Speeches and Communiqués

of MRP Man

The famouse 'MRP Man'

MRP Man (pronounced 'Murp Man')

To understand MRP Man, one must be familiar with a few terms -- but only a few -- so don't worry. You see MRP Man was the symbol of a hard-fought MRP-II implementation project, a project that involved not only the implementation of large-scale manufacturing systems software, but also the changing of processes and attitudes -- a battle for hearts and minds and loyalties. Such an implementation is much more a people project than it is a software project, and people demand a champion, a rallying figure, a torch bearer. Thus was MRP Man born and still lives on.

Terms to know to understand MRP Man's words:


Manufacturing Resource Planning.


Bigger and deeper MRP, involving Accounting and Financials and integrating feed-back loops. MRP-II also refers to the software that enables the process. These systems are very complex and a challenge to implement successfully.


Western Data Systems, an MRP-II systems vendor.


American Production and Inventory Control Society.


A certified professional level of APICS (Certified in Production and Inventory Management). Becoming CPIM certified involves a good deal of work and the passing of several national exams.


A former division of Thiokol, Inc. As things go today in the business world, it has been renamed, re-shaped, and combined so that it no longer exists as such.

You can scroll through MRP Man's words, or pick one of the hyperlinks below to jump directly to the one you want.

(Note: The images used here are adapted from and used with the permission of Epona's Celtic World)

The Words of MRP Man

Burn the Ships!

About 2000 years ago, Julius Caesar, Proconsul to Rome, set out across the sea to conquer England. Caesar had had many battles with the 'Gauls' in France whose allies, the 'Celts', inhabited England at the time. England was a terrible place for a Roman soldier. It held an aggressive and dangerous enemy; for the Celts were known for their skill in war and especially for their skill with the chariot. The Romans were vastly outnumbered -- about 50,000 Roman soldiers to half-a-million Celts. Worst of all, any retreat to Rome and friendly territory was across the channel -- they were cut-off from any quick re-supply or relief. As the Roman fleet drew near the coast, hordes of Celts could be seen lining the Cliffs of Dover, their battle gear glinting in the sun, ready to do battle. Caesar turned down the coast, away from the cliffs, and after a fierce battle in the surf with the enemy, established a small beach head. They were landed in England all right, but held only a small purchase on the land -- entirely surrounded by Celtic armies. Legend has it the Caesar then did an incredibly daring thing for his men. He knew he had a commitment problem with his soldiers. As long as the Roman ships remained on the coast line, there was hope of retreat back to familiar country. So he burned the ships, their only means of escape, so as to make it perfectly clear to his men that there was to be no retreat, that if there were pushed back in battle it would be into the sea itself. There would be no retreat across the sea's wide expanse, only death if the battle were lost. He needed commitment from his soldiers to victory, commitment to conquer, and this is how he assured it. They needed to realize, and he needed them to realize it quickly, that they were here to stay.

We, this group of people, have some things in common with those Roman invaders. First of all, we are 'invaders' too. We are and will be viewed as dangerous people, invaders, changers by those around us. We are going to have to pull together, to rely on ourselves, to make some sacrifices, to use all of our collective talents, if we expect to be successful. Just like the Roman soldiers, we have trained vigorously -- we've attended the APICS battle schools, Oliver Wight Gladiator training, WDS ancient weapons training, etc. -- and we've tested our steel on the battlegrounds of the Flex-out, the Functional Pilot, and the Conference Room Pilot. Some of us are young to the battle, some more experienced, and a few of us are battle toughened (and perhaps a little weary ;-) Centurions who have served long and gloriously defending and expanding the borders of the Empire. We too have established a 'beach head' on the shore -- that is what a Conference Room Pilot is isn't it? It is a beach-head, a breech in the wall, a tentative push into enemy territory. We stand on the shore of a new adventure, ready to implement, ready to change our way of business, ready to prove ourselves by finally beginning the Conversion Phase of our project. But before we can be assured of victory we have one thing left to do. Just as Caesar did for his soldiers thousands of years ago, we need to 'burn the ships'. We need to commit ourselves so that there will be no going back, that we will accept nothing but total success in our project. We've accomplished much in a short time, yet we still have a long journey ahead of us. As your project leader, I ask each one of you to act as your own Julius Caesar -- for I can't do this for you. Commit yourselves to completing the project -- Let nothing stop us -- Let's make this thing work! Remember, and this has to take place in everyone's heart within the sound of my voice, it's time to burn the ships!


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Crossing the Delaware

As I thought about what to say in this section of the communication board, I remembered a joke I once heard. It goes like this (don't peak at the answer!):

Question: What did Washington say to his men just before they got into the boats to cross the Delaware?

Answer: "Men, get in the boats!" ;-)

I think that's about where we are in our MRP-II implementation. We're past the time for flowery speeches and exhortations. We're poised ready to convert Bill-of-Materials, Inventory, Purchasing, and Accounts Payable to the MRP-II system. It's not the only conversion we will go through . . . a little later we'll start running MRP itself, still later we'll convert Shop Floor Control, and even later, complete the Financial System. But right now, what we plan to convert is a very significant portion of the total task.

It's 'ACTION' time rather than 'speech' time. So what I'd like to say is:

"Get in the Boats!"


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Green Men

Let me take you back in time about 1800 years to the England of about 200 AD. It was a province on the frontier, of the Roman Empire. Its military assets were mighty, and invincible, its technology supreme, for it had all the weapons and siege machines that that century could offer. To the North, Hadrian's wall, a massive barrier, dotted with 17 forts and 80 castles and garrisoned with battle-hardened Roman troops, kept out the war-like Scots and the barbaric Northern Tribes. Along the seacoast to the East and South, massive citadels, swarming with troops and seasoned sailors, formed the sea defense. From these ports, usually about 50 miles apart along the coast, their ships prowled the seas protecting Britannica from Viking raiders. These defenders even had 'stealth technology' -- that's right! And you thought Lockheed invented it didn't you!? ;-) Tacitus wrote that Roman sailors left those ports in light attack ships painted completely sea-green. Everything was sea-green: the ships, the sails, the ropes, the sailor's clothes, their faces -- everything. This made them extremely hard to detect at any distance -- virtually invisible -- as they sailed forth to fight for the Empire. BUT it was all for nothing. For even though the garrisoned troops and the green sailors defended bravely, back home, inside the Roman home and city, society grew more and more corrupt and sick. Soon there was nothing to defend. Roman society died from the inside out, not ravaged by some outside conqueror. No work of the green men, no new weapon, no new technology, could stop the 'worm from within'.

