10 Steps to Successful Project Management

Lou Russell, ASTD Press, 2007, 248 pp., $19.95 (book).

It was easy to like this book because of the author's conversational writing style. But it was equally comforting to hear, right off the bat, how projects never go as perfectly as other books make them sound.

The book maintained a high level of quality from beginning to end, with lots of meat in between.Each chapter covers the 10 steps mentioned in the title and contains a description of the activities that take place, tools to use and examples presented in a unique fashion.

In addition, intermingled with many of the chapters are paragraphs with titles like "Lurking landmines" and "How much time will this take?" The inclusion of those paragraphs serves to clarify the material and caution the reader about possible obstacles.

At the end of the book is a section that outlines lesson plans for a one-day or three-day course that could be offered in house, as well as a CD-ROM with all of the tools in PDF form.

The only thing Russell could have done to improve the book was rearrange some of the examples, tables and tools so they were in closer proximity to the paragraph that describes their use. But going backward or forward one page doesn't detract from the value of the book. It's almost enough to make me look forward to my next project.

Reviewed by Jeff Stevens
Tiffany & Co.
Cumberland, RI

Treasure Chest of Six Sigma

Lynne Hambleton, Prentice Hall, 2007, 864 pp., $89 (book).

Treasure Chest of Six Sigma is a comprehensive how-to encyclopedia in which the author, a recognized business consultant, presents a structured guide to help anyone select the right tool to answer the right question at the right time.

The book is divided into three sections. The first describes Six Sigma methods—such as lean Six Sigma, design for Six Sigma and Six Sigma for marketing. The second and main part of the book presents each of the techniques and tools that can be used for each approach in a well-organized and structured manner. The final section is, for all intents and purposes, an informational index that provides websites for 10 best practices articles available to download.

The strength of the book is the section devoted to the tools because the explanations make it easier for practitioners to understand them.

The encyclopedia begins with a table, which organizes the different tools by purpose and the key question each tool can answer. Then, a breakdown of each tool is presented, including what question the tool helps answer, when and how to use it, and how to analyze its effectiveness.

This book is recommended as a desk reference for business practitioners, analysts, managers and leaders interested in operational excellence and business improvement.

Reviewed by Martín Tanco
Tecnun (University of Navarra)
San Sebastian, Spain

Improving Healthcare Using Toyota Lean Production Methods

Robert Chalice, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, 320 pp., $33.60 list, $19.95 member (book).

At first glance, it might appear that automobile production and the healthcare industry have little in common. As hospitals have discovered lately, however, quality tools commonly used in manufacturing have their place in the world of medicine.

This book provides a step-by-step guide for healthcare providers and shows how Toyota lean production methods can be applied to their businesses to improve quality and reduce costs.

The book has two major sections. Part one describes the current state of the healthcare industry and provides a business case for why change is needed. Part two describes 46 steps for using lean methods to improve healthcare businesses, including the use of tools such as andon boards, value stream and spaghetti mapping, and 5S.

The main strengths of the book are in part one, where Chalice breaks down the problems facing the healthcare industry, and the appendices, where he provides examples of how lean methods have been applied in various healthcare facilities.

The major weakness of the book is in the section that includes the 46 steps, which are not covered in nearly enough detail for someone using the book to implement any of the lean methods successfully. In addition, half of the steps have more to do with general approaches to improve quality or reduce costs than with specific lean methods.

The book seems to be suited for someone who is trying to develop a good healthcare policy at the governmental level, or as a general primer introducing the lean philosophy to someone at the senior executive level. This book is not for anyone who needs a detailed explanation of specific lean production methods and how to apply them in a healthcare setting.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
Quest Diagnostics
Teterboro, NJ

Sustained Innovation

Faisal Hoque and Terry A. Kirkpatrick, BTM Press, 2007, 132 pp., $29.95 (book).

Though Sustained Innovation is not focused on technical or procedural aspects of quality-as-process and quality-as-result, it addresses issues that might be at a higher plane than a traditional quality program.

As stated in the introduction, the book explores, "knowledge-based technology-enabled innovation that is driven by the convergence of business and technology. To illustrate this… we will tell stories from around the world about large corporations, government, education, medicine, and social enterprises."

Following the introduction, it quickly becomes evident that insights and philosophies from management consultant Peter Drucker are important to sustained innovation as described by the authors.

A good example is their discussion of convergence. The invention of the airplane, a model explored by Drucker, is offered as an example in which knowledge of the gasoline engine is combined with mathematics, resulting in the science of aerodynamics. Models of innovation are brought forth often, the book is rich in quotes from leaders in many diverse fields, and the authors emphasize business technology management in large firms.

In the fourth chapter, "The Nimble Giants," there is an exploration of how companies learn, which might provide insights for quality specialists. That is followed by specific references to the healthcare industry in chapter seven.

This book is an interesting and thought-provoking offering. It lends itself to workshop or seminar activities that explore invention, creativity and problem solving. It does not address the technical side of quality, but it's not out of the realm of possibility for the reader to discover ideas that facilitate convergence, resulting in discoveries applicable to the assurance of quality processes.

For the exploration of ideas related to invention, creativity, problem solving and collaborative thinking, this is a recommended book.

Reviewed by Jerry Brong
Ellensburg, WA

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