Archive for July, 2011

"Towards Isla de Mujeres"

Posted July 21, 2011 By Fletcher Groves

The intrepid, results-based consultant glanced at the compass in the binnacle. Easing herself to the leeward rail, she crouched behind the slot, between the spinnaker and the mainsail, and looked at the trim on both sails. Standing back up, she traveled the main to leeward, eased the mainsheet, and then eased the backstay.

EFA - Isla de Mujeres Race

“I need the pole back. I need a little more tension on the vang. I need some ease on the Cunningham”, she said.

“That’s perfect. Thank you.”

Slowly, the speed of the boat increased and its heel moved to a more optimal angle, as it came off the wind and settled into a power reach with the apparent wind slightly aft of beam. She heard the familiar squeegee of her Topsider as her left foot slid to the port cockpit wall to brace her stance. The balance of the boat, it seemed to her, was perfect, and whenever it was, it would just lock-in, and she could steer it – as big and powerful as it was – with just slight pressure on the wheel.

Like her dad, she loved offshore racing, the beauty of it, the danger of it, the moving chess match of strategy involving wind and current, the satisfaction of grinding infinitesimal increases in boat speed over time. She loved closed-course, too; the tactics, the geometry, the energy, the close-quarters, the competency, speed, and decisiveness demanded by constant change.

Racing or not, she loved sailing at night. She loved sailing, period; the equipment, the materials, the tinkering, the combination of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, the immense-yet-silent power of sail, the idea that you could get something this big and heavy moving through water this fast, with nothing more than wind and Kevlar.

But, more than anything else, she loved the environment, “creation recreation” – the sunrises, the sunsets, the salt spray, the remoteness, the vastness, the anchorages, the places only reachable by water, the sea life; the unique moments she had experienced, like being becalmed and swimming in water more than a mile deep, so clear that, from underwater, the hull of the boat seemed suspended in air.

Checking the heading on the compass once more, she looked up and searched the dark sky just to weather of the masthead. She found that constantly steering to a compass at night was too artificial, too consuming, too disorienting. She preferred to steer to the stars. Finding what she wanted, she settled in for her shift on the helm.

Sailing this far offshore, the loom from Sarasota was still faintly visible behind them, the loom from Ft. Myers and Naples more distantly visible to the south. She steered the course of 210 degrees towards Cabo San Antonio and the Yucatan Channel beyond, still two-days-sail away. She remembered her dad’s description of navigating this race a generation before, the dead reckoning on NOAA charts, the Loran tables. Nowadays, it was all GPS display. But, the basics never changed. Leave Tampa Bay, sail south until you hit Cuba, and turn right.

It always amazed her how many stars were visible at night, away from land.

They were like millions of eyes.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (II Chronicles 16:9).

“The eyes of the Lord”, she thought to herself.

As she looked into the sky, and pondered the sheer majesty of all creation, the indescribable beauty of this world, it seemed to her that the Lord of that creation . . . the Author of all that is good . . . the Lover of her soul . . . was always looking right back at her.


(excerpts from The Pipeline)

“Look”, said the CEO.  “Every important measure of operating performance – Cycle Time, Productivity, Inventory Turn – and every important measure of financial performance – Net Income and Return on Assets – can be calculated using just three terms, which describe anything and everything that happens to money in this company:

“Throughput, Inventory, Operating Expense.

“Does it bother me that we may need to modify the DuPont Formula?  No.  Does it bother me that we may need to change our thinking on cost behavior and cost reporting?  No.  What would bother me is if any Teammate or Leader did not understand the connection.

“If we make operating decisions, each day, every day, that maximize the rate of closings, with a planned, finite, and controlled level of work-in-process, and we do it by leveraging our investment in our production capacity – if we focus on doing those three things well – we will have shorter, faster cycle times, higher productivity, and faster inventory turns.  And, if we have shorter, faster cycle times, higher productivity, and faster inventory turns, we will be more profitable, we will earn a higher economic return, and we will generate more cash.

“RB Builders has already taken steps in that direction”, he continued.  “As part of our new, more focused, more results-based approach, we have already moved to limit and control the amount of work-in-process and the cost of our production capacity.  The improvements in operating performance and business outcomes that we are targeting under this new approach will have to be obtained without any increase in work-in-process or production resources.

“Personally – I believe we should be looking for the opportunity and justification to reduce the level of work-in-process even further, in order to operate as closely as possible to a zero working capital position.  But – I also understand that we need to take this one step at a time, so that we learn from the outcomes and incorporate that learning into successive projects, so that we can innovate, so that we can continuously increase our capability and capacity to improve.  If reducing work-in-process further will make us faster, if fully utilizing our existing capacity will make us more productive, I think we will come to that conclusion over time and take the right steps.

“I also understand that we need to live in the Throughput World, not in the Cost World.  There is no theoretical limit to the Revenue and Gross Income we can generate, but there are limitations to the amount of capacity – the amount of work-in-process and resources  we will ever have or ever be able to safely eliminate.

“Max “T”, with a planned, finite, and controlled amount of “I” and “OE”.  That is what we want, because that is what improves operating performance and business outcomes.”