The Incredible Transformation of Gregory Todd by AJ Sheppard is an interesting take on the business novel. The title character is the name of the company and the name of the owner, both of whom go through a transformation in the context of the book.
The bulk of the story is taken up with the challenges faced by the business (a living room furniture manufacturer) and how those challenges have materialized inside the business. There are a lot of great observations about how "the way we do things" ends up becoming hardened into operating rules and behaviors - and that those rules and behaviors are very hard to change without clear motivation and reasoning. For instance, people are paid for piece work in their area of responsibility, rather than for ensuring the work flows smoothly from one end to the other.
One of the differences from the typical business novel of this type is the role of the guru. Rather than the grizzled outsider, the "guru" is a young upstart who has new ideas about improving the business. The reader isn't told where he learns his approach, but it is clearly based heavily on the Lean set of concepts. I like that he is very much focused on the concepts of flow and value creation, rather than being fascinated with the external evidence of using the concepts. I also liked the varied reaction of other characters in the story who didn't fully understand why he was doing the things he was doing: we've done this before, scoffing, wanting to repurpose the tools (instead of the thinking), etc. There is even a cynical vignette near the end where a pair of nay-sayers early in the story are passing themselves off as transformation consultants to other businesses.
One observation that comes up a number of times is the idea of "problems" or "challenges" within the organization. The young guru wants to uncover problems, so that their source can be identified and resolved. But nearly everyone else is afraid to admit there are problems for fear of being punished or shamed - all due to the way people are measured and the assumptions under which people are operating. It's a natural byproduct of the way the organization is designed with each division focused inward on its own area of responsibility. Of course the flow concept wants the break these walls and help people see where changes will improve the overall, even if they make local measures appear to be worse.
What didn't work as well for me in this book was the transformation itself. There was a big climax in the book where it looked like the company was going to fall apart because the leader, Gregory Todd, and his lieutenants just could not see how to turn around the business in the way that the young guru could see. And yet, six months later, the company has made a massive turnaround and people are operating in a new way. The reader is left to imagine the details, based on the faltering attempts made earlier. It felt like there was a lot missing from the story on additional struggles and challenges encountered on the way to making the transformation happen. It was nice to see that once the transformation was fully engaged throughout the organization, it didn't take years and years to see results.
The author also has a set of Case Study questions and another set of Reflections, centered around the main book. Maybe these present some more meat for accomplishing the actual transformation.
I picked up this book, based Mark Graban's LeanBlog podcast interview with the author, AJ Sheppard.