Getting Ready To Assemble

We continue to our poll to select the next book in the Re-read Saturday feature.  Last week we announced that we would run the poll for two weeks — currently Thinking Fast and Slow has run away from the pack.  If you would like to weigh-in on the which book should be next, vote in the poll below:

The Re-Read Saturday feature was inaugurated in 2015 with a re-read of The Goal.  Over the years the re-read has served many purposes. I have pursued the Re-read to help remind the readers of the blog about power concepts that are core to software development or process improvement.  In some cases, readers have written to indicate that the books in the series were new to them (a few times they have been new to me). One of the selfish reasons I have continued to invest my time in the series is to reinforce my knowledge of the concepts. Several of the entries in the series are perennially top pages visited on the blog.  I am looking forward to the next book — whichever it is. You get to choose, and unlike the guy in the grocery store yesterday, I am not leaning on the scale (those bananas did NOT weight 17 lbs!).

One more thing, I want to say thanks to the help received from many sources that help get the blog and podcast to you. The people that make this possible include Meghan Cagley, Matt Williams, Tom Cagley Sr, Steven Adams, Barb Cagley and everyone that comments publicly and privately are a few of the people I am referencing when I say ‘we’.  If you are interested in getting involved you can be part of ‘we,’ let us know at or leave a message at 01-440-668-5717 with your thoughts or how you would like to contribute.

If you are new to our Re-read Feature and want to get a sense of how this Re-read Saturday thing works, here are the entries for The Goal:

Chapters 1 through 3

Chapters 4 through 6

Chapters 7 through 9

Chapters 10 through 12

Chapters 13 through 16.

Chapters 17 through 18

Chapters 19 through 20

Chapters 21 through 22

Chapters 23 through 24

Chapters 25 and 26

Chapters 27 and 28

Chapter 29 and 30

Chapters 31 and 32

Chapters 33 and 34

Chapters 35 and 36.

Chapters 37 and 38.

Chapters 39 and 40


Book Cover


The Goal: A Business Graphic Novel
Eliyahu M. Goldratt
As adapted by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Dean Motter


The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, is one of those books that have changed the world. I personally keep it next to my copy of Deming’s, Out of the Crisis. When one picks up a graphic adaptation of a book that you recently have re-read and you have to answer three questions:

  1. Is the material true to the original author’s ideas?
  2. Are the critical concepts easier to consume?
  3. Do the characters translate from text to pictures well?



This is a re-play of our the re-read of The Goal. If you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version 

I am running the poll for the next book in our Re-read Saturday feature.  We are nearly done with  The Science of Successful Organizational Change!  As in past polls please vote twice or suggest a write-in candidate in the comments.  We will run the poll for two weeks.  Let the voting begin!


I am traveling this week in India for the 13th CSI/IFPUG International Software Measurement & Analysis Conference: “Creating Value from Measurement”. Read more about it here. In the meantime, enjoy some classic content, and I’ll be back with new blog entries next week. (more…)

XP Explained

This week we tackle teams in XP and why XP works based on the Theory of Constraints in Extreme Programing Explained, Second Edition (2005). The two chapters are linked by the idea that work is delivered most effectively when  teams or organizations achieve a consistent flow. (more…)


I had intended to spend the last entry our re-read of the The Goal waxing poetic about the afterward in the book titled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”. Suffice it to say that the afterward does an excellent job describing the practical and theoretical basis for Goldratt and Cox’s ideas that ultimately shaped the both lean and process improvement movements since 1984.

Previous Installments:

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5 
Part 6       Part 7      Part 8     Part 9      Part 10
Part 11     Part 12      Part 13    Part 14    Part 15
Part 16    Part 17

The Goal is important because it introduced and explained the theory of constraints (TOC), which has proven over and over again to be critical to anyone managing a system. The TOC says that the output of any manageable system is limited by a small number of constraints and that all typical systems have at least one constraint. I recently had a discussion with a colleague that posited that not all systems have constraints. He laid out a scenario in which if you had unlimited resources and capability it would be possible to create a system without constraints. While theoretically true, it would be safe to embrace the operational hypothesis that any realistic process has at least one constraint. Understanding the constraints that affect a process or system provides anyone with an interest in process improvement with a powerful tool to deliver effective change. I do mean anyone! While the novel is set in a manufacturing environment, it is easy to identify how the ideas can apply to any setting where work follows a systematic process. For example, software development and maintenance is a process that takes business needs and transforms those needs into functionality. The readers of the Software Process and Measurement Blog should recognize that ideas in The Goal are germane to the realm of information technology.

