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Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale

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How well does your organization respond to changing market conditions, customer needs, and emerging technologies when building software-based products? This practical guide presents Lean and Agile principles and patterns to help you move fast at scale—and demonstrates why and how to apply these methodologies throughout your organization, rather than with just one department or team.

Through case studies, you’ll learn how successful enterprises have rethought everything from governance and financial management to systems architecture and organizational culture in the pursuit of radically improved performance. Adopting Lean will take time and commitment, but it’s vital for harnessing the cultural and technical forces that are accelerating the rate of innovation.

* Discover how Lean focuses on people and teamwork at every level, in contrast to traditional management practices
* Approach problem-solving experimentally, by exploring solutions, testing assumptions, and getting feedback from real users
* Lead and manage large-scale programs in a way that empowers employees, increases the speed and quality of delivery, and lowers costs
* Learn how to implement ideas from the DevOps and Lean Startup movements even in complex, regulated environments

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 22, 2014

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Jez Humble

8 books228 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews
Profile Image for Sergey Shishkin.
157 reviews41 followers
April 3, 2016
This book should be a required read for every software engineering university program as well as MBAs. Seriously, it's the most comprehensive coverage of modern management and product development principles and practices I've came across. It presents radical but proven ideas in a respectful and non-dogmatic way, backed up with case studies of the most successful companies across industries. Extra points for covering NUMMI – the ultimate case study of lean thinking.
Profile Image for Sebastian Gebski.
952 reviews838 followers
February 8, 2015
B-R-I-L-L-I-A-N-T book.

In theory, it shouldn't be any kind of surprise, because it's Jez Humble's book - and he's the man who gave famous "Continuous Delivery" to the world. But I was skeptical: first, because I've read quite a few "Lean" books recently and none of them (except Poppendiecks, of course) was really useful; second, because I didn't like some of Jez'es opinions expressed on the web recently. I wouldn't risk a statement that I disagree with them completely, but I had a feeling that his focus is a bit displaced (for my taste).

Anyway, back to the book:

It starts with an earthquake - honestly, I loved first 2 chapters, they've managed to fully grab my attention. Not because there were any breakthrough ideas presented, but thanks to some great examples & analogies (GM, Toyota, Tesla, Bonaparte ;D) that really made me thinking. Around 1/3 the content got a bit generic, but the overall quality has raised again soon after that & it remained at a very high level until the very end.

I'm not going to go through the book chapter by chapter, I've made tons of bookmarks & I'll just list below stuff I've found most valuable:
* exploring & PoCing VS technical debt
* efficiency of A/B testing
* "you build it, you run it" approach (CTO of Amazon)
* "fitness function" on a team level in 2PT approach
* NUMMI's approach to change the culture (behaviour over way of thinking)
* lean approach in GRC circles

I admit that this book has also made me think about Conway's Law in a little bit different way then before.

All right, I could keep listening interesting stuff from this book, but the point is: every IT professional that deals with IT landscape development & maintenance in companies larger than 100 people should read this book. It's technology agnostic, there are no pre-requisites but the good will, open mind & will to do things faster, better & more beneficial.

A-MUST-READ, especially for blind methodology zealots of all sorts.
Profile Image for Giovani Facchini.
47 reviews4 followers
July 8, 2018
This book brings a very challenging view to those who may be only used to waterfall processes, huge (big-bang) projects and quality gates, hence I recommend the reading for those that did not have an exposure to Agile and would like to challenge some of their believes.

One of the ideas I really like is the concepts of "Horizons" for product development and how to use the discovery for it through MVP's that are build fast and cheap to validate ideas by customer experimentation and measurement. Furthermore, it tells us to focus on learning by pivoting, changing and adapting fast in the discovery in order to focus on quality and more thorough (time consuming) process when we already have evidence of customer buy-in.

