A brief instructional manual designed to teach business leaders how to more efficiently identify and solve problems.
Petermann’s first book is an exercise in concision: In about 50 pages, he lays out an intricate, rational process for finding and trimming business waste. The central concept is that of the “kaizen”—a “small group of employees voluntarily working together to solve problems or make improvement in their work area.” In other words, it’s a team specifically selected to address a problem and search for solutions, drawing upon the “collective knowledge of the people closest to the problem and those most impacted by the results.” Based on a combination of Toyota’s LEAN managing process and the Six Sigma improvement process, the main thrust of the book is devoted to parsing the entire metho of problem-solving using such a kaizen. Starting from the selection of the team, Petermann covers the discovery of waste, the collection and analysis of data, the testing of solutions and the implementation of the one finally agreed upon. The approach focuses on the role of the leader; three separate chapters address the characteristics and responsibilities required of the leader, including some additional tips delivered in bullet-point style. The advice is always lucidly dispatched, often in the form of enumerated lists and short, accessible paragraphs. About a quarter of the work comprises visual aids packaged in a “Toolkit” section meant to illustratively clarify concepts such as brainstorming, replete with ready-made checklists and mnemonic formulas for various business processes. This section, however, is the least useful of the work, as it needlessly muddies simple notions that don’t call for simplification. The central defect of the book is that it goes to great pains to systematize what should largely count as common sense. For example, the business executive who needs to be reminded to bring paper and pencils to a meeting might need more than this book can provide.
For the business executive in desperate need of organizational guidance, this quick primer could be helpful.