First, I want to thank everyone for the amazing number of hits on my blog for the past two postings on NOVACES’ SystemCPI. The response to these two postings was absolutely phenomenal. It’s made me realize how interested the reader base is with respect to continuous process improvement methods. After all, that’s the purpose of this blog.
Secondly, for everyone who has purchased Bruce and my new book, Epiphanized: Integrating Theory of Constraints, Lean and Six Sigma, you have probably received a notice from Amazon regarding a new delivery date range. I was one of the first to submit an order and the original ship date was listed as February 2nd to 6th. Yesterday I received a notice that the new date range was February 24th to March 14th. I want to apologize for this delay and I wish I had a good explanation for this slip in shipping dates, but frankly, I don’t. I believe that the problem manifests itself at the publisher, but I have been unable to get any answers. The notice told me that I had to open up my own order and confirm that this date was acceptable and if I didn’t, the order would be canceled. I hope everyone will do that, but I also recognize that some won’t.
The feelings I had when I received this notice ranged from skepticism and disbelief to irritation and anger. After all, I was promised one date and then as this date passed a new date was given to me. As an author, I am supposed to receive a number of free books and I had made promises to give some of these “freebies” to people I know. I hate letting people down, but in this case I had no control of the outcome. It still infuriated me that I had made a promise which I now could not deliver.
Last night when I went to bed I laid there thinking about this dilemma and how I felt. This sort of thing doesn’t happen often, but when it does it becomes personal, or at least it does for me. Aren’t my feelings the same as the customers we all serve? If your company is a manufacturer of some kind of product, the scheduled delivery date is what your customers count on and when you fail to deliver on that date, your customers have the same feelings that I experienced with my book (and probably many of you who ordered a copy). The fact that this announcement from Amazon caught me completely off guard only heightened my anxiety. And when there was no explanation for the delay, I began to wonder what might have caused it.
Of course, being the eternal optimist that I am, I optimistically thought that demand was higher than anticipated and there was a shortage of first print editions to deliver to customers. Amazon publishes a ranking of books for different categories of books, so I checked these rankings and found very positive rankings. Our book was ranked number 8 in the management category, so excessive sales must be the reason for the delay. But then the pessimistic side of me took over and I thought maybe there were printing problems at the publisher. Attempts to find the answer from my publisher proved fruitless, so I contacted the distributor (Amazon) and was informed that their purchase order hadn’t been filled. Good suppliers keep their customers informed every step of the way and in the case of my publisher, this didn’t happen. It’s much better to find out in advance if there are distribution problems, then it is to find out after the delivery date has passed.
I’m telling you about this to reinforce the need to stay in touch with your customers when a similar situation arises with your products (or your services if you’re a service provider). Failure to deliver on your promised due date creates feelings of mistrust and misgivings relative to future business which linger in your customer’s minds. I absolutely believe that current delivery performance dictates futures sales opportunities, so focus on them. In past blog postings I’ve given you methods and tools that result in enhanced performance, but the single most important concept that I’ve given to you is the existence of a system constraint. Constraints control throughput and having enough throughput is essential to meeting your customer’s promised delivery dates.
If you correctly apply Goldratt’s five focusing steps, most of the time you will deliver on time. Think about these five steps and how they might apply to your company:
1. Identify the system constraint. What part of your process controls your throughput?
2. Decide how to exploit the system constraint. Once you’ve identified the system constraint, focus your improvement efforts (e.g. Lean and Six Sigma) on the system constraint.
3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision. – Don’t ever let your non-constraints outpace your system constraint.
4. If necessary, elevate the system constraint, but don’t let inertia cause a new constraint. – Sometimes you have to spend money to correct the system constraint, but most of the time Steps 1-3 will get you there without spending money.
5. Return to Step 1 – Once the system constraint has been broken, a new one will automatically take its place.
If my publisher was following these five steps, I doubt that books would be delivered late. And it’s amazing to me that since this publisher published all of Goldratt’s books, they should understand constraints management. Again, I apologize to everyone who ordered our new book and now finds an email message telling you that the promised delivery date has been missed….not by a few days, but by several weeks.