How Organizations Learn

Patrick L. Townsend and Joan E. Gebhardt, ASQ Quality Press, 2008, 80 pp., $29.40 list, $16.80 member (book).

Those familiar with Crisp Publications (which originally released this title in 1999) know its books are focused, idea-filled, well-written offerings. How Organizations Learn lives up to that reputation and is a very useful, content-focused resource that wastes no time inundating the reader with ideas and insights important to learner outcomes.

The book opens by examining the 1960 Olympics and the lessons that were necessary to develop a new approach to high jumping, with results measured and winning results recognized. By page three, readers are exploring strategies for benchmarking the three "I's" (investigate, institutionalize, identify). The chapters that follow, which range from two to six pages, cover a multitude of topics, including the spread of leadership skills, training, after-action reviews, learning cycles and knowledge depth.

This book will be useful as leaders and program managers design programs that deliver quality-as-process and quality-as-result in a learning organization. The book serves as an idea generator and discussion guide. The ideas will be discussion starters in a workshop or a team leader's planning meeting. How Organizations Learn is recommended for an organization's reference library and as a resource for group activities and training.

Reviewed by Jerry Brong
Ellensburg, WA

Lean Sigma: A Practitioner's Guide

Ian D. Wedgwood, Prentice Hall, 2007, 461 pp., $59.99 (book).

The purpose of Lean Sigma: A Practitioner's Guide is to provide Six Sigma practitioners with best practice project and tool roadmaps for completing a broad range of projects.

The book is divided into three major sections, the first of which provides project roadmaps that can help solve 25 different problems, including on-time delivery issues, high schedule variation, scrap issues and excessive resource use. The roadmaps follow the define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) process, with one chapter for each stage. There is also a chapter that addresses individual process step problems.

Section two covers project identification, while section three deals with the explanation and application of 55 different lean and Six Sigma tools, such as t-tests, total productive maintenance and value-stream mapping. This enables a Black Belt (BB) who is unfamiliar with a certain tool to use it in a project, interpret the results and understand why it was used.

The main strength of the book lies in the project and tool roadmaps in sections one and three, which cover the majority of problems a BB could encounter. Each roadmap takes you step by step through the process of solving that problem in the scope of the DMAIC process. The roadmaps allow a BB to see how each of the lean sigma tools logically connect with one another to solve a particular problem and why a certain tool might be used at a particular stage.

If there is a weakness to the book, it is in the chapter on project discovery, which was quite thin compared to the other chapters. More information on that topic could have been provided without needing to refer to another book written by one of Wedgwood's co-workers.

Overall, this book will be very useful to novice BBs, as well as more experienced BBs who might be encountering a particular problem for the first time. It will also be useful to Master BBs and Champions who need to make sure BBs have addressed all the issues necessary to complete a project. Six Sigma practitioners will find it to be a welcome and soon-to-be dog-eared addition to their libraries.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
Quest Diagnostics
Teterboro, NJ

Lean for Service Organizations and Offices

Debashis Sarkar, ASQ Quality Press, 2008, 231 pp., $63 list, $37.80 member (book).

This book provides an excellent and clear overview of lean, as well as its tools and techniques. Step-by-step guidance is given on how to conduct value-stream mapping, identify waste, calculate takt time and other key actions, which are augmented with examples, charts, diagrams and easy-to-follow calculations and explanations.

The strength of the book is how it places the tools in a larger context by using a systematic approach that focuses on leadership, people, processes, partners, promotions and problem solving. Detailed templates guide the reader through the process of assessing the status and health of lean in an organization. Other templates include opportunity checklists, training programs and deployment reports.

The real strength of this book, however, is its focus on the application of lean beyond manufacturing and into the realm of service organizations and the office environment. This approach makes lean accessible to everyone. What is also unique is how these aspects are brought together in one model developed by the author called the DEB-LOREX (Deb's Lean Organizational Excellence Model).

The book is outstanding for anyone new to lean. Its approach to the service industry and office environments widens its appeal, and its systems-based, project management approach also makes it valuable for veterans.

Reviewed by Denis Leonard
Bozeman, MT

Implementing Design for Six Sigma

Georgette Balair and John O'Neill, ASQ Quality Press, 2007, $73.50 list, $44.10 member (book).

Six Sigma is primarily used to eliminate failures and decrease the cost of poor quality. But the systematic use of statistical methods and tools to reduce variation has recently been applied during the design of products, thus creating design for Six Sigma (DFSS), which can help develop robust products customers will want.

The journey a company takes from its current design process to one supported by DFSS is certainly not easy. Implementing Design for Six Sigma tries to help by being a support tool for managers who are tasked with guiding an organization through the transition.

After an introduction to Six Sigma, the book discusses a step-by-step approach to planning and implementing the design process changes. This includes an exploration of how to measure results, maintain the organization's energy toward the project and keep the DFSS drive alive. A DFSS case study toward the end of the book illustrates the concepts.

Among the issues touched on are: getting the organization to commit to adopting DFSS, selling senior leadership on DFSS, identifying where tools can be used best, ensuring the right projects are undertaken, identifying key deployment drivers, evaluating cost, finding where infrastructure will be needed, defining the role of the consultant and knowing how to avoid the pitfalls.

The book is well structured along the DFSS roadmap of define, measure, analyze, design, verify and implement (DMADVI). But it also struck a balance between claims like "In just 15 minutes a day, your development process can look like General Electric's" and explanations of variation, Six Sigma and their impact on the production process.

Reviewed by Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University of Technology, Sweden

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