The ASQ Quality Improvement Pocket Guide: Basic History, Concepts, Tools and Relationships

Grace L. Duffy, editor, ASQ Quality Press, 2013, 160 pp., $14 member, $24 list (book).

This reference guide is designed as a quick-read overview of quality. It is divided into three parts: history and concepts, quality improvement tools, and customer-supplier relationships.

Part one offers a brief introduction to some concepts, and the history of quality is described through a series of accomplishments by quality icons such as Walter A. Shewhart, W. Edwards Deming and Kaoru Ishikawa. The first section concludes with a nice commentary on the benefits of quality for employees, customers, as well as the community and society.

Part two—the largest section of the book—efficiently describes and defines 22 common quality tools in alphabetical order. Part three provides some interesting insight into customer-supplier relationships and discusses methods for collecting and acting on customer and supplier feedback.

The main strength of this book is its size. It can be read cover-to-cover in a short amount of time and the material is presented in simple terminology. The table of contents helps to easily navigate the material, and a tool selection chart is arranged by logical, everyday tasks for easy use. Unlike some other quality texts and guides, this book includes ample references to other articles, books and case studies.

However, the book does possess some weaknesses. It is only in black and white, making it visually unappealing. More pictures and diagrams are needed to illustrate the tools. And some quality-related techniques common to industry, such as 5S, eight disciplines for problem solving and statistical process control were not even mentioned. Lastly, instead of presenting the tools alphabetically, it might aid understanding if the tools were more logically grouped together by application; for example, run charts and control charts.

Overall, this book provides good value for its price and size, and is a useful reference. I recommend it for anyone who desires an overview of quality basics and tools.

Milissa A. Bolcar
Linde Electronics and Specialty Gases
Stewartsville, NJ

A First Course in Probability and Markov Chains

Giuseppe Modica and Laura Poggiolini, John Wiley & Sons, 2013, 346 pp., $85 (book).

Although termed "a first course," this text requires a firm background in probability, statistics and calculus. For the mathematical statistician, it provides a comprehensive and progressively more complex introduction to Markov chains. While it is designed for a semester course in Markov methods, it could be used as an excellent reference for a statistical researcher.

The first four chapters of the book include a foundation of combinatorics, probability and random variables. These are important and necessary for understanding the chapters that follow. If the reader is already well-schooled in these, the chapters could be skipped or skimmed and the reader could start at chapter five, which covers discrete-time Markov chains. This chapter, which comprises almost half the book, is mostly theoretical in its presentation with few applied examples. There is one additional chapter—an introduction to continuous Markov chains—followed by several theoretical appendixes.

The book—comprehensive and mathematically written—is not for the statistical practitioner or market researcher where Markov models are often used. The target is the mathematician well grounded in math and statistics at the graduate level.

I. Elaine Allen
University of California
San Francisco

Permission to Forget and Nine Other Root Causes of America’s Frustration With Education

Lee Jenkins, ASQ Quality Press, 2013, 210 pp., $30 member, $51 list (10th anniversary edition, book).

In this book, the author describes wasteful practices that are deep rooted in school systems. As quality professionals, we know what to think of waste. To eliminate waste, we must understand the root causes and other related data to eliminate and sustain the improvements. In each of the 11 chapters, Jenkins has done a good job describing and supporting the problem, and providing suggestions and recommendations for its elimination.

The book is easy to read and provides interesting facts and data. Throughout the book, there are several references to W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, among others in the quality profession. This aspect helps the reader connect the book to quality in education and understand the broader use of the quality tools in the field.

There are also excellent descriptions and explanations of basic quality tools such as why-why, root cause analysis and several others. Overall, I found this book an interesting read about America’s frustration with the education system and the use of quality tools to help solve some of the problems.

Rajesh Sharma
Procter and Gamble

Organizational Learning: How Companies and Institutions Manage and Apply Knowledge

Jerry L. Wellman, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 216 pp., $31 (reprint, book).

Today, technology changes rapidly and markets are becoming globally competitive. Organizations quickly must recognize, adapt and take advantage of new learning before competitors do. However, organizations generally do not even manage what they know, or as Jerry Junkins, former chairman and president at Texas Instrument (TI) said, "If only TI knew what TI knows."

This book is about how knowledge is captured, saved and deployed within an organization. It describes a model for understanding where knowledge resides within an organization, how it is stored, how it is retrieved and—most importantly—how leaders can help their organizations use what they know more effectively.

The four fundamental constructs of the knowledge management model presented are: culture, old pros, archives and process.

  • Culture is discussed from a theoretical perspective and from a practical leadership point of view.
  • Old pros is illustrated by examples. Similarities to and differences between culture and old pros with respect to knowledge management are described.
  • Archives are often considered attractive, but are inherently incapable of more than a modest role in overall knowledge management.
  • Process contains historical data and knowledge as well as proprietary organizational knowledge.

These are defined, introduced in an organizational context and integrated into a whole by describing their interplay. Many references are included and described briefly. This is valuable to the reader.

The author is a practitioner with much relevant experience and a doctorate in social science which also adds to this book’s worth.

Bengt Klefsjo
Luleå University of Technology

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