Learning with Lean: Unleashing the Potential for Sustainable Competitive Advantage, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Learning with Lean

Unleashing the Potential for Sustainable Competitive Advantage, 1st Edition

By James Zurn, Perry Mulligan

Productivity Press

294 pages | 57 B/W Illus.

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The toughest Lean journeys are those taken in organizations that have achieved long-term success. Processes and people become fixed in their ways and exhibit a natural resistance to change. But, regardless of how well your organization is performing, unless you have a sustainable competitive advantage, you are at risk.

Examining the performance gap between good organizations and great ones, Learning with Lean: Unleashing the Potential for Sustainable Competitive Advantage explains how to use Lean as a learning vehicle for achieving and sustaining a competitive advantage.

Helping you better understand the current state of your organization, the book outlines a series of five simple phases for developing an architecture and implementation plan to transform your organization’s performance. These five phases fit neatly into a closed-system model that has similarities to the Plan-Do-Check-Act quality model. The model is simple, easy to communicate, and easy to implement—Assess, Plan, Prepare, Do, and Learn.

  • Supplies a brief overview of Lean tools
  • Provides an understanding of the Voice of the Customer as a focusing engine
  • Covers measurement and goal setting
  • Illustrates the dynamics of organizational change
  • Explains how to boost learning through Lean

The authors guide you through the deployment of training and the implementation of new knowledge and skills around Lean. In addition, they also explain how to find and improve on the areas where waste exists so your organization can reinvent the way it learns.

Effective management techniques recognize the need for balance, and this book is no different. Helping you pinpoint where those balances and dichotomies exist, it arms you with powerful techniques to manage these challenges and to transform your organization into a change-hungry Lean learning organization with a sustainable competitive advantage.

Table of Contents

What Is the Need for Change?

What Is Sustainable Competitive Advantage?

Applied Rate of Learning Threats




Disruptive Organizational and Technology Threats

Overcoming Organizational Inertia

External Crisis Impacts to Inertia

Creating Internal Urgency with No External Crisis

Recognition of the Risk of Inaction

Success Builds Inertia

Ignoring Risks May Stall the Organization

Lean Enables a Learning Organization

Organizational Learning

Learning Organization

Lean as a Learning Vehicle

Transformation Is an Endless Journey

Phases in the Transformation Journey

Phase 1: Assess

Phase 2: Plan

Phase 3: Prepare

Phase 4: Do

Phase 5: Learn

Measuring Impact and Rate of Learning

Change-Hungry Organization Maturity Levels

Communicating to the Organization

Expanded Need for Different Types of Communication

Dichotomy of Conversation

Audience-Based Porpoising

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Change Starts with Knowing What You Have

Assessments Build Stronger Organizations

Learning Atrophy

Take Stock of Yourself

Are You Committed to Leading the Change?

Check Your Ability to Lead a Learning Organization

Check Your Lean Leadership Capabilities

Check Your Lean Thinking and Actions

Check Your Credibility Cash Index

Take Stock of the Organization

Looking for the Capability to Learn

Organizational Beliefs, Knowledge, and Ability

Characterizing Learning Organization Dimensions

Check for Lean Thinking and Action Competencies

Check the Organization’s Performance Quotient

Communicate to the Organization

Complex Message Delivery

Sharing the Transformation Vision

Setting the Course of Action

Personal Actions and Passion for Change

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Planning the Transformation

Forming Your Personal Vision and Plan

You Have to Buy-In

Use Your Passion and Courage to Lead the Organization Transformation

Visualize the End Game

Personalize the Transformation

Build Your Action Plan

Walk the Talk

Changing Organizational Culture

Changing Organizational Momentum

Design the Transformation to a Lean Learning Organization

You Can’t Buy It—You Have to Build It

Integrating Your Supply Chain into the Journey

Lean Becomes the Learning Vehicle

Foundation of the Organization

Core Tenets Align the Organization

Assemble the House

Communicating to the Organization

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Preparing for the Race

Set Expectations

Define Success Goals and Measures

Foundation Layer

Measurement Layer

Action Layer

Deployment Reality

Enroll Natural Lean Leaders

Invest in People

Communicating to the Organization

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Go Improve Something—Start Doing

Go Ahead—Give It a Push

So You Think You Know How It Works

Entropy and Noisy Systems

Noisy Systems

Automation Creates Techno-Waste

Data Will Set You Free

Focus on Using the Voice of the Customer

VoC Segmentation

Customer Listening Posts

VoC as a Focusing Engine

Setting Simple Goals

Work on Things That Matter.

Keep It Simple

One-Touch Flow

Communicating to the Organization

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Leverage the Learnings

Reevaluate and Refresh

Accelerate the Applied Rate of Learning

Leverage Learning with Lean into the Supply Chain

Standard Work

Clustering Thousands of Small Fires into a Forest Fire

Reinforce Good Decision Making and Risk Taking

Benchmark and Compare for Higher Performance

Reinvent Work and Job Skills

Measure and Share Progress

Communicate and Walk the Talk

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Wrapping It Together




Final Thoughts from the Authors

Key Messages in This Chapter

Challenge Actions

Bibliography and Works Cited

Glossary of Terms



About the Authors

James T. Zurn is the director of Lean Business Process Improvement for QLogic Corporation in Aliso Viejo California. He is responsible for driving corporate-wide LEAN adoption, use and impact. He has over 34 years experience in quality, reliability and design engineering with QLogic, Intel, Storage Technology, Xerox, AT&T and Fujitsu.

Jim holds Bachelor and Master’s degrees in engineering with concentrations in statistics and operations research from CCU in California. He’s been a Senior Member of ASQ, SME and IEEE and is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer and Certified Reliability Engineer. He is an SME Certified Manufacturing Engineer in two disciplines (Manufacturing Management and Manufacturing Systems). Additionally, he is an accomplished, GE-trained, Six Sigma Black Belt. He holds registration as an ISO9000 auditor and is pursuing certification as a SEI CMMI lead assessor.

He is serving his fourteenth year on the Board of Examiners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as an Alumni Examiner, and is the founding chair and Judge of the Arizona Governor's Award for Quality program. He was Presiding Judge for the U.S. Air Force’s SECAF Quality Award program and was active in the Air Force’s quality journey as one of five civilian members of the USAF Chief-of-Staff’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Quality Assessment. Additionally, he was Lead Examiner in the U.S. Army’s Centurion Quality Award program and a Senior Examiner in the U.S. Dept. of Labor Workforce Excellence program. Jim is the Chair of the AZ Governor’s Advisory Council on Quality and was a member of the joint private/public Venture Teams with Arizona’s ADOT (Transportation) and ADES (Economic Security) divisions.

He is widely published with over credits in publications such as; IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Quality and Reliability Engineering International and ASQ’s Quality Engineering.

Perry Mulligan is the Senior Vice President of Operations for QLogic (since 2007), where he is responsible for all aspects of the manufacturing and delivery of products to the customer in addition to overall supply chain design and manufacturing strategy. He has over 25 years of experience leading Operations and Supply Chain Management.

In the years prior to QLogic Mr. Mulligan was at Solectron where he held the position of Senior Vice President Supply Chain Management and Chief Procurement Officer, responsible for establishing and executing the overall materials and supply chain strategy. Additionally, he is a member of the Board of Directors for Microvision since January 2010.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Quality Control
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Workplace Culture
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Industrial Engineering