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- Published on Amazon.com
The Toyota Production System (TPS) was largely developed by the firm's Tachii Ohno and Shigeo Shingo over a period of years. It is often referred to as 'Continuous Improvement' (aka 'Kaizen'), and thought of as a manufacturing management method. Six Sigma is another important aspect that grew out of TPS. These are major oversimplifications, however. A better description is that of 'lean production,' 'lean library management,' lean etc.). The TPS (aka lean management) incorporates a structured approach to process design/improvement that can be applied to most any process, including library management as author Huber suggests.
Unfortunately, almost library management improvement effort is seriously hampered by their publicly-funded status. This conveys the implicit knowledge that next years' budget with most likely be based on this years,' plus X% for inflation and growth, and that there is little, if any, monetary reward to be obtained from performance improvement. Further, cost reduction initiatives (eg. overall funding reductions) are easily deflected by building political support via establishing popular services such as free Internet availability, especially when coupled with their invariably being linked to supporting 'sacred cow' activities such as job searches. (If you believe job searches are a major use of library computers, I suggest you look around - reality is that they're mostly used for viewing movies, email, and dating sites. Reality, however, doesn't count - just political posturing, and library funding is unlikely to be cut.) Another political ploy - offering on-site homework help is also guaranteed to build political support.
Author Huber recognizes these impediments, but unfortunately, offers very little in the way of recommendations on how to overcome them. Thus, one's potential market for library improvement becomes very limited - to those led by the very few with a strong intrinsic desire to lead improvements.
Another problem with 'Lean Library Management' is that Huber's process for process improvement is overly cumbersome and verbose. It could be simplified by instead identifying what I call the 'Seven Deadly Sins' of process management. These are readily available activities that have no customer value. Examples: Waiting (books waiting to be moved to the next step, customers waiting for assistance), idle time (most obvious when staff are engaged in non-work conversation - am almost certain sign of over-staffing), error-correction (obvious), checking (also obvious), transportation (eg. an invariable by-product of splitting work into tasks performed by different people in different locations), etc. Transportation, waiting, and idle-time are almost invariably the most serious wastes in any process. Solution - flow-chart the process, ball-park both the added-value and non-value-added times involved, and focus on the most significant non-value-added steps. (The latter suggestion takes advantage of the Pareto Principle - about 80% of whatever you're focusing on is usually caused by only 20% of all the sources.)
Again, I must agree with Mr. Huber - participation is much better than top-down direction when it comes to building acceptance of change. But, this all assumes we got past the first problem of inherent lack of compulsion to change in a tax-funded system. (Need further evidence - think about how little public education has changed over the past several decades. Why? It too has not been forced, by competition, to do so; regardless, it is much easier to simply lobby for more money.
Bottom-Line: Absent a good solution to the general lack of external pressure for improving library processes, we will continue to see obvious waste at our local libraries - staff standing around growing old waiting for the next customer (can't have lines - that's poor service), frequent small groups meeting in conversation, has specialized areas (eg. youth) that are not handled during off-hours via video cameras and 'Help' buttons, an inordinately long time period between when a new book arrives and its availability on the shelf, periodic 'redecorating' (moving eg. hold items, the magazine collection somewhere else), and, as Mr. Huber noted, generalized resistance to change.