A story of old, not applicable today you say? Is this not what has happened to the Soviet Union? Did not their submarines prowl the seas? Did not their 'green men' defend bravely? Yes, but military might means nothing if the society it defends falls apart. This can, and does, happen to companies too! They also can be bristling with technology, their buildings bright, their machinery well oiled, while they bravely defend themselves in the world market. Yet at home, inside the company, people stop growing, they stop learning, they stop improving, . . . soon there is nothing to defend anymore. That's why I'm encouraged tonight as we honor our new CPIMs. They have heeded management's call to improve our ultimate resource -- the knowledge of its people -- and to improve our manufacturing ability through new ideas and techniques. Strategic has invested in the future by providing a way for its people to gain more knowledge and upgrade their skills, and our new CPIMs have, in turn, invested back in Strategic by heeding that call.

Our CPIMs are a hope of our future.

And we know where much of our future lies don't we? It lies in making the commercialization of space a reality. Yes the nation still has defense needs, but we are also going to apply our expertise and skills to other areas as well. We hope to aim our rockets to the skies, to make gravity our new enemy, and to make the stars our new goal. If we want part of that business, the commercial side of space, then we must continue to produce a high quality product at a competitive price. We must improve our operations; lower our costs; learn to do things better. Tonight's CPIMs bring us hope and promise towards this end. They represent the 're-tooling' of our most valuable resource -- our people -- to meet that challenge.


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Thoreau, Archimedes, and Lone-Wolf Gonzales

I brought three thoughts with me tonight to honor our newly minted CPIMs. They are other people's thoughts, people long since gone, but I've adopted them as my own, expanded on them -- perhaps you can too.

Here's the first thought:

"Any endeavor is suspect if it requires one to change the outer self only, and not the inner person."

This is a thought expressed by Thoreau in his writings during his hermitage on Walden Pond just before the Civil War. What does it mean? Thoreau looked out on his New England neighbors and found them engaged in may questionable activities -- activities that required them only to change their outer selves -- perhaps their clothes, maybe their appearance, maybe continue to 'fake' a part in society, etc. But in all this, never did they change their inner self, a true commitment in Thoreau's eyes. In contrast, the new CPIMs we honor here tonight -have- been changing their inner selves. Education, study, and hard work have changed them from inside, not from the outside. I read in many of the trade journals today of the 're-tooling' of America. Well, we're are here tonight celebrating just that -- the re-tooling of our division, the re-tooling of our most important resource; our people. A re-tooling not in an outward sense, for we haven't purchased new equipment, nor have we built new buildings. Instead we've changed on the inside -- where it most counts! Two parties should be praised here tonight -- our new CPIMs -and- our division management. Our new CPIMs heeded management's call to re-tool, to change the inner self. I congratulate, also, our management for having the foresight to provide the means, the incentive, and the encouragement, to allow them to reach CPIM status.

Here's my second thought:

"Knowledge is the antidote to fear . . . Knowledge is power . . . A thinker is sometimes more powerful than an army with banners."

These thoughts are Emerson's, a contemporary, friend, and mentor of Thoreau. How do these thoughts relate to our new CPIMs? We could compare our newly minted CPIMs to another inventive thinker -- Archimedes -- who lived over 2 thousand years ago. He was a genius, a self-educated free thinker, and not content to do things the way they had always been done. Here's an example.

Archimedes traveled to Egypt and observed the Egyptian farmers carrying buckets of water from the river to irrigate their fields. We can imagine him saying, "Why are you doing it that way?" And we can imagine them saying back -- and listen closely and see how familiar this sounds ;-) -- "We've always done it that way -- We've been doing it that way for thousands of years." So Archimedes showed them a new way. He said, in effect, "Here, why don't you use this new screw device I've invented?" For you see he had invented the Archimedian Screw for the King of Syracuse to bail water out of his ship's holds. The Egyptians must have loved it for they still use his device to this day. Later, Archimedes held off the Roman armies when they invaded Syracuse, Sicily -- Archimedes' home town. Ancient writers say he created great mirrors that burned the sails of the attacking Roman ships as they drew near the city's ports. He placed huge grappling hooks suspended from elaborate pulley systems that grabbed and overturned the Roman ships as they closed in. He invented the catapult and with it drove the Roman armies from the city walls. Many a Roman foot soldier found himself trapped in elaborate mazes and embattlements invented by Archimedes, and an easy target for concealed Syracusian defenders. So it was, for a time at least, a stand-off -- one educated, thinking man against the whole of the Roman army.

Now we don't expect our new CPIMs to hold off the Roman army ;-) But they do have plenty of their own battles to fight. We hope they do burn the sails of the ships of ignorance and waste. We hope they do overturn the galleys filled with outdated practices and inefficiencies. We hope they do catapult new ideas and new ways of doing things all over the division. If one thinking person, like Archimedes, can make so big difference, then we think many of our Archimedians, our CPIMs, will make a whole lot of difference in our company.

My third thought is:

"One Riot, One Ranger."

Which is what Lone Wolf Gonzales said. Let me explain.

Many years ago during the frontier oil-boom days in Texas, a labor riot broke out, a mean one, among the oil rough-necks in the area surrounding Gilgore, Texas. The local sheriff, overwhelmed and outgunned, called for help from the Governor, who in turn did send help. Into the fray rode one, just one, Texas ranger -- Lone Wolf Gonzales. "Hey, when are the other's goin' to git here?" the sheriff moaned. "Sheriff," said Lone Wolf, " just how many riots ya'all got here?" "One," replied the Sheriff. Then Lone Wolf held up his finger and said, "One riot, One Ranger!"

