Eliyahu M. Goldratt was an Israeli physicist and the founder of the Theory of Constraints (TOC). TOC, a paradigm in management, views that a system has one or more constraints to hinder its achievement. A system means a set of connected parts including human, resources, energy, facility, etc. TOC is based on the question, “What is the goal?”
“The Goal (1984)” is a story about solving complicated problems occurring in a factory based on TOC concepts. Dr. Goldratt, the author, had not been permitted to translate his work into Korean and Japanese for 17 years, fearing that it would threaten the U.S. economy in a huge recession if Asia’s growing companies introduced the TOC and improved their productivity.
The story is organized in a novel form, which can be grasped from his words: “I sincerely believe that the only way we can learn is through our deductive process. Presenting us with final conclusions is not a way that we learn. At best it is a way that we are trained. … Jonah, in spite of his knowledge of the solutions, provoked Alex to derive them by supplying the question marks instead of exclamation marks.” In fact, the advisor Jonah does not give Alex the answer to overcome the shutdown crisis of his plant. Instead, by asking the right question, the professor makes him realize the discrepancy between the numerical values that have been reported and the actual way they work. Thereby the professor induces him to rethink the basic assumptions that have been regarded as facts. Following Alex’s thinking, the reader would also be able to find some kind of enlightenment rather than unilaterally receiving information.
Let me introduce one of the stories that Alex gets an idea through hiking with his son. From this, I could realize that TOC is not just a theory far detached from our working lives, but a daily concept that can be applied to everywhere and everyone.
First of all, two concepts we have already known are as follows:
1. Dependent events: an event or a series of events, must take place before another can begin. The subsequent event depends upon the ones prior to it.
2. Statistical fluctuations: The big deal occurs when dependent events are in combination with another phenomenon.
Alex has yet to figure out what the combination of the two phenomena above means, and starts to lead 15 boy scout members in a single line in order to reach Devil’s Gulch. He supposes he is walking about two miles per hour, which is about the average speed a person walks, and his group could cover 10 miles in about five hours. After a few minutes, he finds out the line becomes longer and a boy in the middle named Herbie is lagging behind. Alex asks the first boy to wait for Herbie and the following members then walk more slowly. Still, the gap between Herbie and the person in front of him is getting wider.
Did you notice that this hiking is a dependent event which is combined with statistical fluctuations? If the first boy does not walk in advance, the second person cannot walk after. Similarly, the velocity of all the members except the one at the front is restricted from the speed of the very member in front of them. This is a simple example of a dependent event. However, even if each one walks in 3km/h, it cannot be exactly the same speed, which is a statistical fluctuation. The thing is that it cannot be predicted when someone will be late or faster.
To put it more simply, most of the things that you are doing are connected to others, and the world is full of unpredictable variables.
“What is the goal of your factory?” This is the first question that Professor Jonah asks Alex. Though he asks about the factory, the object could be ascribed to an individual. Now I will ask you. “What is your goal?” While this book does not have a decisive influence in setting and implementing your goal, I hope you adopt a logical approach on your way.
By You Seo-yeon
Editor of National Section