Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 43

Dedication to Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt

It’s been a little over a month ago since Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt passed away and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to dedicate this blog posting to the man that has shaped my career more than any other man (or woman) ever has. For those of you who may not be familiar with Dr. Goldratt, he is the man who created the Theory of Constraints.  Yes, W. Edwards Deming and Taichci Ohno impacted me as well, but it wasn’t until I picked up and read a copy of The Goal that everything fell into place. When I was a much younger man, back in the early 1980’s, I was deep into TQM and I followed Dr. Deming’s teachings. I learned all I could about his philosophies, tools and continuous improvement techniques.  I even took the time to memorize Dr. Deming's 14 points and tried to apply them wherever I could. I remember thinking back then, that if I could be half as good as Deming, I could be so successful.

And then along came Taichi Ohno. Wow, was I ever impressed! Actually, it was Womack and Jones that really impressed me, but the more I read, the more I understood that it was Ohno who developed what we now call Lean. Ohno created what he called the Toyota Production System (TPS) and I absolutely loved it! I kept thinking that if I could just “Lean out” the company I was working for, we could dominate the markets. Lean became almost an obsession for me. I couldn’t read enough or learn at a fast enough rate to suit me! So here I was, with Deming and Ohno shaping how I attacked processes. I just figured that if I could reduce variation and waste everywhere, I’d become a celebrity of sorts. I read everything, but the two books I enjoyed the most were Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones and The Toyota Way by Liker.

Just when I thought I had learned everything about improvement, I picked up a couple of books on Six Sigma, The Six Sigma Way by Pande, Neuman and Cavanaugh and Six Sigma by Harry and Schroeder. Now I had a process map for improvement…..DMAIC and once again I had an obsession. So much so that I had to rush out and get my Black Belt certification and then later on my Master Black Belt. I was flying high back then, but there was only one problem….I really wasn’t seeing much bottom line improvement. What was I missing? I had even combined Lean and Six Sigma before it was popular to do so. Yes, there was improvement to the processes, but…….

Enter Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt. I remember well the impact The Goal had on me. I had been asked to take over a manufacturing facility and either turn it around or shut it down. My background had been almost exclusively Quality and Engineering, so what did I know about operations? Very little! I went to the library, found a copy of The Goal and stayed up all night reading it. The next day, I bought all of my direct reports a copy and then proceeded to have a book reading where we discussed it on a regular basis. Keep in mind that I read The Goal well before I learned Lean and Six Sigma, but one day it all clicked for me. I read everything I could find about the Theory of Constraints and it changed my entire approach to continuous improvement or at least the way I looked at it. I owe Dr. Goldratt a debt of gratitude for impacting me the way he did through his writings and teachings. My one regret is that I never got to meet him. But just for the record, we not only turned around that failing plant around, it became a model for the rest of the company.

In 1998 I began combining TOC with Lean and Six Sigma and went to work for a TPS consulting company. I used TOC to identify the system constraint and then used Lean and Six Sigma to reduce waste and variation in the constraint. I worked hard to develop a methodology that I could share with the world. In 2009 I started writing a book on this integration and in 2010 my last book, The Ultimate Improvement Cycle – Maximizing Profits Through the Integration of Lean, Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints was published. Since then there have been a couple of books that have also been published under the name of TLS. Most notably, Profitability With No Boundaries by my friend Bob Fox and Russ Pirasteh and Velocity by Jacobs, Bergland and Cox (co-author of The Goal).

The world owes a great deal to Dr. Goldratt. He gave people time and had such incredible patience. He personally mentored and guided many people in his brief stay with us. He gave people confidence and encouraged them to apply what they had learned from him to their work and as a result, the world is a better place. What started out as a manufacturing improvement methodology has grown to include healthcare, government, agriculture, and other industries. Even on his death bed we are hearing that he was sharing new ideas, insights and breakthroughs to people who committed to transfer this new knowledge to the TOC Community. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to become a TOC Jonah by learning how to apply and use Goldratt’s Thinking Processes and that changed my approach to improvement even more.

Goldratt is leaving a legacy for all of us to carry on and he will be greatly missed. I want to personally thank Dr. Goldratt for giving me the opportunity to grow and flourish and pass on his teachings to as many people as I can. This is the reason I write this blog. Thank you Dr. Goldratt….you will be missed.

Bob Sproull

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