As we have explored the book, I have shared how I have been able to apply the concepts explored to illustrate that what Goldratt and Cox wrote was applicable in the 21st century workplace. I also shared how others reacted to the book when I read it in public or talked about to people trapped next to me on numerous flights. Their reaction reminded me that my reaction was not out of the ordinary. The Goal continues to affect people years after it was first published. For example, the concept of the TOC and the Five Focusing Steps proved useful again this week. I was asked to discuss process improvement with a team comprised of tax analysts, developers and testers. Each role is highly specialized and there is little cross-specialty work-sharing. With a bit of coaching the team was able to identify their process flow and to develop a mechanism to identify their bottleneck(s) to improve their through put. Even though the Five Focusing Steps were never mentioned directly, we were able agree on an improvement approach that would find the constraint, help them exploit the constraint, subordinate the other steps in the process to the constraint, support improving the capacity of the constraint, then reiterate the analysis if the step was no longer a constraint. Had I never read The Goal, we might not have found a way to improve the process.

Perhaps re-reading the book or just carrying it around has made me overly sensitive to the application of the TOC and the other concepts in the book. However, I don’t think that was the real reason the material is useful. Others have been equally impacted, for example, Steve Tendon, author of Tame The Flow, and currently a columnist on the Software Process and Measurement Cast suggests that The Goal and the TOC has had a significant influence on his groundbreaking process improvement ideas. Bottom line, if you have not read or re-read The Goal I strongly suggest that you make the time to read the book. The Goal is an important book if you manage processes or are interested in improving how work is done in the 21st century.

I would like to hear from you! Can you tell me:

  1. How has The Goal impacted how you work?
  2. Have you been able to put the ideas in the book into practice?
  3. What are the successes and difficulties you faced when leveraging the Theory of Constraints?
  4. Do you use the Socratic method to identity and fix problems?

Re-Read Saturday Housekeeping Notes:

  • Next week we begin the re-read of The Mythical Man-Month (I am buying a new copy today, so if you do not have a copy, get a copy today.  I will be reading this version of Man-Month.
  • Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page.
  • Also, if you don’t have a copy of The Goal, buy one and read it! If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version.



Epiphanies, the profound and sudden flash of understanding, in any field are rare; however, when they do happen they generally transform the person that has the revelation but don’t always have an impact on those around them. Sitting on a plane from Los Angles this week as I prepared to write this entry of Re-read Saturday, the person next to me pointed at my copy of The Goal and stated “I read that book, it changed my life.” As I have re-read The Goal I have been amazed at the number people that have stopped me to make sure I knew that they had read the book, also.  In today’s entry, the penultimate entry, Alex has an epiphany and discovers the answer to Johan’s final question to Alex.

Previous Installments:

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5 
Part 6       Part 7      Part 8     Part 9      Part 10
Part 11     Part 12      Part 13    Part 14    Part 15
Part 16

Chapter 39.  Bill Peach asks Alex to visit him and explain why his ideas are working.  Meanwhile, back at the plant all heck breaks loose.  The new orders have stressed the system.  Random problems in front of the bottleneck used up all of the buffer in front of the bottleneck steps.  The buffer had been used to keep he throughput through the bottleneck smooth and at maximum utilization. Once the buffer had been used up, the random problems caused work to get to the bottleneck in waves, causing the bottlenecks to be alternately starved and swamped.  This problem caused the plant to fall back to overtime and expediting work.

Alex leads a session with his team (soon to be Bob’s team) to find the root cause of the problem.  In the end the problem turned out to be that the new order had reduced the excess capacity in the plant.  Without changing the buffer in front of the bottleneck, the reduction in excess capacity meant that any shock to the system would quickly impact the bottlenecks which in turn would negatively impact the plants ability to deliver.  The team decides they need to rebuild the buffers to anticipate some level of shocks, using overtime and for the time being increase the delivery lead time.  Once a course was decided upon, Bob and “his” team put it into action.  Chapter 39 marks the transition of Alex to being division manager and Bob to plant manager.

