Archive for June 2011

A last post on this book, before I return it to Rami

June 30, 2011

(I had borrowed it from Eli, actually.)

The book ends (before the appendices) with what the Goldratt Institute (at the time) was going to provide, to support the Jonahs. Clearly, marketing.

And yet, what can be learned from the not-so-wonderful attempt to market this way?
The three tools Eli offers are: 1) Access to an External Jonah, to help focus on negative ramifications of the natural inertia; 2) Constant Updating of knowledge generated by the Institute; 3) Frontal cross-fertilization in the semi-annual Jonah Conference.
And here is what I learned, regarding development and management of knowledge:
1) You always need an external auditor. Someone who has NO IDEA what your idea was, who can always ask “Why?” (Or Eli’s “So?”). This allows you to check your logic, and to examine your theories in as objective a way as possible.
2) Updating knowledge is crucial. If you remain with last year’s ideas, you may be behind the market, or just be wrong, because a new development has moved us so far forwards, that last year’s knowledge can cause PROBLEMS.
3) Sharing it: active cross-pollination is necessary, and Eli thought a conference was the best way. At the time, I agree it was. I think other options are now available, due to technological advances, but conferences are key, still. Also, I think that this cross-pollination needs to be active through forums and discussions led by key individuals, as it is in other academic spheres.

In any case, again good points, lost due to marketing.
So, this book was an excellent read for me. I learned a lot, and focuses a lot of my thoughts through it. However, I would only recommend it to someone who was already familiar with TOC.

Positive and Negative Matter

June 30, 2011

An issue I have spoken of quite a few times within the framework of debating has been that of ‘positive’ vs. ‘negative’ matter. This usually arises when I try to explain the roles of either the first speaker for ‘government’, who is supposed to set the stage by making strong positive statements as to why we should accept the proposal on the table, or those of the last speaker for the ‘opposition’ who is NOT ALLOWED (in British Parliament style of university debating) to bring New Positive Matter at all.
My basic explanation is that Positive Matter is an argument which says why your proposal for is good, and that Negative Matter says why that argument is not good. Negative Matter is basically anything that attacks the Proposal, and Positive is anything that supports it.
(In an aside, that said, I believe that both sides need to propose SOME sort of action if a real need has been recognized by both sides. It is not enough in my opinion to say ‘yes, there is a need, but your arguments suck so we win, by leaving the bad situation alone’.]

And now to the book I am reading – on pp. 112-113, Eli lists a few management philosophies, and saying that each one of them is more than merely its slogan. He writes: “Leaving the situation unchanged and being satisfied with broad statements like: “overall management philosophy” – certainly doesn’t provide a feasible starting point from which to consolidate these methods.”
Unfortunately, at that stage, he did not present what would have been positive matter as to why TOC is the stronger/all-encompassing. That’s why, I believe, this book comes across as a marketing tool and not a device of proof.
It’s a smear campaign, – “they aren’t enough, so we are good”. Such proof is NEGATIVE. It can only go so far.

Of course, Eli has moved on, and the notion of the Science of Management was supposed to provide the answer to that. I think I may be ready soon to address my opinion on that.

To note, Eli provided two warnings – 1) “We shouldn’t fall into the trap of EVER believing that at last we see the ultimate light. We are dealing with management science and science definitely doesn’t believe in truth, only in validity.” 2) Because we are not working in a vacuum, “Changes in the environment might require different patterns of behavior from the organization….In a process of ongoing improvement, we can never sit back on our laurels.”
In short – never say I know.

some pieces of literature are always relevant.

June 29, 2011

The Second Coming/W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Initial Consensus, the Initial Step: A Response (A Long Post)

June 29, 2011

Pages 97-104 of the book I am reading (Chapter 3 of Eli Goldratt’s “What is this thing called Theory of Constraints and how should it be implemented?”) are supposed to describe the ‘Initial Consensus, the Initial Step’.

