The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
Business fiction is always a crapshoot, but this works. I had a sudden interest in value-chain mapping, so I ordered this book. It’s apparently quite famous in accounting and operations circles.
It’s a…thriller (?) about a plant manager that has three months to save his manufacturing plant. They’re constantly behind on orders, losing money, and they’re about to be closed by their parent company. The protagonist runs into an old acquaintance at an airport who is a management/operations consultant, and he starts asking questions which lead to an overhaul of the plant.
The crux of the book is around The Theory of Constraints, and how to identify and manage bottlenecks in a process. As our team of managers works to save their plant, they realize how much they misunderstood how work flowed through their process.
The book absolutely works. Even as fiction. It’s well-written, and none of it comes across as cringe-y.
I’ll admit that in the last 50 pages, I got a little lost. I understood perhaps 80% of it, but in the later pages, they start to deal with some really fine-tuned issues, and I couldn’t quite track. But some of the earlier points are just so true, based on my experience.
Example: if you have a bottleneck, you need to manage it, because it drags down the entire process. The hero discovers this on a boy scout hike with this son, when he realizes that he needs to put the slowest guy at the front of the line so everyone can manage their speed based on him, or else the line gets strung out. Once everyone is keying off the slow guy, then they need to figure out how to make that guy faster (remove pounds from his pack, it turns out).
Wonderful book. Though the plot is focused around manufacturing, it’s completely applicable to other disciplines – anything that involves a serial process which has throughput constraints on it.