The day started with opening comments from the governor and the lieutenant governor of Utah. Their passion for making the state work are infectious. It's no wonder that Kris Cox has such enthusiasm for process improvement with people like this supporting her.
The morning keynote was from Rami Goldratt, describing the Four Pillars of TOC. These come from long conversations that Eli Goldratt had with people in the TOC community, notably his daughter as described in The Choice (my review):
- Inherent simplicity: Reality is simple and harmonious.
- Every conflict can be removed: Don't accept conflicts as given. (Optimization and compromise are evidence that the conflict is still there.)
- People are good: Avoid blaming. There is always a Win-Win.
- Never say, "I know": Every situation can be substantially improved. Get away from interia. (This one was added late in the formulation of the Pillars.)
These pillars have a few different phrasings, but the basic idea is the same. I liked how Rami talked about these pillars and built up to the elements of having a meaningful life - there was some emotional connection for me, as Rami described conversations with his father.
Larry Perlov of Illumiti and Annette Danek-Akey of Penguin-Random House had a presentation of using the TOC principles to improve the (physical) book supply chain. The story started with the the discovery that "better forecasts" weren't going to help with the challenge of 35% returns. And then continued through analysis and discovery of the potential for developing a reliable replenishment system. They saw a drop down to 20% returns, a significant bottom-line benefit to the company. Even after the merger of Penguin and Random-House, they saw a similar improvement in returns when they integrated Penguin books into the joint warehouse. With the additional capacity they uncovered, they were able to offer logistical support to smaller publishers - another win for the company. One challenge is that they were never able to demonstrate explicitly a sales lift from better availability due to other industry factors (recession, ebooks), but Danek-Akey is convinced it is there. Along with providing logistical support to smaller publishers, they have also helped local bookstores stay competitive.
Brad Cartier of Goldratt Consulting talked about "simplified CCPM", which tries to deal with some of the common challenges under CCPM implementations, particularly with the idea that there are some internal project dates that might need to be tracked. (I'm not completely sure I agree this is a problem with CCPM itself - maybe with the way it is being implemented?) The direction of the solution - one that has been very effective - has been to use "low tech" Work-In-Process boards to manage the flow of work within a team. And then use a high level CCPM plan to see overall flow. This assumes that there are blocks of work that are largely managed by separate teams. The WIP Boards are a great mechanism to managing and improving that flow. These feel very similar to boards that often appear in kanban board implementations.
A number of presentations covered information technology and the DevOps movements. It's interesting to see the intersection between TOC and the DevOps approach.
A couple of talks over the two days referenced the Questions of Technology that come out of Necessary But Not Sufficient. Another element that comes out of Eli Goldratt's other writing is the definition of information: The answer to the question asked. Information isn't useful in itself - it is the context of the question being asked where it becomes more relevant.