Tag Archives: Goldratt

We Don’t Need No Stinking Meetings!

The Ubiquitous Conference Room: Where Collaboration Goes to Die

Before you get your panties in a bunch, I’m not really advocating the complete abolition of meetings. I always loved getting together with 20 or 30 of my closest associates and spending the first ten minutes – of what always managed to completely fill the exact amount of time allotted to it – with banter about our kids, our pets, our plants, and our plans for retirement. Regardless, it always seemed to me there were just a few too many of them, and many were just . . . well . . . kind of unnecessary. So I’m just saying maybe we should consider there are meetings that are a complete – or near complete – waste of everyone’s time. Allow me to provide an example and, hopefully, I won’t piss off my former employer too much by sharing this.

Quite a few years ago I was a member of the High Pressure Fuel Turbopump team for the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at a famous, but not very well-known organization. [Pop Quiz! Who designed the engines that powered the Saturn vehicles to the moon?] At the time, another company was in the process of certifying their design for the same pump, as (Warning! the following statement may be hotly disputed by the parties, and they are only a partial recollection from a limited perspective) NASA had determined their (the other company’s) design was more reliable and, therefore, more safe. Unfortunately, this other organization was having trouble with some of their design and they weren’t meeting their certification and delivery goals. For this reason, we were given a contract to produce ten more high pressure fuel pumps.
For a length of time I can no longer recall (this was in the late 1990s, I believe, and the experience was somewhat painful), but let’s say it was around or over a year, we had a stand-up meeting every day to discuss what had happened the day before and what we wanted to happen that day. There were always between 15 and 20 people in attendance. However, on most days only a few of these folks actually had to be there. Unfortunately, it was impossible at the time for anyone to know whether or not they were needed without attending the meeting to see and hear what was talked about.
At the time, Macromedia had a product they called Generator which, as the team’s webmaster and web content volunteer learner guy, I had discovered. Generator worked with Flash to create animated displays. Among the things you could do with it was to create a ticker tape that would run a stream of updates at the bottom of an employee’s display. I knew nothing of “social” back then, but it sure seemed to me that having people update their activity through the use of this ticker tape would obviate the necessity for at least half (probably more like 80%, thank you Mr. Pareto) of the meetings we were having. This seemed a significant savings to me. Unfortunately, I might as well have been standing in the corner talking to it.

Now that this occurrence has faded in my rearview mirror, I can look at it a little more rationally. At the time, it was just one of numerous ways in which I saw us spending far more money and effort than necessary to get things done (don’t get me started on how click-to-talk phones could have sped up the flow of components through the shop). It wasn’t to be.

Although I’m no longer in that world (corporate, that is), I have good reason to believe things haven’t changed much in all this time. I know they hadn’t by the time I left (May of 2010). Are you still having meetings that accomplish little other than to fill up the hours? Here’s a suggestion. Read the book by Patrick Lencioni – “Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable“. It’s a great business book masked as an entertaining fable, in the mold of Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal“. See if you can’t turn your meetings into what they should be, a vital and invigorating component of running an organization rather than a time-wasting drag on everyone’s energy and enthusiasm.


The Evolution of Lean: A Timeline

It is exceedingly frustrating to realize what a putz you are . . . at least it is for me. I struggle with how and what to blog, and yet miss some of the more obvious things I can post about. For instance, Dan Keldsen posts a link in Facebook to an article conveying a timeline of the history of Lean Manufacturing. This line, however, is entirely textual and Dan writes – parenthetically – “(need a graphic of this… hmm)”. Reading this I was reminded of a graphic I put together several years ago at the request of one of the Manufacturing Engineers at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, William “Bill” Garrison. I was able to find it in short order (kudos to my PKM, IMO) and sent it to Dan. I then posted it in FB and, within a very short time received a comment from another friend, Robert Lavigne. I had also had an email conversation with Dan and he mentioned a product that produced graphical timelines, BEEDOCS.

The Evolution of Lean

The Evolution of Lean: A Timeline

Click on Graphic for Larger Version

At any rate I’ve now spent a fair amount of time thinking about the history of lean and the purpose and efficacy of graphical timelines; something I actually have contemplated quite a bit over time. I’ve also checked out the software’s website and, after another comment or two between Rob and I, he suggests the subjects are “still worthy of a blog entry and a link to your insights about the new product”. I find myself thinking he’s right so here we go. I hope this is what he had in mind. I’ll consider it an “aha” moment if I’m right.

So, here’s the real post. The article Dan linked to (see my link to it, above) is a bit more detailed and the earliest event evidencing lean in the timeline is fully 440 years ago, which causes Dan to lament over the seeming inability of many to just continue using the stuff that’s worked for centuries, eh wot? I can only nod in stupefied agreement. What appears above, in the form of a graphic representation, is an overview of the history of lean manufacturing. It’s heavy on the Toyota Production System (TPS), but there’s actually a lot of non-Toyota information in it as well. We didn’t want it to be too busy.

Now, as far as the software goes, I am surely in no hurry to purchase it at this point, but it does look like it provides some useful and interesting functionality. They point out the concept grew from Attorneys asking for timelines for use in trials and now is used by “Film makers, museum curators, professors, novelists, grad students and business leaders”. The timelines look beautiful and varied and the concept of using 3D (I don’t think real 3D, but film & television-like) makes the timelines visually appealing. It’s only $65 for Mac OS X Leopard and, for many, seems a small price to pay if you’re in the market for really good timelines.

That’s my story and, well, you know the rest. Thanks to Rob for prodding me. Thanks to you, whoever you are, for reading this far 🙂

UPDATE: I neglected to point out there’s a bit more to this timeline than mere events. It also points to the correlation between time, reduction in cost, and reduction of Cycle Time. Probably pretty obvious, but felt compelled to point it out just so you don’t think I’m stupid. It’s bad enough I think it.


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