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DATA SANITY: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results

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ABSTRACT: Joiner, Brian L., Fourth Generation Management: The New Business Consciousness

McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1994, 289 pages, ISBN 0-07-032715-7

“How the evolution of management and the revolution in quality are converging, and what it means for business and the nation.”

We’ve heard them all: total quality management (TQM), continuous improvement, reengineering, visionary leadership, and now various manifestations of Six Sigma. What are the basic principles that underlie and unify these seemingly diverse approaches? In this book, Brian Joiner provides a coherent and concise synthesis of the best ideas being implemented today and the most promising ones taking shape for tomorrow. The key elements are a dedication to quality as defined by the customer, a scientific approach to rapid learning, and the creation of team-spirited relationships both within and beyond our organizations. Joiner has managed to translate and expand upon the theory of W. Edwards Deming to apply to everyday work. It is crucial for all employees to understand customer needs, have a deeper understanding of variation to manage effectively, create an environment that supports and drives rapid learning for rapid improvement, become obsessed with identifying and eliminating waste, and view the organization as a system.

It is a deceptively easy read. One friend taking her Black Belt training was thoroughly confused, and I told her to read it and that it read like a novel. She rolled her eyes and commented that it wasn’t a Six Sigma book and I said, “I know. Read it.” She saw me a week later and said, “Davis, you were right. I read it in a weekend and now understand Six Sigma and the statistics so much better!” It’s Six Sigma without all the Ninja mystique and more of an emphasis on statistical thinking than techniques (Another highly recommended book is Improving Performance Through Statistical Thinking, by the ASQ Statistics Division [ASQ Quality Press, 2000, ISBN 0-87389-467-7]).

The book is five sections (Getting Better Faster; Building a True Customer Focus; Managing in a Variable World; Creating and Maintaining Gains; and Creating the Environment) which encompass fourteen chapters. There are very few statistical techniques per se. The only technique formally addressed is the individuals control chart. Other “tools” are presented conceptually within the context of a wide variety of examples, usually involving managerial decision-making. His context of viewing the organization as a system puts a lot of the education many of us have received piecemeal into an understandable whole.

I have used it as the basic text for organizational quality seminars and participants always comment on the ease of reading, yet the profundity of depth…and they actually read it! It plays on the “front line” and shows them the way out of situations that are no doubt painfully familiar to them.

A. Blanton Godfrey, statistician and former CEO of Juran Institute, says, “Brian Joiner has done a masterful job of explaining variation in simple understandable English. For many managers, Brian’s examples will be real eye openers,” referring to the many situations where situations involving high level managerial decisions are seen as consequences of organizational “processes.”

Two “nuggets” that were useful in this my reading were, first, the concept of “pushing for deep level fixes.” Level One is “fix the output” (a human’s natural tendency–simple, obvious, and wrong, but MAYBE necessary as a short term strategy). Level Two is “fix the process”–the concept of prevention. Level Three is “fix the system”–change the system that allowed the process to operate with these flaws.

The second concept is the idea of assessing an undesirable situation and using a “common cause strategy” or a “special cause strategy” as the primary method for fixing the problem. It is a common misconception that if a process demonstrates only common cause variation, one can just say that, “Well, it’s common cause…stable. See, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Wrong! There are three possible strategies discussed in detail: stratification, experimentation, and disaggregation.

This is a most useful book that demonstrates that waste and opportunity are all around us. It gets away from the incorrect paradigm of “teams, teams, and more teams.” It becomes the way the entire organization THINKS…and gives everyone, in a way, a “belt.”

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