Now that's courage, that's gall isn't it! But the Texas Rangers were tough, mean, and armed to the teeth. Just one was a 'whole lotta' help. That's how we think of our CPIMs tonight-- they are tough, mean, and 'armed to the teeth' when it comes to solving our manufacturing and business problems. But we need more than one. You see we're not really sure how many riots we've got going here. To be sure we've got a bunch: MRP-II 'riots', Continuous Improvement 'riots', Concurrent Engineering 'riots', and on and on. It's going to take a bunch of touch CPIM Rangers to get the job done and we're glad to have "all of 'um we can git" ;-)


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Exploding Beeps

It's Saturday. As I write this memo I am aware of a myriad of soft 'beeps' exploding in the background as 5 scanners and the people who man them input the maintenance inventory into MRP-II. By noon today it should all be in. That's another battle won in our fight for MRP-II. I've warned the team members to wear both 'belts and suspenders' Monday when maintenance stores activity is to be done exclusively in MRP-II -- we expect a little rough water. In any case, we'll have a 'crack' swat team in place to handle it.

Last week the consolidation of the two division's MRP-II systems concluded 'flawlessly' -- the two databases are now one. Tammy's plan, Lynn's bar-code scheme, and the many people who worked them won us another victory! Three weeks ago I asked, "If anyone here has reason that these two databases should not be joined in holy matrimony, let them speak or forever remain silent." No protest was spoken (at least audibly) and so with characteristic poise the team counted, and scanned, and input, and fought their way to a common system. The problems aren't over. We still have training issues to resolve for those people accustomed to using the Tactical system, but we're working them rapidly.

Today makes four consecutive week-ends of scanning and we're getting quite good at it -- "Born to Scan" seems to be our motto. Once again I stand in awe at the wonderful, dedicated people working the MRP-II project. I don't think any other team in the world could have accomplished as much as they've done in the last four weeks.


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Who Broke the Mooom?!

In ancient times, during a long, fierce battle between opposing armies, night would fall, and because, in those times, men could not fight in the dark, the armies would fall back to sit around fires and listen to the encouragement of their commanders, and rest for battle on the morrow. That's what we're doing here tonight. We have also been engaged in a fierce MRP-II battle. Many of us are worn and battle weary. But night has fallen and we've gathered here, around a campfire so to speak, to listen to the speeches of the commanders as we rest -- for tomorrow we must rejoin the battle. During those ancient speeches the commanders would remind the resting warriors of the reason they were fighting and what was at stake in the conflict. That's what I want to do here tonight -- remind you of why we fight the MRP-II battle. The answer might surprise you. Let me start by telling you a personal story:

In early October I sat on the porch with Nicholas, my two-year old. We're sitting there and he's babbling away about this and that when all of a sudden he starts to talk about a "Ball." "Ball!, Ball", he said over and over again. When he said this I turned to look for a ball the other kids may have left out on the lawn but couldn't find any. Then I turned to him and realized that he was looking at the sky -- at the moon, actually, for it hung round and full in the evening sky. "No son, that's not a ball, it's the Moon," I said. "Ball!," he insisted. "No," I said, "it's like a ball, but we call it the Moon." "Mooom" he repeated and he rolled the word on his tongue like a wad of gummy worms. "Mooom" he said again -- and then he thought a minute and added, "My Mooom, my Mooom!" I laughed. "Hold on," I said, "it's not your moon, it's everybody's moon . . . or maybe nobody's moon." "My Mooom!, my Mooom!," he continued to insist, and nothing I said could dissuade him for he'd seen the moon and it was his.

I had a good chuckle over it at the time but later I began to think. Just whose Mooom is it anyway? Does anyone own it? Is anyone in a position to give it to someone else? Now I know what may of you are thinking. We already own the moon, right? Neil Armstrong got it for us, right? Wrong! If we own the moon then I, MRP Man, own Disneyland. You see I've visited Disneyland about the same number of times mankind has visited the moon (and for about the same amount of money too -- at least it seemed that way to me when I checked my wallet afterwards). No, No -- visiting a place a number of times does not mean you own the place. To own the moon we'd have to be there in a big way. Someone would have to live there a long time; someone should be born there;someone would have to die there. We'd have to cultivate the soil behind domes of life-giving air, or perhaps mine the lunar surface. Yes, we'd have to wrest the moon from nature's grasp just as we've always done on earth.

And how do we get there 'in a big way'? One step at a time. We'd have to start first by building space stations near the earth, by launching more satellites, by commercializing space so that not just governments, but also corporations, could ply near-earth space for profit. And that's where -we- come in. The products we make -- our rockets -- can help make it come true. IF we prepare.

Our MRP-II project is part of that price. For in order to participate in the commercialization of space we must change the use of our products. Yes we can 'transform' our products -- a strange thing really. Our products are like the Greek god Orpheous (the changeling), changeable into whatever suits our fancy. You know, sometimes, when I'm riding to work, the lights of the plant shine against the summer clouds, or the winter fog, like an open, hot furnace and the tail lights of the streaming cars seem to meld into rivulets of molten metal, and I imagine our plant as some great Vulcan forge where the weapons of Orpheous are forged. For what we produce is a weapon, and then again not. Our products can be used in anger, or then again they can be used for exploration, for trade, for commerce, for peace. When that "Screaming" comes across the sky it need not be in anger or retaliation -- it can just as well be for friendship and progress. We can change a rocket's use if we will. Not may aerospace companies can claim that. I challenge you to find a peaceful purpose for an F-16 fighter, an M1 tank, a nuclear submarine, or a cruise missile. But our rockets are different. They can have a peaceful use.

But there is a price to pay for the change-over. Nations will pay most anything for defense, but commerce, even space commerce, must pay for itself. Launch price per payload pound becomes critical. In order to compete we have to bring costs down while keeping quality high. That's where our MRP-II project comes in. It can help us be competitive as we continue our military programs and as we battle for a place in the commercialization of space. Too grand a vision?

Some might say our hopes for the future are "pipe dreams", "castles in the air." But Thoreau said:

"Do not despair if in the end you find that you've built your castles in the air -- for that's where they should be. Now put some foundations under them."

That's exactly what we are doing with our MRP-II project -- putting foundations under our Castles.

