Thursday, October 22, 2015

Heads Up - The Machine; A New Book From Justin Roff Marsh

I'm a great admirer of JRM so I got he's OK to share this with you.

"Update: The Machine (it's here!)
Can you believe it?
After many years of toil, The Machine is finally available for purchase!
You can get it on Amazon (hardcover or Kindle) and in all Barnes and Noble stores (physical and online), as well as in most US bookstores (including many airport booksellers).
Here's an Amazon link:
If you haven't purchased your copy yet, please do yourself a favor!
And if you're one of the lucky ones who got your copy early, please hurry up and finish it and post a frank and open review on Amazon.
I'm now hard at work on a 6-class video short course. This course is entitled Beyond The Machine. It's enormous in scope, and it's FREE (as in Free Beer) for everyone who purchases The Machine (check the end of Chapter 1).
Thank you, again, to everyone who has shared support and ideas over the last few years.
Now, go read the book!

If you want to stay updated with this kind of news and much more - please subscribe.

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 TOCICO Conference - Final Thoughts

So, I've already written several posts about the learning that went on in Cape Town this past September (see here, here and here) and I guess it's time to move on. Still I want to leave you with a real taste for more and hopefully next time you'll come join us (see the TOCICO calendar for upcoming events near you). This review did not include my sessions and I will share some of that material separately in a future time. It's on my list.

For this final post I chose to review  2 sessions that I found had a high impact on me:

I have already mentioned Rami Goldratt's keynote on forecasting here. He talks about the fact forecasting capabilities in retail are not improving. In fact, they are deteriorating. It is becoming harder and harder to generate predictions that will create good enough forecasts so as to lead to the right decisions. No one is expecting a forecast system to be able to predict accurately what will shop X sell next Tuesday. But the fact of the matter is these forecasts fail at much simpler questions such as how much of product Y will be sold by the entire network over the entire season. This is a simpler question as it is an aggregation, allowing for mistakes to average out.

Rami presented 3 major forces that are eroding the ability for forecast:
1 - Customers are increasingly requiring products to create the exact fit for their needs and tastes. As a result manufacturers and retailers increase their variety. Think of toothpaste, just as an example. It used to be that you were either a Crest user or a Colgate (or another brand). Now each brand has an extensive range of options - different tastes, different usages and problem resolution and many of the possible combinations of these. As the variety grows the volume per SKU shrinks and with it the ability to predict. At the same time the customers learn to expect even more accurate fit and it is clear there is a feedback loop making the situation grow more and more extreme.
Gateway Supermarket Sardines' Section (from Wikipedia)
2 - Customer tolerance time is getting shorter, meaning retailers lose more sales when the exact inventory is not on hand. For example, in a market research Rami cited, people stated that they will pay a higher premium for immediacy that for technological improvement. As a result there is pressure to hold more inventory at the point of sales.
3 - The product life cycle is getting shorter. Customers are forever expecting new products and so there is a on going pressure on NPIs. New products do not have a history we can use for predictions and they have a major impact on the sales of current products (that have a high level of inventory in the shops from item#2) thus practically eliminating the ability to forecast.
On top of all this (as if that was not enough) more and more industries suffer from a product life cycle that is shorter than the supply time.
With all these phenomenas increasing over time, relying on forecasts will lead companies to fail. What we need is a system to minimize the time needed for reading and understanding the signals from the shop floor and to react to them fast. We have the needed IT, we are just using it the wrong way.
Just so you know, Rami promised a video covering all this in more detail - Rami, we are waiting.

The second talk was by Dr. Alan Barnard concentrating on flow. Re-reading Dr. Goldratt's "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants", Alan pointed out that the 5 Focusing Steps are actually an application and should only be used when the boundary conditions dim them relevant. Instead he suggest starting with the concept and principals of flow:
1 - The prime objective of operations is to focus on flow, specifically on reducing flow time.
2 - This objective is to be translated into a practical mechanism that guides operations when not to produce.
3 - Local efficiencies must be abolished.
4 - A focusing process to balance flow must be in place.

The application of these principals will be:
1- Separate work and time buffer.
2 - Aggregate time buffers.
3 - Remove unnecessary buffers
4 - Simplify flow with a single time buffer.
Looking over these lists it is clear that the 5 Focusing Steps, which are used for constraint or bottleneck management, are only relevant when those are the primary causes of blocks to the flow.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I highly recommend getting access to the conference videos for these sessions, if you weren't there.

If you enjoyed this and want to learn more - share it and subscribe to this blog, great things are coming.

Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 TOCICO Conference - Catch Phrases

Every TOC event I go to blesses me with a lot of new knowledge and ideas. It also adds some 1-liners and catch phrases. When I capture them here, in the blog, not only can you all enjoy them with me, I can also recall them years later and put them to use (like the ones here). So, here are some of the things I collected during the 2015 Annual TOCICO conference:

  • "War Room" - don't talk about yesterday (to the 3rd point after the decimal), talk about tomorrow!
  • Fear of the unknown drives us to act according to detailed (and mistaken) forecasts.
  • Sales comply with Pareto Law, inventory does not.
  • The bigger the range, the bigger the tail.
  • People claim (as in "market research shows") they are willing to pay a bigger premium for instantaniety than for technological improvement.
  • In fashion, the product life cycle is shorter than the supply time.
  • Any business based on forecast is fragile (refer to my previous post on anti-fragile)
  • Orthodoxy - anything done without knowing why.
  • IVD (Inventory Value Days - what do you know, some countries don't use the UD$ currency, go figure) = stuck, unworking capital (you knew that).
  • Risk is uncertainty against an objective
  • Risk management should be applied on the weakest link.
  • Start with Flow - before applying 5 Focusing Steps check that the constraint is the real cause of delays/blocks in flow.
  • Operational Goal - meet demand (at peak, not just on average) effectively and efficiently.
  • If you are not testing what you are thinking - you are not thinking like a scientist.
  • A cluttered mind is an obstacle to thinking.
  • The indicators must subordinate to the goal.
  • The goal and the necessary conditions must measure alignment as well as progress.
  • Variability in the #1 enemy of flow.
  • We need simple systems that can handle complexity.
  • Systems are variability amplifiers.
  • Forecasts are valuable for mid to long term planning, not day-to-day operations.
  • Incoming "Peaks" are not forecasts.
  • Buffers decouple supply and demand.
  • Come your customer from will, not from need, you can not create trust when you are needy.
  • Strategy - a project portfolio of things that need to be done by the time we are planning for.
  • It is management's responsibility to create the automatic machine.
So, which one is your favorite? Please share.

Let me know if there is any point you feel needs more elaboration.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Working with Intuition - The 2016 Odyssey Program Exercise

In the first part of my thinking backwards exercise I figured out what will make for a successful TOC Odyssey training. So the next step should be to keep working backwards and highlight the actions that need to be taken for these results to unfold.Logical, right?

Well, yes and no.

If you recall, I left the plan hanging at:
My first inclination was to go backwards to:
Then I got thinking.

It seems trivial. In TOC TP we call such trivialities "Oxygen". Since oxygen is always needed for human activity it is not necessary to state it in the logic diagram. Everybody knows it and it does not add information for our analysis. Oxygen statements should be handled with care. The mere fact something came up as an idea should be an indication that a double-check is in order, as one would rarely consider the need for oxygen under normal circumstances. In other words, the fact we have been thinking of the need for oxygen may point out that the conditions are not standard and this should be accounted for,

OK, so the fact that everybody should be in the room for the session to start could be an oxygen fact. It seems very logical, everybody should know this without me telling them, clearly there will be earlier steps that will take care of attendance. I should skip this step, it is redundant.

Or is it? I was stuck in a loop for some time, pondering this, wondering what is going on - why am I still thinking about this point after I figured it out? 

Well, turns out it was my intuition guiding me to a spot I missed. It is not enough to have a full enrollment. Life happens and we will surely have a few last minute cancellations. I know all our registrants will loath missing the session, but sometimes you just can't help it. So, if I want the session to be a real hit and create real value for all, I need to take care of this point and this is just the right place in my plan to inject a place holder for the results of those actions. Makes sense?

Here is what I came up with - In order to have a good kick of we need:

Which will happen if these prior steps happen (remember, we are in reverse order, the top box will happen after the bottom):
All graphics were done using Flying Logic
Well, I actually reached a task. It is going to be located very far into the future of this "project", of course and I expect to find it has some predecessors, but it is still exiting to move to that practical part. 

Next step will be to keep working from the definition of success back to the tasks that need to be done. I am expecting this will no longer be linear and I will be working on parallel tracks soon. Stay tuned and let me know if you have any ideas for making the Odyssey a hit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thinking Backwards - The 2016 Odyssey Program Exercise

So, if you remember my last post I suggested we need to prepare our mental muscles for the hard labour of TP and one of the exercises I suggested was thinking backwards. Now, this is not the TP's transition tree, which is also constructed backwards. It is also not the usual managerial focus of let's plan with the end in mind, which usually ends up being a forward construciton exercise. It's a free formed process that starts at the end and moves forward by imagining a probable route.

