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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

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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).

Remember that the summary of previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page (click 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

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Several weeks ago I was discussing why a team was having trouble completing the work that they committed to delivering in a two week sprint. The team felt that one solution was to shift to a three week sprint, in other words to increase batch size be 50%. I asked the team to identify the problem that was causing the problem. While calendar time is a constraint, the bigger problem turned out to be the size of the user stories they were accepting. The team settled on trying an experiment of thinly slicing their user stories and reducing their sprint duration to one week. The combination of smaller stories enforced by an even tighter calendar constraint is a reduction in batch size. They have been at the new cadence for four weeks and have delivered on their commitments for last three sprints and have decided to continue the “experiment” for the foreseeable future. Cutting batch size is a solution that can work in manufacturing and in software development.

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

Chapter 29

The plant shows incredible progress. Cutting the batch size in half led to less idle time for non-bottleneck resources, where idle time exists it has been spread out more diffusely, and work is flowing through the plant faster with lower overall inventory. However the classic measures, which focus on cost per step in the process rather than the system cost, do not show the improvement. The additional set ups have associated costs and effort which are a problem. Even through the plan is making more completed product with less inventory, the metrics do not show the improvement. Alex and his staff decide to change the measurement basis from 12 months to 2 months, with the rationale that the new process now in place is more endemic of how work will be done going forward. The decision is made despite the agreement that “Frost”, the Head of Accounting at Corporate, and Alex’s Boss, Bill Peach will not approve of the change.

Chapter 29 ends with Jons, the head of sales, bringing Alex a new order for 1,000 items. The client is offering the order to Alex’s company if they can deliver in a month. Jons believes that IF the plant can deliver, the client will shift all of its business to plant. The Alex and his team consider the order. They decide to not sacrifice everything else by not expediting the order, but if the client will accept a counter proposal of a 250 items every week for four weeks beginning two weeks after signing the order they can deliver. In order to deliver the order Alex and his team will need to order components for the item from another company (and have the parts shipped via air freight) and to cut the batch size in half again. The client likes the idea of the staggered deliver (they probably can’t use all 1,000 instantly either).

Chapter 30

The big order, or should we say four smaller orders, is moving well. The first couple of installments have been made on time and Alex’s staff foresee no issues with the rest. The continued reduction in batch size helped the plant meet its goals and has continued to improve the flow through the plant. The plant’s metrics show that inventory is down and throughput has doubled.

Alex receives two messages from Bill Peach. The first is praise for meeting the order and the second is a summons for a plant review. While preparing for the review, accounting discovers the change in the measurement basis (form 12 months to 2 months) that the plant implemented without permission and reacts badly. Lou, the plant accountant, is reprimanded and the numbers are restated. The plant has not met Bill Peach’s demand for a 15% increase.

Jons and Burnside, the client for the big order, arrive at the plant unannounced in a helicopter. They immediately head into the plant. After validating that the last shipment went out on time and without a quality problem Alex heads into the plant to find Burnside shaking every person’s hand he can find. The ability to deliver on time with great quality has made the plant a huge friend, and Jons confides to Alex that Burnside will sign a huge order next week. Jons goes on that with the plant’s quality and cycle time (the time between accepting an order to delivery) they will blow the competition away.

The chapter ends with Alex and Julie, Alex’s estranged wife, deciding to get remarried. All seems to be going well, but there are still 10 chapters left in the book . . .

The summary previous entries in the re-read of The Goal have been shifted to a new page (click 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

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This week I was a participant at the International Software and Measurement (ISMA) Conference, put on by the International Function Point User Group (IFPUG). During the conference, I struck up a conversation with Anteneh Berhane who was sitting behind me during the general session. Our conversation quickly turned to books and unbidden, Anteneh volunteered that The Goal was the type of book that had a major impact on his life. He said that The Goal provided an implementable and measurable framework to think about all types of work (personal and professional). Nearly everyone that I have talked has been impacted by the ideas in the book such small-batch sizes and analytically looking at the whole process that we see in today’s installment of the re-read.

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

Chapter 27

Alex presents the plant’s monthly reports to Bill Peach (Alex’s manager) and Alex’s peers. Even with the troubles with the non-bottleneck parts (Re-Read Part 10), the turnaround has been spectacular. Peach opens the meeting by telling everyone that it is because of Alex’s plant that the division was profitable in the last month. However Peach has no confidence that the turnaround will continue. Peach tells Alex’s that unless the plant delivers an additional 15% increase in profit, Peach will close the plant. Alex commits to the increase with a lot of internal trepidation and no idea how he will deliver the increase.

