When I started off with work here, I didn't think I'd find operations interesting. That was about half of my area of work, maybe a little more. The other component would be IT related. Ops wasn't really a fascinating subject for me even back in college. Just about took one elective, coz the seniors told me it'll help in u're sales and marketing career.
Emotions gave way to rationale and I picked up, what I think now, is a great job. Now at work I figure out that I find ops a lot more fascinating than what I thought it would be. Goldratt takes a good amount of credit for that. For once, I didn't start off learning the nuances of ops the conventional way. Most of my current learning is from this one book The Goal. It was one of those books that I would never ever have touched with a ten foot pole, but have now read due to the need of the job. And I did enjoy every darn moment of it. An awesome concept which kicks miles and miles of balance sheets and profit and loss statements right in their guts.
His key philosophies are the Theory of Constraints, Thinking Processes and Critical Chain Project Management. Most of them have been used widely in some geographies and industries with great success.
Refer to www.goldratt.com to figure out more about the man or his theories. The concept that I find most endearing (though I find the others equally practical, rationale and lucid) is CCPM - Critical Chain Project Management. Below, I'll make an attempt at explaining the same through a suitable example:
Let's say I'm making an attempt at copying in an exam.
My guess is that these are the following steps I have to go through -
1. Identify the target that I want to copy from. This would limit it to mostly 4, the guy to my left, right, in front of me and the nerd behind.
2. Ensure that the invigilator is not watching me. This is outside my control.
3. Peep into the paper of one of the targets and read sufficient volumes of the written script before condition (3) gets violated
5. Repeat the sequence
After I have repeated the sequence a sufficient number of times, I would have to stop at step 4 ideally, unless of course the invigilator's favorite number is 2. Each step above would take a certain amount of time (Step 1 - 4). I would in my planning process allocate a certain amount of time to each of the steps. This allocated time would be greater than what might be really needed, i.e. I would be buffering each of my steps sufficiently, just to be on the safe side.
In CCPM, the idea is to take away the buffers (or safety) from each of the step, aggregate it and place it at one single point. Typically this would be placed at the end of the longest sequence of tasks. (In a typical project scenario, there would be many such 'sequences of tasks' and the longest would be critical chain. For simplicity I have chosen a one sequence project).
Now due to the separation of the buffer from each task individually, the amount of time to finish a task would reflect a more aggressive but probable measure. It's like the fixed component of the task, whereas the buffer snatched away from each individual task would be the variable component.
Due to the mathematical properties of aggregating, the aggregated buffer would be a lot lesser than the sum of the buffers maintained for the individual tasks. Hence, while still retaining the safety net, I would be able to enrich myself in the art of copying in a shorter time. Neat!!!!!!? :)
Here's another advantage - If I take up a part time job for a small slot of time during those 3 hours, like ogling at the hot 'resource' in front, I would be eating into my aggregated buffer.
But now I'd have to only measure one parameter (the aggregated or project buffer) to find out how I'm placed in my attempt to get through the exam. There!
OK, what I've given here is a very common example - a project executed by many students across the world on a quarterly, semi-annually and annual basis. In the industrial world, there would be projects involving hundreds of task sequences, individual resources, office politics and the likes.
Here's a good blog about all of Goldratt's philosophies - www.focusedperformance.com
Well let me see how far into these management philosophies I would be able to go!