Book Review: How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy?

I first interacted with Karin two years ago when she asked the question, “How can we make manufacturing sexy?” on the AME LinkedIn group.  It generated a great conversation and spurred one of my first blog posts.  That question has led her to write her book of the same title.

Name of the Book:  How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy?

Author: Karin Lindner

Publication Date:  April 2012

Book description: what’s the key message?

Karin has a very strong passion for bringing manufacturing back to North America.  She believes manufacturing product where it is sold is fundamental to any economy’s health.  In order to bring manufacturing back to North America we have to make it sexy, as Karin puts it.  We have to change people’s mindsets so they want to be part of a manufacturing organization and environment.  Karin believes the key is through engaging people from top to bottom within an organization to help improve the business.

The heart of this book is about the Respect for People pillar of lean.  Karin writes about engaging the workforce and being leaders that listen to the people that work for us, not giving them answers and criticizing their execution.  It is a very good book and I can help manufacturing organizations engage employees.  I am a firm believer in manufacturing in North America myself and appreciate Karin’s passion.  I like that she is focusing on making manufacturing sexy again.  This book can be for any industry though.  It’s message is universal.

What are the highlights? What works?

Two topics Karin drives home are changing and growing ourselves as leaders and tapping into the intellect of everyone in the company.

Karin discusses how leadership is disconnected from the people who manufacture the product.  Leadership got too greedy and had no imagination of what could be.  Leadership of most companies have become focused on the short-term gains too look profitable and not the long-term needs that create sustainability and growth.

Leaders cannot change people but they can change themselves by learning and growing.  Modeling this behavior can drive their people to want to make changes also.  If leaders want to change, they have to change themselves.  One way for leaders to change, from the book, is to start asking more questions instead of trying to have all the answers.

Karin also discusses the importance of engaging all employees for their ideas to improve the business.  In order to tap into their brainpower, you have to show them respect.  Leaders must remember to empower their people don’t overpower them.  Creating an environment where people feel respected opens their ability to be creative about opportunities for improvement.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

The book is very good about asking questions and getting a person to think.  Karin purposely does not give answers in the book.  She states this and is very upfront about it.  From a lean perspective, I really like how she does this.  Lean is about helping a person understand the issue and find a solution that is best for them and their situation.  Not about giving answers.  On the flip side, some examples and ways to change the behaviors of leaders and engage the employees would have been nice to try and kick start the thinking.  I can see some people walking away from this book wondering what to do next.  Not knowing can stall them and then nothing changes.  Something I’m sure Karin does not want to happen.

While the book is focused on how to make manufacturing appealing (sexy), this book is relevant in any type of industry.  As stated earlier, it really is about the Respect for People Pillar of the lean philosophy.  Leaders changing and being more of a teacher and coach versus command and control is applicable anywhere.  No matter what job or industry we should be engaging our people to help make the business better.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

This book is about leadership and how to be more a “lean leader” in today’s world.  It is about respect for people and truly showing it.  I see how this book can help manufacturing.  The perception is that respecting the employees does not happen in a manufacturing environment.  I would say that can be the case anywhere.  Any leader from any industry can learn from this book, not just manufacturing.

Posted on June 4, 2012, in Culture, Engagment, Leadership, Manufacturing, Misc, Respect for People and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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