On the way home Alex visits Julie, his estranged wife. Alex proposes identifying the goal of their marriage and then working backwards to identify what would help them achieve that goal. Alex is applying the many of the ideas from the plant to his personal life. In my conversations between presentations during the ISMA Conference, Anteneh said that understanding the goal of any endeavor is the critical first step toward measuring whether you are attaining that goal (ISMA is a measurement conference). Measuring progress provides feedback to keep you on track.

Chapter 28

Johan calls Alex. Johan will be out of touch for several weeks and he wants to make sure things are going well at the plant. Alex fills him in on the progress and the 15% demand being levied on the plant. Jonah points out since the plant is the only profitable component in the division, Peach probably will not follow through on the threat to close the plant. Side note: Most of us that have managed projects or any other group have been handed stretch goals. Most of these demands are presented in terms of both a carrot (incentives) and stick (consequences). Peach’s words have that sort of ring to them, however Alex has committed and asks Johan if there are any next steps.

Alex meets his management team the next day and relates the first of the next steps. Johan has suggested that the plant cut batch size in half for all non-bottleneck steps. Alex’s management team list the steps and the time for each step needed for a batch.

Batch Time =
set-up time +
processing time +
wait time before processing +
wait time before being assembled into the next step.

The two categories that include wait time are generally the longest in duration, and cutting batch size directly cuts the overall batch time. The only wild card in the equation is the amount of set of time which must occur before each batch. Smaller batches generally decrease wait time more than the additional set up time and will increase the ability to change direction if business needs change.

The concept of shortening batch size has been directly adopted by the Agile community. Time boxes enforce small batch sizes. Teams practicing Scrum will recognize sprint planning as a set-up step required before processing, which includes design, coding and testing. The smaller the batch size the faster value is delivered and the faster feedback is generated.

Alex asks his team whether they feel that the process will allow them to deliver orders in four weeks or less. When they agree he asks for a public commitment. Scrum also uses the idea of public commitment to generate internal team support for an overall goal. If everyone publicly commits it is harder to throw in the towel and it creates an atmosphere where the entire team helps each other out when a problem arises (in Agile we call this swarming).

Johan also suggested that Alex ask the company’s sales department to promote the company’s new ability to deliver quickly to their clients. While not stated, the politics of this idea is wonderful. If Alex and his team can pull delivery change off they will be virtually immune to Bill Peach’s irrational demands. However, when Alex pitches the plant’s new ability to Jons, the sales/marketing manager, he experiences pushback. Jons does not believe the turn around because less than a year before the best the plant could promise was four months (and they were generally late) and now Alex was promising a four week turn around on orders. Alex and Jons end up striking a compromise, sales will promote a six week turnaround on orders. If the plant can deliver in less, Jons will buy Alex a pair of shoes and if the plant misses the 6-week window, Alex will have to buy Jons a pair of shoes.

Summary of The Goal so far:
(Next week I am going to create a separate summary page)

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Chapters 10 through 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works. The introduction of the concepts of dependent events and statistical variation begin the shift the conceptual understanding of what measure towards how the management team can actually use that information.

Chapters 13 through 16 drive home the point that dependent events and statistical variation impact the performance of the overall system. In order for the overall process to be more effective you have to understand the capability and capacity of each step and then take a systems view. These chapters establish the concepts of bottlenecks and constraints without directly naming them and that focusing on local optimums causes more trouble than benefit.

Chapters 17 through 18 introduces the concept of bottlenecked resources. The affect of the combination dependent events and statistical variability through bottlenecked resources makes delivery unpredictable and substantially more costly. The variability in flow through the process exposes bottlenecks that limit our ability to catch up, making projects and products late or worse generating technical debt when corners are cut in order to make the date or budget.

Chapters 19 through 20 begins with Johan coaching Alex’s team to help them to identify a pallet of possible solutions. They discover that every time the capacity of a bottleneck is increased more product can be shipped.  Changing the capacity of a bottleneck includes reducing down time and the amount of waste the process generates. The impact of a bottleneck is not the cost of individual part, but the cost of the whole product that cannot be shipped. Instead of waiting to make all of the changes Alex and his team implement changes incrementally rather than waiting until they can deliver all of the changes.

Chapters 21 through 22 are a short primer on change management. Just telling people to do something different does not generate support. Significant change requires transparency, communication and involvement. One of Deming’s 14 Principles is constancy of purpose. Alex and his team engage the workforce though a wide range of communication tools and while staying focused on implementing the changes needed to stay in business.

