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The High Velocity Edge

How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition

By Steven J. Spear

Published: May 2010
Page Updated: Aug 2021

The High Velocity Edge (referenced as THVE) is one of the best books I’ve read. It introduced me to lean thinking, defined kanban, the powerful jidoka concept, and led me to discover Dr. Deming.

The book introduces the four capabilities of high velocity organizations:

  1. System design and operation
  2. Problem solving
  3. Knowledge sharing
  4. Developing skills one, two, and three in others.

I presented the book in nine part series on this website and on my podcast. The podcast series concludes with an interview with author, Dr. Steven Spear.


“High velocity” out learn the competition with scientific thinking and continuous improvement. Basically, they apply the scientific method everywhere, to everything, all the time.

Part one tells the story of Mrs. Grant. Mrs. Grant is a real life hospital patient who died in treatment. Who’s fault is that? Spear argues that no one person is responsible. The system that created the conditions that allowed a patient to die is responsible.

Part two describes how Paul O’Neil, the CEO of Alcoa, changed the safety culture by leveraging the four capabilities. His story demonstrates that great systems are not designed. They are discovered.

Part three introduces Admiral Hyman Rickover who create the US Navy’s nuclear propulsion program. He was able to operationalize a brand new technology (nuclear reactors) and establish a lasting culture.

Part four teaches philosophy that originated from two pivotal figures in manufacturing history: Sakichi Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno. Sakichi Toyoda founded Toyota. Taiichi Ohno transformed manufacturing while working at Toyota. Taiichio Ohno invented “pull based” work and Kanban. Toyoda gave us jidoka.

Part five explains the first capability, system design and operation, through building pull-based systems that use jidoka to identify problems when and where they occur.

Part six continues discussing the first capability through four levels of system design: output, pathway design, connection design, and methods of individual activities.

Part seven explains the second capability, problem solving, by using scientific thinking to close the gap between the current condition and the ideal target condition.

Part eight demonstrates the third and fourth capabilities, knowldede sharing and teaching others, through the jishuken (or “self-study”) exercise.

Part nine wraps with a summary and my closing thoughts.