The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Lean Six Sigma

Breakthrough Management Group with Neil DeCarlo, Alpha Books (Penguin Publishing Group), 2007, 400 pp., $19.95 (book).

The worldwide lean Six Sigma, total performance excellence and innovation training and consulting firm Breakthrough Management Group joins forces with business excellence writer DeCarlo, co-author of A Team Leader’s Guide to Lean Kaizen Events and Six Sigma for Dummies, to produce this title. It applies the well-known Idiot’s Guide style to understanding and implementing lean Six Sigma in any organization.

With the solid reputation of lean Six Sigma concepts and techniques, this book will likely best serve readers who still might not have a full grasp of lean Six Sigma and how it can be applied within an organization. The book focuses on helping readers learn how to implement the concepts and, as would be expected in an Idiot’s Guide series title, the focus is on clarity and ease of understanding.

The first part provides a nice background of lean Six Sigma, including an easy to understand discussion of what it is, where it came from, what it has done for so many organizations and what it can do for any company.

Parts two and three provide a flexible roadmap to select, enact and realize improvements from lean Six Sigma projects. In its step-by-step discussion, the team of writers includes information on when and how to use various lean Six Sigma statistics and tools, numerous diagrams, real-life examples, templates, tips and advice. While the book targets novices, the last two parts will be of value to any existing lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt, as well as trainees.

By first presenting the concepts and principles of lean Six Sigma, and then following with a suggested process to follow and an explanation of the most common lean Six Sigma tools, the writers have produced a handy introductory guide to lean Six Sigma. This offering is similar in approach to Six Sigma for Dummies and will be highly useful to anyone still new to this powerful performance improvement method. The title also nicely complements The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook.

Dale Farris
Groves, Texas

Organization Development

Joan V. Gallos, editor; foreword by Edgar H. Schein, Jossey-Bass, 2006, 1,057 pp., $35 (book).

Organization Development, edited by professor Gallos of the Bloch School of Business, provides every level of knowledge needed by any quality professional charged with leading a planned change effort. Constructed as a collection of articles written by change management thought leaders such as Peter Senge, Organization Development provides the history of the planned change movement and many practical applications of its techniques.

The intellectual tour given by the book’s many contributors is simply amazing. Covering topics ranging from John Kotter’s contribution on how to manage the boss to Edgar Schein’s thoughts on measuring corporate culture, the book covers the subject at any depth of immersion the reader selects. The late Peter Drucker’s article on knowledge-worker productivity is reason enough to purchase this book. The reader is simply privileged to be presented with such collective expertise.

Gallos serves as an invaluable resource for both the novice and the experienced change agent. The book contains enough information to assist the novice agent in gaining expertise in the subject. For the more experienced agent, the many examples given are sure to stimulate professional growth. No matter the level of experience, Organization Development presents the knowledge needed to nurture successful change efforts.

Tim Knight
Evergreen Park, IL

Design for Six Sigma for Green Belts and Champions

Howard S. Gitlow, David M. Levine and Edward A. Popovich, Prentice Hall, 2006, 570 pages, $79.99 (book).

The financial results produced by General Electric and others have made Six Sigma the “pillar of today.” Six Sigma could be described as a process-oriented method to reach improvements while reducing variation and measuring the financial output of each driven project. It is supported by statistical thinking and statistical tools. Much of the Six Sigma work has focused on corrective actions and improvements. However, design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is the application of Six Sigma to the design phase to invent and innovate products, services and processes.

This book is structured along the define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV) improvement cycle. Each step is thoroughly explained and discussed, and useful tools related to that step are illustrated. In that way, it integrates coverage of DFSS with detailed coverage of statistical methods that are appropriate for Champion and Green Belt (GB) certification.