Let me say this. I'm proud to be your leader in our MRP-II project; and I'm so proud of each of you. For you have been, -are-, men and women of action. You haven't just been talking about implementing MRP-II, you've been doing it. We need to press on in our efforts. I doubt that for you, the MRP-II team, there is any summit too lofty or river too wide. We can do it! We aren't very far from our goal. By July 1 we can be fully implemented if we have the will to make it so. Then we can take the 6 months we need to sharpen and polish our MRP-II tools as we race to become Class 'A' finishers. Let's keep our heads high; let's work as hard as we can. Remember this: 'The mere passage of time never brings a better dawn' -- it never does. Only the work of people like you can do that. If we want a better tomorrow then we must make it so. To that end, let's keep on striving in our MRP-II efforts to forge a better future.

Now I can finish without bringing the 'Mooom' story to a close now can I? So here I go:

It's about two or three weeks later than the first 'Mooom' incident. I'm once again sitting on the porch with Nicholas. He's once again babbling away as before. Suddenly I realized he was strangely silent -- I mean all of a sudden he wasn't saying a word. I looked at him and saw a look of horror and anger, all mixed up, clouding his small face. His little brow was knitted and dark; dark thoughts filled his mind -- that much was obvious. I then realized that he was looking at the moon again. He pouted, and cried "Mooom broke! MY Mooom broke! 'body broke my Mooom!" For you see now the moon wasn't full in the sky as before but instead presented itself as a Turkish crescent -- a sliver of a moon, a broken moon, where only a few weeks before had hung a round orb. And in that terrible moment, all my scientific training and knowledge failed me. Yes I knew of the path's of the planets and their moons. I knew of the orbital dynamics that only hid the moon and had not destroyed or harmed it. But how to tell him? You see a vast void separated us -- my son and me-- that all my training could not help him cross quickly. Yes he would cross that void in his own time, in the coming years, as he studied in school and learned the things that I now know. And during those years, mankind would continue to strive to learn, to explore, and maybe when he was my age, if people like us here tonight decide to 'Pull it off!', then the moon really would be his to own along with his generation. But that night, in that terrible moment, because he could not cross the void to me, I crossed to him instead, and I grabbed him, and hugged him, and sat him on my knee, and we mourned the breaking of the Mooom together. We shook our fists at the broken orb and at the world that must have broken it, and we thought those dark thoughts together, both father and son, and cursed the breakers of the Mooom.

And so I end my speech tonight with a message from Nicholas -- a warning.

If any of you are the person or persons that have broken the Mooom, you had better watch your back(s). There's a mad two-year old after you! ;-)


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Four Battles rage in the MRP-II Arena!

(Note: I realize that this communiqué isn't very interesting to most people, but I have it here so I that I can remember -- a memorial of sorts to some great people.)

We are attacking the consolidation of the two MRP-II systems. Tammy Hatting leads our efforts as Consolidation leader ( much as Lynn Martineau was in our December 6th conversion ). Tammy has published a plan that shows the consolidation being complete by Monday, May 11th. The actual conversion will take place on Friday the 8th, using the now famous Martineau method of using bar-coding to speed the inputting process. A lot of preparation work needs to be done to make the consolidation a success. However, Tammy has a solid plan and we are proceeding on schedule. I wouldn't want to even be attempting this without the top notch people we have here at Strategic. If it can be done, they can do it!

We must not forget that we also, along with the immediate task of consolidating the two MRP-II systems, are fighting the MRP-II battle on three other fronts, (1) Shop Floor Control, (2) Maintenance Stores, and (3) Full-up Financials. All of these have due dates of July. Hal Turnbow continues to head-up the Shop Floor Control efforts. The team is defining business scenario for a Pilot in the last half of May. Lynn Martineau is leading the fight to get Maintenance items onto the MRP-II system. The conversion date for these items is May 16th -- only one week after our consolidation efforts are over!!! Full-up Financials, lead by Curtis Wright and Dennis Green, is proceeding nicely.

Remember the Plan! We meet our July deadlines, then we take 6 months to race toward a Class 'A' system -- by December we want the MRP-II system to be working like clock work. We need your support and dedication to get there. Hang on, keep pushing, and we'll soon be there!


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To Hunt the Woolly Mastodon

Down at corporate, in one of the conference rooms, some prankster has taped on the wall the following piece of advice -- 'No one ever said on their deathbed, "Gee I Wish I would have spent more time at the office"'. Well, how about it, is anyone here being honored for 10, 15, or even 20 years of service saying to themselves "Gee, I wish I would have spend more time at the office!"? ;-) I don't think so. We work because we must. Tens of Thousands of years ago, our ancestors roamed the savanna's, armed with puny weapons but considerable brain power and cunning in hunt of the woolly mastodon. They did it because they had to eat, to survive, to feed their families. The mastodon was big, but the humans had teamwork. Today we do the same thing. In the morning, as you stand before the mirror, frantically combing your hair and brushing your teeth, you too are preparing to go forth to hunt the woolly mastodon. We do it differently now. We survive not by hunting but by manufacturing, but it's essentially the same thing. In any case, it's not the work that is enjoyable, it's the 'teamwork', the coming together of people and resources to accomplish something bigger that any one of them is -- the modern hunt of the woolly mastodon. And when your career is over, you won't think of the hunt, you'll think of the teamwork, the people you worked with. One of those people, for me at least, is Susan Porter. Susan, would you stand up.

Susan has been with us 10 years now. She's here with her husband Jed tonight and they have two small children. She worked in the Peacekeeper Program Office in Program Control and for the Director of Peacekeeper before coming to Materiel. She's been an MRP-II Implementation team member from the start and helps me immensely to manage the project. She's one of our 'dreaded' MRP-II auditors and also the leader the MRP-II data integrity team. She's also one of three members of the highly creative but zany MRP-II PR committee that is responsible for the posters and communication boards you see around the plant. She's recently done something that I don't think I could ever do. Somehow, between being a mother and a growing career, she found time to finish her college degree. That's something that took a lot of drive and determination and I'm very proud of her for it. Susan has led and managed our APICS Education program that, during the last two years, has received recognition as one of the best in the world. Because of this, she recently traveled to the APICS International Convention in Montreal where she had been invited to give a presentation on our APICS education program to the international APICS community. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with Susan -- she's a great resource for our company.

