The go-to book for manufacturing operations management for a generation has been The Goal by Jeff Cox and Eliyahu Goldratt. The book tells about transforming a failing plant using the Theory of Constraints and examples from life such as a Boy Scout hike.

Steel Toes and Stilettos: A True Story of Women Manufacturing Leaders and Lean Transformation Success by Shannon Karels and Kathy Miller captures my nomination for the manufacturing operations management story for the new generation. This first person account (told in sections by each of the authors) tells the story of how they assembled and led teams of three divisional automotive parts plants through a Lean transformation. The plants became clean, profitable, enthusiastic examples of how manufacturing can be done better.

Noticing, perhaps, that the authors are women, they use shoes as a metaphor for the journey and for the outline of the book. They also played with the metaphor of walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Part of the book discusses some of the work and planning involved from convincing people to try new ideas into having those same people (mostly) become creative participants in turning the plants around. Like all good stories, there are several levels. Another part of the story is how they managed to blend home life with the time consuming travel and meetings a turnaround requires. Still another part touches on some unique challenges women face in an overwhelmingly male culture.

Oh, and I think many grapes were killed in the making of this story. You’ll have to read the book to catch the meaning.

Note: I link to bookshop.org rather than to Amazon. This website supports your local independent bookstore. Just as I’m a fan of local coffee houses that provide direct trade coffee, I also support local bookstores.

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