Here I will share the results of my recent use of this process. I have volunteered to make the 2016 TOC Odyssey happen. It will be in Jaffa during the first weeks of April, 2016 (Save the dates - April 3-7 for the Freshman session, April 10-13 for the Alumni, dates are currently estimates). It is my wish to make this session a big success - fun, enriching and enlightning for everyone. To make this happen I am starting out with thinking backwards (as suggested in Purple Curve Effect by Jeff Kinsey - see my book review here) to see what I can learn from it,

First of - my goal, the end result:
Can I imagine how reaching this goal would feel? yes, I can, right down to that pleased-embarrased feeling as everybody claps. This is a big issue, a lot of times I start this exercise and realise I have no clue what the end result looks and feels like. Just try this out right now - is there a change you would like to do in your life? lose some weight? go to bed earlier? spend more time with someone? learn something? OK, that's great. Now - can you imagine vividly, in your mind's eyes, the end point scene? what will you wear, say, feel, do?

So, I can see this goal coming to life. Great! Now what? Well, what could have or should have happened before that to make it possible? What was the step before the goal? Here is my answer:
Can I imagine achieving this milestone? again I can, I can even hear Alan Barnard's distinct accent as he tells me how much he enjoyed leading the session. Great! Now ask again - How did that happpen? What could have happened before that? Basically we are looking for possible causes to create the wanted effect.

And so I get on a backward roll:

All graphics were done using Flying Logic
So far, so good. This is where I got a bit sidetracked, as this is the stage where several predessessors converge. It is also where I move from reaping the future results to defining the work that needs to be done in order to make it happen. So this exercise seems to have been quite un-productive so far, doesn't it? Well, that's not true. This part has made it clear that this is a very just cause, quite worthy of my investment. Now I am really motivated to make the 2016 Odyssey one to be remembered! 

Next step - to take the next leg of down the future memory lane - what did I do to make it happen? Check out what happened here!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Building The Clear Thinking Skill

After my presentation on the 6 Questions of Technology (yes, I will share more on this) at the TOCICO Conference, one of the people in the audience came up to me and said how happy he was with the work model we suggested, until the trees came out. They are so hard to construct, he said. I could hear the despair. I could also understand it and relate to it. The TOC TP are a set of highly potent tools, of course but they are very hard for many (present company totally included) to use.

This week I started testing out a new point of view I had been thinking of since my trip to S. Africa - problems are just opportunities in the rough (and yes, I will share more on this as well, you really have a lot of great things to come back to this blog for). As a result I had given my self several mind games and exercises to work on. Then it dawned on me - just like we wouldn't expect anyone to run a marathon before the have run several shorter distances in the weeks and months leading to the race, why should we expect people to take on TP without first building up to them through mind clearing workouts?
You wouldn't be doing this the first day of your workout program, would you? (Source - Wikipedia)

My point is that many of us are not used to thinking about things the way that is required by the TP. While we spend our lives thinking, we are still not trained to the level TP requires. It is very similar in yoga where although you have breathed all your life, you are not trained to breath the way yoga demands and you have to learn and practice it. So, it may be that before we venture into logic trees we have to build our brain muscles with easier exercises to prepare us for it.

Now, this is just a theory and I don't have a progression of exercises mapped out, just a few preliminary ideas. So I really need you help and inputs.

Here are the exercises ideas I already have and have been practicing:

  1. Beginner - learn to ignore all or nothing thinking by creating a 100 list - think of a block that you feel is in your way to achieve something then create a list with 100 things you can do to achieve it despite the block (so if you feel you can't get a good job because you don't have enough experience in your resume, then think of 100 ways to make you noticeable to recruiters in and out of your resume). I managed about 30 ideas in the first 24 hours and got to 44 on the second day. Once you are at 50, I suggest you start acting while keeping the list going until you get to the 100 mark, don't use it as an excuse.
  2. Intermediate - clear your thinking from emotions by putting yourself in places where you are uncomfortable, like not reacting to a question by your spouse when that question is "illegal" - e.g. asking you what your kid's preferences are when said child is present. The idea is not to to stop you from feeling but to help you separate your thoughts about what needs to be done from your emotions about a situation.
  3. Advanced - practice result oriented thinking by mapping a process backwards - think of an interaction you are planning to have and then map it from the desired end state back to the beginning. So first you must figure out how you want that interaction to end at a level you can visualize it. This means you have to take your goal or desired outcome and turn it into a concrete result (say I want my adult kid to move out, my end state visual would be of her saying "You know what, mom, I'll get my own place within the month"). Now figure out and visualize what had to happen just prior to that (perhaps she said "Staying with you and Dad isn't good for me, it doesn't help me become a capable adult"). Credit to this exercise goes to Jeff "SKI" Kinsey and his book "Purple Curve Effect" I covered in this review.
I'll update you if I get new workout ideas. 

