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Edward A. McBean and Frank A. Rovers, Prentice Hall PTR, One Lake St., Saddle River, NJ, 1998, 313 pp., $70. (book)

This is the third volume of Prentice Hall's Environmental and Engineering Series. The first two volumes covered the implementation of ISO 14000 and health and environmental risk assessment. This textbook is suitable for advanced undergraduate or beginning graduate courses in statistics because it applies to environmental data and examining risk assessment and environmental quality. The book is divided into four sections: Statistical Measures and Distri-butions; Identifying System Changes; Hypothesis Testing of Environmental Quality; and Risk. There are several examples and problem sets in the book along with a disk containing data for analysis and examples.

The first section, Statistical Measures and Distributions, covers basic statistics through the central limit theorem and includes a discussion of several distributions, such as Gumbel and Log Pearson Type III, which specifically apply to characterizing environmental quality data. What differentiates this text from standard statistical texts is its emphasis on distribution theory and testing for normality of the data.

The second section, Identifying System Changes, is a collection of control charts, confidence intervals, correlation and curve fitting. The examination of coincident behavior using correlation and regression is unique because the authors describe its application to environmental quality.

The third section is devoted to testing and examination of monitoring. The tests that are covered are parametric and non-parametric and are followed by subsections discussing specific hypothesis tests used for monitoring environmental quality.

The final section, Risk, is a single, descriptive chapter that discusses different types of exposures and risks involved in environmental monitoring. However, after the thorough treatment of statistical techniques in the first 11 chapters, I wanted to see more chapters devoted to risk.

That aside, this is an excellent basic textbook of statistical methods and applications for environmental monitoring. The treatment of risk assessment is not very broad, so I urge the authors to write a companion text with more advanced statistical techniques linking risk assessment to epidemiological methodologies.

I. Elaine Allen
MetaWorks
Dover, MA


Cracking Creativity: the Secrets Of Creative Genius

Michael Michalko, Ten Speed Press, PO Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707, 1998, 309 pp., $24.95. (book)

In this book, Michael Michalko presents the behaviors and methods of thought that characterize the work of geniuses. He implies that an average person is trained to think in an average way and, therefore misses out on the creative opportunities that appear to be captured by great thinkers.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section focuses on paradigms and how they may limit a person's thought processes. The second section presents a variety of ways to stimulate creativity through the generation and development of ideas. Mind maps and storyboards are two examples of the tools Michalko describes.

Michalko also uses a multitude of anecdotes about people such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci and Walt Disney to illustrate his main points. After a time; however, these anecdotes become less helpful and more intimidating because the reader begins to think he or she is in the same league as Sir Isaac Newton or Ravi Shankar.

Consequently, this book is more appropriate for the advertising or research and design field. Many of the tools are too off-the-wall to be used by manufacturing pro- fessionals or process improvement teams. People in these fields are better served by reading two books by Roger Van Oech, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge and Warrior to Be More Creative, and watching a video on paradigms by Joel Barker to get their creative juices flowing.

Jeffrey Stevens
CCL Custom Manufacturing
Cumberland, RI


Lessons From Team Leaders: A Team Fitness Companion

Jane E. Henry, ASQ Quality Press, 611 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53201, 1998, 188 pp., member price $17, list price $19. (book)

Whether we realize it or not, we are all on teams--if not in our professions, then in our communities. Even if we aren't the team's leader, we influence the team's success through our participation. This book provides the framework for developing the key elements of team success. The techniques laid out in the book come from interviews with successful team leaders in six types of organizations: finance, high tech, government, education, utilities and small business. The end result is a book of ideas based on the challenges faced by team leaders and the processes and activities used to deal with these challenges.

The book is organized around the team fitness model under the categories of customer focus, direction, understanding and accountability. This book begins with a discussion on the reasons teams are formed, including complex projects, better decisions, innovation and creativity, improved communication and ownership, and a more enjoyable work environment.

This is a how-to manual with emphasis on the sequential phases of a team's evolution. There's information on the role of the leader, team start-up, continuous improvement and dissolution. The tools and techniques used from the book can easily be used to fit the situation. Each technique is presented with a workout plan that includes information on when to use the technique, how much time it will take up, the needed materials, the purpose and objectives, grouping, warm-up, aerobics and cool-down.

I think the book is well written and organized. The author's use of quotes from team leaders throughout the book helps emphasize the key points. Perforated worksheets are provided with many of the exercises, making this a user-friendly book.

This book is ideal for team leaders in any environment. Anyone interested in becoming a more effective team leader or team member can benefit from the material provided with this book.

Bryan Ruggles
Fisher Controls International
McKinney, TX


Statistical Quality Control: Using Excel

Steven M. Zimmerman and Marjorie L. Icenogel, ASQ Quality Press, 611 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53201, 1999, 346 pp., member price $45, list price $55. (book)

The aim of this book is to help quality professionals simplify their statistical quality control (SQC) endeavors by using Microsoft Excel software to simplify calculations and interpretations. Excel spreadsheets make the calculations, and graphing is easy. This book is written for beginners in SQC and Excel; however, if an individual has a background in SQC or Excel, learning will be easier.

The book consists of five parts. The first part introduces the concepts of SQC and explains how to use spreadsheets for quality control. In part two, the basic Excel skills, such as saving and opening a file, are reviewed. In addition, some of the more advanced Excel features are presented.

Part three reviews the general concept of statistics, distributions, outliers and SQC analysis needed to use SQC methods. In part four, the basic statistical process control (SPC) methods are demonstrated, including creating specific spreadsheets for solving selected SPC problems, common types of control charts, Pareto charts and fishbone diagrams.

