Top Books Every Quality Professional Should Read

jones-qmIn January 2015, Julia McIntosh shared what the ASQ staff believe are the “Top 8” books every quality professional should have on their shelf. Before I read her blog post, I thought about what would constitute my own personal favorites… and I was happy to see that her list and my list were well aligned! However, there are two other books that I’d add to ASQ’s “Top 8” — rounding it out to a “Top 10”. Here they are:

Out of the Crisis, by W. Edwards Deming: I’m including this book as a result of my 2013 research, published in ASQ’s Quality Management Journal (QMJ), that examined all of the research articles in the first 15 years of the QMJ to see what resources and references were the most central to the citation network. This classic 1986 book topped the list — it informs the most research articles that have been published by QMJ to date. As a result, everyone should read it! Keep in mind that this was written 30 years ago… and as a result, you have to read it with the zeitgeist of the 1980’s in mind. It’s a unique look into the quality transformation that many organizations were experiencing during the time, and provides fascinating insights into the core philosophy of quality improvement that many of us still honor and promote. (Let me know if you’d like me to send you a copy of my 2013 article, which also provides a research agenda for the future.)

Quality Management for Organizations Using Lean Six Sigma Techniques, by Erick C. Jones:  This book is, in my opinion, the best overview of quality management available… integrating basic principles, Lean, and Six Sigma in such an articulate and elegant way that it has encouraged me to design an entire college course around it. Here is the book review I wrote that appeared in the July 2014 QMJ:

                This book aims to “establish the concepts and principles by which students… practitioners, and quality managers will learn about Lean Six Sigma and its origins… and how it can be integrated into manufacturing, logistics, and health care operations.” Despite its broad goal, in 29 chapters, this book delivers. Section I provides an overview of quality management, quality awards, and key standards. The highlight is Chapters 4 through 6, which describe Lean and Six Sigma separately, followed by a very nice and concise articulation of the “real difference” that characterizes Lean Six Sigma, and encourages practitioners to find the appropriate balance for each project, given its particular context.

Section II examines Lean Six Sigma from the level of the organization as a whole. Chapters within this section explain how to qualitatively and economically justify a Lean Six Sigma project, data-driven approaches for how an organization can decide which projects to resource, how to assess the relationship between LSS efforts and firm performance, benchmarking at the organizational level, and considerations for human resources policies to ensure that the right people are recruited to perform key LSS activities. Section III starts by covering basic concepts of statistics, but then moves on to describe each phase of the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) methodology in detail. There is enough information provided in each of these areas to easily navigate a Six Sigma project in practice.

Section IV is unique and powerful, focused entirely on comprehensive case studies, many of which include using radio frequency identification (RFID). Section V covers roles and responsibilities of Six Sigma professionals, descriptions of certifications and belt levels, and how these individuals typically interact as a project is chartered and executed. Limited case studies are provided throughout the text that effectively supplement the material. Although the case studies do not provide extensive technical detail, they are still instructive and very useful. There are also appendices scattered throughout the book which vary in content and quality. For example, Appendix 3B starts out by stating that its purpose is to compare quality management practices in the U.S. and Mexico. However, even though testable hypotheses are presented along with data, there is no connection made between analysis of the data and what insights it provides regarding the hypotheses. Against the backdrop of the rest of the book, though, such minor issues should not be a concern.

In this reviewer’s opinion, this is the most comprehensive book to date covering Lean Six Sigma in a completely integrated fashion, with material that will be equally valuable to managers, practitioners, and instructors who teach quality management or quality engineering. This is a fantastic guidebook for certification as well, comparable to Kubiak and Benbow’s (2009) book, The Certified Six Sigma Black Belt Handbook. It is sure to have lasting value on many bookshelves.


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