Living Supply Chains by John Gattorna. Book Review by Stephen Parry

This is an excellent book for the knowledgeable practitioner. It is crammed full of diagnostic tools designed to get you thinking about how adaptive your own value chain is or could be. It’s not a book about Lean Principles but it comes close enough for me.

There are some assumptions behind this book,

1) Most organisations have the desire to create an adaptive supply chain,

2)That organisations are ready to abandon their conventional wisdom in order to find out what their customers really want.

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If these assumptions can correctly be made about your organisation then this is book is a must for you.

If you are trying to make a case for your organisation to embark on this course then the book does not provide the evidence you will need or even provide a theoretical framework with which to start. Hence this book is really for the professional change agent working in conditions where you already have senior management commitment.

As a book that reinforces John Gattorna as a skilled and knowledgeable authority on the subject of supply chain improvement it is very successful. It is clear from the book that for the less knowledgeable person then you need the help of someone like John to get you started.

Well written, good read, great source of diagnostic methods, a must for the supply chain improvement practitioner.

4 out of 5 stars

Living Service by Marc Silvester. Book Review by Stephen Parry.

This is an attempt to create new insight into the concept of adaptive service through the creation of a metaphor related to human life. I.e. Adaptive service at its best is linked to its environment by rational, thinking, living beings with a mind, body and soul.

The underlying premise behind this metaphor is that organisational behaviour can be explained using principles demonstrated at the individual level and if we can harness these characteristics we can create new ways of doing business. However, there is ample evidence to demonstrate that as individuals we behave very irrationally in groups or within organisational systems where governance processes are designed to focus people on functional disconnected outcomes.

I believe we get the behaviour we design for. Behaviour is an output not an input. This book assumes that behaviour is an input which can somehow overcome the problems of a badly designed system.

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Organisations are artificial systems and do not contain control mechanisms that even come close to the adaptive mechanisms of Living Systems. So I think the choice of this metaphor actually creates constraints to the great insights, expertise, innovation and breakthrough ideas being put forward. Unfortunately the metaphor is the story and becomes less credible as the metaphor is stretched beyond its usefulness.

This book contains many ideas which are counter-intuitive,however, it’s really good rational thought about getting humans beings to do what they do best by creating organisational governance systems to promote employee creativity and innovation.

The implicit message which should have been more explicit in this book is this, The world is full of highly skilled problem solving people, lets start creating organisations that allow them to use all their skills to solve customer problems and create wealth together with their customers.

3 out of 5 stars

Flawed Advice and the Management Trap by Chris Argyris. Book Review by Stephen Parry

Good Advice is in the eye of the beholder

Let me start by saying this book is much needed by the management community, whether the world of management realises it or not is another question.

The book describes a method for the application of scepticism to management claims and theories, it provides a structure which exposes the logical fallacies inherent in much of what I call pseudo-management ideas.


As a critical thinking primer it works very well, but it will take quite a bit of study and practice to master the ideas to a level which can be applied ad-hoc at management meetings. That said it is something which should become a basic skill for all managers. I suspect managers who like to think about ‘why’ they think the way they do will readily warm to these ideas.

Chris Argyris realises that the management school of ‘Command and Control’ has created a climate which does not foster critical thinking (for lots of reasons too long to go into here) … learning to think clearly is ultimately what this book is all about, often better thinking, leads to better decisions and better organisations.

So where is the flaw in this book about Flaws? it assumes managers want to deconstruct command and control structures to allow them more freedom to think and criticise the status-quo, Alas too many are contented with the way it is. For those managers who want to change this is a great book. The Flaws are only flaws if you want to change.

I highly recommend this book.

Real Lean by Bob Emiliani. Book Review by Stephen Parry

What the CEO needs to know about Lean

The point of the book is very clear. This is a must have book because it brings everyone back to the purpose of Lean… its a management system not a set of tools, it berates the linkage with Six Sigma and provides sound arguments on why they should not be seen in the same way. This book should be given to every CEO, as an instruction book about what it means to develop an organisation based on Lean Management Principles. This is not a how to do it manual, its a ‘why should we do Lean book’ and ‘what it takes from management to BE Lean’

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I recommend every practitioner of Lean take many of the examples from the book and educate their management teams and CEO’s. Then give them this book to read, they can read it on 45 min and it will save a lifetime of heartache, disappointment and money trying to implement what is described in the book as ‘Fake-Lean’ ( A non Lean Improvement programme masquerading as a Lean Programme)

I highly recommend this book its excellent.

Adaptive Enterprise By Stephan H Haeckel. Book Review by Stephen Parry

This review is for: Adaptive Enterprise: Creating and Leading Sense-And-Respond Organizations (Hardcover)

A New Vision

The book talks about creating Sense and Respond 1.0 organisations and adopting operational strategies similar to the approaches taken by the German ‘Mass-Customisation’ school of thought, i.e. using technology to create an information factory then combining it with granular modular production techniques to deliver on-demand services. To my mind this solution falls well short of the Sense and Respond Vision the author expertly outlines. But don’t let the wrong solution prevent you from adopting the right vision. This book and the vision it outlines is very important for the world of work today, where old business models have reached the end of their useful life.

While the technology theme is very strong in the book,(as you would expect from a strategy school based at IBM) its underlying message is the need to deconstruct the very fabric of the organisation and introduce structures that can close the duration between ‘sensing’ and ‘responding’ to a level that establishes a truly on-demand capability. Their analogy of obtaining the responsiveness of ‘Fly-by-Wire’ systems in aircraft works well in this respect

More space might have been given to the approaches required to change the management mindsets and behaviours.