Here’s my two cents on the chapter: confusing, and problematic. And here’s why:

First, he starts off with the sentence “Pilots, even though successful locally, are not helpful in moving an entire organization.” What a wonderful way to block consensus. I know of a few organizations that pilots moved, and significantly so. What’s more, many people believe in pilots. The previous chapter explains why improving one whole department can cause problems – but not why running a pilot does. At least, not enough proof is brought to support such a strong argument. The second sentence is not enough: “All functions should buy in before any significant efforts to improve are allowed to start.” While it was proven clearly in the second chapter of this section, it does not support the issue of pilots – which are a stage most people hold as that which PRECEDES “significant efforts to improve”…

Second issue – the chapter brings in a unique case (consumer product companies), and delves into some detail which detract from the main issue. This should have been an appendix, an explanation at the end of the chapter or something else. The way it stands, it is a distraction. What’s more, the argument it brings is not so strong, either. The claim that “Communication between marketing and production is virtually non-existent and the finger pointing syndrome is usually more intense here than in any other industrial environment.” is not backed up by proof, nor is it solid logic. What’s more, there are other environments where this is the case, and the solution could be efficient. In other words, what little could be gained in this ‘insertion’ is lost. 😦
It feels like a marketing pitch, and it IS a marketing pitch, and not a good one at that.

Third issue – answering the question. IF the question is “how do we get consensus?” and the answer to that is “by creating the Jonahs in the company”, that jump should be explained. It isn’t. Instead, what is written is: “Now that we understand the necessity of having all the functions involved in the decision to embark on the Theory of Constraints, the avenue to begin answering the question of “who should be the Jonahs” is wide open.” Say WHAT?
I thought we were going to address ways of getting consensus, of the INITIAL step. How can an END PRODUCT (being a Jonah) be the solution to an INITIAL step? Unexplained.

Fourth issue – the order of convincing. He starts by explaining why the division head should be first, with the comptroller. But the CEO is not involved. And the middle managers are not involved. Consensus does not mean convincing a few people but rather – as Eli in more recent years argued – getting everyone on board ASAP, to make sure no obstacles rear their ugly head in the process. The steps written are: “First, achieve a group consensus at the top of a division, which includes all function heads”, which then sends the division head and the comptroller to prepare the implementation plan. Blah. No ownership from below. No real participation. When it goes back to the group, it approves the plan. But Eli wrote that word in quotation marks. I believe this is because even he knew it was not real approval.

Fifth issue – How deep in the organization should the Jonah education be given? Eli points out that the Socratic method could lead a person to feel s/he is being manipulated/led by the nose. And that, in relation to the proffered solution, “Their ownership of the responsibility takes precedence.” And he then goes on to say that we need to take it to the lower-levels, to the “kings” of the lower levels. What’s more, he claims that the Socratic Method is only good for conversations between a Jonah and a non-Jonah, not between two Jonahs, where, he claims, “The communication…is already so precise (the meaning of proof, solution and focusing) that the Socratic approach is simply redundant or even disturbing.”
Well, not to say that this is condescending, but it is. 😉
We need to “give them the ability to invent on their own”, he writes. Because this isn’t the case already?
In short, this bit is trying to say – “Teach the Socratic method as deeply as needed – probably all the way down to the lowest levels of workers. Let people take ownership, respect their responsibilities, and trust them to come up with the best solutions.”
I dug the message up out of the fragments, not from the unified piece.

Anyhoo, this brings me back to the second issue, repeated. The numbers he quotes (managing a maximal 200 production workers [I was wondering how many machines this meant. 😛 ], 6-7 salespeople, 15 design engineers) are not based in facts, but just on Eli’s claim of his experience, and to the unfamiliar reader, this seems ridiculous. Why are these numbers relevant? what’s worse, is that the last sentence of these non-based, non-aiding examples is the sentence “At the same time we should remember, once again, that the goal of a company is to make more money and not to educate its employees.”
It is completely disconnected. It detracts from the strong message.
The following point, which I will discuss shortly, is important. But the examples are counter-effective. The issue should not be the 6 or 7 salespeople, but about either the way to discover what the proper wingspan is, or how to ensure the wingspan is normal/workable.

