring and thoughtful reading for me as a knowledge worker. It is addressing the lean principles for the Web 2.0 in a quest for higher value efficiency of our time, in a work context of overflow of email, RSS, Facebook etc. It is describing among others a Lean process in 5 steps for the Knowledge worker, as well as describing how to get to a Lean Culture and Lean time metrics.

— Leif Edvinsson The world´s First Director of Intellectual Capital The World´s First Professor of Intellectual Capital

Congratulations to all the readers holding this book! It is not only well written and entertaining, it confirms some of my own experiences as well as offering important new insights that give you, the reader, many new ideas to consider to drive success in your business. These Lean ideas must be an integral part of the daily operations of your business. I am going to get each and every one of my management team a copy of this brilliant book at the start for our own Lean journey.

— Lennart Käll, CEO Wasa Kredit. Former CEO of Ticket Travel Group, ICA Bank and SEB Finans.

I really enjoyed reading Far from the Factory: Lean for the Information Age. This is a book that I did not even know we needed, but we do. The book addresses the needs of modern companies in a way that no other Lean handbook does. It takes a fresh attempt to ineffective office practices that has evolved in most companies and it suggests methods, tools and inspirations to tackle the challenges. Thevbook gives a good mix of proven lean thinking and modern tools like collaboration software etc. to help restore your competitiveness.

— Gert Moelgaard, VP, Innovation & Business Development, NNE Pharmaplan

Applying Lean to the office has long been the missing link for consultants and practitioners alike. This book fills that void with well thought out, coherent and provocative prescriptions. In an environment full of armchair Lean experts who peddle dubious wisdom, this book is a bright light, showing how good thinking can advance best practices.

— Jorge A. Colazo Professor of Operations Management at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina Former Toyota Production and Maintenance Manager Founder and CEO - Lean Specialists - Consultants in Process Improvement

This is a beautiful book knitting together the concepts of Lean for the white collar knowledge worker to a practical guide of how to really get the benefits out of your Lean-project. The authors has proved a very deep understanding of how to make a difference In applying the Lean philosophy in the information age and also the importance to involve all parts of the organization on the change journey. I certainly recommend all my CIO colleagues to read the book.

— Ulf Tingström, former CIO for several financial institutions in Nordic, Skandia/Old Mutual and SBAB

We have used Value Stream Mapping as the primary tool for making process improvements in the office, but the business of applying lean thinking in this environment is relatively new. I find it encouraging to see that the authors have developed additional tools and methods and are leveraging new applications that can be used to identify and eliminate waste for the purpose of improving process performance.

— Lou Farinola - Manufacturing Engineering Director - Global Industrial Engineering and GM Global Manufacturing System

George Gonzalez-Rivas and Linus Larsson describe the challenge of working in the knowledge economy: knowledge workers wrestling with data and information overload, offices and projects working in traditional ways and failing to keep pace with the information revolution; IT departments lagging behind the shift to a Web 2.0 world. Far from the Factory: Lean for the Information Age provides timely insight into how Lean can be applied in the knowledge environment. Practical tools and approaches are given that take Lean out of its traditional manufacturing setting and apply it the Knowledge world. Excellent guidance for leaders and workers in office and project environments, and a 'must read' for CIOs everywhere.

— Julian Amey, Principal Fellow Warwick University, former Vice President Global Supply Chain at AstraZeneca

Table of Contents


1 What Is Knowledge Worker Lean?

The Role of Lean in the Invisible Office

Lean and Web 2.0

Increase Productivity: What You Can Learn from Bricklayers about Lean ImprovementThe Impact of Company Size and the Shift to Knowledge Worker LeanContinuous Improvement: Theory Y, Generation X, and Info Pullers

