This week I attended and spoke at the CMMI Global Congress. It was a great conference, and as with most conferences, the conversations in the hallways were as interesting as the presentations (including mine). I had a lot conversations about lean, Agile and scaling Agile, and while the attendees as a whole saw the value, there are still a few that view Agile and lean concepts with derision. These conversations, in conjunction with today’s re-read segment of The Goal, led me to consider whether much of the underlying resistance was being generated by fear; in particular the fear of discovering that what you know is no longer relevant. People facing that fear generally react in one of two ways: reinvention or rejection. In today’s segment Hilton Smyth chooses one of those options. . .

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5      Part 6      Part 7      Part 8    Part 9   Part 10   Part 11 Part 12

Chapter 31 Alex appears for the plant review, which is being chaired not by Bill Peach (Alex’s boss) but rather Hilton Smyth. Hilton is the assistant division controller. When Alex suggests that they wait for Bill Peach, Hilton indicates that he will not be coming and that his (Hilton’s) report will tip the scales on whether the plant stays open or not. The early exchanges clearly establish that Hilton does not buy into the turn around that Alex and his team have engineered. Alex reiterates the three core findings that have driven the turn around.

  1. Instead of balancing capacity with demand, they are focused on maintaining and improving the flow through the plant.
  2. For resources that are not bottlenecks, the level of activity from which the system is able to profit is not determined by individual capacity, but rather by some other constraint.
  3. Utilization and activation are not the same.

Hilton believes that Alex’s deviations from the tried and true formulas for batch size, capacity utilization and per unit costing are hiding problems that will cripple the plant in the future. Those tried and true formulas are central to Hilton’s perception of his own relevance, and he can’t see that with both profits and plant throughput up and inventory down that the plant is now on very solid footing. The report to Peach will be bad.

After the meeting, Alex decides to confront Peach. Peach listens as Alex tells him that Smyth would not listen to reason. Peach summons Jons (head of sales), Ethan Frost (division controller and Smyth’s boss) and Smyth. When they are assembled, Peach announces that Jons, Frost and himself have been promoted, and that Alex will also be promoted to head the division. While unstated in the book the inference is that recent profitability and the new orders from Bucky Burnside have made quite the stir at corporate. (In my head I could hear Smyth blustering, as much of his previous knowledge and experience became less relevant).

The chapter ends with Alex reaching out to Jonah to ask for help running the division. What he receives is a congratulation and advice to learn to trust his own judgement rather than to needing outside support.

Chapter 32 uses Alex’s and Julie’s celebration dinner as a backdrop for a discussion about the promotion as part of a journey and Johan’s method of coaching. Johan didn’t just provide answers to the questions Alex posed, but rather pushed Alex  in the right direction and made him and his team work for the answers, much like the Socratic method of generating critical thinking based on asking and answering questions.  This journey helped Alex generate ownership in new concepts that flew in the face of what he and his team previously thought to be true. The struggle to generate answers gave Alex and his team the courage to implement their new ideas. It should be noted that the feedback that their early successes generated also helped generate the courage to try further experiments (this dovetails nicely to the ideas in Kotter’s Leading Change – an earlier re-read).

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