Chapters 23 through 24 introduce the idea of involving the people doing the work in defining the solutions to work problems and finding opportunities. In Agile we use retrospectives to involve and capture the team’s ideas on process and personnel improvements. We also find that fixing one problem without an overall understanding of the whole system can cause problems to pop up elsewhere.

Chapters 25 and 26 introduce several concepts. The first concept is that if non-bottleneck steps are run at full capacity, they create inventory and waste. At full capacity their output outstrips the overall process’ ability to create a final product. Secondly, keeping people and resources 100% busy does not always move you closer to the goal of delivering value to the end customer. Simply put: don’t do work that does not move you closer to the goal of the organization. The combination of these two concepts suggests that products (parts or computer programs) should only be worked on and completed until they are needed in the next step in the process (Kanban). A side effect to these revelations is that sometimes people and processes will not be 100% utilized.

Note: 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

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Part of the reason I embarked on Re-Read Saturdays was to refresh myself on a number of books that have had significant impact on my career. Re-grounding myself was somwhat of a selfish idea; however at the same time as I refreshing myself on important concepts Re-read Saturday has provided a platform to share those ideas with a wider audience. As we begin the second half of the re-read of The Goal, I have been struck how many people have been exposed to the ideas in The Goal and how many of those ideas they have put into action, even if they can’t recite the Theory of Constraints verbatim. For example, the development and test manager that recognizing the handoff from development to test as a bottleneck and worked out a priorization scheme that maximized throughput of critical projects. Earlier entries in this re-read are:

Part 1       Part 2       Part 3      Part 4      Part 5      Part 6      Part 7      Part 8

Chapter 23: Alex meets with Ted Spencer, the supervisor for the heat-treat area, who is asking Alex to get the “computer guy” (Ralph) off his back. Ralph is asking Ted to keep significantly better records of when parts enter and exit the heat-treat process. Ted indicates that he does not know why Ralph wants the data. In the past few chapters we have seen the power of transparency and communication to support process changes; in this scenario the lack of transparency has generated conflict. When Alex meets with Ralph he finds that has been trying to use the process data to understand why more shipments have not been being completed, and has noticed SIGNIFICANT variability in the times that parts enter and exit the heat-treat process. Often parts that have been completed sit until someone has time to unload the furnace. This originally lead him to question the validity of the data, so he requested that Ted to generate better data. The issue turns out to be that parts are often not immediately unloaded after the heat-treat process due to timing and staffing issues. The furnace is loaded and then heats the parts for four or five hours before being ready to be unloaded. In order to maximize efficiency, people are assigned other jobs during the heating process, which causes the timing and resource contention problems. The heat-treat bottleneck is not being run at or near maximum capacity, which reduces the output of the plant. As Ralph leaves he mentions that he believes they can predict when orders ship based on the bottlenecks (this is a bit of foreshadowing; however an area of further reading you might consider is our discussion of Little’s Law). Note that the problem with the heat-treat process was identified through measurement and analysis of the data. The problem Ralph identified is a reflection of the ripple effect of other changes and that as the process is refined better information is exposed.

Alex and Rob Donavon, the production supervisor, meet (loudly) over the discovery that the heat-treat process is not being used to maximum capacity. The discussion unearths that similar timing and resource problems are happening at the NCX-10, even though the new work rules ensure that no breaks are taken during machine set-up. The problem occurs when the machine stops and before the set-up begins again. They decide to staff both bottlenecks 24×7 so there is no downtime. The problem of who to staff the NCX-10 and heat-treat with immediately exposes a new set of constraints, this time as a reflection of the overall organization’s policies on pay and hiring. Hiring, including layoff callbacks, are currently frozen, therefore Alex and his team need to rob Peter to pay Paul. (A bit of foreshadowing – the impact of change can ripple through other process steps.)   In an overall sense, the efficiency of both the heat-treat and NCX-10 steps as measured in terms of cost per unit is being reduced while the overall effectiveness of the plant is being increased by the changes being made.

One of the other steps taken as part of the new changes to staff the bottlenecks is that Alex has let the foremen in the heat-treat area know that they will be rewarded for changes that improve the output of the process. The third-shift foreman makes two process changes that have a significant impact. He has broken high priority orders down and batched parts that require the same treatment together, and has prepped the material so that it is staged to be loaded as soon as the furnace is ready. He also points out to Alex that with a little help from engineering they can modify the loading process so that parts can be wheeled in and wheeled out rather than lifted in an out by a crane. The foreman is immediately shifted to first shift to work with engineering to make the changes and document the process. In Agile frameworks like Scrum this is EXACTLY why the teams doing the work need to reflect on how they are doing the work and take steps to improve their processes.