Chapter 40.  Alex, now division manager, and Lou, now Alex’s division comptroller, discuss the problems they have in front of them as they make the commute home from division headquarters. The problems at the division level are seemingly insurmountable. Examples they discuss include a delay introducing new product models (even though there is demand) so that organization does not have to mark down old product currently in inventory.  Lou and Alex decide to apply the five step process to the problem: however, both agree, that while the problem is important it not urgent enough to need to break family commitments that evening both men had.  This is unlike earlier in the book when Alex and his team would practically live in the plant.  In the vernacular of Agile, Alex has discovered a sustainable pace.

The five step process is:

  1. Find the constraint
  1. Exploit the constraint
  2. Subordinate every other step to the constraint
  3. Elevate the constraint, then
  4. Repeat if the constraint has been broken

When they reconvene in the morning they struggle with how to apply the five step process to the division.  They determine the constraints at the division level are the policies that drive the wrong behavior.  Both Alex and Lou struggle with how to apply the process when faced with concepts like policies rather than something tangible like a production process when the epiphany strikes.

Johan had left Alex with the task of answering, “What are the techniques needed for management?” The struggle to apply the five step process lead Alex to the conclusion that, to manage, a leader must have the techniques to answer these questions:

  1. What to change?
  2. What to change to?
  3. How to cause the change?

Alex realizes he has learned to think for himself which was the outcome Johan had hoped for when he stopped providing advice.

Re-Read Saturday Notes:

  1. I anticipate that the re-read of The Goal will conclude next week with part 18. Our next book will be The Mythical Man-Month (I am buying a new copy today so if you do not have a copy . . . get a copy today and please use this version of Man-Month).
  2. Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page (here).
  3. Also, if you don’t have a copy of The Goal, buy one and read it!  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version.



As part of my day job I am often asked to help a team, project or department find a way to improve the value they deliver.  When dealing with knowledge work having a single, prescriptive path is rarely effective because even the most mundane product support work includes discovery and innovation. Once we have discovered a path it is important to step back and generalize the approach so that teams can use the process in a variety of scenarios.  I have found that developing a generalized approach is rarely as straight forward as changing the personal pronouns in the process to refer to another group. Regardless of this hard won realization, I still read posts and hear about people that are considering adopting best practices or procedures from other groups without tailoring.  Adopting a process, procedure or even a tool using an untailored, out of the box approach is rarely a good idea in knowledge work.  Alex and his team continue to search for a generalized approach that can be used to transform the entire division

Previous Installments:

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5 
Part 6       Part 7      Part 8     Part 9      Part 10
Part 11     Part 12      Part 13    Part 14    Part 15


Chapter 37. Alex and his team continue their daily meetings do discover the answer to the question “What are the techniques needed for management?” In Chapter 36 the team had settled on a generalized five step process which was:

  1. Find the bottleneck,
  2. Exploit the bottleneck,
  3. Subordinate every other step to the bottleneck,
  4. Elevate the bottleneck, then
  5. Repeat if the bottleneck has been broken.


Ralph (computer guy) voices a concern that they really had not done step three.  After some discussion the team finds that the by constraining how work and material enter the process they really had subordinated all of the steps in the process to the bottlenecks.  Remember that the work and material entering the process had been constrained so the bottlenecks were 100% utilized (no more, no less).  During the discussion, Stacey (materials) recognized that the earlier red/yellow card approach the team had used to control the flow of work into the bottlenecks was still in place and was the cause of the problems she had been observing (Chapter 36). In order to deal with the problems caused by earlier red/yellow card approach and to keep everyone busy, Stacey admitted to have been releasing extra work into the process therefore building excess inventory of finished goods.  The back of the envelope calculations showed that the plant now had 20% extra capacity therefore they needed more orders to keep the plant at maximum capacity.  Alex decides go see Johnny Jons (sales manager) to see if they can prime the sales pump.

These observations led the team to the understanding that every time they recycled through the process they should have re-questioned and revalidated EVERY change they had previously made. The inertia of thinking something will work because it has in the past or because it has for someone else is often not your friend in process improvement!