How to Implement Lean in the Information Age

How to Adapt Lean Methodology to Different Environments

2 It Came from the Factory: The Origins of Lean

From Factory Lean to Information Age Lean

Visualizing Waste: The Factory Process

Seven Types of Lean Factory Waste

Paper Office Lean

Environmental Waste Enablers

Prosaic Information Wastes

Information Environment Waste

Administrative WastesAdministrative Drivers of Waste

Case Study: Applying Lean to Administrative Support Processes

Communication and Transportation: Spaghetti Diagrams

The Sad Fax Facts

Information Age Lean

Visible Waste: The Parts We Can See

Software Waste

Software Expense

Invisible Waste: The Parts We Can’t See

3 The Perfect Information Storm

The Evolution of Information Systems and the Impact on Lean

The Recent Past: The Dim Days before the Web

The Early Days: Longhand–Wang–Printer–Fax

Case Study: Pre-Lean Communication

How Information Circuits Create Waste

Case Study: The Travel Authorization Process

The Present: The Dawn of the Web

Information: The Dark Matter of Business Process Analysis

The Future: What Will Web 2.0 Bring?

Day-to-Day Collaboration Tools

Lean Communication Tools: Video and Desktop ConferencingMicroblogging

Screencasting and Recording

Brainstorming and Design Collaboration

Kaizen Sessions of the Future

4 The Great Modern Office Wasteland

The Waste of E-Mail

Case Study: When Words Are Not Enough

The Waste of Excess Complexity and Process

Case Study: Complexity and Process

Defining the Process in Information-Intensive Work



The Waste of Reporting

Case Study: The Kremlin Effect

The Green … Green … Red Phenomenon

The Waste of Multitasking

Case Study: Theory of Constraints

Multitasking: The Switching Penalty

Multitasking: The Lean Waste Penalty

Multitasking: The Project Penalty

Multitasking: The Performance Measurement Penalty

Case Study: Measuring a Process

Multitasking: The Command and Control Penalty

The Waste of Time

Direct Productivity

Time Management

Activity Visibility

Four-Step Program to Eliminate Wasted Time

The Waste of High Utilization

SMED and SMEW for the Information Age Office

Overly High Utilization

The Waste of Parallel Project Management

5 The I in CIO: Information Transformation

IT Tool Selection and Approval

Automatic Process Discovery

The As-Is Phase That Never Was: Why the Process Often Fails

How Automatic Process Discovery Can Increase the Success Rate

High-Level Design Principles for Information Lean

Case History: The Boss and the Rock

Case Study: The Spiral Model

Case Study: Waterfall Requirements

Lessons Learned

Knowledge Management

Lean Code Management: Lean by IT for IT

Business Model Wastes

Development Wastes


6 How to Launch Your Lean Journey

Alternate Routes to the Lean Roadmap

The Benchmarking and Best Practice Adoption Hop

The Business Process Reengineering Leap

The Statistical Process Control and Six Sigma Turn

Case Study: Higher Quality, Lower Cost

Creating the Lean Roadmap

Preparing the Road for Knowledge Worker Lean

Selling Your Organization on Going Lean

Argument 1: The Good Idea

Argument 2: The Consensus Approach

Argument 3: The Expert Opinion

Argument 4: The Analysis

7 Model Information Flow: The Information Element and the Information Matrix

The Difference between Information Flow and Process Flow

The Impact of Modern Communications on Product Development

High-Level Process Design and Its Implications for Information Flow

How to Represent Information Flow: The Matrix

Sequential Flow

Parallel Flow

Circuit Flow

Multicircuit Flow

How to Read the Information Matrix

The Uses and Benefits of Infel Design

Situational Visibility

Task Resequencing

Cost Reduction through Task Elimination or Exporting

Identification of Independent Tasks

Reduction of Rework

Simulation Friendly

Earned Value Analysis

Organizational Design

Using the Information Flow Matrix to Identify Lean Wastes







Infels and Therbligs

8 How to Implement Knowledge Worker Lean


Lean Methodology: A Snapshot

Information Matrix

Process Improvement Maturity Model

States of Maturity: Where We Are Now

Practical Applications of the Lean Toolset

Starting Off on Your Lean Journey: Your Charter, Your Customer, and Your Plan

Lean Team Formation

Team Process

Risk Management Techniques

Fact Finding and Discovery

How to Retrieve Low-Level Process Performance Data

Early Change Management

Doing the Analysis: Developing an Understanding of the Process

Measuring Performance via Cumulative Flow

Discovering Root Cause through Aggregate Data

Creating and Working with the Information Matrix View

Kaizen Phase 1

Kaizen Phase 2

Selecting Kaizen Phase 2 Ideas

Implementing Kaizen Phase 2 Ideas

Special Cases: Variable Dependencies, the Desire Path Approach, and Decision Bottlenecks