Chapter 24 begins on an up note! The plant has been able to ship more orders with a higher sales value than ever before, while reducing the level of work-in-progress. Champagne flows! During the celebration Bill Peach (Alex’s boss) calls and delivers praise from one the clients that has noticed that his orders are getting delivered. In light of the continuing celebration Alex is driven home by a female member of staff, which leads to complications with Julie, his estranged wife, who just happens to be waiting to surprise Alex. If Alex’s marriage problems were not enough, the next workday Alex discovers that like a virus, the bottlenecks have spread. Changes to the process to focus on making the parts that flow through the bottleneck more available have caused process steps for other parts to become bottlenecks.

Alex tracks down Johan and briefs him on what they have done. Johan suggests a visit to see what has been accomplished.

The Goal is truly about the Theory of Constraints; however Johan’s role is the same as an Agile coach. Johan rarely solves the plants problems directly, but rather asks the questions that lead to a solution. The Goal provides a great side benefit of reinforcing one the central ideas of Agile coaching.

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Chapters 10 through 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works. The introduction of the concepts of dependent events and statistical variation begin the shift the conceptual understanding of what measure towards how the management team can actually use that information.

Chapters 13 through 16 drive home the point that dependent events and statistical variation impact the performance of the overall system. In order for the overall process to be more effective you have to understand the capability and capacity of each step and then take a systems view. These chapters establish the concepts of bottlenecks and constraints without directly naming them and that focusing on local optimums causes more trouble than benefit.

Chapters 17 through 18 introduces the concept of bottlenecked resources. The affect of the combination dependent events and statistical variability through bottlenecked resources makes delivery unpredictable and substantially more costly. The variability in flow through the process exposes bottlenecks that limit our ability to catch up, making projects and products late or worse generating technical debt when corners are cut in order to make the date or budget.

Chapters 19 through 20 begins with Johan coaching Alex’s team to help them to identify a pallet of possible solutions. They discover that every time the capacity of a bottleneck is increased more product can be shipped.  Changing the capacity of a bottleneck includes reducing down time and the amount of waste the process generates. The impact of a bottleneck is not the cost of individual part, but the cost of the whole product that cannot be shipped. Instead of waiting to make all of the changes Alex and his team implement changes incrementally rather than waiting until they can deliver all of the changes.

Chapters 21 through 22 are a short primer on change management. Just telling people to do something different does not generate support. Significant change requires transparency, communication and involvement. One of Deming’s 14 Principles is constancy of purpose. Alex and his team engage the workforce though a wide range of communication tools and while staying focused on implementing the changes needed to stay in business.

Note: 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

 

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I first read The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement when I actively became involved in process improvement.  I was bit late to the party; however since my first read of this business novel, a copy has always graced my bookshelf.  The Goal uses the story of Alex Rogo, plant manager, to illustrate the theory of constraints and how the wrong measurement focus can harm an organization. The focus of the re-read is less on the story, but rather on the ideas that have shaped lean thinking. Even though set in a manufacturing plant the ideas are useful in understanding how all projects and products can be delivered more effectively.  Earlier entries in this re-read are:

Part 1                Part 2                  Part 3                      Part 4                Part 5           Part 6             Part 7

 

Chapter 21: This chapter is bookended by Alex’s martial travails. The chapter opens with Alex making a date with Julie (Alex’s wife). I remember the first time I read the book being worried about Alex’s ability to set a date and time and meet it . . . heck, his plant can’t meet dates.

When Alex’s team identifies the late orders (which was easy), they find that the majority of the late orders are processed through one or both of the bottleneck steps. Some people conceive of manufacturing sector as a set of assembly lines in which the process seldom, if ever, varies. The description of the manufacturing in The Goal is much more akin to a job shop in which the process steps vary depending on the job. This is VERY similar to much of the work done in software development, enhancement and maintenance. If you surface read The Goal you might not see the applicability to software development or other business processes because of this false impression.

Alex tasks his team to ensure that the work following through the bottlenecks is focused on the critical orders. The team sets out to implement the initial wave of changes they discussed with Johan. As with any change the unless specifically addressed those asked to change do not automatically understand why which casues resistance. The Goal uses two situations to push the ideas of communication and transparency as a change management tool. The first occurs when Alex finds the NCX-10 is not running. The inventory for the next critical order is not at the machine therefore the operator is waiting. The material is at an earlier stage. The operator did not recognize the material as being important, therefore opted to follow standard operating procedure. This scenario generates one of the best lines in the book, “if you have to break the rules to do the right thing, maybe the rules are not the right rules.” Similarly, the union head immediately pushed back when asked to change the work rules needed to keep the NCX-10 running during lunch and breaks. Alex recognizes that everyone needs to see the big picture and needs a signal to know which work behavior is needed. Based on these two issues, Alex immediately implements two changes. The first is a   signal card (red tag) to indicate priority orders (very similar to Kanban), and second Alex and his staff begin briefing EVERYONE in the plant (transparency, one of the pillars of Scrum) on the the impact of the changes they were being asked to make. The transparency of the management team about reason the plant was being asked to change helped sway the union.  After Alex personally address everyone in the plant in small meetings the union agreed to the work rule changes and the other changes begin to take hold.

