There are several small forests worth of books on implementing Lean in a manufacturing context, but very few on implementing Lean in a service organisation. John Seddon’s Freedom from Command and Control: A Better Way to Make the Work Work is a stand out entry for me; part manifesto, part searing critique of traditional management techniques, it’s a brilliant approach to applying the underpinning philosophy of Lean to a service enterprise.
Seddon uses the term ‘Systems Thinking’ to capture the approach to developing highly functioning operations. As a vision for how to manage better it really gets to the heart of the idea that a manager’s primary role is to act on the system to make whatever work is required, work better. Your job is to make it easier for your people to deliver on their ambitions, to be able to exercise their heads to make their working lives easier and as a direct result – in fact almost as a side effect – create significantly more value for customers and massively reduced cost.