The Outstanding Organization

Karen Martin, McGraw-Hill, 2012, 256 pp., $30 (book).

In this book, Martin has crystallized her theory on why organizations have so much difficulty achieving and maintaining excellence. The author defines four characteristics summarizing the foundation of any improvement strategy: clarity, focus, discipline and engagement. Each aspect is discussed in clear and understandable detail.

Examples are given to illustrate that lack of clarity is a major contributor to wasted time, inappropriate decisions and low morale. Focus leads to working on the significant must-haves and eliminates less significant efforts, which leads to more success overall.

Discipline is defined as a deliberate practice repeatedly performed. The learning model presented is focused on mentors and coaches, but misses an opportunity by not mentioning benchmarking to learn from others or sharing knowledge across the organization.

Engagement is discussed as the three C’s: connection, control and creativity, which are tied to individual employee needs. Examples of pairing individuals working on the same task are related to demonstrate the benefits to engagement and improved results. Chapter six includes an example using the Navy’s Blue Angels acrobatic team to demonstrate these four characteristics in action.

This book is a high-level checklist for upper management that, if properly absorbed and implemented, can make organizational improvement stick and become easier to execute. Be cautious, however, because all the characteristic changes require clarity, focus, discipline, engagement and hard work.

Bill Baker
Speed to Excellence
Santa Fe, NM

Lean Six Sigma For the Public Sector

Brandon Cole, ASQ Quality Press, 2011, 192 pp., $41 member, $68 list (book).

While we tend to think of eliminating waste and reducing variation from processes as something that only concerns the private sector, the fact is that the methods of lean and Six Sigma are just as applicable to continuously improving how government functions as well. The purpose of this book is to show how lean Six Sigma (LSS) can be used to improve how public sector organizations do business.

The book spans eight chapters, first covering what LSS is and what the differences are in applying LSS to the public sector as opposed to private sector companies. The next three chapters cover the establishment of an LSS program, the use of LSS tools to eliminate waste and an overview of the basic quality tools needed to reduce variation. The last three chapters cover the promotion and sustainment of an LSS program.

The book does a good job highlighting the differences between public and private sector organizations, and how to properly apply LSS to overcome those differences. It also excels in showing where you can use certain tools to maximize the impact of process improvements within the organization.

Where this book falls short is in the examples of how LSS tools and principles could be applied in public sector work. The public sector project highlights were, in some cases, short on details of how a particular tool worked in completing a public sector project. In addition, more detailed examples from public sector projects could have been used to demonstrate the use of a particular tool.

Overall, this is a good introductory book that, along with Ken Miller’s We Don’t Make Widgets, should be read by those who want to improve how public sector organizations work.

Brian Cocolicchio
New City, NY

Performance Improvement For Healthcare

Bahadir Inozu, Ph.D., Dan Chauncey, Vickie Kamataris and Charles Mount. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011, 352 pp., $60 (book).

Authors Inozu, Chauncey, Kamataris and Mount present an integrated approach to using three improvement methods—lean, Six Sigma and constraints management—that have proven to be effective ways to transform hospital operations by focusing on patient outcomes, financial viability and employee satisfaction. The authors summarize their perspective on the state of performance improvement in healthcare and how various keenly focused strategies fail to address healthcare’s overall complex problems.

The book explains the principles and practice of constraints management, and demonstrates how this strategy can apply in healthcare. The authors present a pragmatic, readily accessible explanation of their approach to integrating the three identified improvement methods in the healthcare arena. They also explain the importance of thoroughly understanding the internal systems in a healthcare organization, how to effectively plan to deploy their approach, how to use the right tool for the right problem and the strategy of sustaining success over time.

While the material is aimed at connecting principles with important healthcare executives, it also manages to make the information applicable to any healthcare leaders interested in learning a better way to manage and control bottlenecks, eliminate waste, reduce errors, contain costs and improve outcomes for their customers.

The work represents the ongoing maturity of performance improvement concepts and practices derived from successful manufacturing arenas that have been successfully applied to the healthcare service sector. This book is recommended for all healthcare chief executives, board leadership and quality managers.

Dale Farris
Groves, TX

Enterprise Project Governance

Paul C. Dinsmore and Luiz Rocha, Amacom, 2012, 271 pp., $34.95 (book).

This book presents ways to align diverse projects in a portfolio that addresses an organization’s long-term strategies and objectives. The authors delve into areas such as selecting the right combination of projects, managing those projects through uncertainty and improving the predictability of outcomes. Also covered are means for managing very large, complex and ambiguous projects relating to joint ventures and strategic alliances all with flexibility and tenacity.

Corporate governance policies and guidance is derived from high-profile financial failures late in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Corporate governance is aimed at improving organizational performance through a corporate culture that gets directors and managers to focus on the effectiveness of projects and operational efficiency to produce returns on investments and growth. Enterprise project governance (EPG) aids in strengthening corporate governance policies and accountability.

Chapters about risk management and project portfolio management are particularly enlightening. Illustrations and discussion cite examples of how worldwide selections of organizations have addressed the principles and activities.

The concept and practice of EPG embraces the management of project portfolios in nearly every type of large organization. A roadmap lays out a plan for success, followed by a discussion of the challenges and roadblocks. It addresses the question of why EPG is needed.

Project planners and managers, and students of project management will derive insights they should consider for effective portfolio management of projects. If your organization is struggling to cope with the diversity and multiplicity of projects proposed and under way, this book is for you.

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

Recent Release

Six Sigma Green Belt, Round 2: Making Your Next Project Better Than the Last One
Tracy L. Owens, ASQ Quality Press, 2012, 160 pp., $32 member, $53 list (CD-ROM and book).

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