It also includes a detailed case study of DFSS management that provides a “how to” examination of all the steps involved in using the DMADV approach. It deals with the foundation of management necessary for professional DFSS and presents a thorough and detailed anatomy of the DFSS management improvement model. It also includes chapter-ending appendixes that provide step-by-step introductions for using minitab and JMP software. Information on Champion and GB certification exams can also be found, along with sample test questions.

This is a well-written, easy to understand book in which basic concepts are presented in a fresh way. It takes you step by step through the design process and illustrates how Six Sigma can be beneficial.

Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University of Technology
Luleå, Sweden

Lean for Dummies

Natalie J. Sayer and Bruce Williams, Wiley Publishing Inc., 2007, 362 pp., $21.99 (book).

Authors Sayer and Williams wrote Lean for Dummies as a comprehensive resource to make lean accessible to everyone. The book covers lean basics, flow and the value stream; lean tools; the lean enterprise; and best practices. Each of the five sections is comprised of several chapters, which focus on one or more lean topics with explanations, step-by-step instructions and plenty of examples.

Lean for Dummies is a nice read. I was pleased with the pace, breadth and depth of this book. It is not written so simply that it becomes boring, nor is it excessively pedantic. The authors refrain from overusing acronyms or lean-speak. Where appropriate, they take care to explain the meaning of the word, the concept and how it fits into the lean method.

Appropriately enough, Sayer and Williams seem intent on keeping Lean for Dummies lean. The book flows nicely, is simple to understand and is comprehensive enough to be a standalone reference for any lean practitioner. The book provides excellent explanations for why, when and where to use all the tools, and what to look for when you do. Additionally, sections cover the human side of lean, lean teams, launching a lean program and a 30,000-foot view of lean as it is applied to the entire enterprise.

Clearly, Sayer and Williams know a lot about lean and how to present lean as a cogent and comprehensible continuous improvement process. Regardless of your experience or responsibilities, I would highly recommend that Lean for Dummies become a part of your personal library.

James Kotterman
APL Logistics
Oakland, CA

Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance

Thomas F. Gilbert, Pfeiffer (Imprint of Wiley), 2007, 376 pp., $40 (book).

Gilbert coined the word “teleonomics” for his system of studying, measuring and engineering human competence. In Human Competence, he writes, “The purpose of performance engineering is to increase human capital, which can be defined as the product of time and opportunity.” To engineer performance, view it from a value perspective, the author writes. For example, don’t train someone to perform differently unless there is value in the consequences.

This translates into worthy performance—where the value of the accomplishment exceeds the cost of the behavior. Competent people produce valuable results without incurring excessively costly behavior. “The true value of competence is derived from accomplishment, not from behavior.” Gilbert postulates there is no need to measure behavior until accomplishment has been measured.

With a focus on exemplary performance, Gilbert writes that the potential for improving performance (PIP) is a measure of opportunity. By identifying the exemplar—the individual with the most sustained worthy performance—the standard PIP might be established for other individuals or groups.

An in-depth discussion of Gilbert’s behavior engineering model encompasses his learning and critiques from his apprenticeship with behavior modification guru B.F. Skinner. Gilbert focuses on gaining the most worthy results and accomplishments with the least cost of behavior. The model helps by observing behavior in an orderly way. Notable throughout Gilbert’s work is the need for a translation of behavioral-science research findings into useful procedures and processes.

A whole generation of performance improvement practitioners have never been exposed to human competence as engineering worthy performance. It is foundational to the cause and practice of quality improvement, and the plethora of examples and case studies in Gilbert’s book are understandable, instructional and often amusing.

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


  • Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers Anthony Mersino, American Management Association, 2007, 264 pp., $19.95 (book).
  • The Value of Learning: How Organizations Capture Value and ROI Patricia Pulliam Phillips and Jack Phillips, John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 425 pp., $45 (book).
  • Balanced Scorecard Strategies for Dummies Chuck Hannabarger, Rick Buchman and Peter Economy, Wiley Publishing, 2007, 362 pp., $21.99 (book).

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