Great explanation of the theory of constraints and operations management. It's a business classic- first published in 1984 - but still relevant as it...moreGreat explanation of the theory of constraints and operations management. It's a business classic- first published in 1984 - but still relevant as it gets at the fundamentals. I almost removed a star for trying to create a fictional story to tell the book in that was badly told/edited. Did we really need the side story about the protagonists marital issues?
One of the biggest takeaways from this book is that it's incredibly important to set the right goals to manage a complex operation. This sounds obvious and intuitive, however it's actually much harder than most people think, and easy to get wrong. It gets down to the question of: is everyone working on the "right things". The things that will lead to the business making the most money. It's too easy to find a things that are easily measurable and saying "this thing is correlated with our success, so let's focus on it". It sounds like "cost accounting" fit into that bucket.
One of the drivers of making money in any business that creates a product is throughput, or how fast a product can be made. The others are costs/operating expenses, and inventory. One of the key concepts of the book is that focusing on throughput rather than costs will yield much better results.
The bottleneck theory, or the theory of constraints, was very useful to think about. My company produces software and not physical products, but each feature we develop definitely has steps it has to go through: creating the concept, research, spec, design, implementation (backend and client), testing, QA, measure results, analyze them, iterate, etc. Focusing on where the bottlenecks are with that process can help us move faster. And every startup needs to be moving fast - and not just at building - we need to be doing build, measure, learn as fast as we can.
A consequence of the bottleneck theory that is useful to keep in mind is that in any system only the bottlenecks should be 100% utilized. Every manager will have a natural tendency to want to utilize all their resources to 100% because that just seems... wasteful if you don't. People should be working full time right? But a system can only run at the speed of the slowest bottleneck, so non-bottlenecks will by definition have spare cycles, and it's important to keep them open for the important work and not fill it up with unimportant stuff that will bog them down when you actually need them on the important stuff.
I've seen this happen many times in software. An engineer finishes a project, and the big important project coming from the design team isn't done yet, so he picks up something small in the meantime. The next day that big important project is ready to go, but the engineer only needs "one more day" to finish this thing he started. And then that day becomes two and then three (because we didn't count QA). And then we've lost 3 days on our most important project for another project that doesn't matter at all. Add that up across a large number of developers, and you've lost a lot of time.
The theory of constraints is not limited to manufacturing, as the author shows. In the end, he is advocating it as a method or process of learning.
One of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, su...moreOne of the best books on leadership I've read. Many people struggle to articulate what leadership really is. This book put a more fine point on it, suggesting that leadership is creating change. The author likes the word "adaptive change". Once a solution to an issue has been accepted and is in motion, it becomes a management issue - a matter of execution - not a leadership issue. Creating change is not easy:
An important point the book made was people can generally only stand so much change at a time. So you have to limit the amount of change you are creating at any given point. A leader also helps people get through the change. They have to acknowledge the change and that it will be difficult, and convincingly paint the picture of why it's worth going through.
Another good concept was that of finding the "orienting value", and finding ways to drive it home and constantly remind people of it. For instance, Roosevelts New Deal or MLK's I Have A Dream speech. Create an image that people can latch onto and keep repeating that everywhere.
Sometimes, conflict has to be worked out among constituents instead of having a solution dictated. I loved the story about Scottie Pippen disobeying Phil Jackson, and then Jackson saying to the team What happened has hurt us. Now you have to work this out. and then leaving the room. Solutions are often achieved when the people with the problem go through the process of creating the solution together.
I liked how the book got into the deeper meaning of life in the end. I've always believed that people need purpose in life, and the authors confirmed that, but warned against getting too wedded to one particular purpose. A useful reminder that the person makes the purpose, not the other way around. We can love our jobs, but it's dangerous to let them define us.(less)
I tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of simil...moreI tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similar elements: a cathedral that needs repair, a brilliant young builder (Merthin), a love story, a priorship up for grabs, and of course political manuevering, backstabbing and evil church officials. Also like the first one, the characters were developed well, the book was hard to put down, and yet it wasn't a deep book, just a fun one. Thank goodness I finished - it was causing me to lose sleep.
I did enjoy learning about the plague, and medieval ideas on health and medicine. Amazing that the plague wiped about a third of the human population, and how little they knew about it. Was frustrated by the lack of the Monks openness to learn new things, and how little they trusted women. For instance they believed in bleeding as a solution to everything when it actually is harmful in most cases. Also was interesting that there was no such thing as a doctor - instead nuns/monks/etc served that role. (less)