Thursday, January 11, 2007

I wonder ...

Clarke Ching wonders. I do not. When a good friend (and business partner) Ed McCullough and I attended a session by Eli Goldratt, Ed remarked as he gazed at the studious attendees, "How many of them will be able to harness this energy when they get back to the office on Monday?" 20% at best. For me, it is a given that no one is operating anywhere near "their true potential" on any given day. But that is not the sixty-four dollar question. Just as asking if Lean or Six Sigma is the answer to more throughput is not the question. Or asking if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (he did not, but he was the lone gunman). Regardless the testimony of Gerald Ford. No, the question is much simpler: "Does the leadership of my organization know the true (and always present) weakest link facing our corporation today?" Every business is a system of silos or departments (or functional areas) that must orchestrate numerous activities to achieve the missions determined by the stakeholders. Every business is like a link chain, where each link plays a role in the accomplishment of those missions. All links are necessary. However, no one link alone is sufficient to create success. Business is a team sport. Superstars alone are not enough. Utility players alone are not enough. Everyone deciding to do more each day to achieve "their true potential" is not the key. If the Accounts Payable clerk gives 100% for all eight hours, "giving it their best" and all other such clichés, it may have zero affect on throughput. Yes, if you are not addressing the weakest link, all attempts to improve your department's performance is a waste of valuable and limited resources. Be careful here, and do not misquote me. You need to perform your charge effectively. A smooth running accounting department requires talented and dedicated team members. That is not my point. If that clerk requests funds to implement EDI (electronic data interchange) in order to increase the effectiveness of the department, and the request is approved and implemented, throughput better increase significantly. Or heads should roll! This is just so much "common sense." However, how many organizations understand the ramifications. During an assignment in retail, I made the statement concerning replenishment of stock, that a given retail outlet (lets call it "A") should trade "positions" with another outlet ("B"), if the we all understood this basic premise. Why? Store "B" had a better history of selling goods. Better manager. Its that people thing again. Outlet "B" could turn the inventory quicker and therefore at better margins. So by trading places, the "systems approach" to the challenge would have rewarded the organization with more profits. More throughput. Every reader (no matter how recently they discovered this blog) already knows what happened: outlet "A" was replenished ahead of "B" mostly because "that's the way we always do it." Now Clarke, all bets are off if management has not identified the weakest link. In those cases, fine. Let them debate how everyone can be more effective. It really does not matter. Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey, Jonah P.S. I love the Dilbert-like examples that speak to these issues in Debra Smith's Measurement Nightmares! P.P.S. Thanks Clarke. This is the longest post for me in some time. Thanks for bringing an interesting question to the forefront. FYI: For me, it is better to approach such debates via independent blog entries rather than by way of comments within a given post. IMNSHO, it provides more freedom. Also, I cannot wait to get my hands on Made to Stick. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. tag: ,
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