Process Improvement Using Six Sigma

Rama Shankar, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 110 pp., $31 list, $18 member (book).

Shankar’s book provides a general outline of the five phases of the Six Sigma quality initiative of define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC). The purpose of this book is to provide the practitioner with the necessary tools and techniques with which to implement a systematic approach to process improvement initiatives using Six Sigma.

The book has five main parts, each of which corresponds to one phase of DMAIC. For each phase, the purpose is clearly explained, and the tools that can be used to carry out the activities of each phase are outlined. Generally, Shankar includes examples to clarify concepts and calculations. Finally, a checklist is provided at the end of each chapter.

The main strength of the book is its clear, down-to-earth language that makes individual concepts easy to understand and the book as a whole easier to read. Moreover, the examples provided use Minitab software for calculations and graphs, further easing the learning process.

The main weakness of the book is its length. Shankar aimed to explain many statistical tools in as little space as possible. Consequently, practitioners won’t find this book useful as a guide or reference when problems arise during data analysis.

This book best serves as an introduction to the DMAIC aspect of Six Sigma. I would recommend it to Green Belts and to quality practitioners who are looking for quick insight into DMAIC to help carry out their improvement projects.

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

The Integrated Enterprise Excellence System, Vol. III

Forrest W. Breyfogle III, Bridgeway Books, 2008, $124.95 (book).

This is the fourth and final installment in Breyfogle’s set of books introducing his integrated enterprise system (IEE). Although it’s part of a series, the book could be used as a standalone reference.

This volume covers the details of how an improvement project should be undertaken in the IEE system and is suitable for Master Black Belts (MBBs) and Black Belts (BBs). It is divided into seven parts that introduce the IEE system and cover the DMAIC sequence at the project level. Each part is then divided into chapters that cover the theory and practical application of the project management, lean and statistical analysis tools necessary to complete each phase of the DMAIC cycle.

If there is one word to describe the book, it’s encyclopedic. It’s 1,180 pages long (including the index) and describes all of the pertinent Six Sigma, project management and lean concepts in enough detail to ensure the reader can understand each one. In addition, there are exercises at the end of each chapter that can be used to reinforce the concepts discussed. This makes this volume quite useful as a textbook.

The statistical analyses are performed using Minitab software, and there are numerous charts and tables within the book that show what the Minitab output for a given task will look like. The book also contains roadmaps that can take a BB step by step through what needs to be done in each DMAIC phase.

If there is a weakness to the volume, it lies in its sheer size. This volume is too large to be read cover to cover as you would other books. By attempting to be encyclopedic in its coverage, some sections of the book may not provide enough details for some readers. But, overall, this is an excellent book (on par with The Six Sigma Handbook by Thomas Pyzdek) that can serve as a reference text and a textbook. MBBs and BBs would do well to have it in their professional libraries.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

Stakeholder-Driven Strategic Planning in Education

Robert W. Ewy, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 123 pp., $40 list, $24 member (book).

Using two decades of experience, Ewy has crafted an effective how-to guide and an ideal reference tool for in-process strategic planning and operations in education.

The book starts with an overview, followed by procedures for surveying stakeholders, assessing current performance, strategic plan development, defining and developing strategies and the strategy map, establishing and using the balanced scorecard, and using timelines to guide activities.

The table of contents presents a working outline of the process, and the detailed index provides support for those looking for specific information. Ewy also includes sample press releases that announce long-range planning projects and examples of invitations to potential project participants. This makes the book an excellent reference for a strategic planner.

The inclusion of tools and resources that can be of use in the planning process is particularly helpful. For example, in the fifth chapter, "Developing the Strategy Map," Ewy needs fewer than three pages to provide strategies for finding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by a project (also known as SWOT analysis). He also shows how to integrate the analysis results into the stakeholder’s strategy map.

The book is packed with ideas for simplifying strategic planning, demystifying planning processes and presenting strategic plans to authority groups, such as school boards, legislative bodies or accreditation teams.

Whether the lessons are applied in a K-12 or post-secondary setting, this book can serve as a process guide for anyone new to strategic planning and as a reference for experienced planners.

Reviewed by Gerald Brong
Ellensburg, WA


Jim Champy, FT Press, 2008, 150 pp., $22.99 (book).

Written by the co-author of Reengineering the Corporation and other best-selling books, Inspire! is the second book in a series of three compact volumes on the topics of strategy, marketing, managing people and operations.

Outsmart!, the first in the series, described and analyzed the strategies of successful, fast-growing organizations. Inspire! picks up where that one left off, showing how those organizations have been able to increase their market share. The third in the series, Deliver!, which will be released in 2010, will focus on how organizations achieve true operational excellence. While these books are part of a series, each can be read as an independent offering.

In an era of commoditization and dwindling customer loyalty, Champy’s aim is to show how to keep customers coming back. Customer satisfaction is a significant aspect of the text, but the primary focus is on marketing and how to inspire loyalty.

Champy wants organizations to take the viewpoint of the customer and reconsider how they operate and engage customers by focusing on convenience with economy, trust, simplification and honesty. Case studies are used throughout the book to illustrate how this has been achieved by organizations that have shown growth of 15% or better during a period of at least three years. At the end of each chapter, rules of engagement are provided to help the reader focus and take action to spur innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

In our current economic situation, anything that shows how organizations can focus on and better engage the customer is a valuable resource. While this book will be of particular interest to those in marketing, it will also be of interest to executives, those involved in strategic planning and business owners.

Reviewed by Denis Leonard
Business Excellence Consulting
Bozeman, MT

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