Lean Acres: A Tale of Strategic Innovation and Improvement in a Farm-iliar Setting

Jim Bowie, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 264 pp., $18 member, $30 list (book).

Bowie uses the story of a farm in trouble as a means to introduce many basic concepts used in lean, business process reengineering, Six Sigma and the theory of constraints. Of course, he doesn’t provide all the subtleties and details of each technique, but the story gives the basics and offers ideas on where different tools can and should be used for making things better.

Because it is set as a fable, it can be used to communicate and educate just about anyone. This book provides the necessary steps in a non-threatening and down-to-earth way. Readers will readily see the comparisons of the troubles at Lean Acres with opportunities for improvement in their own workplaces.

The audience level is not set too low nor too high. Although, sometimes trying to match a term used in the barnyard to more traditional quality terms seems a stretch. But the story is engaging while still being instructive. To further enable understanding, there are good illustrations and figures showing particulars of quality methods being used, their interrelationships and the product of the farm’s improvement efforts.

Anyone who needs or wants to lead an improvement effort or persuade co-workers of the benefits of quality processes will benefit from this story. Recounting the farm situation as examples or borrowing the steps using the various quality tools will definitely make the effort easier. There is very little not to like about this enlightening book.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals

Improving Your Project Management Skills

Larry Richman, Amacom, 2011, 212 pp., $17.95 (second edition, book).

Richman introduces the book as an overview of projects spanning the course of time. The book clearly communicates his appreciation for the complexity and importance of project management. The book consists of 14 chapters covering the different stages of the project management cycle and is based on a seminar presented by the American Management Association.

Clear examples and figures are provided throughout the book, as well as discussions about commonly used project management tools such as Gantt charts, flowcharts and control charts. The glossary and list of learning resources listed in the appendix is also helpful.

This book provides a logical, step-by-step approach to project management. The author emphasizes the importance of soft skills and professional skills required for success. It is updated with the recent Project Management Institute’s Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) changes. The following PMBOK Guide knowledge areas are covered:

  • Integration management.
  • Scope management.
  • Risk management.
  • Time management.
  • Cost management.
  • Quality management.
  • HR management.
  • Communications management.
  • Risk management.
  • Procurement management.

This book is written at a level all professionals involved in project management will understand and would not only serve those who would like a thorough introduction to project management, but also as a refresher for those preparing for certification.

Jennifer Leny
Madison, WI

Lean Doctors: A Bold and Practical Guide to Using Lean Principles to Transform Healthcare Systems One Doctor at a Time

Aneesh Suneja with Carolyn Suneja, ASQ Quality Press, 2010, 184 pp., $30 member, $50 list (book). 

Healthcare services are in need of so much help and so many new ideas that any attempt to transform a poor healthcare system to one that is patient-focused is welcome news. This book not only met my expectations, it far surpassed them.

This book is a summary of a successful case study in the orthopedic center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The authors provide unique insight into the transformational steps major players of the orthopedic center took to ensure patient wait times were reduced by more than 70%. It addresses the central question: Why apply lean to healthcare settings?

Six chapters in the book take the reader through the following six steps deemed necessary for a successful implementation of lean principles in a healthcare environment:

  • Create physician flow.
  • Support physician value-added time.
  • Visually communicate patient status.
  • Standardize everyone’s work.
  • Lay out clinic for minimal motion.
  • Change the care delivery model.

Each of these chapters includes a series of simple action steps. The book also includes a section titled "Lean Leadership," which provides brief but useful information on the critical roles the hospital’s top management and the orthopedic center’s staff assumed and their commitment in supporting the lean initiative. 

The authors include a large number of quotes from those who participated in the lean initiative at the orthopedic center, and their insights add more credibility to the book and the results reported. This book is a good reference for those individuals who recognize the gaps in the quality patient care their organizations are mandated to provide.

Herzl Marouni
ABS Consulting

Streamlined Process Improvement

H. James Harrington, McGraw-Hill, 2011, 432 pp., $40 (book).

This book presents a step-by-step method designed to help companies streamline their processes, making them more efficient and effective. Harrington aims to present a revolutionary breakthrough in process improvement that goes beyond process reengineering, Six Sigma and lean. Streamlined process improvement (SPI) is a systematic way of using inter-functional teams to analyze and improve the way the organization operates, through the plan, analyze, streamline, implement and continuously improve (PASIC) method.

The book is divided into six main chapters. The first two chapters introduce and explain the SPI approach. The remaining chapters explore each step of the PASIC method. For each step of the method, IT solutions, including simulations, are emphasized throughout the book.

I highly recommend this book for consultants because the method and real-world examples provide new insights. I also recommend this book for managers and practitioners involved in any continuous improvement process.

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

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Laurie A. Broedling and Vern Goodwalt, ASQ Quality Press, 2012, 242 pp., $24 member, $40 list (book).

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