Introduction to Sales Process Improvement

Michael J. Webb, Sales Performance Consultants, 2005, 184 pp., $84 (book).

Introduction to Sales Process Improvement is part of a four-part series designed to show how to gain more of the right customers—at higher margins and lower costs—and do it more predictably using the resources you currently have. To reach this goal, the author sets forth a scientific approach that effectively deals with the human element of managing marketing and selling—emotions and motivation. This book will identify gaps, bottlenecks and shortcomings so the right fix can be defined and implemented.

Webb outlines a process analysis review of sales and marketing functions using generalized examples to show the similarity to manufacturing, where process approaches have more traditionally been uses. The book introduces the plan, do, check, act cycle and discusses typical sales and marketing skills and individual and organizational sales processes.

Conventional quality improvement tools presented include cause and effect diagrams and mapping. There is also a significant, although brief, section on using Six Sigma in sales and marketing. Additional references are liberally provided throughout.

The topic is covered logically and sequentially at a basic, easy to understand level. This first module stands well on its own and does not require the remainder of the set to be valuable. Organizations or managers trying to introduce the quality process to functions such as sales and marketing or other disciplines where it is not often applied will find the material helpful, informative and straightforward.

A veteran quality practitioner may consider some material too basic; however, the level is appropriate for an initial foray into an area where there has been significant past reliance on gut feelings and reaction.

Following the guidelines and implementation suggestions should produce a practical and functional data based sales and marketing process ready for continual improvement to take hold.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals
Houston, TX

Design for Six Sigma as Strategic Experimentation

H.E. Cook, ASQ Quality Press, 2005, 384 pp., $56 member, $70 list (book and CD-ROM).

Design for Six Sigma as Strategic Experimentation: Planning, Designing and Building World-Class Products and Services integrates statistical process and product improvement and design methodologies with market and business dimensions. The potential contribution of this book is highly significant to enterprises and individuals interested in concepts such as total customer experience or total cost of ownership.

By providing such an integrated view, Cook extends the idea of Taguchi’s loss function in a practical and effective way. The book provides a systematic approach to the combination of inputs and tasks from market research such as product planning, finance, design, engineering and manufacturing within a product life cycle.

The first three chapters on product management, product value and demand and system level design could be taught in any course on industrial statistics or product development. They provide the reader with an overall view of the issues facing organizations developing products and processes in a competitive environment.

Other chapters include a review of basic statistical concepts and tools and an introduction to the role of variation on product value. The book also provides a detailed case study and exploration into subsystem and component design. The CD-ROM includes a collection of Excel applications and hands-on prerecorded training sessions from basic Excel functions to more advanced features developed by Cook.

The book is a significant contribution to statisticians, systems and industrial engineers interested in the big picture. It has the potential to increase the relevance of statistical analysis and improve the statistical ability of system engineers to deal with new product design using economic considerations.

Teachers, students and practitioners will find the book a useful addition to their libraries.

Ron S. Kenett
Raanana, Israel

The Quality Minutes: Premier Collection

Juran Institute, 2005, $195 (DVD and CD-ROM).

From the institute that brought you the massive Quality Control Handbook, detailing everything a person needs to know about quality control, now comes a video collection of short segments to stimulate discussion on everything from chili peppers to the Jefferson Memorial.

The Quality Minutes is a series of 12 short, engaging video segments of real-life examples. The topics covered are:

  • Objective system of measurement.
  • Quality efforts to allow ample time for changes in culture and structure to take hold.
  • The power of information based on data.
  • Benchmarking.
  • Understanding the real needs behind customers’ stated needs.
  • Cost of poor quality.
  • Difference between a company’s mission and vision.
  • Total quality management—worth all the effort?
  • Value of identifying the true, root cause of any problem.
  • Design teams.
  • Self-directed work teams.
  • Team building.

The video comes with a CD-ROM guide on how to use the quality minute segments, plus appropriate discussion guides. These segments were not made to view all at once but rather individually to spark interest in a subject during project team meetings, strategic planning sessions or management review meetings.

