OOW Members Receive the International Institute’s Best Book Award

International Institute’s Best Book Award for 2021 goes to Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu 

The Cambridge International Handbook of Lean Production by Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu is the culmination of almost 20 years of work, an NSF grant, and the author’s fourth book on lean production in organizational and industrial Sociology.  Darina Lepadatu said that: 

“It was close to a miracle that we have accomplished this project working with 40 authors from all over the world in the middle of the worst pandemic of the century. The co-editor’s collaborators were on lockdowns, got divorces, received cancer diagnoses, retired or moved to other countries, but they still worked with us until it was finished.” 

The Handbook recently won “The 2021 ILSSI Best Book Award” presented by John Dennis and Constantin Stan of the International Lean Six Sigma Institute in Cambridge, UK. They said the book “will help new generations to develop a greater understanding of the power and importance of lean principles and techniques.” The award committee also commented on the quality of the chapter authors including James Womack and Daniel Jones of early bestseller The Machine that Changed the World fame. We will make a presentation on May 20th to the Institute and its members in a webinar.

The International Handbook has three parts. Part I is unique in that it presents the very diverse theoretical viewpoints on lean production from five disciplines: management, industrial engineering, industrial relations, the social sciences, and labor process theory. As we indicate in the social science chapter, sociology is split between conventional work on the sociology of work who have a negative view toward lean production, and specialists in the areas of Toyotism and Japan who have a more positive view. Surprising to sociologists is that industrial engineering is the discipline most involved with lean production. In many ways “lean production” is an unfortunate description of this division of labor, and Toyotism is the better term. Part II is about lean production across industries: automobiles, product innovation, telecommunications, healthcare, public services, mass merchandizing, finance, and software. Part II also incudes an essay from the practitioner approach in industrial engineering with the True Lean Toyota Production System approach.  Part III is about the implementation of lean in different countries: Korea, the US, UK, Germany, France, China, India, Australia, Mexico and Russia. There are major differences with successes and failures in these countries with very different cultures, capitalisms, and labor relations. Part III starts out with an analysis of survey data showing that lean production has become the dominant form of the division of labor in Europe and the United States. There are many unsuspected surprises: the encounter of lean and the Chinese Communist Party; Toyota’s difficulties in India, and Russian worker suspicions and resistance. Based on massive surveys in the West, Toyotism is three times more frequent than Taylorist methods, but a close relative called ‘learning methods’ (i.e., socio-technical theory) also has a large presence. 

The larger purpose of the International Handbook and the authors’ recent book Framing and Managing Lean Organizations (Routledge, 2020) is to bring lean production and Toyotism to sociology as the dominant division of labor in the capitalist production system. We emphasize many of the positive aspects of lean production including participation in teamwork and higher product quality, but also the negative aspects like temporary employment, outsourcing, and offshoring. In our three chapters in the handbook and previous books, we emphasize that there are three forms of lean production: Toyotism as the fullest form of lean production; Nikeification with its split between Toyotist innovation and Fordist production (e.g., Apple in the US versus Apple subcontractors in China); and Waltonism (from Matt Vidal) with Walmart’s use of only just-in-time inventory and little attention paid to worker participation. More broadly, we point out that Toyotism — like Fordism before it with unionism, Keynesianism, and the welfare state — also has political implications that often converge with neoliberalism, anti-unionism and some high-tech tax avoidance. But Thomas Janoski, who was a piston-shooter on an automotive engine line in the late 1960s, said: 

“The involvement of workers in quality control, design processes, and job rotation gives many workers a sense of respect and participation that they did not have under Fordism. Also, consumers no longer have to fear the dreaded “lemon” that would haunt their driving for years.”

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