Variable Dependency

The Desire Path

Decision Bottlenecks

9 How to Sustain Knowledge Worker Lean

Overview of 5S


Case Study

Sustaining Information Age Lean Using a Visual Management System

Short-Range Management

Long-Range Management

The Mechanics of a Visual Management System

Approach 1: Excel and SharePoint

Approach 2: Intranet Status Board

Approach 3: Customized-off-the-Shelf (COTS)

The Lean Journal

10 Change Management: Practical Lessons from Monks, Generals, and Fashion Models

Three Ways to Lead Lean

The Rules of Success: People, People, People

Performance Management

Process Tip: Use the Socratic Approach

Change Management: The Soft Part Is the Hard Part

Case Study: The Reengineer, His Mother, and the Coffee

Information Lean Is A Man-Machine System

Overcoming Resistance to Lean

Nonlinear Risk Aversion

Case Study: Nonlinear Risk Aversion

Turning Your Lean Project into a Lean Culture: Measuring Performance 57

Don’t Rely on the 100th Monkey: Planning for Lean

The PDCA Cycle

11 Knowledge Worker Lean: The Takeaway

Challenge 1: Getting Up and Getting Going

Step 1: Meet the Boss; Obtain Buy-in

Step 2: Meet the Process Owner; Assess Commitment

Step 3: Get a Feel for the Process and the People

The Takeaway: How to Begin

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 2: Creating a Lean Team

Preparing Your Team

The Takeaway: How to Build a Lean Team

What Can Go Wrong Challenge

3: How to See What You See; Fact Finding

Searching for Clues Indicating Waste

The Takeaway: Dig Deep

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 4: How to Build the Lean Case; Doing the Analysis

Breaking the News: How to Report Your Findings

The Takeaway: If You Build It, They Will Come Around

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 5: How to Evaluate Information Flow

Reporting Your Findings

The Takeaway: How to Get Your Message Across

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 6: Turning Lean Ideas into Results

How to Create a Plan

The Takeaway: Moving Forward

What Can Go Wrong

Start with the Quick Win: Low Hanging Opportunities

What Can Go Wrong

Scoping and Prioritizing Projects

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 7: Sustaining Lean; Communications and Collaboration

During the Lean Discovery Phase: Team Talk

The Takeaway: Fundamentals of Early Success

During the Sustain Phase: Ongoing Communication

The Takeaway: Use Your Web Site to Sustain Lean Culture

What Can Go Wrong

Challenge 8: Sustaining Lean; Policies, Procedures, and Metrics

Sustaining Lean with Visual Management Systems

The Takeaway: Use Policies, Procedures, and Metrics to Sustain Lean

What Can Go Wrong

About the Authors

George Gonzalez-Rivas has been a process improvement consultant for most of his life and has worked with several consulting companies, most recently as a partner for PA Consulting Group. He has advised telecom, energy, and product development organizations, and is the inventor of the Infel Matrix approach to information modeling. He is continuously improving his Lean skills. He is currently the national director of AnyLogic America. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.

Linus Larsson, until recently a partner at PA Consulting, is now pursuing new business ventures with The Quest Group while he is at work on yet another new book. As an advisor on strategy and performance improvement to large international corporations for more than 20 years, Linus has worked with high-performance companies in a range of industries, including manufacturing, financial services, health care, and business services. He has held senior management positions with several global business services corporations, where he has helped pioneer a number of Lean initiatives. His diverse experience and innovative approach, along with his record of success, make him a leading thinker, as well as a much sought after writer, speaker, and advisor on effective ways to apply Lean philosophy in a non-factory environment. Linus is based in Stockholm where he lives with his wife and three children."

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control