Lean Six Sigma for the Office

James William Martin, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, 348 pp., $49.95 (book).

Over the years, companies have successfully combined lean manufacturing and Six Sigma process improvement techniques to achieve significant improvements in how they manufacture products. However, applying techniques developed for the manufacturing floor in an office setting has been difficult at best. Martin’s book aims to help Master Black Belts, Black Belts and managers improve how their office processes work.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section spans the first three chapters and discusses aligning improvement opportunities with corporate strategy, identifying projects and covering the basics of lean Six Sigma (LSS). Section 2 discusses how to plan and conduct kaizen events. This section is broken into three chapters, which describe kaizen event planning, data collection/analysis and examples of process improvements in an office setting. The final three chapters cover aspects of solution implementation, including building business cases, implementing solution control plans and behavioral dynamics.

The book does a good job of showing how LSS tools can be applied in an office environment. The examples in chapter 6 were particularly helpful, although it would have been helpful to use the examples in chapter 6 as separate cases to show how LSS is applied from start to finish. In addition, the book tends to describe calculations, such as takt time, in paragraph form instead of showing examples of calculations using mathematical equations. This inhibits rather than enhances understanding, especially for people who are visual learners.

Overall, this is a good book, but the presentation style makes it ill-suited as a reference text, making it less useful than it could be.

Reviewed by Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

Applied Statistics

Johannes Ledolter and Robert V. Hogg, Prentice Hall, 2009, 608 pp., $134.67 (third edition, book).

This book provides an introduction to the basic statistical and probability theories and applications in the field of engineering and science. The statistics and probability content is comparable to other statistics books geared to similar audiences.

The first chapter serves as introductory material to get students’ feet wet. Several basic but useful statistical concepts and graphical tools are introduced here. The next couple chapters pertain to more rigorous probability concepts, models and statistical distributions.

The driving forces behind all statistical inferences are introduced in chapter 4, and chapter 5 is the logical extension and application of the confidence intervals and testing hypothesis addressed in the previous chapter. The introduction of the design and analysis of experiments with one factor or more are introduced in chapters 6 and 7. The catch-all tool of regression is introduced in chapter 8.

Compared with other introductory applied statistics textbooks aimed at the application in the field of engineering and science, this book provides easy and less demanding content from the student’s point of view.

Reviewed by Shin Ta Liu
Lynx Systems
San Diego

Journey to Excellence

Kathleen J. Goonan, Joseph A. Muzikowski and Patricia K. Stoltz, ASQ Quality Press, 2009, 248 pp., $30 member, $50 list (book).

Goonan, Muzikowski and Stoltz—all of whom have experience as Baldrige examiners—pool their considerable healthcare quality experience to present an analysis of nine healthcare Baldrige Award recipients from the healthcare arena.

With the major challenges facing healthcare organizations today, it is little wonder that in recent years, half of the Baldrige Award applicants have been healthcare providers. Thousands more U.S. healthcare institutions are now implementing the Baldrige criteria. However, as these authors wisely acknowledge, when approaching Baldrige criteria, there are no easy answers and no magic bullets. Instead, they summarize key aspects from real healthcare institutions that succeeded through use of the Baldrige criteria and a systematic approach to managing, improving and changing their organizations for the better.

In concise, well-thought-out chapters, the authors explain the context in which today’s healthcare providers operate; present an overview of Baldrige and how it is used in the change process; summarize a description of the journey toward Baldrige excellence; explain their leadership, assessment, sensemaking, execution and results elements they say will help achieve Baldrige discipline; and end with high-level conclusions drawn from the success of these institutions. The book includes extensive remarks from key leadership among the nine recipients, bringing to life these principles and illustrating how these organizations achieved their success. The authors also include examples of the practices used by these recipients.

With the current high level of interest in and concern regarding healthcare in the United States, this work nicely makes the case to all healthcare companies about how the Baldrige quality framework can make a difference in their organizations. This book is recommended for all healthcare executives and quality professionals.

Reviewed by Dale Farris
Groves, TX

Strategic Project Management

Terry Schmidt, John Wiley and Sons, 2009, 272 pp., $29.95 (book).

Compared to the 39 project management books I have read, this book is best at addressing the dilemma of why well-intentioned projects fail and how to prevent future failures. The secret lies in overcoming the typical tendency project teams have to rapidly move out of the planning phase to get to work on the tasks.

The author demonstrates through multiple examples how four simple questions can set the stage for a successful project. He then takes the reader through the if-then practice of setting objectives using causal logic as opposed to sequential logic and the creation of an objectives tree.

With a systems-thinking perspective, the author introduces a conceptual framework called the Logical Framework or LogFrame Matrix. This left-to-right matrix captures definitive statements pertaining to objectives for the goal, purpose, outcomes and inputs in a column labeled "objectives." Adjacent columns are used to verify and measure success.

Four chapters drill down to explore how the four questions work together as an integrated thinking system. A section on managing the strategic action cycle, managing the people dynamics, and applying the concepts and practices in your world rounds out the book. Included are forms, a glossary and a plethora of real-life examples.

The concepts and practices discussed in this book apply a new and more effective way of assuring your project is a strategic fit to the organization. That means the goal, purposes, outcomes and measures are aligned, communicated and understood by affected stakeholders. Use of these upfront planning practices sets the stage for the application of traditional tools of project management.

For quality professionals who are establishing and managing projects, especially those responsible for initiating Six Sigma projects, this book is a must read.

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

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