Alex’s date with Julie? In the end Alex showed up on time and they went for the date.

Chapter 22: Alex reviews the progress with his team. The situation has improved by ensuring that the priority orders move through the bottlenecks first and moving quality control to before the both of the bottlenecks. Before the changes the latest order was 58 days behind, now the latest order was only 44 days behind. The problem as Alex sees it, it is not enough.  Goldratt speaking though Alex says, “a few weeks ago we were limping along; now we’re walking but we ought to jogging.”  The changes generated some progress, but not enough. Alex pushes Donavan to address the other ideas that they had addressed with Johan, These included outsourcing some of the processing through the bottlenecks to generate capacity.

As they use the signaling system (red card = a critical order), they begin to discover problems. For example, parts that are queued for processing through the bottleneck steps are not easily distinguishable before and after the process, risking mistakes.  A yellow flag is added to the red card to signal processing is complete (the changes to the process is a reflection of an attitude of continuous process improvement). Alex points out that he does not want stop gap measures and is assured that his team will get to the bottom of the problem, fix the process and re-train the staff (dealing with the deeper issue is a reflection of a culture where root-cause analysis is performed so that problems aren’t just glossed over). The tweaks to the process improve throughput, but don’t generate the quantum change the plant needs.

The chapter ends with Donavon, who has been missing in action, who shows up with the old machines of type that the NCX-10 replaced. Even though, as they put it, the machines he had scavenged from another plan were “state of the art circa 1942”, but they provided extra capacity for the bottlenecked NCX-10. The added capacity, when implemented, will increase the capacity of the bottlenecked step. Remember the overall process capacity is directly governed by the capacity of the bottleneck.

I was talking recently with a Scrum team that included a product owner, coach, 4 coders and one tester. The tester was the only person allowed to test. It had been six months since the team was consistently able to complete a story during the sprint it was accepted in. They wondered if increasing the sprint duration from one week to three would solve their consistency problem. We built a Kanban board to visualize the flow of work through the team. Once the board was built it was immediately apparent that the bottleneck was the single tester. The question I left them to wrestle with was whether the answer would be to reduce the number of coders (implement work-in-progress limits) or to increase the number of testers (add capacity). This is a real life example of how the ideas and concepts expressed in The Goal are just relevant in the world of software development as they are in manufacturing.

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Chapters 10 through 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works. The introduction of the concepts of dependent events and statistical variation begin the shift the conceptual understanding of what measure towards how the management team can actually use that information.

Chapters 13 through 16 drive home the point that dependent events and statistical variation impact the performance of the overall system. In order for the overall process to be more effective you have to understand the capability and capacity of each step and then take a systems view. These chapters establish the concepts of bottlenecks and constraints without directly naming them and that focusing on local optimums causes more trouble than benefit.

Chapters 17 through 18 introduces the concept of bottlenecked resources. The affect of the combination dependent events and statistical variability through bottlenecked resources makes delivery unpredictable and substantially more costly. The variability in flow through the process exposes bottlenecks that limit our ability to catch up, making projects and products late or worse generating technical debt when corners are cut in order to make the date or budget.

Chapters 19 through 20 begins with Johan coaching Alex’s team to help them to identify a  pallet of possible solutions. They discover that every time the capacity of a bottleneck is increased more product can be shipped.  Changing the capacity of a bottleneck includes reducing down time and the the amount of waste the process generates. The impact of a bottleneck is not the cost of individual part, but the cost of the whole product that cannot be shipped. Instead of waiting to make all of the changes Alex and his team implement changes incrementally rather than waiting until they can deliver all of the changes.