Let me know what you think - will it make any difference if we address the TP tools more gradually? What else can and should we try?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 TOCICO Conference - Anti Fragility

This is the second post in a series. For the first post - go here.

A main theme in the conference was Anti-Fragility, becoming anti-fragile as individuals and a community and helping companies become anti-fragile. I have heard the term before but this time I feel I got a much better grasp of it. Here's what I can share:

  • Definitions:
    • Fragile:
      • Sign on the box will say "Handle With Care"
      • Mythological prototype is Damocles with the sword above his head ready to drop when his life is at its best
      • Features limited gain and unlimited pain
      • Breaks in reaction to pain
Richard Westall's Sword of Damocles (Source:Wikipidia)
    • Robust:
      • Sign on the box will say nothing, as it doesn't make a difference
      • Mythological prototype is the Phoenix which comes back from the ashes just as it was
      • Features limited gain and limited pain
      • Recovers in reaction to pain

 FJ Bertuch's Phoenix (Source: Wikipedia)

    • Anti-Fragile:
      • Sign on the box will say "Please Kick"
      • Mythological prototype is the Hydra which grows 2 new heads for every 1 cut off
      • Features unlimited gain and limited pain
      • Grows in reaction to pain
Hercules Killing the Lernean Hydra
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Anti-fragile systems are designed around multiple low risk experiments, with the ability to quickly focus and cash in on the few successes, letting go of those experiments that did not make the grade. This is a system that does not protect all of its parts.

Now, of course, it is clear that the anti-fragile state is relative, time-based and specific. Think of the human body - our bones are quite anti-fragile, recovering to be stronger at the break point, but our necks and hearts are not, bearing the burden of past trauma, if they ever recover.....

While the subject was a repeating thred there weren't much ideas as to how to make it happen, One thing was made very clear, though, throughout the conference and that is that systems that are based on forecasts are fragile, more will come on that.

So, take a moment to reflect about your private life, your organization, our community - where are they now? how can this be improved? at what cost? 

Let me know what you think.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review - Purple Curve Effect

Almost finished reading this book. I like it, though I can't think of anyone I'd recommend it to. For the begginers it is way all over the place and would not be a good starting place. For the advanced it is way too simplistic. Still, SKI is very personable and does a good job selling himself.
I liked some of his tips, especialy the idea of making lists from the end goal backwards. I was also very intrigued by the fact that I think he got all his TOC on backwards and still it works very well for him. Goes to show this TOC thing is robust.

2015 TOCICO International Conference - Cape Town

I've just returned from Cape Town a week ago and I think it's a great time to share some of my conference highlights with those who could not make it this year.
Some Conference Participants (can you spot me?)

First off - join me in sending love and support to Marcia Hutchinson, TOCICO's General Manager, who broke her arm on the first night and needed an operation. Marcia's proffesional management was totally aparent in the fact the conference went on without any interference, leaving her free to take care of herself. GET WELL SOON, MARCIA!

The first day was a full day of keynote speakers interlacing academics and practitioners  and introducing the conference's main thread of the Anti-Fragile vision. Some success stories brought to light the amazing effects TOC can have on a business and how important it is to ensure the process is maintained over time and management switch-overs.
Keynote Speaker

I especially liked Rami Goldratt's session about the forces eroding our ability to generate forcasts, especially in a retail environment. He makes a valid point - yes, forecasts are inherntly wrong but they should be getting closed and closer to being right. After all, they are based on past experiance, of which we have more and more data points with each day passing, on computing abilities, which grow bigger and faster with each day passing and on algorithms, that should improve over time and experiance. Look at the weather forcast as an example. Over the years it has gotten better, to the point that we trust the 10-day forcast as a good enough directive for packing before a trip. Sure, we do not expect it to be right on the money, just in the vicinity. Shouldn't the forcasts for sales numbers and for purchasing be doing the same? Well, they don't and Rami gave a very clear explenation why. He also promissed to put together a YouTube vid covering his explenation, so keep a look out.

With all the interesting take aways I've had, it seems a series of posts is in order, so be on the look out for my future posts on the subject. (Here is the first one)

Here is a sneak peak:
My presentation about buffering life
So, have a look at the conference schedule, and let me know what is of interest to you.