Book Review – Learning to See

by Mike Rother and John Shook
Forward by Jim Womack and Dan Jones

learning-to-see-value-stream-mappingLearning to See is perhaps the best instruction manual for implementing a Lean transformation on the manufacturing plant floor.

The authors take you step-by-step through a process, paving the way to improvement. Value Stream Mapping (VSM) comes first. By creating the Current State Value Stream Map (CS VSM), the new lean practitioner learns how to see the flow and the Muda (waste) in the current process. Muda is anything that impedes or halts flow, thus wasting chronological time.

The CS VSM is analyzed to identify Muda and the opportunities for improvement. The process is redesigned by generating a Future State Value Stream Map (FS VSM), a one-page plan for the new process. On the FS VSM, small starburst cloud icons indicate all the Kaizen-burst mini-projects which must be executed to transform the CS VSM (existing process) into the FS VSM (new streamlined process).

The FS VSM showing the Kaizen-burst mini-projects becomes the project management master plan for continuous improvement, providing the context for meaningful Point Kaizen events. Achieving the Lean Transformation is hard work, but this instruction manual contains all the information needed to accomplish the task.

If you are going to buy just one book about Lean, this is the one. Although Learning to See focuses on material flow in a manufacturing process, the principles and analysis methods can be applied to any workflow.

Available from:

Andy Pattantyus, CPIM is president of Strategic Modularity, Inc., a systems engineering consulting firm, which works with clients on process oriented Lean Transformation projects, including initiatives to improve administrative workflows. Andy is also an active member of APICS-SFV and The ACA GroupContact Andy at


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One thought on “Book Review – Learning to See

  1. By Karen Duddy October 31, 2012 – 9:15 amVery interesting doagilue. I have been recently belted CLSSBB blah, blah. The education was very useful both the Six Sigma and Lean portion. As my previous sentence suggests, the content was taught separately, so it’s been up to me to figure out how to integrate. Briefly, it’s very simple when you focus first on learning to see . If I am able to get that part right, the next steps and tools seem to emerge. Without being able to really look at a value stream and integral processes I’m lost. I do like some Six Sigma-esque tools for process capability and monitoring, but takt time is just as useful. DMAIC and DMADV are nice formats, but the A3 has become my more favored working tool. Point is, in my opinion, if I ever aspire to consider myself an improvement professional, I am obliged to keep informed and continuously improve how I improve.On being belted it may have been a great mistake. Might as well have just painted a bullseye on my forehead, back name your body part. While the idea was to have an expert (really?) help process owners improve their processes, the reality was that they could now step back (which would have required them to have actually stepped in at some point) and I would just fix it.While I am an idealist, I’m not naive. I figured this would happen, but I couldn’t pass up the educational opportunity! To summarize: 1. I agree with all your points and am always buoyed by your ongoing passion for improvement 2. I appreciate learning about all improvement frameworks and methodologies, and feel it is my obligation to know when and how to use these powerful tools 3. No one wins when improvement methodologies face off in battle. When we use all our power and knowledge and focus on making the customer be the winner then we all win. Mark, Karen, Matthew thank you for your perseverence. We are indeed listening.

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