Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving (Print-On-Demand Edition)

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Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving (Print-On-Demand Edition)

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Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving

Stephen C. Armstrong


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Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving demonstrates how Problem Solving and Process Management is at the heart of continuous business transformation.


Logically organized in four parts, it introduces the reader to the domains of change and the process management body of knowledge (BOK) and gives detailed instruction on how to creatively re-engineer processes, sustain innovation and continually improve an enterprise through proven repetitive methods. And unlike any book on the subject it offers a practical step-by-step approach that includes the steps, the templates, and the metrics to keep it on track.



  • Features a tried and tested, practical 17-step “how to” Problem Solving and Process Management methodology that can be used in any business environment.
  • Includes numerous figures and examples of charts and documents used at each step of the process.
  • References standard forms, tools, and training materials in the Appendix.
  • Addresses how to engage the people who are using, creating, and improving the management process.
  • Explains the steps in creating a process management methodology and presents the process management body of knowledge without the “fad” or spin.
  • Highlights the importance of good process management to corporate business transformation.

Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving


by Stephen C. Armstrong, P.Eng., M.A., FCGI, C.Eng., FIMechE, CMC


Stephen C. ArmstrongStephen Armstrong has 22 years of success leading large-scale business transformation turnaround initiatives with an initial pedigree in the aerospace and defense industry and then spreading to other sectors. Included are 23 large-scale enterprise-wide turnaround and strategic change assignments, in technologically complex environments.

Armstrong built his leadership capability on a solid foundation as an aerospace engineer where he began as a shop floor apprentice. His engineering specialty was the development of manufacturing processes for advanced aerospace composite materials. After a period in operations management he changed career direction and entered the management consulting industry in 1988 with KPMG becoming principle in charge of the manufacturing system practice in Canada.

His first entrepreneurial venture was founding AMGI in 1993, which was initially a management consulting company and has shifted to education and training.

He has led over 30 executive steering committees and built 150 plus self-directed work teams in every functional business discipline to achieve dramatic improvement results. Initiatives have spanned companies in size from a family owned start up business with 10 employees to large multi division enterprises with 15,000 employees.

The bottom line results include:

  • product development time to market reduction of up to 50%
  • revenue growth (20-400%)
  • cost reduction (30-50%);
  • sustainable performance improvement.

One early example: After leading a business transformation initiative to turnaround deHavilland Aircraft, Armstrong initiated and led the original team that developed the Bombardier Engineering Aerospace System (BES). BES was eventually adapted across Bombardier's operations worldwide and halved the time it takes to develop a new aircraft and bring to the market place. For this achievement Armstrong was awarded the Ontario "Professional Engineers Medal for Excellence" in 2010

In addition is his role as CEO - AMGI, he is also Chief Innovation Officer at Samco Machinery

This expertise has led to Armstrong being asked to teach at the University of Toronto and become Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster, in the Department of Business Psychology.

Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving


by Stephen C. Armstrong


Chapter 1 An Introduction to Business Transformation


All enterprises consist of processes, technology, physical buildings, culture, people, and business philosophy. We call these the domains of change. Many management consulting firms have their own models for these domains of change. But at the core of a transformation, each must be in balance to effectively change or improve the enterprise. We use an integrated enterprise model that explains the relationship of these domains. This is illustrated in Figure 1.2.


One of our clients, a large aerospace company, was losing significan amounts of money caused by poor execution of the design and build processes, excessive overheads, no sense of accountability among management and staff, and antiquated systems from the 1970s. In addition, they had just been acquired, and the new owner had not completed a major acquisition before, but wanted immediate improvement led by a world leader in the aerospace industry. The pressure to perform led to clashes between the confrontational American management style and the British and European trade unionist mentalities on the shop floor. Furthermore, the factory was a patchwork quilt of expansions in 10 bays covering 3 million square feet. It led to an assembly process that looked like a Chinese Dragon Dance, supported by 32 parts storage facilities, each with a foreman and labor pool.

Often in high profile situations like this one, consultants are hovering like vultures, sensing an opportunity to make significant fees. In this case, there were $100 million dollar proposals on the table for armies of consultants to come in and right the wrongs. There had been several false starts with the large firms. However, the VP of operations, a work-hardened leader with years of practical operational line experience, recognized that the business processes were broken and that he needed to get his people to do the work to fix operations. He needed a practical methodology that his own people could use to solve their own problems.

He tested and challenged our practical capabilities to transfer knowledge and break through the cultural resistance. This company was jaded against consultants. The staff was jealous that consultants were freshly minted MBAs with very little practical experience, paid more than seasoned veterans. This caused a barrier between those attempting to lead change and the team that had to change. Knowledge was not transferred, and lasting changes did not occur. The consulting approach was fragmented, and not delivered in an holistic way.

