Job Shop Manufacturing Leadership

Leadership in job shop manufacturing is a topic I’ve never given much thought to.  I’ve owned a job shop and now I help custom job shops and machine shops to reduce lead-time, improve due date performance, and reduce chaos with our nationally recognized 14 week  Velocity Scheduling System Coaching Program.  And, to do that, some leadership is involved, no doubt.  So I did a little internet surfing on leadership, some deep thinking and then developed my 2 Laws of Leadership, all of which I share in this article.

Definition of Leadership (according to

“the action of leading a group of people or an organization”.


In a Google search there were 2,650,000,000 (up from 455,000,000) results for the word leadership. On the National Speakers Association’s website there are over 2075 speakers (up from 650) who are experts on Leadership.

I don’t know about you, but as an engineer and NOT a very touchy feely kind of person, I have trouble relating to all the discussion on leadership.

I don’t have anything against leadership or the people who speak on it or write about it (there are tons of those people and some of them are my friends), I just don’t see what the big deal is.  It just doesn’t seem that complicated to me.

I obviously use some leadership and help my clients to do the same, so I had to think about my views on leadership and try to write them down.  So here goes…

I’m an expert in Theory of Constraints.  Theory of Constraints is about focus, so assuming you are focused. There are only 2 things – guiding principles if you will — that a leader or manager needs to keep in mind. I call them the Theory of Constraints 2 Laws of Leadership.

I don’t think there are 10 qualities of a leaders, 9 leadership principles or 5 key elements of leadership.  I think there are just 2 laws.

FYI, these are not Dr. Eli Goldratt approved.  I developed my thoughts on leadership after he passed.  However, I’ve used what I learned from him and working with him to formulate these two laws.

What is a law? (from

Scientific laws or laws of science are statements, based on repeated experiments or observations, that describe or predict a range of natural phenomena.[1] The term law has diverse usage in many cases (approximate, accurate, broad, or narrow) across all fields of natural science (physics, chemistry, biology, Earth science). Laws are developed from data and can be further developed through mathematics; in all cases they are directly or indirectly based on empirical evidence. It is generally understood that they implicitly reflect, though they do not explicitly assert, causal relationships fundamental to reality, and are discovered rather than invented.[2]

Theory  of Constraints 2 Laws of Leadership

TOC Leadership LAW 1) Don’t be a sissy!

TOC Leadership LAW 2) Just do it!

Any leader, who is bold about what they want and goes after it without apology and with perseverance, has my attention. And if this direction is delivered in a respectful way, they have my respect. I will follow where they lead. (Am I alone here?)

Now that sounds easy, probably too easy. So let’s apply it. Don’t be a sissy means – don’t let old patterns, past ways of doing things, and failures stop you from finally getting 99+% on time all the time, reducing lead-time, and from dramatically reducing chaos or whatever your goals are.

Pick a technique, a philosophy, or anything that you think might get you closer to your goals. And realize that if you want improvement, you have to DO SOMETHING different. It is also true that not all change is improvement, so select carefully, but DO make a selection.

I once told a client who wanted to do an incentive program (which generally I’m against) that I didn’t care if they wanted to bring clowns in on Fridays – but to DO SOMETHING.

Definition of a Leader

Now, I’m partial to my programs and Theory of Constraints for the “something to do” – but even if you don’t go with the changes I recommend, you will get some improvement simply by doing something and sticking with it.

For example, GE chose Six Sigma as the horse they would ride. I can tell you why that may not be the best overriding philosophy, and how they could get better results by using Theory of Constraints to direct their Six Sigma efforts (see 2 articles below), but the reality is that they did improve by making the selection and sticking to it.

Don’t be a sissy also means don’t make excuses and don’t blame anyone but yourself for the results you get or don’t get.

It is our job as managers to put systems and processes in place that get the results we want.   Our systems and processes comprise the policies, procedures and measures that direct our peoples’ actions. If you’re not getting the results you want, just look in the mirror.  Theory of Constraints Leadership

Don’t listen to the voice in your head or to your employee’s who say:

“that will never work”
“we already tried that, and it doesn’t work here”
“you don’t understand …”

And one other thing that “don’t be a sissy” means is that if you make a mistake, chose wrong, or fail – then get over it and find what IS going to work.

This is NOT in conflict with my prior statement of “sticking with it”. I find that people either 1) don’t try something long enough to see if it’s going to work – they get distracted by the next new shiny thing; or 2) they stick with it forever despite the poor results.

I’m suggesting a rational balance between the two. And a good way to do that is to decide ahead of time what success and failure look like, then do everything to can to make whatever you decided to do a success.

If you want better results you are going to have to do things differently. Simply decide WHAT you’re going to do and just do it .

Next time, I’ll dive into the Theory of Constraints second Law of Leadership — “Just do it!”

Wishing you unsissified success, (Please share your thoughts and comments to this post below.)

By Dr Lisa Lang

P.S. Here are links to 2 articles on the subject of Theory of Constraints Goldratt and Six Sigma: and (this one includes Lean)

P.P.S Check out the webinar if you have a custom job shop and need to reduce time through your shop, get on-time and reduce chaos. This is a coaching program to help implement what you read in the Theory of Constraints book The Goal by Eliyahu M Goldratt. WARNING: This is NOT training, this is a go and do program.  Sissies need not apply!

This article on job shop manufacturing leadership was recently updated to reflect the current data and my current thinking.  This has been one of my most popular and controversial posts ever.  Some (not all) of the feedback I’ve received is below.  Please add yours.

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This video on how a bunny learned to herd sheep made me think of leadership:

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