Chapter 38. Jons, Alex, Lou (plant controller), Ralph and one of Jons more innovative salesmen meet at headquarters to discuss where they can come up with 10 million dollars of additional orders.  During the discussion it comes to light that Jons has a potential deal that he about to reject because the prices are well below standard margins. Alex points out that since the plant has excess capacity the real cost to produce the product is far lower than Jons is assuming (labor and overhead are already sunk costs). The plant could take the order and make a huge profit.  Alex and his team convince Jons to take the order if the potential client will commit to a one year deal.  They further sweeten the deal by committing to a quick deliveries (something other companies can’t emulate) in order to avoid starting a price war.  Jons agrees to accept the order as the potential client is well outside of the company’s standard area of distribution therefore will not impact the margins they getting on other orders.  On the way back to the plant Alex, Lout and Ralph reflect that they had just seen the same type of inertia that the team discovered the previous day in their process improvement approach and that Alex’s new role in changing the whole division will need to address even more organizational inertia.

Later Alex and Julie (wife) reflect that the key to the management practices Alex is searching for lie in the application of the scientific method.  Instead of collecting a lot of data and making inferences, the approach Johan had taken begins with a single observation, develops a hypothesis, leverages if-then relationships and then tests those relationships.  Alex searches popular scientific books for inspiration to his management questions.  When they discuss the topic again, Julie, who has continued to read the Socratic Dialogs, points out that they follow the same if-then pattern that Alex has described as Johan’s approach.

Re-Read Saturday Notes:

  1. I anticipate that the re-read of The Goal will conclude in two weeks with part 18. Our next book will be The Mythical Man-Month (I am buying a new copy today so if you do not have a copy . . . get a copy today and please use this Man-Month).
  2. Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page (here).
  3. Also, if you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version



The idea of continuous process has been part of the business landscape in one form or another since the beginning of time. The leaders of the Total Quality Movement of the late 1980s, such as Juran, Deming and Crosby, certainly hammered the need for continuous change home as US business refocused on product quality. Unfortunately in many cases, the message suffered from two interpretation problems. The first was that process improvement was implemented as a focus on controlling and reducing costs, rather than on increasing process throughput. Secondly, many process improvement programs focused on the one big change rather than finding a generalized process that could continuously generate improvement. Finding and implementing a repeatable process requires culture change and long-term thinking, which are hard to implement. Paraphrasing W. Edwards Deming, we will need constancy of purpose to make continuous process improvement payoff, but with that constancy of purpose we won’t need a single overwhelming change. Alex and his team are recognizing that finding a generalized, repeatable process is not easy.

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5 
Part 6       Part 7       Part 8     Part 9      Part 10
Part 11     Part 12      Part 13    Part 14

Chapter 35. Alex and his team reconvene thier meeting to discover the answer to question “What are the techniques needed for management?”  The team spends the time trying to determine how to reveal the the essential steps that are needed to make change happen in a repeatable fashion.  Goldblatt describes this concept as the “intrinsic order.” This chapter reflects a struggle to find a generalized order or approach that can be used as management structure changes in the plant or to generate change in the other plants that will be reporting to Alex. The meeting ends in frustration but with an agreement to try again the next day.

Chapter 36. Stacey, the material manager, reframes the conversation by asking, “What is our goal as a manager?” In the past the managers had been charged with generating ongoing process improvements. Organizationally, formal process improvement projects were focused on reducing operating expenses, whereas Johan had led Alex and his team to change their focus to throughput. Reducing operating expense went from the most important goal to a distant third place behind throughput and inventory control. This refocusing was tied directly to the goal of increasing profit by increasing plant revenue.

By refocusing the discussion on the goal of process improvement in the plant, the team is able to find a generalized process. It is:

  1. Find the bottleneck in the flow of work.
  2. Decide how to “exploit” the bottleneck (make sure you maximize the flow through the bottleneck).
  3. Subordinate every other step to the bottleneck (only do the work the bottleneck can accommodate).
  4. Elevate the bottleneck (increase the capacity of the bottleneck).
  5. If the bottleneck has been broken repeat the process (a bottleneck is broken when the step has excess capacity).

As a test, Alex and his team cycle through the changes they made. Each change Alex and his team made to the flow of work, changed the nature of the bottleneck, which meant that the team had to cycle through the process again and again to continue to generate improvements. Each change Alex and his team had made used the same process which proved that had found a repeatable process to generate continuous process improvement. Before the team breaks up, it is suggested that the word bottleneck can be re-stated as constraint. A constraint a slightly broader concept and represents an obstacle to an organization achieving its goal whereas a bottleneck refers to a resource with capacity equal or less than the demand placed on it.  In this context not having enough sales orders to maximize the flow through plant would represent a constraint not a bottleneck.