For the ones who already read Continuous Delivery, some parts will sound repetitive. However, if you have not, you will benefit from having a grasp on how to improve the software delivery process. Strangler pattern and the use of Mission Command are also very interesting topics.

The insights on the importance of experiment, A/B testing, customer experience (conversion, usage, buying) are great. Mainly the information that much more than 50% of experiments fail to achieve their outcome (bringing to us an important warning that measure is paramount).

What I found to be missing was a more thorough/deep analysis of the specific cases presented (from different companies). Some of them looked like a piece of marketing instead of an analysis or did not make a fair/scientific comparison.

The other part that I disliked was related to HR practices, culture and budget. HR and culture are, of course, complex topics to be covered in small chapters and as it envolves human behavior can be very tricky. The author tried to "disprove" that there is no huge difference between people's performance. Author did not bring any data to the discussion, so it was just shallow arguments. I already saw many times a more than 5x difference between people (I lead many and worked with many). So, claim would need to be backed up with data (since I know it happens).

The other part about pay also did not consider the reality and business models of many successful companies. There were statements saying that a company should make big/generous payments to employees and all and it should give generous relieve packages for the ones that want to live (and not change). Many successful multi-billion companies use a "pay the market" or even "below the market" strategy and are able to make employees to stay long and have great market share. So, I think this is much more complex than what was stated in the book and it was not considered.
Profile Image for Arturas.
8 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2019
Must read book for anyone in software development leadership role, especially VP of Engineering and Product Management.

Book is packed with a lot of information, practical advice and my favorite case studies that connect everything to reality.

This book covers product development, organizational culture, hiring and developing talent, prioritisation and a lot more.
Profile Image for Oksana Hoshva.
20 reviews16 followers
January 11, 2015

The book relatively short, concise and practical as the authors intended it to be. It clearly explains how the disciplines of Lean, Agile, Kata, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking are converging through the unifying principles of an adaptive learning organisation. The authors we show how to grow organisations which can innovate rapidly in response to changing market conditions, customer needs, and emerging technologies.

Part I of the book introduces the main themes of the book: culture, strategy, and the lifecycle of innovations.
In Part II the authors discuss how to explore new ideas to gather data so you can quickly evaluate which ones will provide value or see a sufficiently rapid uptake. Part III covers how to exploit validated ideas — those that emerge from the crucible of exploration — at scale, and also presents a systematic approach to improving the way we run large programs of work. Finally, Part IV shows how enterprises can grow an environment that fosters learning and experimentation, with a focus on culture, governance, financial management, IT, and strategy.

I skipped the software development, IT systems and processes parts since those are not that useful to me at the moment being a non-technical professional.
There is a big section on organisational culture that was an interesting reading itself, and, of course, culture transformation advice is of big value to enterprises that want to run lean. I also enjoyed the parts talking on the purpose of an organisation that has to guide strategic planning and all the further activities.

The most valuable part for me was the one on Balancing the enterprise portfolio. I find the discussed framework (presented in Moore’s 'Escape Velocity: Free Your Company's Future from the Pull of the Past’ book) very practical for analysing, planning and evaluation corporate innovation initiatives. The Three Horizons Model
provides a tool to balance the portfolio of exploring new business models, exploiting validated ones, and developing core businesses.
Profile Image for Maik Broxterman.
6 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2020
Lean Enterprise never really got to the point where it sticks with me. 

It rather looks like a collection of observations and opinions than something actionable or scientifc. E.g. the section about financial management; it describes disassociating funding from a fiscal cycle, but it never gets a clear empirical or statistical background. Mostly hypothesis and ideas/ways of thinking that are not really fleshed out.

It's lacking a lot of essential information. How do you monitor, what are the ways you control without micromanaging. Sometimes warnings or suggestions are given that actually make sense. But it never elaborates on it. Also a lot of references are given to companies that had a benefit from taking the approach, but it is not elaborated why and how. 

