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Leveraging Management Improvement Techniques

When individual improvement methods such as TQM or concurrent engineering fail to achieve the desired results, managers can merge techniques to better their chances of success. Each method has a particular perspective, special language, analytical tools, and change tools. By understanding each element, a manager can choose among a plethora of methods and link one technique with others. Having several perspectives instead of just one can eliminate the possibility of focusing on one technique as a cure-all. Language or jargon may be identified with a particular group or function; for instance, operational managers will probably prefer just-in-time methods, because the terminology is familiar, while accountants prefer activity-based costing methods.

Euske and Player offer a framework of "family trees" to help managers understand the commonality of different methods. In each tree, the methods are more closely related to each other than to methods in other trees. For example, in the process-based tree, business process reengineering, benchmarking, hoshin planning, process mapping, and story- boarding are all linked. Certain tools can be used in several different families. Flowcharts are used in activity-, process-, quality-, and time-based methods. By also understanding these relationships, managers can gain a more complete view of the improvement process.

The authors use the example of customer-order handling to illustrate how one manager initially used process mapping to evaluate order processing. She eventually combined it with time compression management, activity-based costing, and a quality-based improvement method to leverage the results of her initial effort.

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