Re-Read Saturday Notes:

  1. I anticipate that the re-read of The Goal will conclude in three weeks with part 18. Our next book will be The Mythical Man-Month (if you do not have a copy . . . get a copy today).
  2. Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goalhave been shifted to a new page (here).
  3. Also, if you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Versionor Kindle Version


I recently had a long discussion about whether it was more important to solve an urgent and specific business problem or to create a culture of process improvement that would avoid crises in the future. My colleague described the immediate problem as threatening to the entire organization. The obvious answer was that the immediate problem needed to be addressed. The question then became whether consultants should be engaged to provide the answer or to help the organization discover the answer. I suggest that doing the later actually negates the first question by generating a solution to the immediate problem while creating a culture of process improvement. Johan in The Goal illustrates this nicely. He helped Alex and his management team discover the answer while building a culture of process improvement.

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5      Part 6      Part 7      Part 8    Part 9   Part 10   Part 11  Part 12
Part 13

Chapter 33 begins with Alex working on assembling his new team. He begins with Lou, the plant accountant. Before Alex can ask him to come with him, Lou explains to Alex that another old measurement has been causing problems with how the plant is perceived and how it behaves. Inventory is accounted for as asset on the balance sheet even though inventory is a liability. Since the plant has become more efficient it is carrying less inventory therefore reducing the assets reported on the balance sheet. During the period of time that inventory was drawn down to the levels needed by the more efficient process the plant looked as if it was increasing the amount of liabilities. Now that a new equilibrium in inventory had been established the problem was not an issue, however Lou notes that, “measurement should induce the parts [of the process} to do what is good for the organization as a whole.” Lou is ready to help Alex and is pumped to focus on building a better measurement program.

Alex approaches Bob Donavan, the plant production manager, to become the division’s production manager. Bob points out that the Burnside order that sealed Alex’s new deal was engineered. Alex and his management team had not just “taken” the order, but rather had worked out the best way the order could be delivered and then had negotiated a deal that benefited everyone. Bob wants to find a way create and document a process in which the plant and engineering can be an integral sales. A process and documentation is needed so that the plant leadership team does not need to be intimately involved in every order. Bob Donavan wants to stay at the plant and become the new plant manager and wants Stacey in materials to become the new production manager.

They find Stacey working on a new potential problem. Stacey has identified that there is a class of resources called capacity constraints resources (CCRs). CCRs are resources that have constraints, but are not bottlenecks. As the processing of work through bottlenecks is improved, CCRs risk becoming bottlenecks which Will negatively impact produvtuvity. Process improvements need to be continually be made across the entire system.

Alex finally turns to Ralph. Ralph points out that he now feels like he is an important part of the team rather than just the computer nerd in the corner. He walks Alex through his ideas of building systems to support engineering, managing buffers and for better measurement.

The experimentation that led to changing how the plant works has changed how Alex’s management team thinks about their jobs. Asking questions and experimenting with changes to the process those questions generate has yielded a much higher level of involvement and commitment.

Chapter 34 jumps to Alex and Julie sitting their kitchen drinking tea. They are discussing how each of Alex’s current team is exploring ideas that might not have an answer. Julie points out that if Johan had not cut him off by suggesting he trust his own judgement Alex might be reaching out to Johan for suggestions rather than trying to work on them as a team.

The discussion of Johan brings them back to Johan’s last question to Alex. Johan had asked, “What  are the techniques needed for management?” Julie suggests that since the questions that Alex’s management team each is currently working on will be around after Alex moves to his new job, why not engage them in answering Johan’s question. They have as much of a stake in the answer as Alex does!

Alex pulls the team together and they spend their first session discussing and drawing the many ways Alex could determine what is going on when he start the new job. There are many ways to answer the question of what is going on. Each yields a different answer based on differences in perspective, approach and an arbitrary order of arranging the results. The wide range of ways to think about the problem make it difficult to actually determine a solution. The group agrees to meet the next day.

Chapters 33 and 34 reflect a shift of focus. With the plant saved, Alex is faced with a need to generalize the process that was used so that it can be used for different problems or scaled up to the next level based on his promotion.

Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page (here).   Also, if you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast. Dead Tree Version or Kindle Version