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Do you really know what mindset is? About the recent books of Bob Emiliani

If you google for "agile mindset" you will get a lot of explanations. There a lot of people claiming that being agile means having an agile mindset first and using agile frameworks in the second place. I was always skeptical to such claims, because at least I cannot change mindsets overnight. If I needed to change all minds first, I would wait very long for starting with Scrum. How can I understand this mindset thing better? Bob Emiliani's recent books helped my thinking.

With this post I like to draw your attention to some books of Bob Emiliani. Bob learned about the Toyota Production System and Lean 26 years ago. He became a big supporter of Lean and always wondered why there is so little management support for advancing lean thinking in a company. Since 2005 Bob is professor at the Connecticut State University, at the School of Engineering, Science, and Technology. I am always astonished how quick he writes new books.

You won’t get simple solutions from Bob’s books, no 3 steps to successful agile transformations. You’ll get much deeper insights into concepts and relationships that prevent a transformation to modern management. A better understanding of the problem is key to find good and sustainable solutions. The problem is: “Leaders resist or reject Lean Management” (and I add “and Agile Management”).

The first book “The Triumph of Classical Management Over Lean Management” examines the institution of leadership. The main insight is that Lean (or Agile) undermines the executive culture. There two tables in the book that contrast classical and lean management thinking. Table 1-1 on page 25 shows some differences in executive culture, table 2-1 shows what is valued. I learn with such comparisons and they help me to ask better coaching questions.

The next book “Irrational Institutions” gives us insights into the interplay between rational and irrational thinking. Bob elaborates some preconceptions that shape classical management thinking. Classical leaders do not decide according to the facts, but because they have the right to do so. I found another table in this book that contrasts what classical and lean leaders like. This gives me a clue where to look at, when entering the office of a new client.

The third book “Management Mysterium” presents us the spiritual and mental forces of leadership thinking. There was an interesting insight for me. Most leaders did not move beyond a primitive understanding of causality. Instead of better understanding problems, it is easier to blame people. Opinions become facts, which are difficult to argue. Bob shows how spirituality is deeply rooted in our daily business, how it shapes our thinking.

Back to the first question: do you really know what mindset is? The three books showed me one thing: I am not aware of my mindset. I am not aware of what my thinking shaped. I am happy that someone invested a lot of time for this investigation. I prefer the term world view over mindset. My thinking shapes my perception.


  • /1/ Emiliani, Bob: The Triumph of Classical Management Over Lean Management : How Tradition Prevails and What to Do About It. South Kingstown, Rhode Island, USA: Cubic, LLC, 2018.
  • /2/ Emiliani, Bob: Irrational Institutions: Business, Its Leaders, and The Lean Movement. South Kingstown, Rhode Island, USA: Cubic, LLC, 2020. 
  • /3/ Emiliani, Bob: Management Mysterium: The Quest for Progress. South Kingstown, Rhode Island, USA: Cubic, LLC, 2020
  • You will find more information about these books at the website of Bob Emiliani: https://bobemiliani.com/books/  


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