The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Employee Engagement Programs

Patrick L. Townsend and Joan E. Gebhardt, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 88 pp., $29.40 list, $16.80 member (book).

Although the title is almost as long as the book, authors Townsend and Gebhardt have written something (albeit small) that connects the initiative implementation dots for senior executives. Yes, the book is written at the 50,000-foot level, but that is where this book’s target audience lives.

The book does not provide a simple one-size-fits-all, step-by-step process, but it does provide the perspectives and how-to experiences of those who have successfully launched enterprisewide improvement programs.

As advocates of organizationwide participation driven by leadership, the authors make a persuasive case for getting all employees involved in and initiative and outlining how to make the case for the key elements of the initiative—strong leadership and the expenditure of significant resources.

The book also covers what should happen up front and in the eight months that follow to get a fully functional program up and running.

This book is not for those who aren’t in a position to implement enterprisewide change initiatives. If you are, then by all means spend a couple of hours learning how to drive a continuous improvement program powered by 100% employee participation.

Reviewed by James Kotterman,
APL Logistics, Woodridge, IL

101 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Lorraine Ukens, John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2007, 366 pp., $50 (book).

The title is by no means a misnomer, as the authors outline 101 ways to provide excellent service to internal and external customers. The 50 training activities, 14 tools, 23 tips and 14 techniques cover awareness, communication, planning, problem solving, quality and teamwork in an effort to improve service. This book is intended to be a resource to help customer service personnel meet that goal, but it is applicable to nearly everyone in an organization.

The well-constructed, practical suggestions contain everything needed to achieve improvement. Many of the activities are suited for meeting icebreakers or team builders, and most take less than an hour to complete.

The clear instructions show how to provoke thought and discussion from participants, and the book includes a CD-ROM that contains the handouts for each activity.

One of my objections was the application of the term “intervention.” While the author’s use and definition are correct, current common usage implies a seriously unfavorable state that requires drastic or extreme steps to remedy. These activities are neither drastic nor extreme. They will help improve or increase awareness in any situation, not just the worst.

This is a wonderful book that fills many needs. The mere acts of reading and thinking about these activities will improve the service you and your team give your customers.

Reviewed by Marc A. Feldman,
Solvay Chemicals Inc., Houston, TX

Enabling Excellence: The Seven Elements Essential To Achieving Competitive Advantage

Timothy A. Pine, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 102 pp., $36.75 list, $22.05 member (book).

Pine has distilled his observations of the characteristics and causes of success in world-class organizations, and the resulting list of seven essential elements is presented in this short, easy-to-read book.

Pine keeps the pace of the book moving quickly by not elaborating on any of the subtopics. The target audience for this book is management personnel with the power to implement change. It wouldn’t take them long to digest it, either, as a busy manager could read through the entire book quickly.

The target audience, however, is unlikely to learn anything new from this book. The list of elements should be familiar to anyone who has a background in quality or management because the elements have been addressed in innumerable seminars and books.

Although the author has held quality and technical management positions with several toy and sporting goods manufacturers, he does not draw from those experiences to add any unique insights to amplify or illuminate these elements of success.

The readability and introductory nature of this book make it suited for the entry level manager or engineer looking for an overview prior to conducting an in-depth study. However, readers with more than an entry level background would be better served by selecting a text with more substance.

Reviewed by Rich Anderson
Tucson, AZ

Accelerating Process Improvement Using Agile Techniques

Deb Jacobs, Auerbach Publications, 2006, 365 pp., $79.95 (book).

Just because a methodology contains the word “accelerating” doesn’t mean it’s wise for a newcomer to the strategy to sprint through his or her introudction to it.

Readers of Accelerating Process Improvement Using Agile Techniques have nothing to worry about, as Jacobs methodically walks the reader through a step-by-step explanation of the technique, beginning with a general introduction of process improvement and capability maturity model integration. She follows with a discussion of the accelerating process improvement methodology (APIM) and its implementation, then closes with an APIM toolkit.

APIM is an application of agile development methodology meant to push organizations higher on the capability maturity ladder. The APIM concept is innovative and presents practitioners with new possibilities to improve software in an organizational environment that traditionally is complex.

The book is a reflection of the vast practical experience of the author. Practitioners and researchers of empirical software engineering will find plenty of ideas and practical tools, making it a highly recommended text for such an audience.

Reviewed by Ron S. Kenett
KPA Ltd., Raanana, Israel

Stochastic Orders

Moshe Shaked and J. George Shanthimukar, Springer Series in Statistics, 2007, 473 pp., $89.95 (book).

One of the most important statistical applications analyzes the means and variances of two or more segments. This is frequently encountered in the fields of quality and reliability, where practitioners compare quality characterisitics or the reliability of several products. This book presents a unified approach and explores the application of a variety of methods to provide order to random variables.

According to the authors, the comparison of univariate or multivariate quality characteristics, including reliability, is one of statistical order. Included in the book are discussions regarding the stochastic, hazard rate, mean residual life, convex and transform orders. Following those are discussions of convexity and concavity, as well as a discussion of positive dependence orders.

To properly understand the content of the book, the reader must be very comfortable with the writing style of mathematicians. It can be an elegant approach to those who understand it, but nonmathematically inclined readers might require some tutoring to grasp the materials.

The book provides a wealth of information regarding how to study statistical order and is suitable for readers with advanced training in probability and statistics. It is long on theoretical treatment but short on real-life examples, thus it is not for novice students of quality and reliability.

Reviewed by Shin Ta Liu
Lynx Systems, San Diego, CA


  • Introduction to Design of Experiments with JMP Examples, Jacques Goupy and Lee Creighton, SAS Press, 2007, 448 pp., $69.95 (book).
  • The Desk Reference of Statistical Quality Methods, second edition, Mark L. Crossley, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 450 pp. $94.50 list, $56.70 member (book).
  • Integrated Enterprise Excellence, Volume 1—The Basics, Forrest W. Breyfogle III, Bridgeway Books, 2008, 140 pp., $27.95 (book).

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