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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Outstanding Organization is Outstanding

What’s holding back your organization? Are people still fighting fires, missing targets, producing defects, and doubting direction? Why haven’t you been able to sustain your gains? 

After two decades in the trenches of helping companies design and build better, more efficient operations, Karen Martin has pinpointed why performance improvement programs often fail: chaos, the sneaky but powerful force that frustrates customers, keeps business leaders awake at night, and saps company morale. 

Karen says that chaos in the organization is caused by: 

Lack of clarity – ambiguity abounds in purpose, roles and responsibilities, decision making, and communication 
Lack of focus – changing priorities, trying to solve too many problems at once, and distraction 
Lack of discipline – mastery requires deliberate practice, PDSA improvement cycle 
Lack of engagement – energized and connected with a purpose, employee development 

Chaos is not something we have to live with. Karen says we need to improve how we improve. The Outstanding Organization provides a means for combating chaos by creating the organizational conditions that will allow your improvement efforts to return greater gains. Karen’s system focuses on four key behaviors for operational excellence—Clarity, Focus, Discipline, Engagement—that, once they become habit, open the door to sustainable growth and profit. 

The book's central idea is that the key to removing the friction and chaos found in the daily operations of most organization is to (1) pursue clarity in internal communications, (2) focus on a small number of topics to reduce the time members spend switching between projects and give teams a chance to finish what they start, (3) have the discipline to keep practicing what makes it function better, and (4) engage members so that they identify their own goals with those of the organization. 

Karen's proven, practical, and surprisingly straightforward wisdom is easily digestible and understood. Her expertise is apparent with many great real-world examples of different organizations that she has worked with over the years. In addition to her own knowledge, Karen polled scores of experts and talked to many thought leaders to test her thinking, strengthening the value of the book. She has a tremendous knowledge of previous Lean literature and sites a large number of them throughout the book. 

The Outstanding Organization is a quick read but packed with a number of tools and techniques for solving problems that take longer to fully appreciate. This book would be good for a study group, creating great discussion that can lead to immediate results.  

Unfortunately, there is a lack of visuals, diagrams, pictures to support the teaching in the book. As a visual learner I would have liked some visuals to reinforce the learning. 

The Outstanding Organization will make any process initiative work better and stick longer. Plus, it will help produce demonstrable results. Karen shows us how an outstanding “Lean” organization can free up employees to do their best work. 

I recommend you add this book to your Lean library of knowledge. I am confident you will find value in this book well into the future.

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