Our client needed to make sure that it wasn’t going to happen again. We started out small, focusing on the machine shop. The challenge was to improve the work flow. We used our structured approach that this book describes. We inspired the supervisor to take ownership of the change and drive it through the workforce. The VP could see significant improvements in throughput and reduced inventory. More importantly, he saw the change in morale. At the end of the project, the VP looked me in the eye and said, “Alright then, take this methodology right through the operations.” Two years later, building on our success, he became president, and we took our approach through all functions of the company. We saw key indicators improve by three orders of magnitude. Cash flow improved by $1 million per day. We knew we had succeeded when our sponsor retired and the new president continued to champion the project. We accomplished these results with a team of two consultants and the dedication of empowered employees following our approach.

We ensured that all domains of change were in balance. At the core was a business process improvement methodology and problem-solving techniques, and these were in balance with new information technology such as CAD/ERP/PDM. The physical environment in the product engineering department was redesigned to facilitate concurrent engineering through colocation of teams. But above all, we had an executive leadership that was hands on and involved in implementing the change. Our sponsor, in his role as president not only said, “this is the most important thing we’ll do in the next three years.” He actually drove the philosophy through the management team by being, and staying, involved.

There's more to this case study...

Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving


by Stephen C. Armstrong


Foreword by Bob Repovs

We have heard of the saying, “The only thing constant is change”. While this saying is often overused by many businesses, the tools and practices that go with it are often not understood or terribly implemented. Change and continuous improvement is an on-going force field that cannot be resisted by Manufacturers – no matter where in the world they are located. With Global competition and the theories of Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”, we must continue to innovate and improve ourselves in the most efficient and effective manner while maintaining a culture of acceptance, excitement and above all, engagement.

It was through Stephen where I earned a discrete education in Continuous Improvement while utilizing the most thorough, solid, management practices needed to implement effective change management where our company was able to double our revenues in only 2 years. While being a Make-to-Order company providing engineering, manufacturing, and assembly of complex rollforming systems, we had our challenges to deliver custom projects. We implemented a completely new ERP system through all departments from scratch and a Project Management process that many automotive companies would be proud to own. Many of the change elements Stephen discusses are the need to seamlessly integrate the people and culture, business processes, physical structure, computer technology and information structure. One cannot make change happen without balancing each of these areas.

Our ERP system was not simply a matter of purchasing and implementing a computer software program. Many companies make the mistake to let IT select a system and start implementing from the financial department down. WRONG!

Stephen’s team approach started from software selection, team naming and creation, group technology implementation, “as-is” and “to-be” business mapping, continuous education to running a pilot project. The systems in place have enabled us to deliver more cost effective projects, on time with superior quality.

Another business tool Stephen discusses is the adage, “What get’s measured, get’s managed”. Without knowing where you are and where you want to be, businesses cannot define where their time needs to be spent. We are true believers in managing the numbers and implementing change to correct the problems. Continuous Improvement cannot be seen if you don’t manage the numbers and respond accordingly. Our ISO 9001 Registration audits are a pleasure to have as we “show-off” our objectives and Continuous Innovations the company is working on. Success will come to those who read, and implement the methodologies presented in this book pertaining to Continuous Innovation and Change. It provides the tools needed to do it right the first time, a phenomenon that does not exist very often when dealing with such a complex issue in business today.

Bob Repovs, President, Samco Machinery

Sustaining Continuous Innovation Through Problem Solving


by Stephen C. Armstrong


Part I: Transforming the Business – Achieving a Culture of Innovation

  • An Introduction to Business Transformation-The Methodology & Philosophy
  • The Phases of Business Transformation Explained: Laying the Foundation for Continuous Innovation
  • The Organizational Approach to Business Transformation

Part II: Analyzing the Status Quo – By Constantly Questioning

  • How to Analyze the “As Is” Business Processes. Research Customer Needs and Expectations
  • Select the Issue
  • Define/Design the Process
  • Establish Standards and Design Performance Measures
  • Implement the Processes, Standards, Measures, and Quality Systems
  • Confirm the Process/Issue Focus
  • Set the Improvement Objectives and Schedule

Part III: Continuous Innovation – By Problem Solving

  • Creative Process Improvement. Cause and Effect Analysis
  • Gathering and Analyzing Root Cause Data
  • Selecting the Root Cause to be Addressed
  • Formulate Alternative Solutions
  • Evaluate and Select the Best Solution
  • Document Solutions. Investigate and Validate the Solution
  • Closing the Loop through Continuous Improvement

Part IV: Engaging the People – Sustaining Innovation

  • Managing Process Improvement Teams: Making it Work
  • Sustaining Innovation with a Higher Purpose

Appendices – Management Tools