Optimizing Student Learning: A Lean Systems Approach to Improving K-12 Education

Betty Ziskovsky and Joe Ziskovsky, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 136 pp., $20 member, $32 list (book).

The purpose of this book is to show how lean methods and educational practices can be used together in student learning. It is written as a fictional story about how a seventh-grade social studies teacher used lean methods during an academic year to improve performance in her class.

Each of the 22 chapters takes the reader through the thinking processes involved in applying lean methods to the classroom. It starts with the concept of teaching as a process with the classroom staged as a learning production area. It then covers the use of 5S for organizing the classroom by applying level loading and standard work when planning lessons for the entire year.

Finally, it covers the use of the plan-do-check-act tool for improving areas that did not work as planned, once the school year began and students began taking tests. Interspersed with the introduction of lean tools are concepts from learning theory, which complement the lean methods anchoring them to mainstream education.

The book’s greatest strength is in demonstrating, through the plot of the story, how lean methods can be combined with learning theory to make improvements. More details behind what the lean tools are and how they could be applied in the classroom would have been nice but not necessary. Overall, this is a good book that teachers at all levels can use as an introduction to lean in the classroom.

Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

Complex Service Delivery Processes: Strategy to Operations

Jean Harvey, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 464 pp., $49 member, $81 list (second edition, book).

The author updates his work with this second edition on complex services. Harvey defines these types of services as being sought after due to a customer’s lack of knowledge or skill. These are provided by highly qualified individuals through a complex combination of knowledge, know-how and technology. The services are divided into three main service categories:

  • Professional: law, engineering or architecture.
  • Semi-professional: real estate, insurance or electrical work.
  • Technical: telecommunications, satellite dish support or internet access support.

In addition, he explains how these services succeed with appropriate process design in businesses that are more vital to customers, such as hospitals, banks, insurance companies, governmental agencies and all levels of educational institutions. Harvey does a good job of applying process theory to these service environments.

New to this edition is the reorganization of the content into three parts:

  • Part one: conceptual framework linking strategy and operations.
  • Part two: methodologies and techniques to achieve operational excellence.
  • Part three: ingredients and recipes for corporate and personal change initiatives.

His process selection method also has been considerably simplified, and the explanation of the learning cycle has doubled to include a detailed presentation of the nature of kaizen workshops and why these work. The book focuses on managing the moments of truth for the team and organization when this change method is used.

Hands-on exercises at the end of each of the 12 chapters are included to relate this emphasis on service strategy to the practical interests of the targeted professionals in the identified service businesses. The work is also a great reference for MBA professors and students.

Dale Farris
Groves, TX

Key Performance Indicators: Developing, Implementing, and Using Winning KPIs

David Parmenter, John Wiley & Sons, 2010, 320 pp., $49.95 (second edition, book).

Key performance indicators (KPI), key results indictors and critical success factors are all related, but they often aren’t well defined. Their connection and hierarchy aren’t always explained either. This book helps in properly developing and using indicators throughout a business chain, starting with the mission, vision and values statements and working through the organization, and finally to the individual.

The author provides numerous checklists, guidelines and prescriptive actions to hold planning and informational workshops to identify and sort possible indicators for a practical, workable system. The latter part of his 12-step plan develops and implements the system with meaningful measures. The book even includes a letter to a CEO to help set the stage for using KPIs at the onset. Also provided are variations most likely needed for small and medium-sized businesses.

The advice is direct and based on years of experience in helping establish balanced scorecards and metrics. For those who need initial direction, a list of more than 300 typical measures is given for consideration.

The only objection I had with the book was the chapter on brainstorming consisted of four pictures of a brainstorming session’s results and a link to a webcast. Parmenter makes up for it by referencing several websites with additional webcasts and tools for those who learn better with audiovisual instruction.

Anyone needing help in developing indicators of any sort, at all levels, will benefit from the guidance contained in this book. Things will go much faster and smoother if you follow these plans, especially if management support and buy-in can be gained.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals

Root Cause Analysis and Improvement in the Healthcare Sector: A Step-By-Step Guide

Bjørn Andersen, Tom Fagerhaug and Marti Beltz, ASQ Quality Press, 2010, 256 pp., $36 member, $60 list (book and CD-ROM).

The authors of the book have done a great job outlining the steps required for effective root cause analysis (RCA) and improvement in healthcare. The book is organized into four main sections. Section one discusses the use of RCA in the healthcare industry. Section two provides a step-by-step explanation of the entire RCA process. It covers the basic tools commonly used, such as brainstorming, five whys and fault tree analysis. It also includes a brief description and application of more advanced tools, such as spider chart and bottleneck analysis. Section three outlines a series of best practices organizations can use to support their patient safety programs.

Section four includes samples of various RCA-related worksheets and tools. The CD-ROM includes a fully scripted MS PowerPoint presentation that can be used to facilitate the transfer of knowledge gained by RCA teams to promote widespread engagement, useful reporting framework and templates tools and techniques.

The book offers real-world examples accompanying each step of the process that provide valuable insight to healthcare professionals who want to improve the quality of patient care and safety.

It also includes benchmarked practices developed by the Veterans Health Administration’s National Center for Patient Safety. These can help RCA teams create an organizational structure to increase the robustness of the existing RCA process and hardwire it into their organizations’ fabric of patient safety culture.

Although the book’s title implies it is intended for use in the healthcare sector,  the steps outlined can be used in organizations that have failed to recognize the important benefits of an effective RCA process.

Herzl Marouni, Ph.D.
ABS Consulting

Recent Releases

Applied Concept Mapping
Brian M. Moon, Robert R. Hoffman, Joseph D. Novak and Alberto J. Cañas, CRC Press, 2011, 380 pp., $59.95 (book).

AS9101D Auditing for Process Performance
Chad Kymal, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 264 pp., $54 member, $90 list (book and CD-ROM).

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