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Break out of the box

Article-Break out of the box

Break out of the box

Eliyahu Goldratt, an internationally recognized leader in the development of new management concepts and systems, is the author of "The Goal." Some 1.5 million copies of this book, which is published by North River Press of Great Barrington, MA, have been sold all over the world since its publication in 1985. "The Goal" continues to sell at a rate of 15,000 copies per month. Goldratt's latest book, "It's Not Luck," also from North River Press, continues his exploration of ways to resolve management dilemmas. A frequent contributor to industrial and scientific journals, Goldratt holds a B.S. in physics from Tel Aviv University in Israel, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, also in physics, from Bar-Ilam University of Tel Aviv.

Elilyahu Goldratt's clouds and trees may prove more helpful to engineers and managers than the latest in computer hardware and software.

Q: Design News: Why are management ideas like right-sizing and re-engineering so painful and ineffective?

A: Right-sizing in most companies is another word for layoffs. And basically managers use these layoffs to cover up mistakes that they've made a year or two before. Re-engineering is supposed to mean, re-think your basic assumptions. But in many, many companies, re-engineering is, again, just another name for layoffs.

Q: One of your solving techniques employs a device called a "cloud.' What is a "cloud?'

A: The first major step toward solving a problem is to define it precisely. Everybody knows that. But how do you know if you defined the problem precisely before you solve the problem? If you see a problem that chronically resists solution, it must be that something major, an inherent conflict, blocked the solution. I call the conflict that blocks a desired objective the cloud.

Q: And the solution involves the current reality tree and future reality tree?

A: No. The Current Reality Tree is analysis. We use it to ask: What is really the thing we have to improve? What is really the problem? So the Current Reality Tree is a technique to decipher the core problem. The cloud is a way to find out why the core problem has not been solved and what is the result of solving it. The cloud also shows you the direction to go to get out of the box.

Q: What is the role of the Future Reality Tree?

A: The Future Reality Tree is a tool that takes the direction revealed by the cloud and converts it into a solution. So you can be sure that, once the solution is implemented, all the negative effects will be eliminated without creating new ones.

Q: Can your methods enable engineers to avoid constraints that exist in design?

A: Absolutely. Most constraints that exist in the design process are self-made, with thousands of excuses about unknowns to cover up for mistakes in how to manage a project.

Q: And do you go into this in your previous book, "The Goal?'

A: "The Goal" addresses production. When you transfer it into engineering, major changes must be made in the approach. If you are looking at the design process, the number of statistical unknowns is by far greater than in production. Which means everything I've described in "The Goal" is by far more important for design.

Q: How can design engineers use your methods to develop new products when financial constraints come first?

A: Financial concerns should come first. And let me tell you, I'm sick and tired of design engineers who forget that their products exist to be sold in the market. Most companies are not just looking at costs when they're talking about design engineers. They're talking about cost versus the probability of selling. The goal of the company is not a perfect design. The goal of the company is to survive and make money.

Q: How can engineering managers justify either keeping or hiring personnel, when cost drives decisions on the size of the engineering department?

A: Suppose I say to you: "Tell me when the product will be finished so I can launch it in the market." And your standard answer is: "I don't know, plus or minus six months." And then you say: "I need two more engineers." If you can tell me the impact of hiring these two engineers on the financial performance expected from the completion of the project, there is no problem. If you can't, why do you bitch and moan? If you cannot give management answers on throughput, then they must concentrate on cost.

Q: Why do employees so often feel that they cannot trust management?

A: Because they can't! If managers make decisions right, left and center that are not in line with the goals of the company, and definitely not in line with the goals of the individuals in the company, why should they be trusted? For a huge problem, my analysis requires about a week of prudent work. Is that a long time relative to years of floundering? Is there any other way to look at it? Yes, there is. Let's shoot from the hip. Listen, if you are shooting from the hip, and all you do for years is hit your own people or your foot, why should you be trusted?

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