Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Constraints and Bottlenecks

Today I was in Information Technology Service Management training class.  As we went through the training, I was reminded of a very good book I once "read" on a long commute for a previous employer.  No, I really wasn't reading and driving... it was an audio book.  I'd suggest that you may want to check it out.

As a project manager, it's part of your job to understand constraints and look for opportunities for improvement.  You'll find them all of the time... everywhere. There are financial constraints, time constraints, resource constraints, and the list goes on... sounds like seeds for a future post!

I often refer to my experiences in manufacturing, where you are efficient, or you are out of business.  There are lots of great authors in the business world... when I was working on my MBA at Saint Francis University, I learned to enjoy reading books that help shape strategic thinking  from Peter Drucker, John Kotter, Michael Hammer, James Champey, W. Edwards Deming, Henry Mintzberg and others. I'm not sure I can tell you which books were published by who... or which concepts were presented by which authors.  The most important aspect is integrating the concepts into your thinking.  For some people, reading a book on strategic management may seem as interesting  as watching wallpaper dry.  I have found one resource that I'd highly suggest... because I actually found it quite engaging.

Training today reminded my of an excellent audio book called "The Goal" by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  I listened to it about 10 years ago, and it stuck with me.  It's a very interesting novel that presents the Theory of Constraints and Continuous Process Improvement using the backdrop of a factory about to be closed if it doesn't turn things around in 90 days.  It's about 12 hours of content.

It's definitely NOT what you'd expect.  It's like listening to a novel.  There's a plot (you're factory's closing in 90 days unless you figure out how to perform a miracle turnaround), main characters including the workers, managers, friends, and family, and general every day life.  It's about becoming aware of your senses, and learning to listen to others for their input... identifying bottlenecks, coaching, and implementing continuous process improvement.  It's about removing constraints (barriers) to success.  It's a story about working together and seeking and incorporating different peoples feedback and perspectives.

Learn from the works of others... don't do it alone... every project is a team!