Skip to content

February 9, 2023

Lean Manufacturing in a Book Signing Line

By Lucy Softich

As part of the publishing division here at IT Revolution, most of my experience with concepts like DevOps, Agile, and Lean Manufacturing is theoretical. I’ve seen the diagrams, I know the terms, but aside from general concepts of management and ways of working, I don’t have much direct contact with these techniques. After all, I’m sitting alone at my desk, writing social media posts, reading manuscripts, and planning ads. I’m not deploying any code, and I’m certainly not manufacturing any physical products.

However, at DevOps Enterprise Summit Las Vegas last October, I got to see some of these techniques in action.

I was part of the staff assisting the authors of Investments Unlimited at their book signing. My job was to make sure that there was a constant supply of books to sign. Everyone involved knew that the line could face a lot of bottlenecks (we had a table of six authors, after all), so everyone was very aware of the need for efficiency. And being experts in this field, our authors were perhaps the most aware! They started us off by signing a few books ahead of time, so that people could move down the line quickly, with a book waiting for them at the end.

But an interesting thing happened. As the signing progressed, this very prudent stack of pre-signed backstock sat unused at the end of the table, almost forgotten. Even when we offered it to people, no one seemed interested.

As I replenished books and watched people move through the line, chatting with each author as their book was signed, I realized what I was seeing: a Lean Manufacturing line.

We thought the book was the product, and if we had a certain backstock of the product, that would control the speed of the line. But we were wrong about one key aspect: the real “product” was the experience of meeting the authors. The book was just a signal sign; a way of moving from one point in the line to the next.

The signal sign at work!

My mind expanded as pieces of this puzzle reorganized themselves. Now I saw how I, too, was a part of this production line. I kept my eyes on a specific stack of books at the table. When that stack disappeared, revealing the table beneath, that was my sign to bring out another stack of books. And when I removed a stack from the back to replenish the front, that was my signal to prepare the next stack.

The line moved efficiently this way, with each book moving from table to author, to next author, to next author, pulling people along the line with it, until before we knew it, the line was over, hours had passed, and the room was finally empty.

I know, intellectually, that books like Investments Unlimited and The Phoenix Project can be universally useful, even outside of technology and audit circles, but it was nice to see one of the grounding concepts alive and well in such a separate-seeming place as a book signing line.

If you’re looking for resources on Lean and its application in business, check out this primer on Agile and Lean for the business leader from Jon Smart (business agility coach and author of Sooner Safer Happier.)

- About The Authors
Avatar photo

Lucy Softich

Lucy is the Marketing & Social Media Coordinator at IT Revolution. She has a background in writing, marketing, and business.

No comments found

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Jump to Section

    More Like This

    Frankenstein vs. the Gingerbread Man
    By Leah Brown

    In a previous post, we mentioned how the new book by Mark Schwartz, Adaptive…

    The Three Team Interaction Modes
    By IT Revolution

    In many large organizations, and even in some small ones, poorly defined team interactions…

    The Making Of The Phoenix Project
    By Gene Kim

    Ten years on, let's take a look back at how The Phoenix Project was…

    Ethics, Digital Transformation, and Frankenstein vs the Gingerbread Man
    By Leah Brown

    "If there’s an elephant in the room, it must be chased out quickly or…