Insights to Performance Excellence 2009-2010

Mark L. Blazey, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 384 pp., $84 list, $50 member (book and CD-ROM).

Adapting Albert Einstein’s explanation of the relationship between energy and mass, Blazey transforms E = mc2 into a practical formula for success: Excellence equals managing change at an accelerated rate. Thus begins the journey to explore the relationships among the seven categories of the Baldrige criteria.

During the journey, the reader will find plain-English explanations of the requirements in narrative and flowchart formats, the key links between items, explanations of potential adverse consequences if the requirements are not followed and examples of effective practices developed and used to meet the requirements.

Blazey presents research in support of the business case for using the Baldrige criteria and examines 75 high-performing organizations, with highlights from 20 of the winners discussed.

Discussion of the Baldrige criteria, as well as the seven categories and the points assigned to each, set the stage for a detailed exploration of the criteria requirements. Also included are tips for preparing the award application, an explanation of the scoring system, clarification of the scoring requirements, a self-assessment survey, an outline of how a site visit is conducted, a helpful glossary of terms and a CD-ROM that contains just about every form you would need to begin a Baldrige journey.

Written and structured to serve novices and experts alike, Blazey has once again (this is the ninth update of the book) dissected the criteria and content of this critically acclaimed award. His personal insight and clear explanations simplify the complexities and reinforce the intent of the Baldrige program: to focus on the fundamental principles that drive excellence in virtually any type of organization.

The reader who follows the advice offered will come to realize why the Baldrige criteria have become a template for building and operating a successful organization, regardless of whether the organization actually applies for the award.

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

Best Practices in Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement

Richard J. Schonberger, John Wiley & Sons, 2008, 290 pp., $45 (book).

The concepts behind lean Six Sigma (LSS) have proven susceptible to cherry picking, with organizations avoiding the difficult elements that often produce the best results. A central aim of this book is to critically discuss and sort out those elements.

Schonberger includes a wide variety of findings, including a compilation of rankings based on material from more than 1,400 manufacturers, retailers and distributors in 36 countries. For example, he ranks regions of the world and dominant industrial sectors according to their long-term commitment to lean.

In the book, Schonberger discusses—and attacks—the tendency to jump from one concept or acronym to another. He discusses how, in the 1980s, just-in-time (JIT) and total quality control (TQC) were all the rage, only to have JIT morph into lean and TQC renamed and watered down to total quality management, then Six Sigma. He forecasts that lean will not stay, either, since "lean’s popular definition—attack on wastes—is unexciting to executives."

Pitfalls and hidden opportunities are explained in simple terms any manager could comprehend. Because of its ability to clarify concepts and bring to light the success stories of many companies, some of which surpass Toyota in long-term improvement, this eye-opening book is a must read for anyone who wants to truly understand LSS best practices.

Reviewed by Bengt Klefsjö
Lulea University of Technology
Lulea, Sweden

Lean 9001: Battle for the Arctic Rose

John Guderian and Timothy Renaud, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2008, 315 pp., $29 (book).

You probably never thought you could learn process improvement under the guise of a science-fiction novel. Now, thanks to Guderian and Renaud, you can.

The authors improbably pair a discussion of serious scientific process capability and lean manufacturing information with a science-fiction satire that takes place in the year 7278. There is a serious storyline to follow, and plot twists keep the reader engaged, making the book easy to read. But the book also includes comprehensive information about a company’s implementation of processes to improve manufacturing and customer service.

Implementation is illustrated with flowcharts, memos and capability processing information. All of this takes place while battling pirates and fighting competition in distant galaxies—things today’s companies rarely need to contend with.

While not wanting to give away any of the plot, I will say the novel successfully introduces the concept of quality management systems and implements them seamlessly into the fabric of the story. The introduction, however, is not quite as seamless, so I would probably not recommend this to a sci-fi buff who wasn’t also interested in quality.

This would be a great adjunct for a class or a department that wants to introduce these quality techniques in a relatively painless way. The authors are clearly knowledgeable about quality management and have found an interesting way to present it.

Reviewed by I. Elaine Allen
Babson College
Wellesley, MA

Lean Hospitals

Mark Graban, CRC Press, 2009, 280 pp., $44.95 (book).

This book shows how lean methods can be used—and why they should be used—to improve how healthcare is practiced in all types of facilities.

The book starts by developing a case for using lean in hospitals and healthcare facilities, followed by an overview of how lean methods can be applied in these settings. Graban then covers the major areas of lean—defining waste, value streams, standard work, visual management, problem solving, error prevention and improving flow. He also discusses lean leadership, vision and implementation.

Included in the book are very thorough introductions to the major aspects of lean and how they apply to the healthcare setting, with plenty of examples provided to show how each area of a facility (emergency department, laboratory, surgery and pharmacy, to name a few) can use lean to improve patient care.

There is enough information provided that administrators considering lean implementation in their own facilities will have a good idea of how to begin and what a successful implementation looks like in the end.

Graban comes up short in a few areas, though. It would have been nice to see more information on the use of A3 problem-solving reports in a healthcare setting, though there are other books that address this shortcoming. In addition, the book could have used more examples on how the calculations for takt time, kanban and process capacity could be applied to a hospital setting, given their importance within the lean method.

Overall, however, this is a good introduction to how lean methods can be used in healthcare. It is worthwhile reading for administrators who are considering the use of lean methods in their facilities.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

Recent Releases

  • Six Sigma Marketing
    Eric Reidenbach, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 168 pp., $40 list, $24 member (book).
  • The Ultimate Improvement Cycle
    Bob Sproull, CRC Press, 2009, 250 pp., $59.95 (book).
  • The Rudolph Factor
    Cyndi Lauren and Craig Morningstar, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 168 pp., $21.95  (book).

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers