Management Dilemmas How to learn from fictional cases? With Eli Schragenheim, readers,

Management Dilemmas
How to learn from fictional cases?
With Eli Schragenheim, readers,
TOC enthusiasts and friends
About Management Dilemmas
• Written in 1997-98
• Includes introduction to TOC and 12 fictional
cases that present various problems in wide
area of organizations
• And the “author solutions” – analysis of each
– Starting by identifying the key/core problem
– Then, when possible, pointing to a direction of a
How did I come to write cases?
• When I joined Eli Goldratt, in 1985, it was in order to develop
a “computerized game for adults that would teach them how
to think!”
– It was a fascinating vision by Eli Goldratt to provide people with an
“on-hand” experience that would allow them to check their paradigms
and possibly challenge them
– In perspective I believe that this idea is directly connected to “The
Goal” – educate people by enforcing a certain problematic situation
– The outcome was the ‘OPT Game’ – a deterministic simulation of
seemingly simple production line
• Actually quite complicated because of interactive constraints
– Then I suggested to make a simulation tool for education
• Adding substantial uncertainty
• Having many different scenarios
• This was called The Goldratt Simulator (GSIM)
The Next Step in Computerized Cases
• In 1991 I resigned from AGI and decided to do two things:
– Develop a platform for learning production through computerized
“management interactive case study simulation” – MICSS
– Work as a consultant with organizational behavior people
• MICSS allowed me to teach production by having people truly
understand the problems through (virtual) experience
• However, I found myself teaching people that were very far
away from Production
– This led me to look for a substitute to the computerized simulation
– Something that would cover wider situations
– So, I started to write customized cases to be used in education for variety
of organizations like the Army and other government organizations
The power of a case study
• Any case study, real or fictional, imposes a certain reality on
the reader
– We are used to read or listen to stories and identify with the main
figures and care about them
– This human skill allows us to put ourselves in the shoes of the hero
and think what we’d have done in that case
– When “what to do?” is a problem in such a fictional case, we
intuitively translate it into a conflict and then the conflict is “ours”
– When the conflict is ours we are more open to learn how to solve it
– Now it is the opportunity for a facilitator / instructor to provide new
insights that would be the kernel of the learning
The limitations of a case study
• There is no straightforward way to judge a proposed solution
– The “only” way is by cause and effect logic
• Controlling the amount of the data given in the case is a key
factor in the effectiveness of the case for learning
– Too restricted amount of data hints to what the instructor has in mind
– In reality we are almost drown with data and we need the skill to be
able to identify the truly relevant data. We need to learn and be
trained to develop that ability
– Too much data in a case could disrupt the effectiveness of the learning
due to the time required to read and understand all of it
• Eventually the case, like any story, has to be good enough to
create the kind of identification effect that is critical
The writer dilemma
The reader has all the time in the world
People learn
from the
People invest efforts on
identifying the truly
relevant information
out of the ocean of data
Add a lot of
irrelevant data
to the case
Injection: Add
data that serves
as “traps”
People are fully focused
on the chosen problem
at hand
Use only
minimal data in
the case
The reader has very limited time and
patience for the case
Real cases versus fictional ones
• The best asset of a real case is that it is REAL
– So, the reader easily believes the story
• Another asset is that one line of action and the actual results
are known
• However, writing a real case has to involve interpretation of
what truly happened in reality
– We do not know everything that happened
– We, the writers of the case, are biased by our opinions
– And many times what truly happened is not very interesting or
• Fictional cases are fully under the control of the writer – for
good and bad!
• The fictional story needs to convince it is realistic!
A fictional case that has nothing to do with TOC
Aaron Botstein, the famous CEO of Aaron Publishing Inc., sat with his five
most distinguished editors, on the issue of the problematic ‘pot of gold’:
the seven volumes of “Septet” by C. C. Mandalay. Mandalay was one of
the greatest writers of the second half of the 20th century. He was also the
most bizarre writer Aaron has ever dealt with. Mandalay sixth and last
book appeared in 1998. Then in January 2009 Aaron got through the mail a
new book entitled “Septet No 1”. This was great news as the book was
bizarre in exactly the way to make the followers of Mandalay thrilled.
Mandalay, however, asked to postpone the publication of the book to mid2011.
Then in April 2011 all were shocked to learn that Mandalay died in Greece,
where he lived for the last fifteen years. The circumstances of the death
looked like a suicide according to the Greek police.
A fictional case that has nothing to do with TOC
Then in June 02, 2011, just one month before the formal launch of the
new Mandalay book, a certain Miss Burton appeared in the office of Aaron
Publishing Inc, presented herself as the wife of C.C. Mandalay, and put on
the table six new volumes of what was supposed to be, together with
“Septet no 1”, a whole united work of literature of the highest rank.
However, Miss Burton made a very strong demand: “Mandalay wanted
all the volumes to be published at the same time! He even included this
condition in his will!”
Well, according to the knowledge of Aaron no will of Mandalay has been
found. Mandalay had quite a number of “spouses” during his life, so it
was not clear whether Miss Burton demand had any legal ground. The
immediate problem is whether to stop the planned launch of “Septet no
1”. During the last week Aaron and each of the five editors spent time to
read one of the six books and it was clear to all that the books are real
gold. Another interesting point is: even though each of the books is
entitled “Septet no ..” the stories seem to be stand-alone and not directly
connected. Probably Mandalay looked on the Septet as an overall view of
the world at the start of the 21st century.
A fictional case that has nothing to do with TOC
“Publishing all the books at one time would be a business
disaster”, said Aaron. He did not explain, but 34 years of
experience were behind that assertion. All the editors simply
nodded. “The best is to publish one per year”, added Aaron.
However, it is clear that such a move of Aaron Publishing would
cause Miss Burton to go to court, and it could cause a lot of
trouble, depending on what real proof Miss Burton has.
So, what to do???
• This is the case!
• Let’s start with what is the critical question that the case poses
to the reader?
– What problem is important for the reader of the case to address?
The option of having more than one layer in a case
• Most cases pose an unanswered question at the end of the case
• Depending on the case, that question could be the key one, or it
is a superficial one and if we address another question the
answer to the first one would be obvious
• In this case: “What to do?” means simply – should we (assuming
we identify with Aaron) take the chance and continue with the
launch of the first volume – or stop the launch until all volumes
would be ready?
– This could be treated as a typical dilemma of taking a risk or not taking it?
• What could be the damage if Aaron proceeds with the launch?
• Inquiring “why are we in this dilemma?” refers to a higher layer
– Why the “other side” has put a condition we do not like?
– What does Aaron want to achieve? What does Miss Burton wish? Can we
find a win-win solution? What do we need to know in order to do that?
Do we have the information? If not, how do we get it?
How far you like to stretch a case?
• One could take such a case into inquiring the generic dilemma
between art and business
– The case is only an opportunity to talk about it
• It does not suggest any special insight regarding the generic
• Another possible layer is inquiring Aaron’s character and
based on it how he handles his company
– Aaron did call his company on his own name
– He was not very close to a very significant writer whose book he was
glad to publish
• Is it too far or too high?
• What you like to do now?
– Discuss the specific case in more detail?
– Discuss the use of fictional cases to learn more about TOC and/or
management in general and/or life?
Your turn to ask me questions!
Eli Schragenheim – Giving support to TOC implementations worldwide
[email protected]
Skype id: elischragenheim