Talk:Critical Chain (novel)
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This entire review is certainly a personal view so it may deserve immediate elimination or chopping back of the content. Nevertheless, I hope it helps understand the book and its subject.
Review of "Critical Chain"
Now that I've read Goldratt's third business novel, I can excoriate him for missing major parts of what is known to matter in project management.
The problems of requirements
EG simply accepts the disastrous practice of accepting a long list of specific "requirements" as the very definition of a project. There are two major problems with this approach that I can see immediately. The criteria for "success" completely fail to comprehend or measure the business value of the requirements. This permits a project to be considered successful even if nobody (except the contractors) gets any benefit from the project. Furthermore it does nothing to combat the expectable result that forty to fifty percent of the features built will never get used.
Using Just-In-Time from Toyota Production System bare
When Goldratt accepts Just-In-Time, he borrows a specific invention of the Toyota Production System. Again, he accepts a technique without adopting its guiding principles. The point of TPS is to improve the efficiency of delivering customer value, not just to use a few particular helpful practices. Even Just-In-Time may be most valuable when applied to making decisions. That feature of the practice is what guides the project into delaying decisions until the last responsible moment, that time when we know most about the details of what is needed to maximize stakeholder value. And Goldratt misses the majority of TPS. Indeed, his focus on managers completely ignores the most important resource of the company, its workers and their knowledge, skills, and insights into what the company does.
Others who don't get the essence of the Toyota system
Somehow I've gotten on a mailing list for papers from WalkTheTalk.com which also tries to improve things by getting managers to act as kindly adults guiding their staff as if they were foolish children. No, no, no. The workers are not stupid, foolish, or without motivation. They may need education. They may need much more information about what the company is trying to do. They may need support to practice science and accomplish continuous improvement. They certainly need much more information about what is going on with their work site, their tasks, and their methods.
Don't just guide the workers, ENGAGE them. Permit the employees to maximize their contribution to the company and feel good about it. This is not a recommendation to apply a few small tricks, it is an entire new way of life in the business world. So many American and European managers just don't get it.
Other flaws in the plot
In the novel, the protagonist also accepts his spouse's decisions without subjecting them to thoughtful consideration. It works in the novel only because the fellow pulls off a multi-level miracle mostly by accident.
What would be better than this novel
I conclude that one would get much more benefit from reading the properly honored Harvard Business Review than from this business novel. Goldratt should learn from Tom Gilb's "Competitive Engineering" and the Poppendiecks' Lean Management series as well. Of course, I believe that I get some value from recognizing failures in the approaches used in Goldratt's book. Did I understand the book? Are my criticisms justified? Should I pass them along to Professor Goldratt? How?
Richard Karpinski, World Class Nitpicker 148 Sequoia Circle, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 firstname.lastname@example.org Home +1 707-546-6760 Cell +1 707-228-9716 http://cfcl.com/twiki/bin/view/Karpinski
ps Put (or leave) "nitpicker" in the subject line to get past my spam filters. Karpinski 19:21, 26 April 2007 (UTC)