Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo

Like The Quality Toolbox, this is a book chock-full of usefulness. This book provides a fun approach that makes it possible for collaborative activities to get everyone participating in creative and design-oriented activities. From planning meeting, generating ideas, understanding customers, creating prototypes, or making better decisions, Gamestorming is a way for groups to “work better together.”

Divided into Opening, Exploring and Closing sections, the structure of the book will be familiar to anyone with a facilitation background. I am constantly dipping into this book for activities for team meetings, project kickoffs, development meetings, lessons learned and a whole lot of other meetings.

This book delves into the usage of visual thinking to increase effectiveness and I find dramatically shorten the length of time needed for a group to solve a problem. This book proposes that visual thinking can:

  • Using a simple, shared visual language to increase understanding and information retention;
  • Applying improvisational discovery to keep participants engaged;
  • Mapping the big picture, solving problems and innovating as a team;
  • Creating visual meeting artifacts to drive decisions forward.

What is especially cool is that there is a great webpage dedicated to these games that I hope you will find as useful as I do. It is full of exercises, activities and advice.


The Quality Toolbox

The Quality Toolbox by Nancy Tague is such a useful book that it belongs on everyone’s bookshelf.   Tools are included for generating and organizing ideas, evaluating ideas, analyzing processes, determining root causes, planning, and basic data-handling and statistics. From the seven basic quality tools to a wide variety of more sophisticated tools, this my first go-to when I am trying to figure out the best tool for a task, each  getting a solid write-up that can propel you into use.

The core spine of the book is a matrix that helps find the right tool base don three questions:

  1. What do you want to do with the tool (project planning, idea creation, process analysis, data collection and analysis, cause analysis and decision making)
  2. Where you are in process improvement methodology
  3. Whether you need to expand or focus thinking

Each tool gets a solid treatment, with examples and templates so it can be put into use.

Quality professionals tend to acquire a resources on specific tools. This book serves to easily consolidate tools, help you identify the right tool to use, and will probably also introduce you to a bunch of new tools.

Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows is one of the books that has shaped my thinking as a quality professional, and I consider it one of the top 10 books for folks in the quality profession to read. If I ever try to lend you a copy, consider that a good thing.

The basic premise of system thinking is the notion that any force applied to the system has consequences. A well-designed system can absorb these forces and still maintain system functionality. A poorly designed system cannot absorb external forces, causing the system to collapse. A key take away of the book is that the systems we design do what they are designed to do, both positive and negative.

Ms. Meadows presents systems and models in ecosystem thinking in ways to avoid simplistic approaches and explains system oscillations and overshoots as examples of system instability. The book explains the attributes of systems:

  1.   Resilience – ability for a system to adjust. The opposite of resilience – fragility, causes the system to be unresponsive to change, and exposes the system to potential of collapse.
  2.   Self-Organization – ability of system to adjust to new demands and circumstances. Ability of the system to orient itself and build complex structures from simple building blocks is viewed as key characteristic.
  3. Hierarchy – describe how complex system can be broken into smaller, simpler organization that can function autonomously. The opposite of hierarchy is one complex organism that cannot be productive of parts of it is not performing at the level required for the smooth operation of the system.

The book has a ton of good approaches on how to solve system problems. The identification of a leverage point in the system describes how to affect system behavior in a most effective way.  The list of leverage point includes quantitative things such as numbers, creating of buffers in the system, as well as the introduction of new feedback loops and general system flexibility.

Read this book. Good quality culture understands the systems we build and how they impact the individuals who use them. The tools in this book serve as a good framework, and one I think you will come back to again and again.


Quality Book Shelf – Kafka

In a past job interview I was asked two questions that stay with me, “What degree do you think every quality professional should have” and “Which of your favorite authors reflects on you as a quality manager.”

For the first, I said philosophy, a rather tongue in cheek answer that I hope will become clear as this blog develops.

For the second, I answered LeCarre and Kafka. I’d like to expand on Kafka, as it has to do a lot with the name of this blog.

Kafka is, probably, one of the 20th century’s greatest writers on organizational life. His writing is often a dystopian counter to much of the cheerleaders, even today, of the mythology of organizations. In this way he serves as a needed balance to all the cheerleaders of holarchy, of agile and lean organizations and everything else that dominates modern business since Weber. Through exploring these dark contemplations I strongly believe we grow in our understanding and that understanding can make us more humble.

Kafka deals with issues that lie at the heart of the challenges that await the modern organization, and of quality as a profession: rationality, bureaucracy, power, and how we make sense of the work and the value of the work we do.

As this blog is going to be about applying rationality to the work we do, grappling with bureaucracy and power, and how quality practices bring sense to the work we do, Kafka is an appropriate inspiration.