Mostly the assumption is carried out that autonomous cross-functional teams are a silver bullet. They talk a lot about "significant improvements". But I would be very interested in what is the improvement and how it's proven to be.

My concern is that this only enables people to start to use lean terminology, opposed to becoming lean. 

Still there are enough valuable parts in this book. But it's very fragmented and rather reference material than crazy new insights and standpoints.

The books Continuous Delivery (same co-writer) and Agile IT Organisation Design (same organisation - Thoughtworks) actually got me enthousiastic. Lean Enterprise didn't.
Profile Image for Bjoern Rochel.
370 reviews66 followers
February 22, 2021
I do believe that for people who are keen to learn how to tie various lean and agile ideas together and maybe would like to introduce a more iterative way of thinking into their respective organization, this might be a very valuable book.

It’s the only book I know that manages to show how everything from business model canvas, A/B-testing, CI/CD, rolling budgets etc can work together to create a cohesive approach to software delivery.

It doesn’t go super deep, but references a lot of secondary material for digging deeper. From this perspective, this book can be a perfect start into this whole topic for execs and deciders.

I’ve probably read too much of this kind of books. Or read it at the wrong time (after a lot of the secondary books quoted here such as Running Lean or The Art of Strategy for example). As a result it didn’t offer lots of new insights to me. But it’s nevertheless a good one
Profile Image for Mike Bowler.
7 reviews9 followers
January 6, 2015
If you only read one book about improving your organization this year, make it this one. The authors bring together a large number of individual topics into one coherent story and sprinkle that with a collection of fascinating case studies.

I was already familiar with most of the individual topics that are covered in this book and yet I ended up highlighting more sections in this book than I think I've ever done in any other book. I can't recommend this highly enough.
Profile Image for Ahmad hosseini.
271 reviews65 followers
April 6, 2019
Innovation in large, bureaucratic organizations is challenging because they are inherently designed to support stability, compliance, and precedence over risk taking. But today, innovation is a must-have in all areas, so big companies also need ways to take advantage of innovation.
This book provides a pragmatic toolkit of strategies and practices for establishing high performing organizations and inject innovation into large companies. For this purpose book explains how to apply lean practice and principles in an organization.
Book could be suitable for IT managers because examines the effect of software on business.
Profile Image for Beau.
23 reviews
August 18, 2021
I have found the book that I never knew I always wanted published.

Truthfully, how the authors integrated many different philosophies and tools into a single book that enables businesses to make great decisions on the work they will do to excel in their space.

Insightful, if not a little understated - this book is a gem for any executive looking to survive in the post-COVID, post-Great Resignation world we are in, and not become the next Blockbuster, Kmart or other rigid Taylorist companies that are dead and don't know it yet.
82 reviews
March 4, 2021
Despite been a 7-years old book, Lean Enterprise still stands as a good reference for innovation at scale.
Profile Image for Patrick.
291 reviews26 followers
February 15, 2015
DISCLAIMER: I'm friends with some of the authors.

This book was an absolutely exceptional summation of the latest in business organization and operations for the digital age. Incorporating much of the latest thinking on business agility, the authors use sources such as Daniel H Pink, Eric Ries, John Kotter, and Mike Rother (amongst many others) to describe the attitudes, values, and culture necessary for your organization to adapt quickly in the modern business environment. The first two thirds of the book provides a number of tools that are mainly applicable to IT, while the last third talks about moving beyond IT to the broader business.

That, in fact, is probably the book's biggest weakness. It's written by IT professionals, for IT professionals, and while it should do a great job convincing the CTO, CDO, CMO, or other digital-focused executives what's necessary, it will have a harder time convincing the CFO, CAO, and COO what's in it for them, especially in a more traditional business whose core assets and products exist in the real world. The book is screaming out for a companion volume (maybe one already exists?) aimed at non-digital executives to convince them that such agility is necessary.

