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We are often asked to recommend texts to accompany our training and consultancy on Improvement. Here are some business books related to the subject. The reviews are the personal opinions of Colin Barr only and should be read as such.

Six Sigma Quality Improvement with Minitab, Robin Henderson. SIX SIGMA QUALITY IMPROVEMENT WITH MINITAB - Robin Henderson

Good For :- Statistical analysis using Minitab

We are a bit biased in praise of this book as it was written by our friend and colleague Robin Henderson. Robin is a very experienced statistician and has published many papers on the subject. Minitab is our preferred software platform with which we teach Lean Six Sigma. This is Robin’s first book and is aimed at Black Belt level users of Minitab. The volume is full of practical examples with lots of practice exercise after each chapter and even more on the publisher’s web site. You may even recognise some of the examples from our own training courses. Robin is currently writing a second edition of the book which will describe applications of some of the newer functions in the latest version of Minitab.

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Implementing Six Sigma, Forrest Breyfogle IMPLEMENTING SIX SIGMA - Forrest Breyfogle

Good For :- In-depth description of a wide range of Six Sigma tools

One of the best books ever for giving an in-depth treatment of the major Six Sigma tools. A great book for delving into if you need a practical guide to a specific technique but are perhaps unsure of how to go about it. There are useful explanations on most of the tools but there was probably too little space for an in-depth treatment of the more sophisticated tools such as ANOVA and DOE. There’s no help on Minitab in here.

My only criticism of this book is the Introduction where Breyfogle emphasises the “wise” application of the tools - whilst I fully agree with him, it’s a bit over-played (a word count on “wise” might yield interesting results) !

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The Lean Toolbox THE LEAN TOOLBOX -  John Bicheno

Good For :- A quick reference guide to some of the tools and concepts of Lean

Really useful reference guide. It’s almost like a “tool per A4 page”. No great detail but enough to get you going. Good reminder of what’s in the tool box. Only criticism is that some of the tools look like simple variations on a theme rather than being unique. Useful “further reading” lists at the end of each section.

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Lean Transformation, Bruce Henderson and Jorge Larco LEAN TRANSFORMATION - Bruce Henderson and Jorge Larco

Good For :- Advice and guidance on how to implement lean 

I’ll be honest and say that I bought this book thinking it might be a bit boring !  Wrong !  Absolutely brilliant ! Jam packed full of great advice and some stepped guides through the implementation process. Load of examples to draw from. Covers the subject very comprehensively.

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Gemba Kaizen, Masaaki Imai GEMBA KAIZEN   -  Masaaki Imai

Good For :- A commonsense guide to process cost reduction

Described on the cover by Lewis Platt (previous CEO HP) as “a masterpiece of simplicity” - I couldn’t agree more. Covers lots of the Lean tools in a very accessible way. You read it and think - it would be downright stupid not to work this way. Yet many organisations don’t. 

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The Handbook of Project Management, Trevor Young THE HANDBOOK OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT - Trevor Young

Good For :- Practical guide to managing projects in general

There are a host of books on the subject of project management. It’s probably a question of finding one in a style you like. This is one of my favourites. It is very practical and down to earth treatment of project management - hopefully like our training courses. This book has the right level of detail required for most “improvement” projects. Full of great common sense advice, this publication has some really useful formats for prospective project managers to put to good use. The book is recommended by the UK Institute of Directors.

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Leading Change, John Kotter Heart of Change, John P Kotter and Dam Cohen

LEADING CHANGE - John Kotter and THE HEART OF CHANGE - John Kotter and Dan Cohen

Good For :-  Understanding the people management aspects of organisational change

Great stuff - clearly articulated. Read “Leading Change” first and be impressed. Then read “The Heart of Change” where the language used in his model is a bit friendlier and more relaxed - yet the second volume is the best. Heart of Change recognises more profoundly the need to engage people and change their behaviours through their feelings as well as through their intellect. I buy into this model for change and draw on the thinking during my professional assignments.

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Super Crunchers, Ian Ayres SUPER CRUNCHERS - Ian Ayres

Good For :- Interesting general reading on general impact of data analysis

From the co-author of “Freakonomics”, this is highly interesting and entertaining stuff. His description of the use of regression for achieving profitability is like music to my ears - probably because it’ll be seen by too many businesses as obscure and esoteric mathematics.
Brilliant, even scary examples of how supercrunching is being used in web based businesses to understand how to optimise the marketing of products and services for us consumers. Well worth the £7.99

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Introductory Statistics, Weiss INTRODUCTORY STATISTICS - Neil Weiss

Good For :- Reference manual on basic statistics

This is not a cover-to-cover read for busy professional but it’s a great reference guide to have handy on your shelf. A so-called “Introduction” it runs to 988 pages. Most of the basic statistical concepts are covered with great clarity and easy to understand examples. The graphics are really good. Each chapter has a “technology” section where the exercises are performed in Minitab. It’s not a book for learning the software however and emphasises the output from Minitab rather than how to “make it happen”.

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What is Six Sigma, Pete Pande and Larry Holpp WHAT IS SIX SIGMA - Pete Pande and Larry Holpp

Good For :- An executive level first introduction to Six Sigma

Nice little thin volume of 84 easy to read pages describing some of the key elements of Six Sigma. Includes sections on DMAIC, a “Survivors Guide to Six Sigma”, a dip into the tool kit, and some examples of success stories. Well worth a read for those new to the methodology.

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Introduction to Statistical Quality Control, Douglas Montgomery INTRODUCTION TO STATISTICAL QUALITY CONTROL   -  Douglas Montgomery

Good For :-  In depth treatment of SPC

If you only buy one book on SPC, this has to be it. It’s detailed and comprehensive. It’s beautifully written. The diagrams are great.  Non-statisticians may be put off by the complex equations - but you don’t necessarily have to dwell on them. The text surrounding the maths is enough. As well as the various types of control charts, Montgomery includes a section on attribute sampling. First class !

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