The Goal – Chapter 04

With Chapter 04, the reader is 10% in to Goldratt’s classic and the pattern and story structure are getting clearer.

  • This is a two-week flashback to an encounter with a former professor.
  • Rogo is on his way to a presentation about robotics improving productivity.
  • His professor takes on the Yoda / mentor role and asks about his plant, robotics productivity and company goals.
  • This causes Rogo embarrassment and inner conflict as he realize that he cannot answer simple questions which tie together corporate-speak with his goals.

Operations Highlight

“It is very unlikely your people are lying to you. But your measurements definitely are.”

People want to do right, teams want to win.  Sometimes they are caught in the wrong structure and the wrong scorekeeping so they cannot see the right actions to pursue.

Writing Highlight

I’m beginning to feel somewhat insulted by this.

If you’re a manager not performing to your own goals and objectives – it is embarrassing.  It feels insulting to be questioned when so much effort is being laid to support a company, especially when it creates sacrifice for family.  Goldratt nails this emotion, further pulling in the reader.

Page by Page

P026 – “I got a grant to go and study some of the mathematical models you were working on.”  Rogo needs help and he needs perspective – but simply focusing on the problem hasn’t created a solution.  From Ch01, we know he works hard.  We know he is committed – he’s got to take a different tact to solving his problems to find the answer.

P027 – “See, it was just in one department that we had a thirty-six percent improvement.” Rogo boasts to Jonah. “Then you didn’t really increase productivity,” he [Jonah] says.  Rather than sputtering corporate speak, Jonah asks questions and points out the absurdity of some of Rogo’s situation.  Clarity and perspective will often help resolve situations.

P028 –  “But if your inventories haven’t gone down . . . and your employee expense was not reduced . . . and if your company isn’t selling more products—which obviously it can’t, if you’re not shipping more of them—then you can’t tell me these robots increased your plant’s productivity.” From The Lean Startup – all of these numbers would be considered Vanity Metrics.

P029 – Jonah to Alex, ““Besides, I see those symptoms in a lot of the manufacturing plants.”  If the solution was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Jonah, with his perspective helps Alex recognize that if everyone could fix their problems the way he had been working, then the problems would not be there.

P030 – “Yes, well, if you could start to think about what we’ve been discussing, you probably could get your plant out of the trouble it’s in.” [Teach a man to fish…]

“I’m curious,” I tell Jonah, “what made you suspect something might be wrong with my plant?” “You told me yourself,” Jonah says. “No, I didn’t.” “Alex,” he says, “it was clear to me from your own words that you’re not running as efficient a plant as you think you are. You are running exactly the opposite. You are running a very in-efficient plant.”

“No,” he says. “It is very unlikely your people are lying to you. But your measurements definitely are.” [Vanity metrics!]

“You think you’re running an efficient plant . . . but your thinking is wrong.”

“What’s wrong with my thinking?”

P031 –  It’s no different from the thinking of most other managers.” “Yes, exactly,” says Jonah. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask; I’m beginning to feel somewhat insulted by this. “Alex, if you’re like nearly everybody else in this world, you’ve accepted so many things without question that you’re not really thinking at all,” says Jonah.

[Rogo’s fringe feeling of being insulted is not Jonah’s issue.  If Rogo wants answers, he is going to be uncomfortable.  Jonah cannot simultaneously expect Jonah to provide him with useful feedback, and demand that it be spoonfed to him.]

“When you are productive you are accomplishing something in terms of your goal, right?”

P032 –  And he’s saying, “Alex, I have come to the conclusion that productivity is the act of bringing a company closer to its goal. Every action that brings a company closer to its goal is productive. Every action that does not bring a company closer to its goal is not productive.”

Here, 4 chapters in we have a clear Theory of Constraint definition of productivity.  1/ Activities towards the goal are productive.  2/ Activities not towards the goal are not productive.

P033 – “Alex, you cannot understand the meaning of productivity unless you know what the goal is. Until then, you’re just playing a lot of games with numbers and words.”

in Lean Startup terms – this game playing is called, “playing house.” It looks good, but it is a cargo cult, not meant to seriously create growth.  Companies can rarely indulge themselves with such detours and game playing.

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