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I would caution companies not to think of this solely as a technology solution otherwise they may be in danger of simply creating a more sophisticated form of make and sell with the technology solution providing a disappointing response to sensing the wrong needs.

The book outlines a brilliant strategic case for the adoption of Sense and Respond principles.

Stephan has brought the term ‘Sense and Respond’ to the attention of a very large audience and has since this book developed it into a fully fledged post-industrial managerial model. A great read for people who are passionate about creating breakthrough organisations.

This book was originally published as a concept outlining the case for Sense and Respond type organizations when In Europe we were actually creating organizations who were doing this, the latter work lead on to the book Sense and Respond by Stephen Parry

The Gold Mine by Freddy Balle. Book Review by Stephen Parry

The Gold Mine: A Novel of Lean Turnaround


Gems as well as gold

I guess the parallel with the book ‘The Goal’ by Goldratt, is no accident and as such is being asked to be compared. It is very similar in format, a novel style portrayal of a company trying to get back to profitability.

In the case of ‘The Goal’ they use a framework based on a ‘Theory of Constraints’ and the ‘Goldmine’ illustrates Lean Manufacturing Principles.

In terms of the story line, the goldmine book is a little weak because I never really get to know the characters or feel any concern or empathy for them. In these terms the ‘Goal’ wins hands down.


In terms of a practical and effective theory of management i.e. Lean Production then the Gold mine is far superior. We even get to see some practical examples worked out within the work environment context, its a sort of case study/documentary.

In conclusion, if you want a good story and poor theory then the Goal is a better choice. But remember, you can always buy a good novel instead.

If like me you want something that works in practice then the Goldmine is a clear winner.

Gods of Management by Handy. Book Review by Stephen Parry

Gods of Management: The Changing Work of Organisations (Organizations)


Find your god

I like Handy’s writing style and have read most of his books, what I particularly like about this publication is that its not his usual commentary about the way the world of work is changing, rather it provides a framework for most managers, particularly new managers to understand the cultural dynamics of their organisation.

Each type of organisation is characterised by one of the Greek gods, its a useful analogy and he is quite playful with the portrayal of each god type.

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Identifying the ‘god’ type operating within your organisation, then understanding its character allows any manager to position their work in way that would be understood and accepted by the hierarchy. It also helps a manager steer clear of incurring their wrath.

I recommend this book as a great primer for anyone learning about organisational dynamics for the first time.

It was simply a joy to read and very useful, Excellent.

The Halo Effect Book Review by Stephen Parry

The Halo Effect: .and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers

Compulsory Reading for ALL Managers

This is an important book berating the media fixation of attributing success characteristics to business leaders when there is little or no supporting evidence.

Rozenzeig, methodically takes apart both the media commentators and business book authors who talk-up certain ‘great’ features of successful leaders and then quote the very same features as bad if those leaders encounter a downturn in fortune.

The litmus test Rozenzweig applies is simple, Do these same writers PREDICT either the success or failure of important business leaders? The evidence shows they do not, they simply create a story to explain the rise or demise of leaders in an effort to have SOMETHING to say about it in order to maintain their ‘expert’ status.

Rozwenzweig clearly demonstrates that all experts can be fooled by randomness especially when its driven by the need to produce a plausible story for a publication deadline or justify a new consulting method to create sales.

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This book has serious implications for all business media writers and business book authors, but more importantly for the rest of us who read the statements telling us what happened, we must now take what they say with a bucket of salt and look beyond the story for the evidence.

The book is well written,informative and logical. Every MBA student needs to study this. This book is now compulsory reading for all my staff

The Black Swan Book Review by Stephen Parry

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

It’s scary finding out the steering wheel is not connected to anything.

Let me start by saying this is a fantastic book, but I did not think that as I was reading it….why? because, the more I read, the more depressed I became, not with the book but with the tearing down of the illusions I have built up over many years about managing businesses and organisations. Realising that all the MBA models for this and that actually feed our futile desire to get control of the future, create certainty and create and illusion that we know what we are doing. These models have created an Illusion of control, far better to deal with reality and be prepared as best we can for big changes which traditional analysis tells us are highly improbable and creates a false sense of security. Taleb has shown that the highly Improbable is anything but.Taleb deconstructs, (rips apart)very logically, the predictive probabilities associated with the ubiquitous bell curve in a manner a non statistician can understand and provides us with a language to use against the analysts, who are using highly sophisticated bell curve models in an effort to make business decisions. This predictive activity can now be revealed for what it is…nothing more than corporate tarot card reading.


For me, finding out that the steering wheel I have been holding onto to steer my company is not connected to anything is a revelation, and has forced me to see the world as it really is, not as the analysts would have us believe.

Well Done Taleb.

Second Century for the Automobile Lean Production Book Review by Stephen Parry

The Second Century: Reconnecting Customer and Value Chain Through Build-to-Order

You need to not only think outside the box but work outside the box

This is a timely reminder for those companies who consider themselves to be Lean to take another long hard look at themselves.

The authors demonstrate that within the four walls of the production plant many manufacturers have put into practice Lean principles, but they go on to demonstrate that all the company has succeeded in doing is optimise a small part of the real value chain. The Authors criticise short-sighted approaches to Lean which provide little or no benefit for the customer and loses the opportunity for companies to differentiate their business.

The next competitive advantage will be gained by those companies who are brave and confident enough to really start connecting their value chains to the customer (end-user) and their suppliers.

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Often companies say things like, ‘we have enough to worry about getting our own part of the business sorted out without worrying about what our suppliers or distributors are doing’ this thinking illustrates the problem the authors are discussing and provide direction for companies who simply cannot think outside the box let alone work outside their box.

This is well written, researched and provides a clear direction for lean Manufacturers, lets hope it does not take another century for them to learn.