Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation

Book title: Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation - The Lean Six Sigma Framework and Systematic Methodology for Implementation

Book authors: Aristide van Aartsengel & Selahattin Kurtoglu

Book review by Steven Bonacorsi

I found Dr. Aartsengel & Dr. Kurtoglu’s book "Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation" useful in guiding practitioners through the subtle differences and intricacies in delivering continuous improvement projects. The guidance provided in the handbook, should be on every practitioners bookshelf.

One of the challenges I struggled with when I first started my process improvement journey was the magnitude of tools and methods I needed to learn. While I was studying Six Sigma and executing projects, I was also preparing for the Project Management Institute’s PMP certification, Lean Manufacturing, Change Acceleration Process, and studying for my Masters in Business Administration. It was overwhelming to say the least. When I started as a Master Black Belt, I vowed I would make it easier for others to understand which tool to use and when and so created the Tollgate Templates so many have used in executing their projects.

I have thousands of books in my library and am asked practically every day, which books I would recommend to someone just getting started, or what is the best book to learn the methodology? I usually answer that there is no one book that transfers this knowledge - it is mostly learned by doing! However, books help guide us, they are reference aides, and they can teach the basic mechanics.

The handbook on continuous improvement transformation implementation is now my recommended book for Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belts, Lean Six Sigma Deployment Champions, and most importantly to the Project Management Professionals.

Why to Project Management Professionals? Because I am one, and was very disappointed in how weak the PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) was in addressing Quality Assurance, Quality Control, and Quality Audits, at least that was about the extent the PMI covered on the elements of process improvement. There was no reference to the Voice of the Customer, Process Capability, Cause & Effect Analysis, Control Charts, and most of the Six Sigma tools and methods, while Lean Thinking was completely ignored by PMI.

Sure the PMBOK discussed the need to build a work breakdown structure (WBS) to baseline the current state, as well as the need to manage and control the schedule, with a decent focus on scheduling activities and sequencing, but it ignored concepts of pull systems, value stream maps, Takt Rate, and Value-Add Analysis, Quick Changeover, Poke-Yoke to name just a few.

So even though I achieved my PMP I was blunt and honest when I said that my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt learning and experience was like a PMP on steroids. I was confident the worse performing Lean Six Sigma Black Belt could run circles around a top performing PMP. Ok so maybe that was too strong! (I’m from New England, and tend to be overly passionate at times).

The Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation was a big book to read - over 600 pages - but I read every page, not because I promised the authors I would provide a book review, but because I needed to be certain that before I would offer such a strong endorsement that I now consider this handbook as the "Book of Knowledge for Continuous Improvement", I would need to be certain that it was worthy of that title.

So for all my Project Manager peers, I recommend you add the Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation to your libraries, not to collect dust and occasionally reference, but to actually read and apply these concepts to the projects you lead. The authors have taken the systematic strengths of the PMBOK and applied to the Lean Six Sigma methodology.

Lean Six Sigma practitioners all know that it is the execution of change where the real learning takes place and that it is results that matter, but variation in how we execute that change can be great. So I invite you to also read the Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation, adding a more systematic structure in executing process improvement that so many of us need.

To answer the question that I also receive a lot, of whether one should pursue a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt or Project Management Professional certification, I say do both, as they are both helpful in learning the basic fundamentals in executing the tools and methods we use in transforming processes. Let this Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation be your guide in understanding how these 2 different arts are really just a different side of the same coin.

Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation is broken into 36 main segments, incorporating the Work Breakdown Structure, and organized to easily lookup and find information fast. There are hundreds of references leveraging other thought leaders and published works, and lots of graphics, tables, and diagrams to assist in the more complex topics. Although I am a big fan of graphical examples and case studies, that was not the focus of this handbook, but the soft-skill and change management tools were addressed, something that has been lacking in other technical process improvement books.

In Summary, the Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation leverages the best practices of the Project Management Institutes systematic Work Breakdown Structure, addressing the weaknesses of the PMBOK’s lack of attention on "how to" leverage the tools and methods of Lean Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, Change Management, and Project Management. It provides the reader with a common language, operational definitions, and clear and concise instructions on not only what tools and methods to use, when to use, but also how they are used. The authors did not dive into the various statistical software packages on the market that helps in many of the analytical tools, but instead focused on the core concepts behind those tools.

I recommend the "Handbook on Continuous Improvement Transformation" and hope you find it as valuable as I, in achieving continuous improvement results and success in your process transformations.