Lean Six Sigma For Leaders by Martin Brenig-Jones and Jo Dowdall

The Blurb On The Back:

Outstanding quality control and continuous improvement shouldn’t be complicated and burdensome.  Now, you can quickly understand and practice the next-level solution to operations management with Lean Six Sigma For Leaders.

Written by industry influencers with a long, brilliant record of producing high-performing teams, this practical manual opens up the world of Lean Six Sigma in a way senior management can immediately use to create the optimal environment for improving operations every day.

A diverse collection of illuminating case studies reveal how organisations in several industries succeeded or failed using the Lean Six Sigma approach.  First-hand insights from the managers leading the initiative offer valuable advise on what they learned and might do differently next time.

Start your new path to ever-increasing levels of excellence with Lean Six Sigma For Leaders

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Martin Brenig-Jones is Managing Director of Catalyst Consulting (a consulting and training company) where Jo Dowdall is also a consultant and in this thought-provoking and practical book they set out how Lean Six Sigma problem-solving can be applied by leaders to identify and then rectify problems within their organisations, although the description and application of the methodology is more valuable than the repetitive case studies at the end.

I didn’t know anything about Lean or Lean Six Sigma before reading this book (although I’d seen the terms used by a number of companies) so I was very grateful for the fact that Brenig-Jones and Dowdall open the book by describing what each is, how they were developed and what they mean for continuous improvement implementation.

The following chapters in Part I are then based on the 5 phases of the Lean Six Sigma problem solving method, being Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control with Brenig-Jones and Dowdall starting right with the basics of how to identify a problem that needs solving and defining its scope.  There’s a lot of useful information here such as setting timeframes, ensuring appropriate buy-in at appropriate levels, and getting the right team to work on it (and making sure they remain engaged on the project).

Things get more technical as the authors move on to measuring and understanding performance (which necessitates listening to the voice of the customer, who may not care about the things you care about), data collection and sampling, and the analysis of the collected data (which I found to be very technical in terms of how to represent the data and process flow and root cause analysis).  Particularly interesting is the chapter on improvement, which looks at selecting and working on solutions once you’ve done your analysis and how to make sure that the solution doesn’t just create different problems.  Finally the control chapter looks at how to make sure that the selected solutions are implemented as planned and can be sustained.

The second part of the book goes beyond business problems to using Lean Six Sigma principles generally within your organisation through process management and architecture.  Again Brenig-Jones and Dowdall start with the basics on what a process is, creating process architecture and then moving on to the principles for implementing change management within an organisation and getting buy-in from staff including leadership skills that can be deployed.

The third part of the book then examines four perspectives that tie in with Lean Six Sigma.  The HR chapter looks at the ‘belt system’ (Lean Six Sigma’s certification process) and how to raise awareness and involvement among staff and is complemented by a chapter from the employee’s perspective, which I particularly enjoyed because it points out how employees can suffer from ‘change fatigue’, which makes them resistant to new initiatives.  The third part concludes with chapters from the manager’s and practitioner’s perspectives – the practitioner’s perspective being particularly astute in pointing out the need to get executive sponsorship and project sponsorship.

The final part of the book looks at case studies and stories from leaders who’ve deployed Lean Six Sigma.  It’s a mix of interviews and case studies – the majority of which are from named executives and organisations but one of which is anonymous (and to be honest I didn’t see the value in the anonymous case study because it lacs context) and although they repeat a lot of the points made in the earlier book, I’m not sure they add anything other than as a reinforcing factor.

Ultimately I thought this was a very useful book that those completely new to Lean Six Sigma could learn from and certainly there’s a great deal of practical advice and guidance here and when Brenig-Jones and Dowdall do get into more technical elements, they give you enough information to hand hold you through the terminology.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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