Below are brief reviews for books and software focused mainly on process improvement, data analytics, modeling and simulation, and risk management. They are available in print or as digital downloads (ebooks or audiobooks.)
I only list books that I consider useful to begin with, therefore my simplified reviews rating system ranges from recommended to highly recommended. Some require more of a technical background than others, and I try to point that out if it is the case.
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A3 thinking and A3 development
Winner of a 2009 Shingo Research and Professional Publication Prize.
Authors Durward Sobek and Art Smalley first show that the A3 is effective when implemented in conjunction with PDCA-based management. Next, they discuss how the learning process leading to the development of the A3 is as important as the A3 tool itself. Finally, they provide a number of examples as to types of A3 and practical advice on how to develop an A3. The focus of the book is as much on the thinking behind A3 development as on their actual approach to it.
184 pp., 2008.
Author Cindy Jimmerson discusses A3 development from a perspective afforded by her many years in healthcare. The book is amply illustrated, and the notation is clearly explained. A picture is often worth a thousand words, and Ms. Jimmerson clearly gets this. Plenty of easy to grasp, practical examples are there to help beginners get up to speed quickly.
176 pp., 2007.
Author D. Matthews builds on his extensive experience as a trainer to approach this presentation in hands-on workbook format. Templates, exercises to follow along with, and answers complement the basic material. They also serve to illustrate the step-by-step progression in the development of an A3. Learn-by-doing is the key takeaway here.
183 pp., 2010.
Data mining and analytics
Handbooks can be a hit-or-miss affair. This one happens to be an excellent reference text by authors R. Nisbet, J. Elder, and G. Miner. It is a tour de force, comprehensively covering the history of data mining, data preparation, basic and advanced data mining algorithms (CART, CHAID, RBF, Kohonen neural networks.) The text then goes into tools in common usage — SPSS, SAS Enterprise Miner, STATISTICA Data Miner. The material also covers applications of classification and numerical prediction, text mining and natural language processing, data mining in bioinformatics and fraud detection. There is a tutorial section on getting started in data mining, fitness of purpose for various tools and models, and insight into the future of analytics. Very readable, with an emphasis on practice and just enough theory to frame it. The section on mistakes to avoid alone is worth the price of admission, in my opinion.
864 pp., 2009.
Modeling and simulation, and queueing theory
This is a practical text in which author James Solberg reviews basic probability, Markov chains and transition matrices, queueing models, and networks of queues. Basic calculus, probability, and linear algebra are prerequisites. The presentation is less focused on theory, however, than on the building of models and the ideas of states and state transitions as a means of analyzing situations. If you are familiar with Petri nets and similar state transition paradigms, you will relate to this material easily.
320 pp., 2008.
A classic. Author Raj Jain has put together a text that is both thorough in its coverage of performance analysis yet is eminently practical. The book’s focus is not on theoretical derivations or proofs, and it is both accessible to beginners and useful to the experienced. The book covers workload design, design of experiments, simulation, queueing models and networks. Practical considerations are presented as to common mistakes incurred when evaluating computer performance and their avoidance. You will find most of what you need in this unique text. Still the original edition, now also available on Kindle.
685 pp., 1991.
Author Averill M. Law has written the fundamental text where model-building for simulation is concerned, with detailed coverage of required topics. The text is of superior value both to undergraduate students (first half of book), graduate students (second half), and practitioners in technical disciplines. I especially like the section on building credible and appropriately granular models (Ch. 5), and how to validate them and increase their credibility. Bonus: Experfit software on CD.
792 pp., 4th ed., 2006.,
Six Sigma, Lean, and PI
Forrest Breyfogle’s may well be the most detailed text available today on how to implement Six Sigma. It is near-encyclopedic in coverage, and by no means an easy read. While a beginner might well find it overwhelming, the experienced practitioner can benefit from the author’s process view of things, rather than the more common tool-inventory approach to presentation. It also addresses Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and Theory of Constraints (TOC.)
1229 pp., 2nd ed., 2003.
This is the best compendium of quality improvement tools available. After a historical recap and framing of the various approaches to quality and PI relative to one another, the author lays out her ten-step process to improving quality. She then moves on to a series of case studies or “quality stories”. Next, she reviews pretty much all the tools you are likely to have either used or at least heard of, if your career or studies have anything to do with quality. Each tool is described, one is told when the tool should be used and how. An illustrative example follows, and considerations/comments are offered to further aid or caution the tool user. Very clearly written and aptly illustrated where appropriate, with nothing missing or superfluous. The toolbox you want to have when on a job.
558 pp., 2nd ed., 2005.
Winner of the 2013 Shingo prize for OpEx.
Excellent, pragmatic text, in which authors Naida Grunden and Charles Hagood explore how architecture and hospital design driven by Lean principles can help make workflows more patient-centric and reduce building costs. The key takeaway is that clinical safety and excellence, and the consequent benefits to the patient, can be promoted by a supportive, well thought out physical environment. This is cogently argued via case studies and interviews with hospital architects and administrators. Very clearly written and engaging.
338 pp., 2012.
At just over 100 pages, author George Eckes provides a solid intro to Six Sigma’s historical background, philosophical and methodological approach to business improvement, strategy, tactics, and overview of tools. This should whet the appetite of those who may be fence-sitting or wondering what implementing Six Sigma might gain them or their organization. Very readable and geared to “everyman,” as opposed to daily practitioners or executives.
124 pp., 2003.
Business modeling and analysis
Authors Alec Sharp and Patrick McDermott have written an excellent, comprehensive book, which clearly benefits from their many years of practice in a less than ideal world. They present a narrative articulating the benefits and the pitfalls business process analysts must be cognizant of when embarking on process redesign. Discovering and framing the process comes first, followed by analysis of the current situation, and then design of the to-be state. Many factors are discussed, including staff skills, organizational change, and other enablers of process redesign. Swim-lanes are extensively used to gain visual insight. The text treats topics in depth, is highly readable, eminently practical, and could serve as a a one-stop resource for the business analyst. It should also serve the technical staff who may be interested in discussing process change requirements with business analysts. The last part of the book discusses use cases, with more than a passing nod to UML and the IT development work that accompanies process redesign. Probably the best how-to resource on workflow modeling available.
449 pp., 2nd ed., 2012.
Risk analysis and modeling
Author Jonathan Mun comprehensively reviews risk vs. uncertainty, risk evaluation and quantification, risk prediction, risk diversification and mitigation. He illustrates his points of view via several case studies and Monte Carlo simulation. Military strategy, banking, real estate, pharma, and hospital risk management examples are included. Although the main emphasis is on business risk in finance, and specifically options, this text is highly valuable to people from other disciplines because of how it frames thinking about the subject. It should also be of interest to anyone concerned with how to introduce corporate culture change so as to truly understand and manage risk. Even at 600+ pages, the author is clear and concise. A trial version of the author’s own Risk Simulator software is included.
624 pp., 2006.