Innovative Lean Development

Timothy Schipper and Mark Swets, CRC Press, 2009, 200 pp., $39.95 (book).

This book is all about applying lean management principles to the product development process. The book’s eight chapters describe six principles of lean development: identify and fill user gaps, use multiple learning cycles, stabilize the development process, capture knowledge, use rapid prototyping and use lean management principles.

The main strength of the book lies in the two chapters devoted to using multiple learning cycles. In this approach, teams break a project into small sections lasting approximately four weeks. Objectives are developed specifically for this timeframe, and then the team goes through a design-build-test-review cycle for its section.

At the end of each four-week section, an integration event is held in which the project is reviewed and the set of design alternatives is narrowed. The narrowing of design alternatives is called set-based design and is at the heart of lean development.

These sections and cycles continue until the project is finished and the product is ready for manufacturing.

The authors give examples showing how the principles are to be applied, but the examples are not detailed enough for anyone interested in adopting this method to use this book alone.

Overall, this is a good book for anyone who wants an introduction to lean product development. However, other sources will be needed to proceed with implementation.

Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

The Pursuit of Something Better

Dave Esler and Myra Kruger, New Ridge Books, 2009, 288 pp., $15.95 (second edition, book).

Kruger and Esler’s book is a positive account of U.S. Cellular’s journey from ordinary to extraordinary. This book is not a reference manual, textbook or a technical reference. It is a background resource exploring how improvement is possible, how it delivers emotional returns and how it results in quality enhancements for everyone involved.

The authors review the action programs within U.S. Cellular as the company’s team developed strategies to enhance employee satisfaction, implement activities for delivering results, spark innovation and improve customer satisfaction. Kruger and Esler illustrate the company’s successes, failures and extensive employee involvement. The book helps readers feel as though they are a part of the action and, in turn, they can take the ideas and apply them in other settings.

This book will be of interest to organizational leaders and decision makers at all levels. Executive officers will gain insights from the details on how goals were accomplished, customer reactions and strategies for continued improvement. Readers will have an opportunity to think, ponder and test ideas.

Even though quality is not a primary focus of the book, it does give insights that can be applied to quality implementations at other organizations.

Jerry Brong
Ellensburg, WA

Corporate Sustainability Planning Assessment Guide

Donald C. Fisher, ASQ Quality Press, 2010, 272 pp., $80 list, $48 member (book and CD-ROM).

Assessing organizational sustainability requires integration of economic, environmental and social issues. Corporate sustainability planning builds on core values and provides a roadmap that affects employees, suppliers and customers. As the title implies, this book is a how-to manual consisting of nine chapters, eight appendixes and a CD-ROM containing useful material.

The guide provides templates and procedures for identifying strategic improvement opportunities regarding sustainability efforts. It can be used to develop and improve a corporate sustainability plan addressing financial objectives, marketing goals, HR management challenges and risk management.

This how-to manual provides clear and well-organized procedures, but implementing them will require additional experience or knowledge found in other articles and books.

Ron S. Kenett
Raanana, Israel

Leadership Elements

Mike Mears, iUniverse, 2009, 364 pp., $25.95 (book).

This book offers a unique look at leadership and management. Most popular leadership books contain anecdotal nuggets of wisdom from football coaches, ex-CEOs or business school professors. Mears is none of these. He is not only a leadership consultant and lecturer, but he has also spent a lot of time in the leadership seat as a company president, a vice president and nuclear submarine commander. When the CIA decided to start its own leadership academy, they called Mears.

His leadership and management elements are laid out like the periodic table we all came to know in chemistry class. Mears uses the periodic table as a framework to identify and discuss individual leadership and management competencies. As in chemistry, individual elements can be combined into fundamental families. Mears combines his elements to form the families of inspire, improve and implement. The last section, rare earth elements, rounds out the book as a potpourri of competencies not covered in previous sections.

My personal bookshelf is replete with scholarly works on leadership research and assessment. Although I tend to scoff at attempts to add anything useful to applied leadership knowledge, I liked this book. It provides a clear understanding and method for thinking about and implementing a strategy to improve organizational performance.

This book will help readers become more effective leaders. If you apply even a couple of the elements, you can’t help but become a better leader and, perhaps, a better person.

James Kotterman
Michigan Manufacturing
Technology Center

Plymouth, MI

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