I have been working in this area for thirty years and have done a lot of consulting as well as writing. As soon as I read on the cover of this book the 5 ingredients I thought wow--if you have to pick five this is the perfect list.
Unfortunately so many companies focus on the tools of process improvement and do not get the core--people with a common focus on continuous improvement to achieve specific objectives. The book is loaded with insights about how to put the five ingredients into practice, but there are also some extra surprises.
For example, even though the authors have not had a strong association with Toyota their description of a true Toyota sensei is also spot on and gets to the subtlety of the role--teaching without taking over, making space for learning, but giving the support needed. I LOVE "the cost of outsourcing" description on page 198. Outsourcing is one of those buzzwords and firms do not seem to have any idea of the negative consequences of this short-term financial decision.
I also agree with the five levels of maturity and have a similar sort of conclusion in my most recent book that even though you want to get to a culture of continuous improvement you have to go through a period of learning the tools--ironic, but that would be true in learning any serious endeavor whether in music, sports, culinary arts, or process improvement.
I loved the book. In my view, this book is spot on! I can't think of anything that was missed in terms of an effective message for the leadership team. Once people get into the detail I'm afraid they might not push through to finish it all. I think the biggest message for leadership is in the first half, but they need to finish it to get the "how to". I'll say this, the book is on my desk, not on the shelf! I think that should tell you a lot about what I think of it!
The highest praise that an author can give another author is: "I wish I had written this!" In "Escape the Improvement Trap: Five Ingredients Missing in Most Improvement Recipes," Michael Bremer and Brian McKibben have written a book that is of incredible value for all organizations contemplating improvement efforts. The authors have pinpointed the major causes of improvement failure and have provided a powerful approach for overcoming the "improvement trap." The book is well-written, easy-to-use, comprehensive, meticulously researched, and highly practical. As a performance measurement expert, I was particularly gratified by the authors' outstanding discussion of the pitfalls and potential of performance metrics. It, and everything else in the book, is spot on! If your organization wants to succeed at improvement, this is the book you need to guide you.
Dean R. Spitzer, Ph.D., Author of "Transforming Performance Measurement"
I found Bremer and McKibben's book to be right on target and strongly recommend it for anyone striving to improve their organizational performance.
I direct a non-profit consortium of nearly four dozen companies in the mid-Atlantic that share a common goal of understanding lean methods and applying them in all their diverse organizations. Not all leaders manage to get it right. "Escape the Improvement Trap" captures the key failure modes we have seen in past years. The book effectively dissects each problem area and offers practical methods for dealing with them.
I found three of the elements described in the book to be foundational "must-have's" that many organizations *think* they doing well in, but typically don't. Customer focus, establishing key metrics, and process thinking seem like they would be things every company would have nailed even to have survived this long, yet it is surprising how poorly companies execute these basics. I find that the book lays out tools and concepts in ways that are easy to understand.
The two other elements of engaged people and executive mindset are two of the areas I have seen that separate world class companies from "also-ran's". Few improvement efforts will succeed over the long run as top-down management edicts. Engaged people are the keys to fact-based improvement countermeasures, sustainment through buy-in and personal involvement, and broad-based improvement that involves everyone. The chapter on executive mindset included a straightforward description and examples of policy deployment that I found very helpful in orienting others to what can otherwise be a complicated and daunting subject.
This book is among a select few references that I recommend to my organization's member companies. If your organization is among those using lean or other methods to achieve operational excellence, Escape the Improvement Trap will help you build an effective improvement effort and avoid the most common and debilitating shortfalls.
Sidebar: I was impressed enough with the book that I invited Mike Bremer to speak to about 100 of my members, including executives of some of my best performing lean companies. He was a real crowd-pleaser and did not disappoint.
The book states that: "20% of the organizations will be dramatically improving much more effectively than 80% of their competitors." In fact, that statement just boils down to simple math.
That is one of the fallacies I find in practically every LinkedIn discussion and in most quality, Lean and Six Sigma discussion I partiicpate in. I mean really, how much low hanging fruit can you pick and how efficient can you become. Probably a lot, and if you are still in business you are dong a pretty good job but your competitors are doing the same thing. It really gets done to that. You are probably just average and not increasing revenue or increasing market share. Again, it is simple math.
The authors ask the question, " What does the top 20% do differently than the rest in their respective industries?" They answer it in plain simple English without any new gadgets, philosophies and transformations. It is one of those books that I read and said at the end, "I knew that. Is it that simple?" The question a day later is, "Why am I not doing it?"
I thought the book defined the problem with most continuous improvement efforts quite well. The book also provides structure to start improving the areas that matter to revenue and market share. You won't find out how to do it, every company's value proposition is different. However, as Kettering said, "A problem well stated is a problem half-solved." In those terms, the value of this book is much more than the cover price and the time to read it. They offer the reader a great opportunity to get above average!
I have been in manufacturing management for over 30 years and have been exposed to almost every "Next Best Thing" in manufacturing and quality thought there is. This book cuts through the nonsense and takes the reader straight to usable unformation on how to improve your operation. The authors have identified the five key areas of focus and do an outstanding job of breaking them down and spelling out why they are important and how to drive improvements in all of them. I really liked the area of Executive Mindset - because as Bremer and McKibben point out if the leadership of an organization fails to graps the concepts and drive true improvement efforts, attempts by others will not take root as they need to.
I have recommended this book to a number of people I know in the manufacturing field and will contniue to do so.
This new book by Michael Bremer and Brian McKibben is a fresh look at what happens in the real world, where most organizations that try to implement some "transformational" method eventually get stuck and call it a failure. The missing "ingredients," described in Escape the Improvement Trap are customer focus, engaged people, key metrics, process thinking, and executive mindset. "I know THAT," you say. And you do. Except that you probably can't explain how to supply those ingredients in as clear and useful a way as the authors do. The book uses a combination of the fictional company and case examples of real companies to illustrate what they see as the way to avoid getting stuck in an improvement process that doesn't go anywhere.
They also do a good job with diagrams and worksheets. The one they keep returning to is a statistical "improvement maturity" curve of companies. Michael and Brian say that most leaders overestimate their stage of excellence and the authors provide a quick estimator tool.