The Backstory – A Few More Thoughts

This is the backstory to the book A Few More Thoughts.

AFMT Cover 150 dpi

As much as I love the nexus of practice, observation, challenge, research, discovery, learning, creativity, and writing, there comes a point when it is time to wrap it up. A Few More Thoughts is my 28th and final book.

The yin-yang subjects of management and leadership, primarily in the context of business, have fascinated me for 30 years. I dove far deeper into these subjects than I ever expected to. But one problem or idea led to another time and time again, and curiosity always prevailed. I just followed the long and winding trail of leads that interested me most (fascinated me, actually), and in doing so developed a remarkable body of work. I never set out to do what I did. It just happened. And in doing so, I surprised myself — especially in relation to the range of subject matter.

Why am I finishing my work now? What I wrote in the book says it best:

An author cannot write forever. While they may desire to do so, there is a high probability of diminishing one’s overall work by trying too hard to stay relevant or writing about topics that are increasingly distant from one’s base of knowledge. So, it is better to stop and move onto other things that provide enjoyment in life…

The more one thinks about a subject, the more questions that arise; interesting questions where the pursuit of answers can be engrossing as well as rewarding. But where does it end, and at what point does one rely on others to build upon (or refute) one’s work? As with all subjects under study, there is either more for a researcher to study and write about, or, in my case, loose ends to tie up. The latter is the intent of this book. I see it as better to tie up loose ends than to leave unfinished work; to come to an endpoint rather than linger and leave people expecting more but not delivering more.

Additionally, coming to an end signals the conclusion of a body of work that current or future researchers can evaluate or critique without imagining or speculating on what might have come had the work continued. It gives researchers a definite, time-bounded period for analysis, 1998-2023, encompassing the period of peer-reviewed journal publications and books (miscellaneous materials date earlier to 1994 and later than 2023 in the form of blog posts and social media activity). They can also build upon my work, improve it, or evaluate it in relation to what preceded it and what followed.

pages xxvii and 5

I always had in my heart two things: a deep desire to understand what is going on and sharing what I learned to help others understand what is going on. Unfortunately, the picture can be pretty ugly (an “overdose of reality,” as one reader said), and most people would rather not see it. As Massimo Torinesi says in the Foreword:

Bob’s research has moved in three main directions: Lean management, a critique of the Lean approach as it is currently being implemented (or, perhaps, we should better say as it is not being implemented), and a rigorous, at times merciless, analysis of a management system that now looks obsolete and entrenched in defending decades-old ways of thinking and practice.

page xiii

Yes, merciless at times. It is a style of writing that I use as an analytical tool to bring greater awareness of the underlying absurdities that are widely, and incorrectly, seen as reasonable normal conditions. That view facilitates and sustains intellectual escapism and closes out practical possibilities for improvement. I have always believed that it is better to know the truth than to ignore it. Knowing the truth leads to three good things:

  • Less frustration, and thus some level in comfort in knowing why things are the way they are
  • Inspiration to try many ideas in search of needed improvement
  • Better decision-making in one’s work or in relation to one’s family or career

You may be surprised to learn that my “merciless” criticism of leaders beholden to archaic classical management comprises only a small part of my work, encompassing mainly the last five years. In fact, 85 percent of the books and journal papers that I have written, as well as my two decades of Lean leadership training and teaching, have focused on how to succeed with the current forms progressive management, TPS/Toyota Way and Lean.

If you choose to read this book, I expect you will find it time well spent. As always, feel free to share your feedback. Thank you for your interest in my work. I truly appreciate it.

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