ANYHOO – to the sixth and last point – the message of Education.
“Education is a means and not a goal, thus the investment in education should be viewed versus the amount of money a manager is responsible for.”
Say WHAT??!?!?!?!!?!?!
This rings completely of LOCAL OPTIMA. No manager of any division is completely responsible for any ‘amount of money’. They are part of a SYSTEM. The pie is not cut into shares, such as “50% sales, 50% production”. It is not based on the wingspan of a manager. If, as the previous chapter showed, you need a buy-in from everybody, what does it matter how much of the money is “caused” (if you can prove THAT) by any one manager?
I find this idea ridiculous, useless, counter-productive and risky.
True, today GC does not work in this manner, but the text is there.
The chapter closes with the statement:
“The initial investment is thus the investment to get the group consensus, and the education for the president and comptroller and the education given internally by them. Further investments should be financed by the already achieved improvements.”
I like the way it starts, but hate the way it closes. Yes, you need GROUP CONSENSUS, but how can you achieve that if not everybody is truly involved? The group consensus is not about a CEO agreeing. It is not about the Board of Directors agreeing. It is about the whole company agreeing, because it has been explained through cause and effect, while listening to relevant, legitimate reservations. THAT is the Socratic Method.

Sorry about the rant, I just feel that we don’t hear enough of the message here yet.
So many times the question of “who was in the meeting” comes up, and not the question of “how can we get everybody on board”. We should focus on getting the CEO in, for sure. But if we don’t include the heads of all the divisions and the sub-divisions and the floor managers, and EVERYBODY in on the LOGIC from the start – we run the risk of “they are different”, of “you have your systems, I have mine”, of jealousy and other negative effects.
And all you have to do is use the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is not aimed only at Philosopher-Kings, it is aimed at anyone who has a mind. In my view, that’s practically 100% of humankind.

Good message, lost in the excess verbal baggage. 😦

Goldratt on Educating vs Training

June 27, 2011

A process is described. It it:
“The audience is now experiencing the effectiveness of the Socratic tools on themselves. They are finding out just how much they ENJOY being educated while at the same time how much they HATE to be trained. Using the Socratic tools, the participants encounter the problems directly and develop the simple, practical solutions.”
And afterwards – “After a thorough discussion of how to handle the psychology of an organization, the details of moving ahead, for the particular organization, are hammered out. And a true group consensus, AMONGST ALL FUNCTIONS, to embark on this common sense, but still daring process of ongoing improvement is achieved.”
[My caps. Page 98.]

Goldratt on the need for a holistic approach

June 27, 2011

(aka Egad, another quote!)
The whole second chapter of the second part of the book I am reading (see previous posts) seemed a little blah-blah to me.
At least, that was the case until the last page or so.
The I realized that the whole point (built awkwardly, unfortunately) was that of the need for a holistic approach.

The point is simple: If only one part of a company improves, without initial buy-in from the other departments, the buy-in of those other departments is tremendously harder.

The proof includes the following issues:
1) If only one part improves, it could go on an ego trip.
2) If only one part improves, and the constraint is somewhere else, the people who could suffer are those who improve – if a decision is made to cut expenses, you would never fire the people in the department which has MORE work than capacity, would you…?
3) Being over-budget is often considered a crime.

And here, I believe, is the one place the argument could have been improved – item three is connected, but not directly. The indirect arrow is TOO long for this chapter.

In any case, here is the closing statement of the chapter (p. 96):
“The lesson today is loud and clear. Before and function can go on an ego trip, demonstrating and waving results (and by that digging its own grave) – before any function can start individual improvements, all functions should decide together on a common way.”

Too bad he didn’t write the word “holistic” anywhere in the chapter…

more Goldratt quotes

June 26, 2011

“We should use an external consultant because they know LESS, and not MORE, than us.” (What is this thing we call Theory of Constraints? pp. 88-9)
The idea is that organizations have a natural or implicit tendency to stagnation in certain issues. What you need is someone who does NOT have an answer, who is NOT set in ANY way.
“[The external consultant] is called in, not because he knows more or has a broader base of experience, but because he is not attached to the rooted assumptions – the inertia of the organization. He should not be called in to help in devising or even in executing the implementation plan, but in order to scrutinize and shoot holes in it. When inertia is involved, we run the risk that reality won’t do it and as a result significant opportunities will be passed by without anybody ever realizing it.”

This book was produced in 1990. 21 years later, and too many members of the TOC community still don’t fully understand what was written here.