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Book Review: Enterprise Excellence
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Book Review: Enterprise Excellence by Normand L. Frigon and Harry K. Jackson

Enterprise Excellence: A Practical Guide to World-Class Competition

Written by: Normand L. Frigon and Harry K. Jackson. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. 496+xi pages.
Reviewed by: S. S. Paul

Enterprise Excellence

Innovations propose value. Operations create those values in salable (and profitable) form for the organization. Execution everywhere is the most crucial activity during the progress of an innovation from its ideation to implementation (Govindarajan and Trimble, 2010). Consequence of any poorly worked out innovation is a foregone conclusion. Operational efficiency and responsiveness can both have a huge impact on the success or failure of an innovation effort thereafter. Innovations are designed to stay put in the market and become acceptable to the customers, slowly or rapidly. Customer acceptance in the long run is influenced much by the operational competence of the organizations. Enterprise Excellence and Operations Rules are both targeted toward raising this competence in their own way. While the former is bent more along the activity-level issues, the latter is so along the managerial. These texts together can be likened to a bifocal spectacle clarifying your distant- and near-vision.

It is well known for innovations to come in many shapes, forms, and categories: incremental, radical, experiential, and the combinations; innovation in product formulations, or in the process; and innovation of business concepts and of models. The competence-based view of the business will have it that the operational capability is essential for all. Either it has to be had ab initio or must be acquired if the innovation must see the light of the day. Enterprise Excellence gives a brick-by-brick methodology of competence building along the six sigma scheme of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve (Effectiveness and Efficiency), and Control, coupled with the allied techniques of performance improvement for the journey beyond. It defines enterprise as “a systematic purposeful activity” (p. 3). When innovation becomes the purpose, its cause is better served by the disciplined operational experimentations of raising the capability bar.

Frigon and Jackson's enterprise excellence model begins with establishing an Enterprise Management System comprising the Leadership Issues, Market Focus, and Quality Management Systems followed by a Voice of the Customer System, which consists of a focused process for identifying customer requirements and expectations; establishing robust products, services, and processes; and using integrated product and process development to develop the products, services, and the processes for producing them. Readers can also get some reflective clues from here as to how some innovations can possibly deliver more value for money to their customer and why some innovations find more sustenance, both internally and externally, and some do not.

The model then goes on to employ the methods of six sigma, the concepts of lean, and the theory of constraints for Continuous Process Improvement to materialize the Enterprise Excellence objectives. Authors stress that the enterprise excellence cannot and must not be any passive by-product of the application of some ingenious theories and lifeless quantitative tools but should be actively driven by the management and led from the front by focused deployment and implementation of the strategy, which impart the raison d'être for the movements. The predominant “how to” approach of the title is of additional attraction to the trench-level practitioners of operations at large across various organizations.

The second title Operations Rules tells that every company is an element of a supply chain, either of its own or of its associates. Taken this way, any operational problem of a company can be understood and worked upon as its supply chain problem. Every company is set to provide (supply) something or the other to its customers. Operations are to subserve the cause of the underlying supply chain. Production operations materialize the innovation; supply chain operation brings that to market. Operational competence reduces the cost to the company for delivering innovations to the market. The other way, advantage due to innovation, can be neutralized in whole or in part by the time they reach the market.

Simchi-Levi sensitizes the readers about the risks and challenges continuously faced by the supply chains with which they are required to adapt. The wound inflicted by the recent Fukushima disaster on many supply chains is eminently visible and tale-telling (Fisher, 2011). The author has similarly observed several supply chain practices and summarized the behaviors thematically in the shape of certain rules codified in the book. On the positive side, these rules are in sum a powerful set of findings on a preferred supply chain practice. On the flip side, some may read as perhaps rediscovering the obvious (wheel). Take one, for example (Rule 3.1): aggregate forecasts are always more accurate than individual forecasts; and another (Rule 8.1): the Toyota Production System embraces flexibility; and yet another (Rule 8.5): variability degrades production-line performance. You may not require arduous supply chain incursions to arrive at such inferences, which may be already at hand from other fields of knowledge. Indeed the rules are very true representations of the state-of-the-art in practice but so very true and prevalent in supply chains that an experienced practitioner may tend to take the majority of them more as axioms than as theorems or a unique set of rules of operational advantage. Supply chains and supply chain issues must to be cautiously and carefully handled (A Reviewer's Rule in the same vein). Of course, to a beginner, these rules are excellent starting points for discovering and closing their supply chain gaps. The rules are otherwise quite comprehensive and useful for operational improvement purposes. A rider for the reader will be to overlook the syntax for the sake of the overall utility of the concept (like in Rule 2.3: [when] different channels “may” require different supply chain strategy, do not say so as a rule if you are not sure about it).

In sum, however, this is quite informative and a reader-friendly text. The layout is pleasing. It is a good read as such, more so for its examples and cases. The author provides elaborate supporting references for the given “rules,” which enhances its academic value for the students and future researchers in the area. The community of innovation implementers will also be benefited from a handy selection of improvement vistas in operational aspects to choose from as per the situation at hand.

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