Susan, along with all of you being honored here tonight, reminds me of the Arab proverb that says: "Victory has many fathers." It's not just the Corporation president, it not just the Vice Presidents, it's not just the Directors that determine whether we win or lose as a company, it's each one of you too. It's those thousands of victories that you win each day that adds up to whether we win or lose in the marketplace. So to Susan and to all of you: I hope you keep on striving, keep on growing, keep on winning those victories during the coming years.


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The Trophy

I wanted to talk tonight about the word 'trophy' because in just a few moments each one of our new CPIMs will be come up here to receive our applause and a certificate, which really is a 'trophy', that will hang on their wall at work or home commemorating their new status. Trophy is a word we use all the time -- you may have won a trophy on your little league team, maybe from a bowling league, golf tournament, whatever. But trophy is an ancient Greek word -- people were saying 'trophy' thousands of years ago. Whenever the Greeks won a great victory they would make a 'trophy' out of the arms -- swords, shields, spears, etc. -- of the defeated enemy -- right there on the battlefield, or if the battle were at sea, on the nearest point of land. These trophies weren't small, moveable statues, but great monuments to the bravery of the soldiers who had fought and to the greatness of their victory. You can imagine how huge the trophy must have been that the Greeks made commemorating their victory on the plains of Marathon when they defeated hordes of Persian's sent by Cyrus to invade Greece, for instance. And that's how I'd like you to think of the certificates that our new CPIMs receive tonight -- a monument to a brave battle, were they had to study hard, learn new concepts, new principles. But even the Greeks understood that a trophy didn't have to be a huge monument of enemy weapons, but it could be something more lasting.

Xenophon, and 10,000 other Greek soldiers went to help Cyrus one of the princes of Persia. They fought great battles as they took city after city in the march towards Babylon. But in a great battle on the banks of the Euphrates, Cyrus was killed, and the great hordes of the army deserted or defected to the other side, leaving the 10,000 Greeks alone, and 1500 miles inside enemy territory. They were then faced with the task of fighting their way over hostile territory -- 10,000 against literally hundreds of thousands of enemy troops -- 1500 miles to the sea. Xenophon, in encouraging them before this great effort reminded them that there was only one true trophy to any of their battles -- I quote "The Persians came, you know, with their enormous fleet, to wipe out Athens; but the Athenians dared to stand up to them and conquered them. . . Again, later, when Xerxes collected that innumerable host against Hellas, then again our ancestors conquered the ancestors of these men by land and sea. We can see the proofs of this in the trophies, but the greatest proof is the freedom of those cities in which you were born and brought up; for you revere no man as master, but only the gods."

Let me just make the point that each of the new CPIMs can also count this among their trophies -- I mean the winning of the Cold War. Winston Churchill said:

"This is no war of chieftains or of princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast numbers, not only in this Island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this war, but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a War of the Unknown Warriors;. . ."

But I have seen you, I have known you, and I have worked along side of you, and I recognize you as some of those unknown warriors of the cold war. Of course there is another trophy that our new CPIMs can count on -- the long-term survival of our company and division. Because of their efforts in applying new concepts and in looking at new ways to do things, we have a future and a chance -- and I'm confident that we can do it -- to be one of the few solid rocket producers left in the melee of defense cuts.


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We are the New Phoenicians!

I had my thoughts for tonight all laid-out last Friday. Then I saw the handwritten note from Bill Brant, pasted on bulletin boards throughout the plant, saying that we had our first Castor-120 (tm) sale. At this turn of events I changed my mind and I started over from scratch -- it tied in so well with some other thoughts of mine. I hope you'll bear with me because to get my point across I'm going to have to go 'the long way around the barn' and I'm taking all of you with me.

Thousands of years ago, scores of civilizations sprung-up along the coasts of the Mediterranean sea. The sea was warm; the climate fair; the soil fertile. Some of these civilizations lasted only a few years. Others lasted longer. One in particular grew to lasting greatness -- the empire of the Phoenicians. You see the Phoenician civilization was quite advanced. For instance, in their larger cities they built ten story buildings -- apartments really -- made of wood frame and mortar. They were traders; great merchants, and they traded their goods all over the Mediterranean area. They invented the color purple -- well at least they had a secret way of producing a royal purple dye from a sea shell -- the murex shell; and they used this dye as one of their principal trade goods. In ancient times, if you had a purple robe, the color had come in trade from the Phoenicians. I tell you these few examples to let you know a little of the richness of their civilization. But what made them great, really great, was their spirit of adventure, their fine seamanship, and especially their skill in building ships -- not warships but merchant vessels. The were funny shaped affairs, kind of round for stability, and 'black'; black not for any sinister reason, but black because the Phoenicians were the first to perfect the art of caulking their boats with pitch to keep them from sinking on the open seas. The Bible even mentions their skill in caulking with pitch. The quality of their ships was legendary. As an example of this, the Persian Emperor Xerxes, in preparation for his invasion of Greece around 500 B. C, gave specific instructions to his Admirals that they were to procure as many Phoenician ships as possible for the invasion because of their quality and durability. With these boats the Phoenicians plied the seas, perhaps the greatest sea-going nation the world has ever known -- not for battle and conquest, but for trade. They sailed everywhere. One Phoenician ship sailed around the horn of Africa and back -- taking more than two years for the voyage. There's even evidence that they landed in the Americas, thousands of years before Columbus -- probably blown off-course and adrift in the sea -- but their boats held. Because of these boats most of us here tonight have some Phoenician blood in our veins -- you see, their civilization became so far-flung that conquest could not destroy it. Alexander the Great leveled Tyre, the principal city of the Phoenicians ( it took even him 17 months of siege to do it because of their tremendously skilled seamanship and the quality of their ships ). Did this wipe out the Phoenicians? No. Plenty of other cities, in far flung places, lived on. Three Roman Legions, under command of the great Roman general Scipio, literally wiped Carthage, another great Phoenician city, off the face of the earth at the end of the third Punic War. Once again, plenty of other Phoenicians survived in a hundred settlements -- always near the coast. They were great, really invincible as a civilization, because they built quality ships for a reasonable cost and they had the courage to use them.

