SWAT the systems thinking: highly recommended

I’ve read more than a few books about systems thinking and business processes, including All That Matters About Quality I Learned in Joe’s Garage, a few on the Toyota Production System, and several on kaizen and lean manufacturing.

But I have to say that Timothy Johnson’s latest book SWAT: Seize the Accomplishment ranks up there with the best of them, and maybe beyond.

It’s another in Tim’s series of business books that are written around stories: business realities woven into narrative. It’s definitely his best yet.

Systems thinking is not natural for most people. In today’s complex business processes, inputs and outputs are widely separated in space and time … often by continents and months, if not years. So inefficiency and worse, ineffectiveness are hard to spot and harder to fix.

(Inefficiency, of course, is doing the right thing in the wrong way, and ineffectiveness is doing the wrong thing, period. You want to improve the first, but you need to ensure you’re locked on to the second.)

Since systems aren’t things and can’t easily be visualized, it helps when SWAT makes the system come alive. Embedding the information in an engaging story is something that makes the teaching transparent and the learning effortless. Plus, the book is brief and to the point: perfect for busy people.

I learned from SWAT while enjoying SWAT: I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve business (and other) processes while focusing on the outcome.