Have you ever sat in an airport for hours and wondered why it'll take you seven hours to reach your destination when a small charter plane could've gotten you there in two? Or what about shivering for a small eternity in a cold hospital gown wondering, what could happen if doctor's offices and hospitals operated as efficiently as Toyota?

James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, two-thirds of the trio that brought you the The Machine that Changed the World - the epochal treatise that explains how and why Toyota Motor Corp.'s lean production techniques allow it to kick everyone else's tail - are at it again.

Lean Thinking (banish waste and create wealth in your corporation) is another brilliant and thought-provoking, work from the duo. But this time the book's focus is far broader and reaches outside the auto industry to airlines, hospitals, and home building - to name only a few - in search of the dreaded muda, which means "waste" in Japanese.

Toyota's often copied but seldom replicated lean production techniques, when applied to product development, supply chain management, customer relations and production operations have enabled it to become the most efficient, highest quality car manufacturer in the world.

In Lean Thinking, Mssrs. Womack and Jones show how these same lean concepts can be applied to many different value streams - the complex sequence of actions required to bring products from initial concept to actual availability in the marketplace, from customer order to delivery, and from raw materials into the hands of the customer.

The authors argue that these value streams flow across many companies and through many departments, functional groups and facilities with each company, so an entirely new way of thinking and managing is required to maximize value and banish waste.

The book provides five simple principles to guide managers in their every day fight against waste:

* Specify value from the perspective of the end customer and avoid the distortions managers routinely introduce.

* Identify the value stream for each product, consisting of every action required, design through delivery. Then use lean techniques to eliminate everything that doesn't add value.

* Make actions that create value occur in a continuous flow.

* Make products flow only at the pull of the customer, and deliver just-in- time.

* Strive for perfection by continually re-valuating every value stream.

Intense students of lean manufacturing won't find lots of new revelations, but the book offers plenty of pithy perspectives and fodder for applying lean techniques to your business, office - even your personal life. Nevertheless, it's a very serious piece of academic work, not some trendy one-minute-manager tome you'll get in the airport bookstore (while you're playing the role of inventory for the airline).

Like Machine, Lean Thinking generally is well written, although sometimes a bit too wordy, academic and bogged down in details. Even so, by most business book standards it's a very easy read. And if you strictly need an automotive fix, the chapter on how Porsche AG cleaned up its act is probably alone worth the price of the book - assuming, of course, you can expense it.