Okay, what does this have to do with our new CPIMs tonight?

We, as a civilization, stand at the same point as the ancient Phoenician civilization stood those thousands of years ago. We are the 'new' Phoenicians. We stand on the edge of the colonization of our Mediterranean sea -- the solar system. It's going to happen -- it's our destiny. You can't pick up a newspaper or magazine today without noticing all sorts of people talking about a permanent Space Station orbiting the earth right away, a permanent base on the Moon by 2010, Mars by 2040, etc. We've got to get off this rock we call the earth, this deep 'gravity well' we live in, and expand our borders. But building a 'stair way' to the stars is not an easy thing. There's no "Beam me up, Scotty." It's going to take brave men and women in quality ships to do it. We have the brave men and women, but what of the ships -- who'll provide them? Our new CPIMs will help us be a major participant in the building of that 'stairway'. Do you know what I see when I look at the Castor-120 (tm) motor? I see one of those Phoenician ships, black, a little ungainly, not as high-tech as Star Wars or Star Trek -- but never-the-less a quality ship to help us take those first steps in the colonization of near Space. We; Strategic; Thiokol if you will, are as the ancient Phoenician ship builders. We've must produce a high quality ship for a reasonable price. Our new CPIMs tonight will help us do that. They will help us survive as a premier 'ship builder' for this endeavor. Their new ideas and concepts; new ways of thinking, will help us as we switch our markets from weapons of defense to ships of exploration and commerce. Our new CPIMs can help us find better, faster, more efficient ways to build our little Phoenician ships. Their efforts are critical to our success. It may be in a few centuries, that some other person will stand -- perhaps in a manufacturing center on Mars, or a mining station located far out in the asteroid belt, or a scientific station on one of the Galilean satellites orbiting Jupiter -- and think of us as those ancient Americans, those new Phoenicians, who built small but brave ships to take that first step to the stars.


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It's a People Problem!

As of tonight, Strategic's APICS education program has produced 125 CPIMS. This means that roughly 1 out of 10 of our people are APICS Certified -- a truly astounding number. Along the way our people have spent thousands of class hours exploring new manufacturing control techniques, new thoughts, experiences of other companies -- really learning a new way of thinking about manufacturing. And we've had the best participation in APICS education in the World. This is no exaggeration. In fact, the APICS international organization says that we are their best success story and that we've actually -have- had the best participation in the world in our APICS education efforts. Now it's true that most of our people will not attain APICS certification -- it's hard to do, and I congratulate our new CPIMS tonight for sticking to it and toiling through all of the hassle it takes to become certified. But even taking one APICS class contributes to the continuous improvement process and we think the payback of this education process for our division has been enormous. Why do we think so? Well it's because we believe that many of the problems we face in our efforts as a division are people problems rather than technical problems. In fact If I could put a title on what I'm saying tonight it would be -- 'it's a people problem'.

Let me start out by passing on to you some advice I was given by a good friend and mentor of mine a few years ago. I was about to leave the relative safety of 'working for the man' -- a normal job in a 9:00 to 5:00 world -- to venture out into the world of manufacturing systems consulting. My mentor who had taught me so much, was about to bestow one last gift. He said " Never forget the three rules of consulting." "What are they?", I asked. Here's what he said.

No 1. There's a problem.

No 2. It's a people problem.

No 3. The pay's the same for march'n as for fight'n.

"What's that supposed to mean?", I laughed. Here's how he explained it.

There's a problem. No one hires a consultant for good looks, manners, or sense of humor. There's a problem to solve and they want it solved. They either don't have the people who can solve the problem, or they think they don't, or they don't trust those they do have. Make no mistake about it -- you're there to solve a problem.

It's a people problem. That's right! The real, deep down, root problem ( or problems ) is a people problem. Unfortunately, you, as a consultant, can't solve people problems -- only technical ones. People problems have to be solved from within. In fact, you throw any number of 'wild and ornery' technical problems at your consultants and they will eventually overcome. But throw just one itsy bitsy 'people' problem at them and it will defeat them 'with one hand behind its back.' Oh sure! There are lot's of little surface problems that will appear technical in nature but they are just the teeny, tiny tip of the iceberg. The real, root problems are people problems that you can't solve. But don't be discouraged, rule No. 3 is coming to the rescue . . .

The pay's the same for march'n as for fight'n. Don't worry. You'll march up and down the systems implementation battlefield, skirmishing with technical problems, mustering out 'programming specifications' and 'studies', polishing the hardware, 'spit shining' the programs -- but the best you'll do is to fight to a stalemate. You see rule No. 2 says it's a people problem and you can't solve people problems. It'll be trench warfare on a grand scale -- you'll charge sometimes, the enemy will charge sometimes, but in the end you'll gain no ground. But your client will pay you the same for marching as for fighting and so you keep marching and marching and collecting your pay and collecting your pay and never seeing any victory. Oh well, so you'll feel bad as you laugh all the way to the bank. Worse things could happen!

He was right! The real problems that we face in MRP-II implementation, JIT, KANBAN, TQC, Concurrent Engineering, Continuous Improvement programs, etc. -- almost any large system implementation effort -- are 'people problems'.