Note: 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

IMG_1249

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, published in 1984, is a business novel. The Goal uses the story of Alex Rogo, plant manager, to illustrate the theory of constraints and how the wrong measurement focus can harm an organization. The focus of the re-read is less on the story, but rather on the ideas the book explores that have shaped lean thinking. Earlier entries in this re-read are:

Part 1                         Part 2                         Part 3                         Part 4                      Part 5

This week I attended the CMMI EMEA conference.  Kirk Botula, CEO of the CMMI institute delivered a great speech about developing and managing capability.  Capability is ability to do something.  Without capabilities, individuals, teams and organizations are powerless. Tools like the CMMI, Agile and lean provide frameworks to decide which capabilities are important and then to measure the level and impact of current capabilities. During Kirk’s talk he referenced two books.  The first was Out of the Crisis by Edwards Deming and The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Jeff Cox and Eliyahu Goldratt.  Deming’s work defined the continuous process improvement movement, while Goldratt framed the lean movement.  Later during the week I asked a group of C-level executives if they were familiar with The Goal and the Theory of Constraints.  Unfortunately the answer was not a resounding yes.  The limited awareness is problematic because that leads to a focus on cost containment and efficiency as the most important goals over effectiveness and throughput. Over focusing on cost and efficiency leads sub-optimal performance and in the long run market failure. In this installment of Re-read Saturday we begin to encounter the nuts and bolts that make the Theory of Constraints an effective tool for structured process improvement.

Chapter 17

After dealing with the complications of a household in turmoil (Alex’s household is a reflection of a series of dependent events and statistical variability), Alex arrives at the plant to find an order for an important client is late. Alex explains how dependent events and statistical variability will lead to the sub-optimal performance of a system. Despite Alex’s revelations from observing the scout troop, his team believes they can deliver the parts in time to make the last truck at 5 PM. Alex places a ten dollar bet that the parts will not be ready ship that day due to variations in the production process.  The production of the parts requires two steps. The first step in the production process averages 25 parts per hour. In this case the production started slowly, however by the end of four hours 100 parts had been completed. Therefore the process had averaged 25 parts per hour. The production ranged from 19 parts to 32 parts. While the second step in the process had the same 25 parts per hour capacity, because of the variability of the first processes the capacity of the second process was exceeded on two occasions, therefore all 100 parts were not completed.

Chapter 18

Alex and his now attentive staff (the performance on late order has gotten their attention) attempt to determine how to control the flow of work thought the steps in the process (dependent events) as they are subject to statistical variability.They consider longer lead-time as a method to smooth the flow, because longer lead times would generate higher inventories to reduce efficiency. As a group they elect to call Johan, who introduces another new concept: bottleneck and non-bottleneck resources. A bottleneck resource is any resource that has a capacity that is equal to or less than the demand placed upon it. Any variability in the flow of work that is beyond the capacity of the bottlenecked resources will generate a backlog. While The Goal was written from the point of view of a manufacturing plant, bottlenecks can occur in any type of project. Any resource that is planned to 100% capacity is a bottlenecked resource. Through discussion with Johan the team discovers that like the scout troop the capacity of the plant is governed by the step with the least capacity. In the plant, the team needs to discover the bottlenecks that are blocking their ability to deliver effectively.

Bottlenecks are neither good or bad in their own right. A process with infinite capacity at all steps will not be efficient because resources would be under utilized. Bottlenecks can be used to generate a predictable process. This a reflection of how Alex used the slow scout in Chapter 15. Also understanding the capacity and variability of the bottleneck step will help make the process predictable.

When the staff discovers the bottleneck, it generates a process of discovery in which the team discovers that they really don’t know the process well and that the time accounting data is less than perfect. The big revelation is that looking for steps in the process with build-ups of work-in-process waiting to be addressed are an indication of a bottleneck. In this case the team finds two culprits. The first is the industrial robot that is darling of senior management and the second is the heat treatment step. The bottlenecks cannot be moved to the head of the column like Alex did to solve the problem with the boy scouts, nor can extra capacity be generated by increasing staff or buying machines. The workday ends with Alex searching for a solution.

The affect of the combination dependent events and statistical variability on the plant floor is obvious. In a manufacturing plant where processes are heavily automated variability might be low, however it still exists. In software or product development same interaction of process steps and variability exits although because the work tends to be more discovery-oriented, the variability is probably higher making the impact more substantial and less predictable. The variability in flow through the process exposes bottlenecks that limit our ability to catch up, making projects and products late or worse generating technical debt when corners are cut in order to make the date or budget.

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Chapters 10 through 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works. The introduction of the concepts of dependent events and statistical variation begin the shift the conceptual understanding of what measure towards how the management team can actually use that information.

Chapters 13 through 15 drive home the point that dependent events and statistical variation impact the performance of the overall system. In order for the overall process to be more effective you have to understand the capability and capacity of each step and then take a systems view. These chapters establish the concepts of bottlenecks and constraints without directly naming them and that focusing on local optimums causes more trouble than benefit.

