If businesses in the United States, and indeed throughout the world, have one shared problem, it is a lack of common sense.
"Common sense is not as easy as people think," said author and business consultant Eliyahu Goldratt. "Human beings are born with an intuitive ability to recognize common sense when they see it. It is easy to identify. It is not at all easy to construct common sense and it is even more difficult to communicate it."Goldratt wrote the best-selling novel "The Goal" to convey his ideas about improving business - and many industry tycoons and entrepreneurs have declared it a must-read volume. His latest book, "It's Not Luck," also has been highly successful and his play, "UnCommon Success," has been well received. Goldratt was in Salt Lake this week presiding over a daylong seminar attending by about 60 executives.
Goldratt, who was trained as a physicist, is perhaps best known for his "Theory of Constraints," which contends that managers should examine situations that are constraining their businesses from expanding into new markets rather than constantly cutting costs and laying off employees.
His "thinking processes" are a set of methods to set goals, look for root causes of problems in a business and eliminate those problems to reach the goals.
Clients who have embraced his ideas include Proctor & Gamble, Bethlehem Steel and General Motors, and his books are on reading lists at Harvard Business School.
Goldratt, who founded the Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute in New Haven, Conn., has offices in Israel, England, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and Brazil.
Throughout his travels, Goldratt has found that the problems of businesses are the same throughout the world.
"The single major problem everywhere is that people have been conditioned to think there are only win-lose situations. It is hard to show that in every situation there is a win-win-win solution, and nobody gets hurt. There is always a way to the win-win-win solution and it is in your power to find it," he said.
"This is not a new philosophy. All Judaism and Christianity is based on this philosophy. All religions are based on this philosophy. Show me a religion that says you have to step on others," he said.
Goldratt said all he is doing is equipping businesspeople with the tools to achieve win-win-win solutions.
This can even be found in otherwise tense union-management relationships. "The goal of a company is to make money, it is not to fire their people. At the same time, there is no job security in a company that is losing money," he said. Unions increasingly are learning that companies must make profits and companies are learning that they cannot succeed if they harm their employees.
Scott Olson, manager over engineering systems at Morton International in Ogden, said his firm has been successfully employing Goldratt's ideas for about a year and he was eager to attend the seminar to learn more.
Canadian businessmen Jean-Claude Lessard and Guy Berard were in the United States on business anyway, but made a point of coming to Utah for Goldratt's presentation. Their company, Forbo Industries Inc., makes Arborite, a high-pressure laminate used in home and furniture construction.
"We have already improved our production (using Goldratt's ideas). Now we have to turn this process into marketing," said Lessard.
How about a specific example of the common sense Goldratt talks about?
"We say we're in the fashion industry (especially home decor). Previously, I had been asking my distributors to carry our entire line of 250 colors. That's not what I should have been doing. I should have been telling them to reduce their inventory to the bare minimum," Lessard said. "Being in the fashion industry, they didn't know what color will sell. Why should they carry parrot green? Now we have made-to-order stock."