This poor blog has been neglected all month, and now I pick a day to write when very few people are going to be around to read it... Oh well, at least I have something to say.
I had been wanting to read Bob Sproull & Bruce Nelson's Epiphanized: Integrating Theory of Constraints, Lean and Six Sigma since it came out last winter. I finally got around to it. The story grabbed me, as many business novels do, and I finished it over the course of several evenings while I was on the road. (On the road with a TOC consulting client.)
The basic story is fairly familiar: struggling company, introduce TOC, company turns around. Oh, and of course there is a TOC guru who helps the protagonists think through the changes they need to make. The storyline expands in line with the title as successive people get "epiphanized" to the ideas of Theory of Constraints. The protagonists go from a small cabal of TOC enthusiasts to bringing in their corporate leadership, then to their suppliers, and even to their customers.
The style of writing was sometimes distracting. And some of the plot elements were painful to read. (The women are all "beautiful tonight," even if they are intelligent.) But the strange thing was that the overall line of the story was engaging. I realized at a key crisis point in the story that my heart was racing to discover what was going to happen to the main characters.
The subtitle talks about integrating TOC with Lean and Six Sigma, but there is very little about Lean and Six Sigma other than some buzzwords and familiar corporate positions. There are a lot of assumptions about what people know and do that aren't given enough meat for my tastes. The book is also a long advertising piece for Eli Goldratt's classic business novel, The Goal. So much so that I think I need to re-read it again.
All that said, the book gave me some interesting food for thought. In particular, since I am working on yet another TOC-related project, I gauged what the story proposed against what is happening in this new project. I liked how he used some of the TOC tools, such as the Intermediate Objective Map. And I am curious about the new-to-me idea of the Interference Diagram which is a way to outline what factors and policies are getting in the way of a stated goal.
One point that was repeated a couple times in the story was the importance of the involvement of the full workforce in these kinds of transformation - this is a point that often isn't fully appreciated in change projects which might engage a small "core team" to make everything happen. And even the membership of the core team is often the wrong people: rather than those who are going to be directly affected by the change, the core team is made of people who manage or coordinate, rather than the people doing the work.