As a consultant, I frequently remind my clients that I cannot possibly know as much about their company, their industry, or their situation as they do. Therefore, like all really good consultants, I am not in their offices to give them the right answers. I am in their offices to help them ask the right questions.
It has been some years, now, since I have read The Goal (by Eliyahu Goldratt) through from cover to cover. (Although, I used to know a gentleman who worked selling software to manufacturers and he told me that he read The Goal through every year, just to keep the concepts fresh in his mind.)
In this latest release from North River Press, Goldratt’s classic best-seller The Goal has been adapted in graphic novel style by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Dean Motter.
Asking the right questions
It was refreshing to read The Goal – A Business Graphic Novel because it actually helps declutter the background and focuses one’s attention on the crucial points that are so compelling in the original work by “guru to industry” Eli Goldratt.
Consider the following dialog:
Alex: I’m going to a manufacturers’ association conference because my plant has the most experience with industrial robots.
Jonah: Have your robots increased productivity at your plant? [First question]
Alex: Yes—A 36% improvement in one area.
Jonah: Really..? You’re making 36% more money just from installing some robots? [Second question]
Alex: Well, no-o-o. Only one department had a 36% improvement.
Jonah: Then you didn’t really increase productivity.
Alex: I-I’m not sure I understand.
Jonah: Alex, did you ship even one more product per day as a result of installing the robots? [Third question]
Alex: I-I’d have to check.
Jonah: Did you fire anybody? [Fourth question]
Alex: Because of the robots? No. We shifted workers around.
Jonah: Did your inventories go down? [Fifth question]
Alex: Again, I’d have to check.
Jonah: If your inventories haven’t gone down… and your employee expense is unchanged… and your company isn’t selling more product… then those robots haven’t increased your productivity.
Alex: But my efficiencies went up and my costs went down!
Jonah: Alex, it’s clear from your own words, you’re running a very inefficient plant.
Alex: Not according to measurements. Are you saying my people are lying to me?
Jonah: It’s unlikely your people are. But your measurements definitely are.
Alex: Yeah, sometimes we massage the numbers, but….
Jonah: You’re missing the point. You think you’re running an efficient plant… but your thinking is wrong.
In the preceding dialog, Jonah was focused on one thing: the performance of the plant as a whole—the system. Meanwhile, Alex’s training had clearly taught him to measure local efficiencies. Remember, he said, “Only one department had a 36% improvement.”
Jonah cuts to the real questions of system (plant or company-wide) performance with these questions:
- Has system Throughput increased? Have you shipped more product per day?
- Has system operating expenses decreased? Have you fired anybody?
- Has system investment declined? Have inventories gone down?
Jonah concludes with two striking points:
- Your measurements are lying to you, and
- Your thinking is wrong.
We are kept from real improvements and real profits by the things we think we know.
Alex thought he knew that he was doing all he could to improve his operations and make his plant more profitable.
Read the book: You will see that he had no idea of the simple reality that was obscured by his wrong thinking.
Are your measurements lying to you? Is your thinking wrong?
This simple, fast-reading book could help you make your company and your supply chain more profitable through your application of a few sound principles and a paradigm shift in your thinking.
Let us know what you think by leaving your comments below, or by contacting us directly, if you prefer.
REFERENCE: Goldratt, Eliyahu M., and Jeff Cox, adapted by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Dean Motter. The Goal - A Business Graphic Novel. Great Barrington, MA: North River Press Publishing, 2017.