Goldratt’s Rules of Flow: A Summary of Part 2 of 3 – Chapters 9 – 19, Pages 47 – 116

Chapters 9 – 12 kick off with Marc Wilson working with his work-crush Abbie to change their approach to project management; telling the team the plan, iterating once they have feedback, and dealing with customer response to the changing methods. Chapters 13 – 18 introduce the concept of “Full Kit” which is a checklist of the necessary ingredients for a successful completion of the next stage of the project. Chapters 13, 16, and 19 are set in the executive MBA classroom of Rick Silver, who serves as the ‘Jonah’ of Rules of Flow. In Chapter 19, the topic of ‘synchronization’ is introduced.

Marc’s team improves their throughput by making the suggested changes about ‘triage’ and controlling WIP that were made in Chapters 1-8. Marc’s sister running the production site becomes frustrated with a deluge of completed projects, indicating that in the last part of the book we should find some Goldratt perspectives on improving the performance of the entire entity, not just Mark’s realm. This is similar to how Alex Rogo is promoted in Chapter 31 of The Goal and with that gets greater perspective. We learn that Isaac, Marc’s father, has an incurable disease that he has not told his kids about, and that he plans to sell the business to a private equity firm.

Chapters 1- 8 (Link)

Marc Wilson, age 32, runs the engineering team for his father, Isaac at the business he created Wilson Advanced Solutions. In the first chapter they loose their biggest customer, Doolen, because their projects are too late, which leads Isaac to say he’s thinking of selling the business. Marc enrolls in an executive MBA program, where his Professor Richard Silver teaches a class on rules of flow. Marc visits his older sister, Sam, who runs the production team at a location in the South and has a successful family – Marc is single and lonely. In class Marc learns about triage and the harmful effects of multitasking.

Chapter 9 – “Will it work?” (Link)

Marc visits with Abbie about cutting the WIP – freezing projects – in order to increase their throughput. Abbie observes that if they want to cut execution time in half, they should probably cut the WIP in half too. These observations are very similar to ones made in Chapter 28 of The Goal.

Chapter 10 – “The Multitasking Game” (Link)

After deciding to move forward in Chapter 9, Marc and Abbie take their idea to the engineering project team – where they meet with some expected resistance. Nonetheless, they persevere.

These observations are very similar to ones made in Chapter 28 of The Goal. The playing of the game is also very similar to what Alex Rogo does with his son’s scout troop in Chapter 14, between Chapters 13 and 15, which encapsulate Herbie’s famous scout hike.

Chapter 11 – “The Misconception About Starting Early” (Link)

Isaac, Marc’s father, hears from a customer that the company’s approach to projects is changing. He meets with Isaac to learn more, and respects his son’s decision to make a bold change. Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag uses a similar writing technique as her father did with Alex Rogo in Chapter 7 of The Goal – the primary character’s ability to retreat is removed, forcing them to try approaches that would otherwise be seen as reckless. Just as Rogo follows Jonah in The Goal to make big changes that are contrary to popular opinion, Marc follows Professor Richard Silver’s guidance on changing their approach to projects because otherwise the business will fail.

Chapter 12 – “Dynamics of Theories and Trends” (Link)

On a Friday evening a few weeks later, Abbie tells Marc that some of the team is idle and unhappy about it. Marc goes on a blind date with Tina. In some ways, the writing about Marc is as unsatisfying as the description of Julie in The Goal.

Chapter 13 – “Full kit” (Link)

Marc is back in Rick Silver’s executive MBA classroom. Professor Silver introduces the concept of “full-kit” or thorough preparation via a written checklist and how to use a stage-gate type process to ensure full-kit before beginning a project. After the class Marc calls Abbie in excitement to let her know he’s got a solution for their woes, and is disappointed to find she is going out on a date.

Chapter 14 – “T Minus Preparation” (Link)

Marc and Abbie roll out the ‘full-kit’ concept to their team. Marc shows Abbie his ‘WIP Board’ and learns that when he caught Abbie on the Saturday evening, her blind date had gone poorly. Abbie and Marc seem lonely, and the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ tension in the writing feels like the constant tension between Alex and Julie Rogo. I wonder if there will be a “You bastard!” misunderstanding scene like there was in Chapter 24 of The Goal.

Chapter 15 – “Enough Weight, Enough Repetitions” (Link)

The author puts the protagonist into a social setting to put the concepts into a different light. Marc lifts with his friend Tim, there are similarities between lifting and focusing on projects. Marc is no longer dating Tina, but hints that he would not date Abbie because she is a co-worker. At just two pages, this short chapter is stylistically similar to Chapter 7 from The Goal; Goldratt used several short chapters to advance the story.

Chapter 16 – “Dosage” (Link)

Marc is back in Professor Rick Silver’s executive MBA course. Professor Richard Silver brings in two guests to talk about the concept of ‘dosage’ for projects, which is really the ‘batch size’ or ‘amount of work done’ for a project. One guest worked in aircraft maintenance and the other in corrections – the concept of dosage helped improve the flow of both of their processes. The concept of dosage here is similar to that of batch size that Goldratt originally focused on in Chapter 28.

Chapter 17 – “Full Kit Before Production” (Link)

The Full-kit concept, first introduced in Chapter 13 continues to be refined – just as Eliyahu Goldratt used Rogo’s experience in the plant to refine key concepts in The Goal. By having clear checklists and only kicking off projects that have the necessary ingredients for success, Marc sees his department is getting more done and the people appear to be happier. His sister, Sam, running the company’s plant is unhappy and calls to tell him so – because Marc’s team increased throughput is releasing more to her team than she is prepared to handle. Similar to the original Goal, where the constraint is perceived to be the robot, the NCX-10, it turns out that there are more constraints once the process is fully mapped. Marc reflects on their situation with Abbie and they note that these ‘gates’ are effective and worth implementing in more positions in their project management process.

Chapter 18 – “Additional Gates” (Link)

We follow our protagonist to a new setting, his parent’s home. Marc has dinner with his parents, Laura and Isaac. A reminder that Isaac is the owner of the business – they apparently haven’t spoken in a month, which is not a good indicator for Isaac’s leadership capabilities. Isaac likes the results of the ‘Rules of Flow’ so far, but shoots down the idea of implementing a “Gate Zero” because he, “understands the customers better.” After Marc leaves, Laura says that his ideas were good, but Isaac rebuffs her as well and we learn that he has some disease that has not been disclosed to his son and that he is under letter of intent (“LOI”) with a private equity firm to sell the business.

It’s easy to put on another hat and see Isaac as a terrible boss and father who doesn’t listen to his son / employee while withholding critical information – his untreatable terminal illness and pending sale of the company. Write this story with that angle and it becomes a warning tale about narcissism and other dark triad activity.

Chapter 19 – “Rework and Standardization” (Link)

Marc is back in his executive MBA course with Professor Richard Silver. The class discusses many topics, Marc observes that local optimization is a trap – in the same way that Jonah pointed out this issue to Alex Rogo in Chapter 8 of The Goal. The fact that rework is a waste of resources and an indicator of other problems is discussed. Rick introduces the concept of synchronization which is the homework assignment.

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