The bibliography for this book is extensive, and I feel like my reading list has grown substantially. That makes this sort of a survey-course rather than a detailed step-by-step guide, however the bibliography will help you find the detail you require, and the book's broad-picture strategy is well-chosen to show how these practices reinforce each other, and how simply adopting one will not prove the panacea that businesses often hope for.

I'd recommend this book to anyone in middle management or above at any organization that's starting to realize that the business practices that got them through the 90s and 00s are going to lead to continually diminishing returns. And for those of us in the consulting business, this is now required reading.
Profile Image for Tomáš.
291 reviews28 followers
June 11, 2015
This is an excellent book. It shows lean principles in the context of enterprise environment. For me, the biggest eye opener was the distinction between exploration (doing something new, with high risk of wasting an investment) and exploitation (modifying something already working with risk of loosing current profit). There are principles and strategies, which has to be applied differently to both aproaches, but they can still follow the lean ideas (focus on delivering value, reduce waste,...). The biggest benefit I see in this book is the connection between polished metodology and everyday reality. I've enjoyed the first part the most, because as a software developer, I'm not very interested in governance and higher level of management. Bad news is that lean principles cannot be working very well without support from the rest of the company. Good news is that it can be introduced, evaluated and spread further from a single individual.
Profile Image for Julian Dunn.
277 reviews15 followers
September 5, 2015
This book is the bible for anyone seeking to transform their organization along modern principles of service and product delivery. It is heavily IT focussed, but this is where we can expect to see much of the value driven out of corporations in the future -- through software products. Therefore it is critical to involve many other areas of a company not traditionally associated with technology projects like finance, audit and compliance, security to get them working in a lean manner compatible with rapid software delivery. The book includes many chapters on convincing others outside of one's domain of technology.

The authors have clearly done their homework and have a plethora of further references for anyone looking for prior art on the principles they are espousing here. Highly recommended.
403 reviews24 followers
November 12, 2015
This is an excellent book. It should be required reading for everyone working in a large enterprise at any level. Some of it is very specific to the executive level and finance people but it is well worth understanding those concerns even if you are a front line worker. Lean and Kaizen work! I might write more about it later.
Profile Image for Denis Romanovsky.
194 reviews
September 9, 2018
There are books on specific topics and there are integration books. This book is good at integrating different ideas around lean thinking, design thinking, agile and other. Though, the ideas are clear and explanations are simple, still the book does not tell enough details on implementation. You have to go to many other books for more details. Anyway, it was a very good reading!
Profile Image for Kevin McDonagh.
231 reviews42 followers
January 6, 2019
A whistle stop tour through lean practices at scale. Although I appreciate their having been documented it felt a little as if this were a dictionary and to obtain real value I still need to get to the source. It's been good as a jump-off point for more reading.
5 reviews
January 7, 2022
This is a must read (or listen) for anybody who is responsible for delivering IT services and products, and is a great introduction to the notions of lean processes. I should’ve read this book 10 years ago, earlier in my IT management career, and I would’ve been a better IT leader and would’ve been better positioned to deliver value and organizational improvements.

My only complaint (if I can even call it that) is that the authors vacillate from talking about lean process improvements, innovation, and transformation at the topmost organizational level down into the IT organizational level at will (sometimes without being explicit). It makes sense to consider the topics in that way because of their interrelationships, but because of the occasional vagueness, it sometimes took me a few beats to “get it”. As example, sometimes when referring to “leadership” or “management” they were talking about top level corporate leaders/managers whereas other times they really meant IT leaders/managers. This is admittedly a nitpicking observation.
Profile Image for Anders.
50 reviews
October 9, 2021
Bought this book as an early release, having only part of the content. I did however not enjoy the frequent updates and new revisions, as it would mix up the where i was reading in the book. The e-book format version did not help the reading experience. I should have waited for the final version and bought the paper version.