In part five, acceptance sampling methods, such as binomial and hypergeometric distributions, power curves and average outgoing quality limit, are presented.

This is a hands-on text--the reader should work through each chapter while sitting at a computer. In order to avoid troubles, most chapters start with a review of the prior knowledge that's required to understand the chapter. In most chapters, there are exercises helpful in developing knowledge and skill in SQC. Key terms and an outline at the start of each chapter make it easy to see if you need to read the chapter. Many chapters include real-life examples of how the authors use SPC techniques, but the text doesn't include advanced spreadsheet applications.

This book is suitable for technicians, engineers and managers who are looking for ways to implement quality control in their workplace. Written for Windows 95, the book can also be used on a Macintosh.

Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University
Luleå, Sweden


How to Make Quality...Fail

CRM Films, 2215 Faraday Ave., Carlsbad, CA 92008, 1996, 18 minutes running time, $595. (video)

There are many basic quality improvement tools on the market, but the "how to make quality fail" angle of this training video makes it stand out against the others. Using a story about a film crew that shot the wrong script, the video describes common mistakes that undermine quality basics. Those who take the message seriously should be able to avoid the pain of making these mistakes themselves.

On a topic as broad as quality, there are many points that could be made; however, the producers have done well in selecting and dealing with the appropriate key issues. Topics such as anchoring quality programs, researching customer needs, developing statistical skills for measuring and monitoring quality, and evaluating processes and results are covered.

One of the key objectives is recognizing the role common sense plays in implementing quality. Common sense is not always so common when it comes to implementing quality, and the video does a great job of highlighting the not-so-common sense that all too often rules the day.

The picture quality is excellent, and the sound is crisp. The narrator is outstanding, and all the actors are believable. The sets are realistic, and the idea of producing a video within a video is unique and clever.

Some may find the angle of making quality fail, rather than succeed, silly or condescending. Others might find the message too close to real-life experiences regarding failed attempts at quality. Such distractions might lessen the video's intended purpose, and it takes a skilled facilitator to keep a productive discussion on track.

The video does come with a well-organized leader's guide with useful training ideas. Three training designs, four reproducible worksheets and a pre-training assessment device are also included.

The length of the video makes it a good discussion starter for a training session or staff meeting, but more than an 18-minute running time was expected for $595.

While the video's asking price seems a little high, anyone charged with implementing or revising a quality improvement initiative will benefit from the message this video presents.

Terry Ehresman
Bombardier Aerospace Learjet
Wichita, KS


Engines of Prosperity: Templates For the Information Age

Gerardo R. Ungson and John D. Trudel, Imperial College Press, 203 Electrical Engineering Building, Imperial College, London SW7 2BT, England, 1998, 389 pp., $25. (book)

I picked up this book with enthusiasm. I anticipated a scholarly and analytical approach to building templates for the information age. I was disappointed. The style is quasi-polemic because it discusses the evolution of industry toward the millennium against a backdrop of the authors' biases. These biases include condemnation of government involvement in industry regulation, downsizing, re-engineering, foreign competition and tariffs. I, unlike the authors, also have difficulty seeing steep learning curves, demand amplification and outsourcing/value chains as the engines of prosperity.

This book provides a large amount of data with few analytical underpinnings to substantiate its thesis. Conclusions arrived at by numerous other authors help support these authors' views. Some of these conclusions are dubious in themselves, and little discussion accompanies them. For example, Japanese industry is presented as not having a strategy in one area but admired for its automobile manufacturing techniques elsewhere. It is alternately feared and admired. The authors also have a low opinion of quality assurance programs, such as total quality management, reverse engineering and cycle time improvement. They believe these programs provide "short term gain followed by drastic loss of industry profitability." This conclusion isn't substantiated in any detail.

I am not sure to whom the book is addressed and, structurally, the book is somewhat flawed and not well edited. It's loosely organized and rambling even though it has almost 400 footnotes.

Bill Foster
Dogbyte
Vienna, VA


S.C.O.P.E.

Habit Forming Software, 8081 Prescott Rd., Baton Rouge, LA 70812, 1998, $25. (software)

This very basic, rudimentary software application provides a daily data entry mechanism for supervisors to comment and rate the performance of their immediate reports. Five built-in performance factors and a supervisory action plan section are the focus of the database. While the vendors obviously understand the key principles of performance appraisal, the software needs to be more flexible, allowing users to customize it and expand its capabilities.

The program only allows the user to rate the employee with four choices: acceptable, unacceptable, extraordinary and employee not available for evaluation. The five areas of performance include: scheduling (S), customer or client service (C), working with other team members or co-workers (O), productivity (P) and economy (E). While business still holds that performance is made up of more than just one thing, it is certainly more than the five areas S.C.O.P.E. offers.

The program neglects to include several issues of performance found in most performance appraisal processes. Additionally, documenting the software's areas of performance and using its supervisor action plan section merely serve as parts to the overall appraisal process found in any organization. A user will most likely need to use his or her company's existing appraisal application in order to fully complete the entire end-of-year evaluation. Any written evidence of the software's factors will have to be integrated into an organization's existing process.

Users can expect their first data entry to be cumbersome as the program forces specific choices and character selection. This can be expected in any soundly developed relational database; however, due to the nature of this product, the data entry only highlights the software's limitations. The help function was particularly weak where incorrect data entry was concerned, and did not offer enough information on technical glitches.

The software generates daily and monthly reports that summarize performance ratings and supervisor-provided comments. Such information may be of use in conjunction with legal documentation to support decisions such as employee termination or demotion. In today's legally binding world of performance appraisals, however, this product will likely be considered inadequate by most companies.

Dale Farris
Farris Resources


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