Book Review

Velocity

Combining Lean, Six Sigma, and the Theory of Constraints to Achieve Breakthrough Performance

by Dee Jacob, Suzan Bergland and Jeff Cox, Free Press, New York, N.Y., 2009, 310 pp., $26 hardcover

I was eager to review Velocity, a business novel, as I had found two previous works in this genre, The Goal and Critical Chain, to be helpful in my school leadership role.

I should have paid more attention to the subtitle: Combining Lean, Six Sigma, and the Theory of Constraints to Achieve Breakthrough Performance.

The authors tell a long, drawn-out story about a corporation trying to reconcile the conflicts among three business models. For businesses or schools using these models, this book no doubt has value. For me, there was no velocity. It was a struggle to get through this work. The plot moved slowly, dealt with interminable problems and included lots of new concepts without definitions or background knowledge.

I did take away two big ideas. First, I want to learn more about the theory of constraints (explained in another book by the Goldratt Institute). This book reminded me that sometimes our most fruitful work lies in uncovering constraints and planning accordingly.

Second, the “breakthrough” in the book came when the CEO finally decided he could no longer rely on the program (Lean, Six Sigma, Constraints) and decided to get all the right people in the room, map out the sequence, identify what was not working and think about what could work better. It’s the thinking, not the program, that makes the difference.

Velocity also includes some cause-and-effect thinking sequences that I found helpful: If we make these changes, we will have this impact, which will cause this result.

Unless you are actively working to implement one or more of these business quality tools, this book is unlikely to lead to breakthrough performance in schools.

Reviewed by Larry L. Nyland, superintendent, Marysville School District, Marysville, Wash.