As I now finally returned to this book and read it from cover to cover i found that it is still a book that every manager and IT practitioner should read. It provides a up to date view of what managing a business should be all about. Some chapters, depending on your context, are worth returning to for a second and third read. The book provides lots of pointers to additional material, although new sources appear all of the time. I highly recommend this book now as i have finally overcome my frustration with it.
Profile Image for Jordan Munn.
183 reviews2 followers
September 10, 2018
Phenomenal book that thoroughly but easily explores Lean as a strategic approach, not just a tactical one. Beyond all the good ideas presented and points made, I really, really appreciated 2 things about the book:
1. The book is always very mindful to remind WHY it's making the points it is. It continually orients the reader to where they are in the workflow, what they're trying to get out of a particular step, and therefore why they're doing the thing they're doing (and how).
2. It marries both the strategic and the tactical, as well as the technical and the procedural. It doesn't lazily cop out with a "beyond the scope of this book" caveat. It provides a very satisfying end-to-end treatment, and offers additional resources in a useful way.
26 reviews
May 14, 2019
One of my favorite books ever. Structurally, stylistically and content-wise it is very, very well done. A lot of inspiration and learning (and sometimes frustration while you're learning how things might be and compare to how things are). Would recommend to anyone, including "individual contributors", working in IT, not necessarily enterprises. Not a very easy read as the language is quite academic.
Profile Image for Gabriel Santos.
57 reviews10 followers
April 29, 2021
Simply FANTASTIC! If you care and wonder about strategy, this is a MUST read. This book played some very specific chords on my head.
In my rating system I usually give 5 stars to those books that teach me anything new! Well, if was possible I’d give 6 starts to this one. Not only did it teach me a plethora of new things and ideas but also made me reconsider some others I thought I knew.
11 reviews1 follower
December 11, 2021
A great read overall.
The authors emphasize the importance of learning in all enterprise activities. The ideas in the book felt quite actionable.
The part on Enterprise Culture was eye-opening and really pushed me to delve into this subject.

Also, the authors are doing a great job referencing other books. This helps their ideas appear part of a whole and build trust in them. Also, it conveniently makes it easy to know what to read next.
April 8, 2018
More technical than most of the books regarding Lean Enterprise

It is a very goof guide for implementing change in an IT organization towards a Lean Enterprise. Give some interesting example of companies that made this change. It’s a good complement to the book Inspired by Martin Cagan and the Eric Ries’ books.
75 reviews
September 25, 2018
If you know your basics of Lean and Agile than the discussed is quite easy to grasp and it does hold several nuggets that might benefit you. A great read which is easy to comprehend. Near the end (when discussing the management role) Jez seems to be contradicting himself. Too bad this was the section I was most interested in...
Profile Image for Dariusz Biskup.
4 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2018
It took me several months to swallow this book but it was worth the effort. What I liked the most is that it teaches how to introduce Lean to larger organizations from several perspectives (not only software eng./IT) like product, finance, governance, IT Ops etc. Additionally it inspired me to read several other books related to various topics that were referenced in the book.
Profile Image for Andy Nortrup.
19 reviews
May 31, 2020
Soooo much useful information

I've managed to see most of the antipatterns this book advocates against. I now feel like I have a guide to better strategies to deploy next time I see them and have a chance to influence the direction of product and organizational patterns.

I cannot think of a book that I have taken more highlights out of.
March 4, 2021
This is largely a summary of other books, if you’re reasonably across the lean/devops/agile literature it’s very skippable.

If you’re not across the other literature though it’s not a particularly great starting point because it doesn’t really synthesise the other literature into a grand narrative.

Instead of this I’d recommend the Lean Startup and going from there.
Profile Image for Kelly Kerns.
84 reviews1 follower
October 5, 2021
Good overview of lean concepts and how to apply them to software initiatives in non-startup environments.

Brings concepts from Lean Startup and the DevOps Handbook to the Enterprise. Lots of case studies and motivational anecdotes with a little how-to.

A good place to start to get you prompted into a different mindset. Easy to read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews

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