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Clear Direction: Drive the right change in the right way, written by Rose Heathcote, is about striving for operational excellence by continuously reinforcing the basics.  Heathcote succeeds in reviving a much written about topic with a simplified, integrated approach. Clear Direction, is the first book in the 5P series; the five P’s being Purpose, Process, People, Problem-solving and Planet. According to Heathcote, in order to improve and efficiently manage a business, each of the 5P’s requires development and focus. Clear Direction describes ‘Purpose’ in three parts, namely how to:

  1. Conduct a business diagnostic
  2. Develop the change plan
  3. Deploy the change plan

The importance of conducting the business diagnostic is highlighted by the detail and depth that Heathcote assigns to it: 300 of the 407 pages consider business diagnostics. She looks at the importance of exploring questions such as:  “where is the business going?; what are the customer needs?;  what are the employees’ needs?; how do we evaluate and implement best practice principles?”; and more.

The business diagnostics section starts with establishing or re-establishing the foundation of a business and proceeds to build on this throughout the rest of the book.

Clear Direction demonstrates how each business activity is built on the business’s foundation, and for each activity improvement strategies and guidelines are helpfully included. It’s rare to find a book about operational excellence that is able to keep a thread going throughout its diverse activities. Heathcote manages to stay focused on the real core of the business throughout a range of activities, including employee involvement, financial principles, production, and managing suppliers.

Customer satisfaction starts with top leadership, from where it is cascaded through the organisation.  Although employee involvement is perhaps not explicitly mentioned it is often implied, as each analysis starting-point focuses on team member involvement, managerial teamwork, and agreement from all team members.  This reinforces the lean concept of respect for people and involves everyone in the organisation in everyday operations.  Heathcote states that the aim should be to achieve 80% implementation support that is employee driven, rather than 100% implementation support actioned by a select few.

Clear Direction is resource that you will refer to often.  The layout is easy to read with practical applications including templates, checklists and how-to guidelines.  One negative point is that the binding of the reviewed book was not sturdy. Rose Heathcote was asked to comment on this issue and said that she has had problems with the quality of the printing locally, despite selecting South Africa’s largest printer. She says that the quality of the binding is much higher from the international printers (Ingram). If the book is ordered from Amazon you will receive an internationally printed copy and therefore not have the possible issue with binding.

Clear Direction: Drive the right change in the right way is a comprehensive operational improvement guide and Heathcote’s experience in more than 100 organisations, ranging in size, shines through. The author states that her improvement philosophy is centred on ‘keeping it simple’ and she does this in a well thought-through, systematic approach that connects improvement with business strategy, within an articulated management system.

It is an essential read for anyone wanting to improve a business process from small or medium-size businesses to large organisations.  First line management to top management will find it valuable.

LIA’s Chairman Prof Norman Faull wrote an editorial review for Clear Direction and this is what he said: “You will get value from the first day with this book.  It is a wise and practical compendium of the best in operations.  Moreover it comes with a structure that makes that knowledge relevant and accessible – it goes beyond the tools and connects us to the thoughtful management system that underpins sustained excellence.  Clear Direction is what we all need – I heartily recommend this book.”

Product Details

Title: Clear Direction: Drive the right change in the right way
Rose Heathcote
:  442 pages
Language:  English
: 978-0620622523

Review written by Charmaine Cunningham

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