Quick Brainstorming Activities For Busy Managers

Brian Cole Miller, Amacom, 2012, 208 pp., $18.95 (book).

Since its introduction in 1941 by advertising executive Alex Osborn, brainstorming has become part of virtually every problem-solving method since. With more than 70 years under our belts, it is hard to believe we need another book on the subject. But maybe we do.

On the surface, brainstorming is a simple and straightforward technique. It is easy to believe you know everything on how to do it. But you may be surprised. Miller has taken a comprehensive approach to brainstorming that combines traditional methods with some new and creative exercises. Because this book is written for busy managers, all of the brainstorming activities can be completed in less than 15 minutes.

The book begins by concluding that brainstorming is a prioritization process. It then explains how to ask the right question, follow the basic rules, use traditional and creative techniques, record ideas and group the results.

The author provides 50 brainstorming techniques designed to spark creativity and produce results quickly. All of the activities are accompanied by tips, drawbacks, required materials and possible variations.

If I were looking for one good book on brainstorming, this would be it. Although brainstorming is not without its detractors, its use is so engrained in our problem-solving culture it is not going away anytime soon. If you want to be fast and effective at brainstorming, this is a good book to own.

James R. Kotterman
Asset Acceptance
Warren, MI

The Organizational Alignment Handbook: A Catalyst for Performance Acceleration

James H. Harrington and Frank Voehl, Productivity Press, 2011, 282 pp., $49.95 (book).

For any practitioner and advocate of continual improvement, or a student of organizational change, this book could open your eyes to one of the most significant shortcomings of many improvement change efforts—not getting the organization working toward the same objectives, at the same time and with bona fide commitment at every organizational level.

The authors initiate the first step—delineating a process to achieve that unified forward motion—and share some organizations’ results and experiences. Acting on the impetus created from reading this book—further expanding on the concepts presented, adapting to your organization and gaining the commitment necessary to launch this major organizational change—is the next step.

The 10 chapters contain 41 figures, tables and diagrams to elaborate on the textual content. A glossary of definitions and abbreviations is provided. Another appendix lists some of the 1,100 improvement tools and methods that may be applicable in the different phases. These are drawn from a wide range of disciplines and sources of knowledge.

The authors include a list of many of the 45 books they have written. But a rundown of what the authors consider to be some of the leading available references for each of the main topics addressed would have been a helpful addition for readers wishing to enhance the value of their learning.

If you are involved in working on organizational change or planning to be, you should read this book. Granted, you’ll need to do your own assessment of readiness, management commitment and cost estimates, and determine the strategic fit of such a substantial change process at your organization. But the needs and seeds to help you plan are in this book. Just ask yourself: "Is your organization just surviving, or is it thriving"?

Russell T. Westcott
R.T. Westcott & Associates
Old Saybrook, CT

Improving Business Process Performance: Gain Agility, Create Value, and Achieve Success

Joseph Raynus, Auerbach Publishing, 2011, 345 pp., $79.95 (book).

This book seeks to integrate business process improvement methods currently used today, such as goal question metric, balanced scorecard and lean—into a single, eight-step, quantitative business process method.

The first three chapters of the book introduce the need for a quantitative business process management (BPM) framework by explaining what BPM is, how it can help in dealing with change and how to link strategy with performance metrics.

The next four chapters discuss each of the eight components within the quantitative business process method. The last three chapters cover the use of BPM to connect strategy and outcomes, the use of quality tools to aid in process management, and how to use scorecards and dashboards to monitor progress.

The book does a good job of explaining specific topics within the quantitative business process method. The main weakness of the book is in the logic connecting the overall chapter-to-chapter flow of topics, especially toward the end of the book. The last three chapters seem to be appendages rather than fully integrated into the logic of the proposed framework.

Overall, this book could be useful for managers wanting to add some quantitative methods to an existing BPM framework. But there are better books for those looking for a BPM introduction.

Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing Baldrige in Healthcare: Evidence-Based Excellence

Glenn Bodinson and Kay Kendall, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 141 pp., $39.95 member and list (book).

The book is based on the authors’ experiences as Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award examiners and consultants. It describes the Baldrige award’s history, implementation of the Baldrige criteria and how to use the process in healthcare organizations. The authors stress that the Baldrige criteria form one of the best frameworks to ensure healthcare quality excellence and patient safety.

Anyone working in the healthcare industry will benefit from this book. Managers will benefit the most because they have the means to implement and fund new initiatives in an organization. Personnel should experience improved efficiency and better people management.

This book also provides a great way to set metrics and measure performance in proven areas. Organizations may boost their customer service and teamwork skills based on the award criteria, even if they decide not to complete the process.

The authors have a strong understanding about the topic and convey the message with a smooth transition among topics. Their knowledge is apparent, and the examples given are in tone with what readers may expect when implementing the Baldrige criteria.

The book could have benefited however, by adding metrics compatible with how the Baldrige award is used in healthcare environments.

Roberto Guzman

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