Note: 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

IMG_1249

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, published in 1984, is a business novel. The Goal uses the story of Alex Rogo, plant manager, to illustrate the theory of constraints and how the wrong measurement focus can harm an organization. The focus of the re-read is less on the story, but rather on the ideas the book explores that have shaped lean thinking. Earlier entries in this re-read are:

Part 1                         Part 2                         Part 3                         Part 4

In the next 4 chapters Alex stumbles on the how the concepts of dependent events and variability affect the flow of work, nearly literally.

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 begins with Alex awaking to his son, Dave, in his Boy Scout uniform waiting to go on a weekend hike and camping trip. Alex ends up as the leader due to the absence of the normal scout master.   The column of scouts sets out with an adult, Ron, leading the way. Alex asks Ron to set a pace that is consistent and maintainable. The scouts create a queue based on the arcane rationale of young boys, and Alex anchors to the column to ensure the troop stays together. The column spreads out immediately even though everyone is moving at the same “average” speed. The interaction amongst the hikers is a series of dependent events. Scouts speed up and slow impacting those behind them. The act of speeding up and slowing down is the statistical variation described in Chapter 12. The speed of any individual hiker is influenced by the person directly ahead them in the line. Finally Alex realizes that the speed of the overall hike is less a reflection of first person in line than the last person in line. In the software-testing world, testing is not complete when the first test is done, but rather when the last test is completed.

Side Note: Anyone that wants to understand why every effort should be made to remove or reduce dependencies needs to read these this of chapters carefully. Dependencies make any process A LOT more complicated.

Chapter 14

Rogo considers how to reduce the statistical variation in the column. While stopping for lunch, Alex recruits a few of the scouts to play a game using match sticks, bowls and a die (they are boy scouts . . . ready for anything, including dice games). The game is played by moving match sticks between bowls. The number match sticks moved in each step is based on the roll of the die. As Alex gathers statistics by repeating the game, the combination of dependent events (movement of the match sticks from one bowl to another) and statistical variation (die roll) show him how build ups of inventory occurs between steps. The flow of work becomes irregular and unmanageable.

Side Note: This is a great game to play with software teams to drive home the point of the impact of variability.

Chapter 15

As the troop starts out from lunch, Alex considers the concept of reserves as a mechanism to fix the flow problem (spreading out) the troop is having. He watches the slowest kid in the troop fall behind and then sprint to catch up over and over, generating a large gaps in the line. The troop is utilizing all of its energy to stay together meaning that it has no spare capacity to recover when gaps appear. Consider software teams that generate plans with 100% utilization. As any developer or tester knows nothing goes exactly as planned, and as soon as a problem is encountered you are immediately behind if you are 100% utilized.

Another option he considers is to have everyone hike as fast as they can individually. In this scenario everyone would optimize their individual performance. The outcome would be chaos with scouts strung out all over the trail. With the troop spread out on the it would be impossible to know when the last person would get to the camp for the night.  Remember the hike is only complete when the last person gets to camp, therefore chaos does not promote predictability. In Alex’s plant, even though they are using robot and each step is running at high levels of efficiency orders are not completing on-time. Similar problems can be seen in many software projects with developers and testers individually running at 100% capacity and high levels of efficiency while functionality is delivered well after it was promised.

When Rogo realizes that the process is only as fast as the slowest person, he decides to re-adjust the line of scouts so that the slowest is in front. The gaps immediately disappear. With the process now under control he can shift to helping the slowest person speed up, therefore improving the whole process.

Chapter 16 moves the novel plot forward with Julie, Alex’s wife, dumping Alex’s daughter at Alex’s mother’s house and leaves Alex.

Chapters 13 – 15 drive home the point that dependent events and statistical variation impact the performance of the overall system. In order for the overall process to be more effective you have to understand the capability and capacity of each step and then take a systems view. These chapters establish the concepts of bottlenecks and constraints without directly naming them and that focusing on local optimums causes more trouble than benefit.

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Chapters 10 through 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works. The introduction of the concepts of dependent events and statistical variation begin the shift the conceptual understanding of what measure towards how the management team can actually use that information.

Note: 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

IMG_1249

Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox wrote The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement in 1984.  The Goal is a business novel. It uses the story of Alex Rogo, plant manager, to illustrate the theory of constraints and how the wrong measurement focus can harm an organization. The focus of the re-read to-date has been on the ideas and concepts that affect Software Process and Measurement readers and listeners. The focus we are taking is not meant as a slight to the part of this book that is a novel, but rather to provide focus on the ideas that have shaped lean thinking. Earlier entries in this re-read are:

Part 1                       Part 2                       Part 3

In the next 3 chapters Alex and his team begin to explore how their newly emerging understanding of throughput, inventory and operational expense can be applied in their organization.

