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Conquering Complexity in Your Business: How Wal-Mart, Toyota, and Other Top Companies Are Breaking Through the Ceiling on Profits and Growth Paperback – May 1, 2004


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Conquering Complexity in Your Business: How Wal-Mart, Toyota, and Other Top Companies Are Breaking Through the Ceiling on Profits and Growth + Waging War on Complexity Costs: Reshape Your Cost Structure, Free Up Cash Flows and Boost Productivity by Attacking Process, Product and Organizational Complexity + The Complexity Crisis: Why too many products, markets, and customers are crippling your company--and what to do about it
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Thoreau’s injunction to simplify, simplify, is translated into the context of business management, the result is this labyrinthine treatise. George, author of Lean Six Sigma, and "complexity expert" Wilson contend that overcomplication is an insidious drain on businesses. A proliferation of product and service offerings intended to boost business actually imposes hidden costs and masks the unprofitability of stagnating lines, while consumers are often baffled and irritated by the plethora of superficially distinct options. The authors’ cure for complexity, however, seems almost as complicated as the disease. They offer a maze of arcane diagnostic tools for assessing the complexity and profitability of products, services and customers, along with advice on how to simplify, standardize or eliminate them altogether, and pile on mathematical equations, byzantine flowcharts and highly technical case studies ("at 50KW the DC voltage doubled, cutting the current in half—which meant the design for the lower power ratings could be used all the way to 80KW"). They provide a number of useful insights, actually, although lumping them under the trendy rubric of "complexity" doesn’t add much conceptual rigor. Unfortunately, the method of quantitatively analyzing the profit impact of minute components of larger processes seems itself an onerous layer of complexity to add to the project of simplifying business practices. The accountants and process design engineers who might read the book will find much food for thought, but are also likely to put it aside when it comes time to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The authors are experts on the Six Sigma and Lean Production methods used to increase efficiency, cut costs, and improve resource use in corporate environments and have written extensively on techniques for improving speed and quality. Here they make the case that every business harbors too much complexity, a "silent killer" that increases costs and drains profits and resources. The methods they offer to expose complexity could be the the next big strategic business weapon--dominant companies such as Wal-Mart, Toyota, Dell Computer, and Capitol One are already using these techniques to great success. Although some of the concepts presented are easy to understand, such as reducing the number of steps in production, reducing waste, and creating standardized tasks and procedures, others are quite advanced (functional analysis, cojoint analysis, exploiting commonality), and there are numerous equations and diagrams that require a mathematical mind to comprehend. This timely research has much to offer medium-sized to large businesses. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill; 1 edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071435085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071435086
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rodney Allen Smith on June 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I found Conquering Complexity provides an excellent framework and lays out a compelling business case for why and how you should focus on complexity.

This is the best guide out there in terms of a comprehensive approach to identify, quantify and attack complexity. The book is a very practical and pragmatic read with a wealth of real world examples and illustrations that reinforce concepts layed out in a logical sequence.

In researching a number of books though there are many that contain bits and pieces of concepts that relate to complexity, I have found that none of them tackle the concept of complexity as a discipline that must be mastered as Conquering Complexity does. I found it to be a refreshing, compelling book that you can follow step by step to create a complexity focus and agenda in your organization. There is tremendous power in purchasing the book for co-workers or Managers to help raise their complexity IQ and see what is possible. I continue to learn from the book as I refer back to it frequently. I would highly recommend it to anyone or any organization that is looking to continuously improve or to create greater value. I really found the sections on Product/Service proliferation to be right on, and a wealth of information. - Rodney
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Okoro on September 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an amazingly revealing book about the dangers of complexity that is not consciously managed. And just what does managing comlexity entail? I the authors' words, it means

- Eliminating complexity that customers will not pay for

- Exploiting the complexity customers will pay for, and

- Minimizing the cost of the complexity you offer

In part 1 the case is made for conquering complexity in your business' portfolio (number of offerings) and processes (number of ways of doing the same thing). Part 2 develops the conceptual framework for measuring and managing complexity. In part 3, you are shown how to apply these concepts to the elimination, exploitation and reducing the costs of complexity.

Lastly, part 4 shows how to create an organisational culture that supports complexity management, conquer the complexity in your value chain and even apply the principles in mergers and acquisitions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Kane on April 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book, like the others in the series by Mike George (Fast Innovation, Lean Six Sigma) is right on target. The examples clearly show how complexity clutters business operations, products and decision making, thus reducing economic performance and shareholder value. The rigor (and mathematics)used to support and analyze the assertions is insightful and reinforces what is intuitively obvious when you understand their thesis. This is an important book for executives that would proabably be much more widely embraced if not for the math involved. Pity, the Japanese and others will pay attention.
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As the Six Sigma and Lean practice areas mature, the challenge is to discover new ways to apply these methods. Michael George proposes that an analysis that looks at complexity of a business is a way to identify areas of opportunity for improvement. The method is based on some patented equations that attempt to put numerical values on a company's complexity. When the complexity is calculated, and is found to be out of balance with the company's strategic direction, then action can be taken using Lean Six Sigma to reduce (or increase) complexity.

This book proposes methods that cross conventional organizational boundaries, so the mission and the methods must be adopted by senior people who can see the benefits of crossing the boundaries. To make a difference managing complexity, these senior people must have the people and power to calculate new business measures and deploy teams that may not align with current organizations and departments.

The method seems sound, although the case studies are few. Anecdotes fill in the gap between idea and practice, and the anecdotes seem forced or coincidental (for example, Wal-Mart and Toyota can be used to justify nearly every business improvement method, even if neither of these companies goes on record as having used the method).

As usual in the improvement business, it's a matter of cost versus benefits. It seems to be a low risk analysis method that can reveal a potentially high risk, but high reward, payback. Since the equations are patented, presumably the only way that one can actually try this method is to contact (and hire?) Mr. George's consulting company.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Russ Wange on November 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I really found the book to be a refreshing look at how to 'tie-off' the efforts of 6-sigma, as well as keeping the right prospective about complexity. In my mind, this approach is key for any company especially a high-tech operation, because complexity can quickly become a cancer within an organization killing off the positive efforts and results attained from one's approaches to 6-Sigma if not managed properly. Needless to say, this is a key message to the rest of my team as we continue to develop ourselves within the services part of our business.
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