I picked up Eli Goldratt's latest business novel, Isn't It Obvious, and absolutely flew through the book - a comment I've heard from many people. It was co-written with screenwriters, so the high pace shouldn't be too surprising.
The title of the book is one of Goldratt's favorite ideas: that the best theories are always seen (in hindsight) as obvious solutions. And I think that is the whole point of the story at hand. Paul, a store manager, discovers a flood in his basement store room and needs to come up with a solution, fast. This emergency, eventually, leads Paul and the company to a new way to run their retail shops and the entire supply chain. A solution, that in the end, seems an obvious solution to the typical problems of the retail world: the wrong goods in the wrong places.
For people familiar with Theory of Constraints and the "retail solution," the path should be familiar. The book presents the problem, tries a couple attempts at a direction of the solution, and then locks in on a solution that addresses a single store, a region, the entire internal distribution system, and then even out to the external system. Also, for those who have read Goldratt's other business novels, I found the book to have a familiar feel and flow.
For people unfamiliar with Theory of Constraints or the retail solution, the story walks through a likely path to getting from current operations to a better way to do things. Of course, in the end of the story they change from responding to an emergency to instilling the new mode of operations throughout the organization. Even more than that, a couple of the characters look at the world and think that maybe even the sky is not the limit.
There is one other piece to the book. Clarke Ching interviewed Eli Goldratt about this book at the end of November, and he provided some clues to the real meaning behind the book. I highly recommend listening to the interview (on your MP3 player) or at least reading the transcript. Clarke has been interviewing a number of TOC thinkers, so you might want to subscribe to his podcast. Some people have suggested that the next edition of the book contain this information in a readers guide or epilogue of some sort.
[Photo: "Cork Flood 57" by hegarty_david]