It's so, so easy to forget Rule No. 2 -- 'it's a people problem". Let me use the story of an ancient battle to show you this:

Henry V, in about 1320 AD., decided to finish what his father had started -- the conquering of France. Henry was an experience battle commander -- in fact he was only 25 but had already had 15 years experience in commanding troops against the Welsh Tribes on the Welsh frontier. Britain had been engaged in what was later to become termed the 'hundred years war' with France and Henry was determined to end it. He loaded his men on the ships, crossed the channel, and stormed the shores of France. The French took their time responding -- thinking that the Winter would sap him of strength -- and waited until spring at Agincourt to meet Henry's army. The French troops numbered over 50,000 against the English's mere 15,000 -- almost a 4 to 1 ratio. Things looked bleak for the Henry. But Henry had a secret weapon -- the Welsh long bow. The long bow was 6 feet long and with it a skilled archer could knock a horseman off a horse at 400 yards. It could pierce any of the armor of the day at close ranges using special iron sheathed tips. The skilled archer could fire at a rate of about 10 arrows per minute -- deadly, accurate missiles. Its power was so overwhelming that it remained the finest weapon available for the next 300 years. When the French charged, the arrows of a thousand bows rained down upon them and in just a couple of minutes the French army was devastated -- in fact the whole battle lasted just 1/2 hour. Over 120 of the princes of France lost their lives that day -- the aristocracy of France was severely broken. The French army routed, demoralized, their leadership decimated; and it was about another year before Henry had conquered all of France and married the daughter of the King of France. She couldn't speak English, He couldn't speak French -- probably made for a rocky marriage. But Oh Well . . .

How did you like that story? Well I'm real sorry, but ( and I hate it when this happens ) I lied. The story is not true in an important aspect. Roll the tape back to where I said "But Henry had a secret weapon -- the Welsh long bow." Forget it! You've got to be kidding! This was a 'hundred years war' remember. The French had the long bow too. There were spies all over the place -- the French had theirs, the English had theirs -- and it would have been hard to keep the long bow secret. Besides it had been in use for over 50 years. So no 'long bow' secret weapon. So why did the English win? Remember the three rules of consulting -- particularly rule #2 -- It's a people problem. Yup! The long-bow was no secret weapon but the archers were. Henry had all sorts of skilled bowmen -- remember I said that "The skilled archer could fire at a rate of about 10 arrows per minute"; and that "the skilled archer could knock a horseman off a horse at 400 yards". The truth of the matter was that it took literally years to become a skilled archer with the long-bow -- but once you were, you held devastating power in your hands. Archery was England's national sport at the time -- heck, if you didn't shoot the long-bow you were a 'sissy'. In fact for the serf's and peasants, it was the only sport. The laws of the time were very strict and the only lawful thing to do on Sunday was go to church or ( and this was cleverly set up by the Kings of England so that they would always have large numbers of skilled archers ) practice the long-bow. You can imagine if that law was in effect today that we'd have a heck of a lot of 'long bow' practicing.

Okay, what does this story have to do with Strategic Division?

Here's a chart showing Shelf-Life material loss -- we use a lot of shelf-life sensitive items in our processes. This means that many materials can only sit on the shelf unused only so long -- then they must be thrown away and new material purchased. Needless to say, it can get expensive if we don't do our planning right. See this large bar to the left -- this shows our average monthly loss at $40,000. See the little bars here? -- they are the actual monthly loss for the first three months of this year? See the difference. If we can continue in this same mode we will be saving about $500,000 this year in reduced loss of shelf life items over last year. Now it's easy to say -- Gee MRP-II is working -- look at how the system helps us plan better and reduce our shelf-life loss. And that's true, but MRP-II and our systems are like the 'long-bow' -- without skilled archers ( our CPIMS tonight) to use them they are useless. A lot of companies have the long bow but they are not getting results like this -- they don't have the Archers, the CPIMs, to do the job. Hercules has a fine MRP-II system -- I helped them build it -- but they don't have the archers to run it -- not like we have. So when you see a chart like this, most people see the 'long bow', the MRP-II system, but I hope from what we said tonight that you'll see the 'archers' . Remember, "It's a People problem".


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Swollen Rivers, Old Ruts, and Indian Tribes

I've thought a lot about the new CPIMs we honor tonight and what they represent for our company. I've narrowed those thoughts down to three. Here they are:

Thought #1. Our CPIMS Swim Swollen Rivers In Full Armor.

A couple of thousand years ago during the Roman conquest of the British Isles, the advancing Roman armies came to a wide and swollen river that blocked their path. There was no nearby ford of the river -- the only way across being to swim across. The retreating Celts gathered near the opposite river bank to taunt the Romans, for the Celts knew the only way across was to swim across -- in full armor -- and the Celts held their bows ready and their chariots to strike down any unprotected swimmers. No soldier could possibly swim across in full armor -- the river had stopped the Romans, they thought. The Celts seem to have gained time to regroup and rally. But the Romans held a secret from the Celtic Armies hidden deep in their ranks. What was it? Can you guess? They had a garrison of soldiers whose specialty was swimming across swollen rivers in full armor. No kidding! That was what they did. While the others practiced with chariots and bows, they practiced swimming rivers in full armor. And so to the horror of the Celts this special garrison of soldiers plunged into the river in full armor, where, protected by the Roman bowmen they where able to establish a beachhead and secure ropes and rafts to ferry the rest of the invading army across.

Now, what does all this have to do with our CPIMs we honor tonight? We as a company are involved in a great battle, a great struggle. We are attempting to establish ourselves in new marketplaces, then become more competitive, more cost effective. But we may often find our path block by swollen rivers that can only be crossed by swimmers in full armor. That's when we'll call on our cadre of CPIMS. To swim those rivers, to establish a beach head and to pull the rest of us, less talented and brave, across. The Celts won't rule the day. Our CPIMs here tonight are added strength and ability to our team to meet the challenge.

Here's thought #2. Our CPIMS give us 'rut' insurance.

