The Gold Mine is a business novel about lean. It’s clearly inspired by The Goal; it isn’t nearly as good as the latter, but it does have some real virtues.

The Goal did, in my opinion, a remarkable job of pulling the reader along in the journey of discovery: you could really believe that the protagonist was figuring out this stuff (with Jonah’s help) as he went along, indeed you as the reader were probably figuring out some of the stuff as you went along. (Goldratt consciously adopts a presentation style designed to encourage that.) I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I even found the cheesy personal crisis parts of that book somewhat gripping. For some combination of those factors (and because ToC is inherently fascinating stuff), I stayed up way too late finishing that book.

The Gold Mine, in contrast, didn’t have those virtues. Honestly, I’m not sure that somebody who hadn’t already drunk the lean kool-aid would be any more likely to be interested in lean after reading this book than before.

But, as I read along, I found that it had other virtues. If you, like myself, have drunk the lean kool-aid, and if you’ve read some of the theory, you’ll find that this book fills in some gaps. By presenting a (fictional) case study of a lean transformation, it gives some practical advice on how to carry out a lean transformation that I haven’t seen elsewhere. (Not that I’ve looked a lot.) It presents an order in which to introduce the various lean concepts and techniques, it gives you some pointers about what are good and bad signs in your transformation, it makes ideas rather more concrete than I’d seen elsewhere.

I imagine that most readers will also learn something about some of the lean concepts while reading the book. I’d never thought much about 5S, for example; but it’s one of the earlier tools that they introduce in the book, and it has wider-ranging effects (psychologically as well as in its direct effects on processes) than I’d realized. Other people may already be more familiar with 5S than I was, but I suspect that most non-experts will find something new here.

It’s not the first book that I’d recommend on the subject, but I’m certainly glad I read it. It was a pleasant enough way to spend my breaks for a week or so at work, and there’s good stuff here; it’s just not what I expected before I started!

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