Goldratt’s Rules of Flow: Chapter 22 – “What Changes to Expect?”

I was hard on Dr. Efrat Goldratt-Ashlag for her earlier writing – here she does a wonderful job facilitating a classroom discussion that builds off of complex topics I first learned of reading her father’s work, and she does a masterful job. Towards the end of the goal, after Rogo’s promotion, there is a great deal of ‘written thought’ in chapters that detail more complex topics around cultural change and the goals of an organization, Chapter 36 is a good example. In Chapter 22 of Rules of Flow, Dr. Efrat brings in many of those topics and does so after outlining a topic – dependent events and statistical fluctuations – that drives variability in project execution and planning. Her father extended the topic and its impact to give it depth; her master stroke here is instead to bring the topic together to show its impact and drive home the importance of short communication loops and psychological safety when working on projects.

This chapter is just as good as Chapter 20, the Turkey Dinner Chapter, in the lively pacing and the importance of the message.

Best Quotes, Writing (Pages 127 – 136)

“Working on projects involves considerable risk management; uncertainty is pretty much the name of the game.” Professor Rick Silver, Page 127

“They’ll give a much higher estimate; an estimate that they believe they can meet even if something goes wrong.” Ted to Professor Silver, Page 128

  • Workers don’t want to be late, so they all sandbag a little.
  • Each of those sandbags, those buffers, accumulates – extending the projected completion time farther than is pragmatic.
  • The constraint is transparent communication and a common planning method.

Ted doesn’t buy it.”If there is so much safety, then how come we don’t see many projects finish ahead of time?”

“That’s because you’re doing a very good job wasting it,” says Rick. An exchange on Page 129

“What you are describing is a classic example of another phenomenon that wastes safety: Parkinson’s Law.”(7) Rick recites, “the work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” – Page 130

  • This is the seventh and final reference in the book.
  • Link to the original 1957 Parkinson Paper.

Rick continues, “There are also other cases in which people finish their tasks early, but they are reluctant to report it.” – Page 131.

  • Psychological safety is essential to effective leadership and project execution.
  • Team members must have confidence their candid feedback will be well received, otherwise flow of information becomes a constraint.

“Once he limited the number of projects his people work on in parallel, the chaos went away, and they were able to really focus on the few projects they were working on.” Marc reflects during class, Page 131

“Once you remove the major obstacles the main thing that happens is that the flow of projects gets going.” – Page 132.

“Like, a week ago my team found a problem that could be easily fixed by another team. We asked our manager if we could transfer the task to them or spend a lot more time working on it from our end.” He chuckles. “As a matter of fact, we’re still waiting for her to decide.” Classmate Charlie highlights how decision making becomes a higher level constraint, Page 132.

“The experts and managers need to be as efficient as possible and do their best not to hold the projects back.” Professor Silver highlights the constraint of leadership and decision making, Page 133.

“Solving problems should become one of their top priorities.” Professor Silver on Leadership and Decisions, Page 134.

“Everyone should be encouraged to bring up problems as soon as they surface so that they can be addressed as early as possible.” Marc says to the class, Page 135.

“If you have a task that should take ten days and you wait until the eight or ninth day to alert your manager that something is wrong, most probably won’t finish the task on time. But if you alert the manager on the first or second day and it’s a high priority for them to help you, there is a much better chance the problem will be resolved without a delay in the project.” Rick explains the importance of candor and quick communication to the class, Page 134.

“You bet it’s different,” Rick emphasizes. “It is a real cultural change.” Page 134.

“He can’t shake the feeling that something is missing, but he can’t put his finger on it.” Marc thinks to himself as he leaves class on Page 135.

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