I was very lucky, when I was growing up, to be able to work with my father and grandfather on various Engineering and Surveying Projects. I remember working one day with my Grandfather in the foothills of Mount Baldy, above Indianola. We often worked from copies of the old survey plats that had divided the land into mile square sections years ago. This plat we worked from that day was a very old one -- 1890 something. The old surveyor who made the plat had 'gone overboard' and located on the plat a number of interesting landmarks. One was an Indian Village, and grandpa and I found time at lunch to search this area for arrowheads. Another feature was an Indian Fence line. Grandpa said it might still be there and when we searched, sure enough, remnants were there. The Indians had made fences of sagebrush and oak brush branches -- not a very high-tech fence -- but traces of it were still there -- straight as an arrow. I wondered how many deer hunters had walked past it and never even noticed it. Another feature was an Indian trail, that wound its way off the plat up into Mt. Baldy. Was the trail still there? Was it ever! It looked like a recreational vehicle super highway; motorcycles and four wheel drives had worn deep ruts into what looked like an ordinary, albeit steep, dirt road. "This can't be it grandpa," I said. He explained that it probably was. You see before the Indians, the deer had made a trail through here. When the Indians came, they used the trail the deer had made. Then came the White Man with his Cattle, Sheep, and Horses. What trail did they use? The same one. Then came intrepid weekenders in Model T's and Model A's. How did they get up into the mountains? They used the old Indian Trail -- now a dirt road. Then came more modern motorcycles and four wheel drive monsters. How did they cross the land? On the Old Indian Trail. The result was the road we saw before us, scarred with many ruts. Was the Indian trail the best way up the mountain? No. It had just become the most convenient way. Okay, What's the Point? This same kind of thing happens with people and companies. Ever heard the phrase "that's the way we've always done it." People, and companies, tend to do things the same old way. They fall into ruts, ruts so deep that soon you can't see out of them. Some person, maybe a hundred years ago, figures out a way to do something, and years later it becomes the only way to do something. "It's the only thing that worked last year and It's the only thing that will work this year" kind of mentality.

Our new CPIMs give us the opportunity to look out of our ruts -- try new things, new ideas, a fresh look at the way we do things. If we look out of the ruts we find ourselves in we just might find a better way up the mountain.

Here's my third and final thought. Our CPIMS Make Us Rethink Our Indian Tribe Mentality.

For thousands of years Indians roamed, hunted, fought around the hills and valleys where our plant is located. You ever think of that? I do, mostly when I'm driving the carpool; Dale, Ed, and Brent in the back dozing off. Sometimes my imagination gets the best of me and I seem to hear their spirits whisper to me:

"Blue eyes," they say, "what are you doing in our valley?"

And I answer, "The same as you!"

For they made spears and arrows with which to hunt and to protect their families those many years in that same valley. Isn't that what we still make there, the shafts of spears and arrows that can be hurled thousands of miles in defense of our nation.

"Ah," they say, "your tribe is great, because your enemy must be great for you to need arrows and spears that cross over land and the sea to hold him at bay"

For you see, often Indian tribes would measure their own greatness by the greatness of their enemies. And there's the rub, there's the problem. Like those ancient Indians many of us have been guilty of what I call 'Indian Tribe' thinking -- that we are a great company because our nation's enemies are strong and fierce.

No! That's not why we are a great company -- it never was.

Just because our nation's enemies may longer threaten, it does not diminish our greatness and potential as a company or nation. We're great as a company because we have goals, lofty goals, not because we have fierce enemies. We're great because we're a team, because we are teeming with potential inside -- not because some enemy make us rise to the occasion. I'm encouraged here tonight about our companies future as I see so many new CPIMs who can apply new solutions to our company's goals; who can swim those swollen rivers and pull the rest of us across; who look outside the ruts in which we often find ourselves trapped.


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A Greek Trophy, A Roman Triumph

Thousands of years ago after the Greek army had won a great battle, it was the custom for the soldiers to collect the scores of enemy weapons that littered the battle field. With these, they would erect, on the spot of greatest conflict, a 'Trophy' commemorating the bravery of their comrades and the triumph of their victory. Greek battlefields were dotted with such trophies and many of the sea cliffs of Greece held trophies to the fierce sea battles that had taken place not far off-shore.

Our MRP-II implementation has been a great battle and we have fought long and hard to win the fight. I wish we could, in the custom of the Greeks, erect a trophy for our MRP-II efforts. But where would we find the discarded enemy weapons for such a trophy? As in most of the battles fought today in business, in the market place, or in the economy, we have been our own enemy in the MRP-II struggle. For arrayed against us, with banners waving and weapons flashing in the sun, we found the armies of 'human inertia', 'unwillingness to change', and 'not invented here'. But this has made the battle no less real or painful and you have done so very well in winning such a battle. You truly deserve a Greek trophy to commemorate your triumph. I am sorry that materials to build such a trophy are limited and that I must find them in this sheet of a paper and the words I write upon it.

Let me just say this. You have done so very well in our MRP-II Implementation. No company of our size has done, or could have done, as well as you in bringing up MRP-II. If you could look, as I have, across the battle fields of corporate America, you would find rusting and crumbling, here and there, the battered hulks of burned-out and incomplete MRP-II implementations. Why? Because MRP-II is hard and it's real. It's one of the hardest things that a company can do. It's not a fad, it's not just talk, it's not a training class full of fuzzy ideas or warm feelings -- it's a real battle, with specific milestones, measurable victories and defeats, real rewards, real costs, and real casualties. There is a great deal of work, sweat, and gut wrenching change in doing MRP-II. And the truly hard part of it is that in order to be successful, the people of the company have to change first themselves, from inside, and then, and only then, can they can change their way of doing business. You have done this so marvelously well. As I have said many times, you are the best work force in the world -- trained, and willing to gain more training, and motivated to change things for the better. Working with you in this implementation has been one of the great experiences of my life. You have made our MRP-II project a success and I am proud of you and what you have accomplished.

Remember, though, that MRP-II is "not a destination but a journey." We must keep striving to keep our MRP-II weapons bright. We must keep improving our use of MRP-II principles by applying them to our work problems. Yes, victory is sweet but short lived. Please take your triumph as the ancient Romans did:

For centuries, it was the custom for victorious Roman Generals to receive a 'Triumph' upon returning to Rome. A 'Triumph' was a great parade through the streets of Rome itself in which the victorious General, dressed in white and riding in a shining chariot, led a strange procession of shackled prisoners, plunder from far off lands, exotic animals, and the Roman legions, arrayed in their finest battle gear, marching in precision formation. The people of Rome would stand on their balconies or in the streets and cheer the victorious General and throw flower petals at his feet. The noise was deafening; the celebration wild; the praise heaped upon the triumphant armies great. But always, behind the General in his chariot, would stand a little slave girl holding a golden crown and whispering the warning over and over in his ear -- "Victory is fleeting, Victory is fleeting, . . . "


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The images, articles, and concepts of this page are copyrighted by P.S. Neeley -- copyright 1997