I asked a colleague to view the DVD, and her comment was, “Kind of neat. Provides information to dig deeper into a subject. I liked it—short and to the point.”

A minute spent watching a video may be the spark to ignite continual improvement in your company.

Wayne Sander
Dove Quality Consulting
Dousman, WI

The Rational Project Manager

Andrew Longman and Jim Mullins, John Wiley & Sons, 2005, 226 pp., $27.95 (book).

Remember when project management was perceived as the domain of pencil protecting, calculator toting technocrats? Longman and Mullins profess that—more than ever—projects are the stuff organizations are made of. In The Rational Project Manager, the authors define projects as getting people to do valuable stuff in an efficient and timely manner. This means combining both the technical aspects, such as planning, organizing and deploying, with the softer elements of recruiting, communicating and influencing.

The book covers the steps needed for a successful project:

  • Project definition.
  • Project planning.
  • Project implementation.
  • Managing people.
  • Decision making and problem solving.

Some of the tools described in the book range from defining projects for clear communication of objectives to monitoring checklists to make sure everything is kept on track. The book also includes a situation appraisal matrix to help troubleshoot issues preventing project implementation.

The authors do an adequate job of providing an overall perspective of project management. This gives it an advantage over other project management fundamentals books that focus only on the technical aspects of the job. On the other hand, it is spread a bit thin in the technical aspects, so you may need to find another book that provides more detailed descriptions and examples of specific charts in use.

Jeff Stevens
A.T. Wall
Warwick, RI

All You Gotta Do Is Ask

Chuck Yorke and Norman Bodek, PCS Press, 2005, 261 pp., $37.50 (book).

All You Gotta Do Is Ask is a provocative book presenting one overarching theme—tapping into the expertise of all your workers. Instead of management solving all the problems and looking at the empty suggestion box or treating employees as mere extensions of the machines they operate or telephones they answer, managers should bring the suggestion box to the workers. They are a vast treasure chest of knowledge, skills and experience just waiting to be opened.

Begin this transition by recognizing every employee has creative ability, and with patience and support, this creativity can be nurtured. Yorke and Bodek concede that Frederick Taylor may have been right for his time; however, the separation of doers from thinkers is no longer a viable practice. Organizations should want to improve productivity and quality. That means lean thinking and process improvements are critical. No longer is an engineer, repair person or computer programmer the first to be summoned. The worker takes charge of fixing the problem, with any necessary help on call as needed.

Also encourage workers to submit suggestions for improvement for the areas in which they work. Some companies have even established a goal of an average of two improvement suggestions per employee per month to make their work easier and more interesting. The book presents a nine-step process is for making the suggestion program work. Yorke and Bodek acknowledge that not everyone will buy into submitting two suggestions per month. Some will join in later when they see it working for their colleagues; a few will continue to resist indefinitely.

Meanwhile, the employees who participate and the organization will benefit from the improvements. This is truly the kaizen approach—small, incremental, continual improvement. Yorke and Bodek point out that, while certainly beneficial to an organization, the Six Sigma approach focuses on the project leaders, not the overall workforce as the idea generators. Involving all employees allows all the people to implement improvements, not just those with colored belts.

This book is almost a no-brainer. It’s so simple in concept, yet so effective for any organization. This book is a must-read—and a must-do—for every member of management.

Russ Westcott
R.T. Westcott & Associates
Old Saybrook, CT


  • Freedom From Command and Control: Rethinking Management for Lean Service, John Seddon, Productivity Press, 2005, 238 pp., $40 (book).
  • Get It Right: A Guide to Strategic Quality Systems,Ken Imler, ASQ Quality Press, 2006, 200 pp., $32 member, $40 list (book).
  • Design for Six Sigma: Innovation for Enhanced Competitiveness,Gregory Watson, GOAL/QPC, 2005, 396 pp., $39.95 (book).

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