The passing of an inspiration

By Hugh Williams

- Last updated on GMT

I was greatly saddened recently to hear of the death of Dr Eli Goldratt, with whom I had the pleasure of learning from for six years in the early 1990s. Those who know the name and have read 'The Goal' will know Eli left us an understanding of bottlenecks and constraints and a great book written in a unique style.

Eli was unconventional. He would not use pre-prepared slides when he would be presenting all day long. He wore an open-necked, white shirt, a yamulka and smoked a huge cigar, in a British climate of suits and ties and (years ago) a lot of directors who all went to the same public school. I knew when I started studying under him it was always going to be fun.

You could not hide at one of his seminars. "Hello? Hello?"​ he would say when trying to get a response from an audience that did not want to be seen. In my view he was a real performer and will be missed.

If you read 'The Goal' years ago, back in university perhaps, pick it up again. For those who have not come across Dr Goldratt and his work, I heartily recommend you take a look.

His exploration of constraints, how to understand and manage them across all disciplines and thoughts on conflict resolution have inspired paradigm shifts and massive profit benefits in manufacturing, supply chain and project management. Yet, despite it being what one might imagine complex theory, nothing makes more common sense.

30 years on from the day I had to present my understanding of his material to him, there is still not much evidence of this common sense around.

I learned it, I have used it and I have applied it and I can tell you that it works. We talk about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link. How many of us know where that weakest link is? If you don't, take a few minutes to think about it and ask yourself what you could do to change it. That's all he asked you to do.

Rest in peace, Eli. Your work is not forgotten.

Hugh Williams is founder of supply chain planning specialist consultancy Hughenden.

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