Lean Management Principles For Information Technology

Gerhard J. Plenart, CRC Press, 2012, 368 pp., $79.95 (book).

Although this book is intended for IT practitioners, it is an excellent resource for anyone looking to implement lean management principles. The author does an admirable job of providing information on production processes, technology and change management, all with the aim of eliminating waste.

Due to all that occurs and repeats regularly during the lifetime of an IT project—software development, implementation, hardware upgrades, user training, quality control and piloting—it makes them prime targets for lean techniques.

The first portion of the book discusses the need for IT to become lean. The second part covers a structured method for analyzing and dissecting problems and processes. The final section provides an overview of continuous process improvements.

In trying to find where lean can benefit, Plenart emphasizes that interpretation differ tremendously between practitioners of IT and their customers, internal and external. Differences occur even within enterprise areas and often are due to varying expectations. Example systems for overcoming these disparities are suggested. Simple concepts are offered throughout the book such as:

  • What does this process try to achieve?
  • Are we working on the correct problem or are we creating more problems?
  • A measurement system is not for management, it is for motivating employees.
  • People respond to what is inspected, not to what is expected.

Relevant diagrams, illustrations, a serviceable bibliography and index make this book easy-to-read. The message and materials are simple to assimilate. If you are looking to implement or upgrade your lean initiative, reading this book is well worth your time.

Marc A. Feldman
Solvay Chemicals Inc.

Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy

Maasaki Imai, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2012, 448 pp., $40 (book, second edition).

Gemba means “actual place” in Japanese. Gemba is where real action occurs. In Japanese, kaizen means “continuous improvement.” Kaizen implies improvements that involve everyone, both managers and workers, and entail relatively little expense. In this second edition, Imai explains how to reach cost-effective improvements by kaizen in a way that brings dramatic results through the power of common sense.

Gemba management has five golden rules:

  • Go to the gemba first.
  • Check relevant objects.
  • Take temporary countermeasures of the spot.
  • Find the root cause.
  • Standardize to prevent recurrence.

Suggestion systems and quality circles are important parts of the house of gemba. This is a way to prove that employees are actively involved in kaizen and that management has been successful in building the kaizen infrastructure.

Included in the book are global case studies from a wide range of organizations demonstrating how gemba kaizen has been successfully applied. For example, how Caetano Bus in Portugal succeeded in delivering on schedule; how customer expectations were exceeded at Disney World; how Rome’s airport was transformed; how participation made a difference for Xuji Group in China; how the delivery process was improved at the energy distribution company Enexis in the Netherlands; and how quality was improved at Inoue Hospital in Japan.

This is not a book of theory but a book of action. Every manager of any type of organization should read this book.

Bengt Klefsjö
Luleå University of Technology

Performance-Based Certification: How to Design a Valid, Defensible, Cost-Effective Program

Judith Hale, Pfeiffer, 2012, 288 pp., $80 (book, second edition).

This book shows how to initiate, plan, implement and improve a sustainable certification program that meets organizational and stakeholders’ needs and expectations. The author notes that the certification program deals with deciding which functions will be served and whether or not the program will determine, screen for and monitor proficiency. Also she notes whether the program differentiates between levels of capability or if it even recognizes capability.

The book is organized based on the plan-do-check-act continuous improvement cycle. The book is divided into 10 chapters, each ending with a useful list of errors the author describes as easy-to-make or frequently made errors. Hale also provides guidelines to ensure successful performance of the steps. In addition, the tools in the form of checklists and guidelines listed in each chapter can be downloaded free of charge and adapted to meet an organization’s unique certification needs.

The author, through her years of experience in the fields of evaluation and certification, has created a masterpiece that provides a set of effective, yet simple steps, for organizations that plan to launch a new certification program, are searching for solutions to their ailing certification program or are looking for fresh ideas to improve them.

Herzl Marouni
ABS Consulting

Building Lean Supply Chains With the Theory of Constraints

Mandyam M. Srinivasan, McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011, 384 pp., $42.78 (book).

This book is based on how theory of constraints (TOC) can be used to benefit the supply chain and logistics. The author contends that with the addition of TOC to the design and management of supply chain activities, the user will be able to make the most of resources and reduce non-value added activities. It merges two subjects critical for every business to ensure market coverage and efficiency.

Srinivasan conveys the message with a smooth transition among topics. This is a very useful book; however, the author stated it was initially intended as a textbook and still could be. But for it to work as a textbook, it needs practice exercises for students to validate what they learn from the book.

The individuals who will benefit most from reading this book will be those in managerial positions responsible for shipping, logistics and receiving activities from a client or vendor perspective. Supply chain professionals should experience improved efficiency in resource and people management based on this book. The TOC resources presented in this book help people who work with supply chains understand other aspects of manufacturing where the TOC concepts are applicable.

Roberto Guzman

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