Goldratt’s Rules of Flow: Part 3, Chapters 20 – 27, Pages 117 – 171: The End

[If you haven’t read the original version of The Goal – it’s the original, the classic. Here’s a chapter-by-chapter video summary, and a <60 second summary too.][Click here for a video summary of Rules of Flow.]

Chapter 20 starts at the Thanksgiving dinner table with Mark learning about synchronization from his mother, Laura, in a scenario that will become as popular as Herbie’s scout hike from the original The Goal. This is followed by another likely iconic setting during a bike ride in Chapter 23, where Marc learns about maintaining his energy while cycling with his nephew during a visit with his sister. Between these chapters we’re again in Professor Richard Silver’s executive MBA classroom, where we learn more ways to increase and maintain project flow, as well as the benefits of having high throughput for projects. When he thinks he has accidentally learned of his father’s plan to sell the business, Marc determines that he’ll need to quit – and this gives him the mental permission he needs to finally kiss his crush and employee, Abbie, in Chapter 25. There’s a nice resolution to the classroom setting in Chapter 26 – nicer than the tedious and repetitive introduction and mental debates about the theory of constraints that occupy so many of the chapters in the original The Goal after Alex Rogo’s promotion.

The story resolves quite nicely in Chapter 27; Marc and his sister are summoned to their parent’s house where Isaac hands the business over to Marc, compliments him for the changes he has created using the Theory of Constraints he’s learned in Professor Silver’s course, and let’s both of them know about his terminal disease.

Part 1: Pages 1 – 47, 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.

Part 2: Pages 47 – 116, Chapters 9 – 19 (link)

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.

Chapter 20: Pages 117 – 122 “Synchronization” (Link) Thanksgiving Turkey!

Chapter 20’s focus on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which focuses on the preparation of a Turkey, can go down as a more famous Goldratt-ian metaphor than Herbie and his famous scout hike from The Goal (Chapter 13Chapter 15). Executive MBA professor Rick Silver has asked his class to study synchronization – which is simply aligning the goals of the organization to the primary constraint. For US Thanksgiving – this is the preparation of the turkey, which takes the longest and utilizes the primary tool for cooking, the oven.

Chapter 21: “One-on-One” Pages 123 – 126

This is a clever chapter title as it reflects at least three ‘one-on-ones’!

  1. Marc has a ‘one-on-one’ meeting with Linda, his top software project lead.
  2. Linda brings up that she wants to go ‘one-on-one’ and focus all her time on the company’s software needs and Marc as a savvy leader agrees with her idea.
  3. Lastly, Marc and Abbie wind up each at the same restaurant – recommended by the clever Linda – where they have dinner together – ‘one-on-one’.

Does that make this chapter a ‘three-on-one-on-one’?

Chapter 22: “What Changes to Expect?” Pages 127 – 135

Marc is back in the Executive MBA classroom of Professor Rick Silver who is teaching the Rules of Flow class. 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.

Chapter 23: “Taking Precautions” aka Marc Goes Cycling (Link), Pages 138 – 142

If there was an extended Goldratt universe, along the lines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“MCU“) then Rules of Flow has now added two new athletic activities – weight training in RoF 15 “Enough Weight, Enough Repetitions” and now a long day out cycling with Marc and his nephew Jack. Marc focuses on time as the constraint to their capacity to go riding, while his nephew gently reminds him that their power – a function of their training, nourishment, and energy – is also a constraint. They must meter their food and water, otherwise they won’t be able to complete the circuit they’ve chosen.

Chapter 24: “Buffer Management” (Link), Pages 143 – 153

Marc attends Professor Rick Silver’s Executive MBA course on Rules of Flow. The class discusses how to allocate times to buffers – usually 1/3 is a good rule of thumb. They discuss the ‘fever’ chart to track project timeliness. Marc realizes that a lot of the minutiae he tracks from his team has now become busywork as he has cut the number of projects and increased the flow of WIP.

Chapter 25: “Lead Time is Getting Shorter” (Link) Pages 155 – 159

Big moves in the plot! Marc gets a call for “Mr. Wilson” and accepts it, but it was really a call to his father and now Marc knows that the business sale is about to close. What an accident? Or was it? Marc shares this message with Abbie in a distraught state, she consoles him and they kiss. It is sad how focused they are on their careers and how it prevents the development of their relationship.

Chapter 26: “How to Get Started” (Link), Pages 161 – 168

Marc attends his final executive MBA course on “Rules of Flow” taught by Rick Silver. They discuss four common scenarios on how to deal with project constraints. Lastly, Silver identifies that the ultimate constraint in an organization is leadership time and their ability to focus attention on the highest value opportunities.

Chapter 27: “The Contingency Plan” – END – (Link), Pages 169 – 171

In the final chapter, we resolve the open issues – and the dreadful waiting game unleashed at the close of Chapter 25 by Isaac on Marc, his son and most valued employee, is brought to a close. Isaac discloses the terminal disease, shared first in Chapter 18, to Marc, and his sister, Sam, who has flown in for the dinner. Marc will be given the company to run, Sam will get a share of ownership – but had conveniently signed away interest in running the business already. Isaac has admired the ‘new ways’ that Marc has brought to the business and been giving him space to run – although to the reader it looked like abandonment.

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1 Response to Goldratt’s Rules of Flow: Part 3, Chapters 20 – 27, Pages 117 – 171: The End

  1. Pingback: Goldratt’s Rules of Flow: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review | Fred Lybrand

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