Chapter 10

In Chapter 8 Alex and Johan discussed three critical definitions:

Throughput – the rate at which the system generates money through sales.

Inventory – all of the money the system has invested in purchasing things it intends to sell.

Operational Expense – all the money the system spends in order to turn inventory into throughput.

In Chapter 10 Alex and team  discuss whether all of the activities at the plant can be measured by the concepts of throughput, inventory and operational expense. The three definitions equate to money coming in, inventory is money in the system and operational expense is money that leaves the system. The three measures generate consternation and debate. For example, the team spends time debating individual expenses and whether the expense is operational or included in inventory. In the end they conclude that everything can be measured by the three measures. The problem is that they can’t conceive of how the three metrics can be used to turn the plant around. Alex goes to off New York City to meet with Johan the next morning to get some more answers.

Chapter 11

Alex and Johan discuss the problems in the plant over coffee in the hotel restaurant before Johan meets the people he in NYC to visit. Johan guides Alex by asking questions and letting him find the answers for himself (many of us would recognize the techniques Johan uses to help Alex to formulate answers as being very similar to those used in Agile coaching). Key discoveries include the realization that the inventory problem the plant is experiencing is a reflection of over utilization of plant personnel on specific tasks rather than focusing on throughput. The measure of 100% capacity utilization leads to inefficiencies when the parts can’t be used. Conceptually this point is the same as if a software development process that segregates coders and testers, and one group produces more than the other can immediately absorb. For example, coders often keep generating more code even if the testers can’t immediately begin testing the work that is being handed off. The Agile/lean concept of self-organizing teams would attack the problem differently by shifting resources to avoid building excess inventory. The organization’s over-reliance on that single measure of efficiency in isolation has caused disastrous results.

Johan and Alex identify two phenomenon that cause the problems that Alex and his management team are seeing. The first is the idea of dependent events, which is when one event must happen before another. For example, code must be written before the unit tests can be run. The second is statistical fluctuation, said differently all process have some degree of variability. The execution of events vary for many reasons. The book uses an example of a waiter and the variability in the time needed bring the check and pay (Johan was pressed for time and had fit his meeting with Alex into his breakfast). If we consider coding and unit testing as a process, most of us would recognize that coding and and testing any specific piece of work has a degree of variability. Variance could be caused because some problems are harder or the programmer might get hungry and go to lunch before they finish a specific piece of work. When both concepts interact process variability becomes much harder to “plan” out of existence.

Johan leaves Alex with the question of how he can apply these concepts and the three measures to save the plant.

Chapter 12

This chapter could easily be written off as purely back-story. However in the discussion with his wife, she and Alex discuss how to establish a pace that respects both the needs of the businesses and family life. In today’s IT environment we would recognize the discussion as one of sustainable pace. Sustainable pace typically reflects a rate of work that can be consistently performed. It is a concept commonly used when discussing Agile.

Chapters 10 – 12 mark a turning point in the book. Alex has embraced a more systems view of the plant and that the measures that have been used to date are more focused on optimizing parts of the process to the detriment to overall goal of the plant.  What has not fallen into place is how to take that new knowledge and change how the plant works.

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however performance is falling even further behind and fear has become central feature in the corporate culture.

Chapters 4 through 6 shift the focus from steps in the process to the process as a whole. Chapters 4 – 6 move us down the path of identifying the ultimate goal of the organization (in this book). The goal is making money and embracing the big picture of systems thinking. In this section, the authors point out that we are often caught up with pursuing interim goals, such as quality, efficiency or even employment, to the exclusion of the of the ultimate goal. We are reminded by the burning platform identified in the first few pages of the book, the impending closure of the plant and perhaps the division, which in the long run an organization must make progress towards their ultimate goal, or they won’t exist.

Chapters 7 through 9 show Alex’s commitment to change, seeks more precise advice from Johan, brings his closest reports into the discussion and begins a dialog with his wife (remember this is a novel). In this section of the book the concept “that you get what you measure” is addressed. In this section of the book, we see measures of efficiency being used at the level of part production, but not at the level of whole orders or even sales. We discover the corollary to the adage ‘you get what you measure’ is that if you measure the wrong thing …you get the wrong thing. We begin to see Alex’s urgency and commitment to make a change.

Note: 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

IMG_1249

 

Summary of The Goal so far:

Chapters 1 through 3 actively present the reader with a burning platform. The plant and division are failing. Alex Rogo has actively pursued increased efficiency and automation to generate cost reductions, however, performance is falling even further behind and fear has become a central feature in the corporate culture. (more…)