Common Sense Project Management

Wayne Turk, ASQ Quality Press, 2008, 224 pp., $42 list, $25.20 member (book).

Common Sense Project Management is not strictly a how-to book, because most of what is written is, as the title suggests, common sense. Because common sense often can be an uncommon attribute, however, this book is useful to almost every project manager.

The book is broken into three sections. The first one addresses basic management—you can’t be a good project manager if you aren’t a good manager. The second and main part of the book deals with project management itself. The final section presents common project management mistakes and how to avoid them.

The main strength of the book is that it is well organized and written in a down-to-earth style that includes humorous chapters to make it easier to read. Moreover, the main ideas presented in each chapter are clearly arranged and presented schematically, surely due to the experience of the author.

The book has two main weaknesses. More editing would have enhanced its readability—in particular, inserting figures and tables would have helped. Also, at times there is too much overlap and redundancy between chapters. 

Overall, this book provides an excellent explanation of project management from a project and management expert with more than 35 years of experience. It serves as a valuable resource for those lacking in project management experience, making it a highly recommended book for novice project managers or those looking to break into project management.

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

The Integrated Excellence Enterprise System

Forrest W. Breyfogle III, Bridgeway Books, 2008, 189 pp., $16.95 (book).

The Integrated Excellence Enterprise System (IEE) is the first in a series of books that introduces a business governance system that combines Six Sigma, lean and theory of constraints process and product-improvement methods with elements of the balanced scorecard or hoshin kanri styles of strategic planning methods.

By the author’s estimation, the system enables managers to understand their businesses more completely and make better decisions. This book gives a high-level overview of the entire system and attempts to justify why the IEE system should be used.

Breyfogle is successful in showing how design for Six Sigma can be integrated with the process-level method of design, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) through the use of enterprise-level DMAIC.

The book contains an effective argument for why red-yellow-green scorecards are insufficient when determining the current state of a business and how IEE, through the use of probability plots and control charts, can do a better job. Whether management would accept the use of a probability chart as a dashboard item is questionable, though, because the tool requires some training in statistics to understand.

Breyfogle also makes the claim that the qualities of a good Black Belt are more inherent than learned, which may not be true. It would be interesting to see some data to back up that claim.

I wonder if it would have been better to use volume one of the IEE series to provide the overview and justification of the system rather than have it as a separate book. Overall, however, this book provides an effective, high-level introduction to what is an expanded version of the lean Six Sigma method and piques the reader’s interest for what is to come in the other books in the series.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
Quest Diagnostics
Teterboro, NJ

The Best Practice

Charles Kenney, Public Affairs Books, 2008, 304 pp., $26.95 (book).

Author and former Boston Globe journalist Kenney, a quality and safety consultant to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, provides an excellent summary history of the quality movement in American healthcare.

In the mid to late 1990s, while treatment-related mortalities were the fifth-leading cause of death for Americans, healthcare practitioners decried attempts to standardize treatment. As healthcare quality professionals from this era will grudgingly remember, there were far too many preventable mistakes in a medical landscape that featured long waits in emergency rooms, interminable paperwork and increasing incidents of patients receiving the wrong medication or having the wrong limb amputated.

Those problems prompted a group of physicians to study the rapidly developing manufacturing concepts of quality improvement learned from the Japanese that were being implemented in many American businesses. These visionary physicians began to apply these ideas and tools to the practice of medicine. This book tells their story and explains how what once was seen as heretical actions have blossomed into a healthcare quality movement that has brought the focus back to the patient.

The succinct chapters describe the early history of the quality movement in the United States, the birth and success of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the Annenberg Conference on error, how to set up methods to prevent human error, case studies, a forward-thinking perspective on the current state of healthcare quality and a viewpoint regarding further work that needs to be done.

This is a highly recommended book for all healthcare quality professionals and all university libraries that house a business curriculum.

Reviewed by Dale Farris
Groves, TX

Living on the Edge of Chaos

Karolyn J. Snyder, Michele Acker-Hocevar and Kristen M. Snyder, ASQ Quality Press, 2008, 345 pp., $60 list, $36 member (e-book).

At first glance, it appeared I erred in choosing this book to review, because I am not in the field of education. By the time I got through the first part of the book, however, I realized that if a reader substituted words such as regulators, schools, school districts, educators, teachers and students with words such as companies, governments, healthcare systems, management, managers, customers and workers, the insights, analogies and scientific evidence presented by the authors were not only phenomenal, but universally applicable.

With a central theme of reinventing education in a global age, the book is an exploratory journey that includes perspectives on the current education system and three views of change: the mechanistic view, the organic view and an emergent theory of change.

Concise and understandable explanations and examples are given for a plethora of theories applicable to understanding the current state and the emergent state of organizations within their environments. Several informative analogies are presented, and a model is included that outlines what students need if they are to succeed in a global village (those not in the academic field can substitute "workers" for "students").

This book is a must-read for any forward-thinking person aspiring to or involved in major change in his or her organization. In it, the authors provide the rationale for breaking away from the traditional command-and-control paradigm to an adaptive, collaborative organizational model. This can lead to success, the authors conclude, because the most meaningful changes occur at the edge of chaos.

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

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