If Plato and Socrates enrolled in a top MBA school, they’d likely drop out and produce something similar to It’s Not Luck by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Written as a sequel to The Goal, It’s Not Luck uses an extended story approach to teach Goldratt’s problem-solving technique called the Thinking Process. Specifically, Goldratt shows how the Thinking Process can not only help sales and marketing revitalizing stalling businesses, but also help solve personal problems. The principles the book explores are so critical, that you should add this title to your list of books to revisit every year.
About It’s Not Luck
The book starts with a corporate board meeting in which a conglomerate decides to sell three of its companies, of which Alex Rogo, the main character, is in charge. Using the principles he learned from the Theory of Constraints, Rogo discovers unique ways to turn around each company quickly by dramatically increasing sales with no additional resources. He does this through mapping out the current reality of each company and then logically addressing the issues that keep them from truly solving their customers’ pains. An excellent summary of the problem solving method, called the Current Reality Tree, is available on a site by Jim Davis. What results from using this method is a logical formula for success. While not a prescriptive checklist, the answer is instead a set of principles general enough to carry far beyond the situations presented in the story.
This book is an enjoyable and motivating read because of its format, its broad application, and its evidence that success is not luck. Goldratt takes some rather complicated subjects and slowly spoons them out through a well-written story. While not quite Victor Hugo in symbolism, the story is engaging enough that you look forward to picking it up again. Particularly interesting is watching Alex Rogo apply the problem solving techniques to issues in his family life before applying them to business issues. Deciding whether to let his son borrow his car, helping his teenage daughter navigate boyfriend drama, and evaluating the purchase of a car to share with a friend are all canvases that Goldratt uses to paint the logic-tree method. Once introduced, the methods are much easier to follow later when they take on sales and marketing problems. The most positive takeaway is the assertion and evidence that success in business is not luck, but instead disciplined and creative problem solving that can be reproduced in nearly any industry.
As concise snippets of wisdom, quotes have a powerful way of helping us remember important principles and lessons. Here are five quotes from It’s Not Luck that provide special wisdom.
“I can’t rely on [management] alone. And there is no point waiting for developments. I’ll have to find a way to influence them in the right direction.” p. 14
Often when we are not in charge, we rely on others to make tough choices and act. Equally often, however, we should act and make positive changes happen, even if it’s someone else’s responsibility.
“You’ll always find her busy, but never without time.” p. 58
Alex Rogo said this about his wife. She had embraced the problem-solving techniques espoused in the book and become a successful marriage counselor. This description exemplifies a constant life goal that many of us, myself included, strive to reach: busy, but always available.
“If you are constantly fire-fighting, you have the impression that you are surrounded by many, many problems.” “[But when] you follow the recipe, and you end up with a clear identification of the core problems.” p. 94-95
Referencing the problem solving techniques explained in the book, Goldratt captures the pain of constantly fighting fires. After careful analysis, we often realize that just a few root causes create most of the pain and emergencies we deal with each day. Using the 5 Whys is an excellent way to reach those problems. Incidentally, the Current Reality Tree method is closely related to the 5 Whys technique.
“It’s very important not to ignore these nasty reservations. Each one of them is a pearl, because if we do take them seriously, if we write each reservation as a logical Negative Branch, we can identify everything that can go wrong.” p.173
This quote ties precisely into another excellent quote, that problems are gold to be treasured. Without acknowledging and addressing problems, improvement relies solely on luck. Fortunately, the reverse is also true: addressing problems ensures improvement will occur.
“We didn’t have time for mistakes, so we had to spend extra time planning.” p. 265
Although I enjoy jumping into problems and live testing ideas, some extra time planning up front usually saves a large amount of pain later on. The old adage is often true – haste make waste.
The final pages elaborate and revise The Goal‘s key conclusion. The goal of a company isn’t just to make money. Rather, all companies have three basic goals:
- “Make money now as well as in the future”
- “Provide a secure and satisfying environment for employees now as well as in the future”
- “Provide satisfaction to the market now as well as in the future”
Often, important decisions benefit only one or two of these goals. The key to building a great organization then is to find creative solutions that accomplish all three goals. Only then, can a company endure challenges and grow to thrive through them.
The business climate will only continue to grow more competitive and difficult to navigate. As supply chains grow and problems seem to multiply, It’s Not Luck reminds us in a powerful way that any challenge can be overcome. Whether you need to remember how to use the problem solving techniques explained in this book, or you just need to revisit examples of how to successfully jolt a company to triumph, It’s Not Luck is an excellent source of motivation and problem solving tools to review each year.