Here is our definitive list of the best books on Lean. The practices and methods discussed in these books include Lean product development, Lean project management, Agile project management, Critical Chain project management, risk management, Theory of Constraints and others. If we had to pick a favorite book though, we'd recommend you read Donald Reinertsen's, Managing the Design Factory. It will fundamentally change your approach to product development.
Best Books on Lean
Lean product development and project management
Managing the Design Factory, by Donald G. Reinertsen (October 1, 1997)
"Managing the Design Factory combines the powerful analytical tools of queuing, information, and system theories with the proven ideas of organization design and risk management. The result: a methodical approach to consistently hit the "sweet spot" of quality, cost, and time in developing any product..."
The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development, by Donald G. Reinertsen (May 29, 2009)
"At Accuer, our business depends on helping successful product developers become even better. We need to provide real results, quickly, in lots of different areas. Because we need to stay at the leading edge, I've studied and read almost every book on lean product development; this one is better than the rest of them combined! Why? It's a unique combination of practical methods and clear explanations of the science that makes them work. If you've enjoyed Don's previous books as much as I have, you're guaranteed like this one." --David W. Paulson, President Accuer, Inc."
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries (September 13, 2011)
"Eric shows us how to cut through the fog of uncertainty that surrounds start-ups. His approach is rigorous: His prescriptions are practical and proven in the field. The Lean Startup will change the way we think about entrepreneurship. As startup success rates improve, it could do more to boost global economic growth than any management book written in years." --Tom Eisenmann, professor of entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by General Stanley McChrystal (May 12, 2015)
"In this powerful book, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be relevant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. The world is changing faster than ever, and the smartest response for those in charge is to give small groups the freedom to experiment while driving everyone to share what they learn across the entire organization. As the authors argue through compelling examples, the team of teams strategy has worked everywhere from hospital emergency rooms to NASA. It has the potential to transform organizations large and small."
The Lean Product Development Guidebook: Everything Your Design Team Needs to Improve Efficiency and Slash Time to Market, by Ronald Mascitelli (November 1, 2006)
"The Lean Product Development Guidebook describes over two dozen powerful and practical methods for slashing development waste and improving resource utilization, spanning the full spectrum from inception to successful product launch. An integrated methodology for slashing time to market is presented, based on best in class practices gathered from Toyota Motor Company and many other leading firms."
Agile project management
Flexible Product Development: Agile Hardware Development to Liberate Innovation, by Preston G. Smith (November 25, 2018)
"Flexible Product Development dissects agile development, discovers its roots, and rebuilds a set of techniques that allow non-software developers to accommodate change during a project, thus resolving the dilemma of change for hardware products, too!"
Theory of Constraints and Critical Chain project management
Goldratt's Theory of Constraints: A Systems Approach to Continuous Improvement, by H William Dettmer (March 13, 1997)
"An interpretation of Elkiyahu M. Goldratt's Theory of Constraints (TOC), a system improvement philosophy focusing on logic and identifying the weakest link in an organization in order to, as the author states, "manage the living daylights" out of it. Dettmer introduces TOC, defining the concepts of categories of legitimate reservation and TOC thinking processes while illustrating current, future, transition, and prerequisite trees depicting the system."
Critical Chain: A Business Novel, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt (April 1997)
"Powerful yet simple techniques to solve project management's toughest problems. This book teaches companies to drastically cut project development times resulting in early completion within budget and without compromising quality or specifications."
"Written in a fast-paced thriller style, The Goal, a gripping novel, is transforming management thinking throughout the world. It is a book to recommend to your friends in industry - even to your bosses - but not to your competitors. Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try improve performance. His factory is rapidly heading for disaster. So is his marriage. He has ninety days to save his plant - or it will be closed by corporate HQ, with hundreds of job losses. It takes a chance meeting with a professor from student days - Jonah - to help him break out of conventional ways of thinking to see what needs to be done. The story of Alex's fight to save his plant is more than compulsive reading. It contains a serious message for all managers in industry and explains the ideas, which underline the Theory of Constraints (TOC), developed by Eli Goldratt."
"EThe Artech House bestseller Critical Chain Project Management now builds on its own success in a second edition packed with fresh, field-tested insights on how to plan, lead, and complete projects with unprecedented efficiency. It provides project managers with expanded coverage on critical chain planning, multiple project selection and management, critical change project networks, new Agile and Lean techniques related to critical chain project management (CCPM), and effective strategies for bringing about the organizational change required to succeed with this breakthrough method. "
Thinking for a Change: Putting the TOC Thinking Processes to Use (The CRC Press Series on Constraints Management), by Lisa J. Scheinkopf (January 26, 1999)
"This book can be used as a field guide to learning the five thinking process application tools as needed, based on their own particular issues. You will have a full understanding of the theory and practical application of these powerful processes, including when and when not to use each tool. The total benefit is not just to apply the thinking process, but to develop intuition and have the ability to combine logic and intuition in the same thinking process."
"The Practice Standard for Project Risk Management covers risk management as it is applied to single projects only. It does not cover risk in programs or portfolios. This practice standard is consistent with the PMBOK® Guide and is aligned with other PMI practice standards. Different projects, organizations and situations require a variety of approaches to risk management and there are several specific ways to conduct risk management that are in agreement with principles of Project Risk Management as presented in this practice standard."
Proactive Risk Management : Controlling Uncertainty in Product Development, by Preston G. Smith and Guy M. Merritt (June 17, 2002)
"Proactive Risk Management's unique approach provides a model of risk that is scalable to any size project or program and easily deployable into any product development or project management life cycle. It offers methods for identifying drivers (causes) of risks so you can manage root causes rather than the symptoms of risks."
Risk and Decision Analysis in Projects (Cases in project and program management series), by John R. Schuyler (June 2001)
"Introduces principles of risk and decision analysis as they apply to project management, outlining strategies for effective decision-making while sharing insights into such areas as the typical inaccuracies of single point estimates and knowing when sufficient analysis has been performed to identify a best alternative."
Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping for Lean Development: A How-To Guide for Streamlining Time to Market, by Drew Locher (May 2, 2008)
"Written by one of the world’s most respected consultants on Lean, this work presents a methodology for value stream mapping that is appropriate for any organization, whether it be service or product oriented. Over the past 25 years, Locher has proven just how powerful this process is, having employed it in healthcare, transportation, distribution, education, financial services, and manufacturing environments. Illustrating his methodology through the example of the imaginary DevelopTek company, he explains how to:
- Identify development waste
- Assess an organization’s current state and develop a Current State Map
- Apply Lean principles to create a Future State Map"