The Power of LEO: A book review by Bob Morris

The Power of LEO: The Revolutionary Process for Achieving Extraordinary Results
Subir Chowdbury
McGraw-Hill (2012)

Still another “revolutionary process” to achieve “extraordinary results

Subir Chowdhury and other authors of recently published business books are to be commended for having the courage to contribute additions to the thousands of volumes already in print about how a “revolutionary process” can achieve “extraordinary results.” Of course, people achieve such results – processes don’t – and if your workforce is dominated by hamster-brained, knuckle-dragging, passively engaged people, even a process on which Deming, Juran, Crosby, Drucker, Womack, and Collins have collaborated could not possibly succeed.

I do not damn Chowdhury with faint praise when suggesting that his latest book has much to commend it. He has highly developed reasoning and writing skills, he organizes his material with meticulous care, and all of his recommendations are eminently sensible. He seasons his narrative with somewhat obscure but nonetheless interesting historical tidbits such as solving a “jelly bean production problem” in the 1930s, why the number of coffeehouses in England increased from the first (in Oxford in 1650) to more than 3,000 in 1675, and the Kids F.A.C.E. (Kids for a Clean Environment) that nine-year-old Melissa Pope founded in 1989. I really mean that. However, and yes there is a “however,” it is important to keep in mind that however simple and applicable the basic ideas behind LEO may be, they serve only as a template, a set of guidelines by which to make better decisions about what to do and how to do it.

These are among passages that caught my eye:

o LEO: Listen (observe and understand) Enrich (explore and discover), and Optimize (improve and perfect), Pages 3-6
o The Four Cornerstones: Quality Is My Responsibility, All the People, All the Time, An I-Can-Do-It Mindset, and No One Size Fits All (Pages 8-14)
o Three basic conditions that help to explain why processes tend to run amok (55-56)
o Reviews: Listen (114), Enrich (138-139), and Optimize (163)

According to Chowdhury, “The test of a LEO deployment’s lasting power, its sustainability, takes place over years…For a LEO project to succeed, it must have the support of the company’s leaders and of the managers and of the frontline people who are directly involved in the effort.” Also, and of equal importance, “It requires that the individual people within the company, leaders and frontline people alike, acquire a high-quality mindset.” The details of that mindset as well as how to develop it are best revealed within the narrative. However, the fact remains that the efforts of one individual can ensure the success of a LEO project, nor can the collaborative efforts of a project team’s members.

What is needed is nothing less than a culture within which everyone at all levels and in all areas are committed to observing and listening, exploring and discovering, and improving and perfecting. These individual and collective initiatives must be based on a foundation whose cornerstones are – or are comparable with – those that Subir Chowdhury proposes. I really like the quotation with which he concludes, provided by Dr. Seuss:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”


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