Running All the Red Lights

Terry Holliday and Brenda Clark, ASQ Quality Press, 2010, 144 pp., $20 member, $34 list (book, e-book).

This is the story of how a school superintendent took his district from a poor performer to a 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient within six years. This book is not a recipe for reform, but rather a presentation of one successful way to effect change and challenge the status quo while respecting the needs of all participants. Holliday and Clark provide an open review of their journey—from start to finish.

Running red lights is a metaphor for overcoming barriers and obstacles that stop the forward movement. The authors introduced the plan-do-study-act cycle into the district and used it repeatedly to move beyond various red lights. Realistic goal-setting, prioritization and proper timing were major parts of the process.

Specific details are found in many excellent figures. While some completed examples of the tools and initiatives used in Holliday and Clark’s efforts are provided, they are not the focus. There is no magical to-do list for success. Each situation is different and requires a unique, tailored solution. Implementing a systematic, workable process for continual improvement is the core message. The advice is suitable for any practitioner or discipline because the details are not in the spotlight.

A good bibliography and reference section are included if you want to go to the sources quoted by the authors. The index is a little longer than needed, given the straightforward manner in which the book is written. Several appendixes contain additional examples from the authors’ path to the Baldrige award, including templates for readers to use to start their own voyages to improvement.

Anyone looking to begin an improvement system will benefit from the book’s frank discussion. Enough information is provided to quickly get started, no matter the industry or situation.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals

Compression: Meeting the Challenges of Sustainability Through Vigorous Learning Enterprises

Robert W. Hall, Productivity Press, 2009, 280 pp., $49.95 (book).

This six-chapter book represents a new way of thinking about our world. The author bases the book on the huge challenges we face in a global economy and how the old ways of thinking are not enough to solve future problems, including economic theory and business processes. Hall is not talking about small problems, but rather about the things affecting us and our friends, companies, countries and civilization.

Chapter two documents the Toyota Production System using vigorous research gained from the close contact Hall has had with Toyota executives over the years. Not that Toyota is perfect—as we all know from the recent recalls—but it has the people and the system to survive and prosper as it learns from difficult issues.

Chapter six is my favorite because it outlines the counterintuitive aspects required to be successful now and in the future. Imagination must be encouraged and organizational barriers broken down to foster a truly vigorous learning organization. We have no role models for the author’s vision, so learning will be trial and error on a road not yet paved.

To fully absorb the knowledge Hall shares, this book should be read, considered, discussed, debated and used to experiment. The author’s observations during the past 40 years led him to write this book outlining new-age problems we are just beginning to face. All levels of management, as well as individual contributors, should read this book. We all have a stake in the future of our economies around the world. This book examines in detail how it all works.

Bill Baker
Speed to Excellence
Santa Fe, NM

The Six Sigma Handbook

Thomas Pyzdek and Paul Keller, McGraw Hill, 2009, 560 pp., $89.95 (book).

The third edition of this handbook is a welcome update and expansion of its earlier releases. It consists of 12 chapters and seven appendixes, and it provides comprehensive coverage of Six Sigma implementation issues ranging from the creation of awareness, recognizing opportunities for improvement and integrating Six Sigma with other organizational initiatives. It also features full coverage of tools and techniques.

This book is a mature representation of experience and knowledge gained over the course of a decade. It can serve as introductory material, support specific topics, help planning and is an excellent source for benchmarking suggestions and ideas. The level of writing is accessible without being oversimplified.

The authors’ main achievement is that the book is a comprehensive body of knowledge that can help Master Black Belts, Black Belts and managers interested in achieving effective and efficient improvements at an organizational level. It is not a cookbook with simple-looking recipes that mislead and set wrong expectations. The book provides examples, ideas, methods and directions for focused action and problem-solving initiatives to help organizations on their Six Sigma journies.

Ron S. Kenett
KPA Ltd.
Raanana, Israel

Performance Management: Putting Research into Practice

James W. Smither and Manuel London, 2009, Pfeiffer, 2009, 704 pp., $75 (book).

This book assembles an exceptional collection of topics spanning the entire performance management process. The book discusses how to align performance management with strategies, values and goals. It gives practical applications for goal-setting, coaching, managing contextual performance and assessing performance management programs.

Performance management today has shifted its focus away from emphasizing annual employee performance evaluations to ongoing processes. This includes setting and aligning goals, coaching and developing relationships with employees by allowing informal feedback and linking performance to recognition and rewards.

This book brings together the most current thinking, strategies and best practices within performance management written by leading researchers, practitioners and consultants in the field. The 17 chapters are built on years of empirical research, which allow the authors to present evidence-based best practices.

The book offers useful guidelines for practitioners and a wealth of information for implementing an effective performance management system. I recommend it specifically to human research managers.

Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University of Technology

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