Theory of Constraints: Part 2

The following is the second entry into a series of ongoing posts that explores the Theory of Constraints and it’s methodology.

Part one in the Theory of Constraints series gave a broad overview of the process, defined constraints, and offered a simple breakdown of the Five Focusing Steps. Part two will now expand on the Thinking Process behind the Theory of Constraints.

The Theory of Constraints Thinking Process

theory of constraints key to successLike Lean, the Theory of Constraints takes a certain mindset and culture to have sustainable success. To fully embrace and understand it, you have to understand the Thinking Process behind it. It’s founded on a scientific process that helps to solve problems with a sophisticated and tactical manner, with one goal in mind — increased profits.

Using a cause and effect thinking process in a scientific manner will help answer the following questions, which are a key part of the Theory of Constraints:

  • What to change?
  • What to change to?
  • How to cause the change?

Those three questions provide the framework for the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes. On a quick glance, they seem simple enough, but there’s much more to them than you think.

What to Change?

In order to determine what to change, you have to be able to identify and pinpoint the core problems. A good way to start this process is to form a list of observable symptoms. You can do this by using the cause and effect analysis to identify a common cause or core problem for any and all symptoms. You can create a roadmap of your current system to help get you to the core problems you’re trying to identify.

This is often called the Current Reality Tree.

Rather than using physical evidence, you use the evidence that is available to you. Anything that is a negative event in the system is noted and brought to light. Examples of negative events are:

  • Orders getting continuously shipped late.
  • Overabundance of inventory.
  • Increasing lead times.
  • Internal human relations issues.

Eli Goldratt refers to these as an Undesirable Effect, or UDE. The challenge is to then create a roadmap of cause-and-effect to link the undesirable effects together. This roadmap is now your tool to identify the core problem.

What to Change to?

In order to know what to change to you need to understand why the core problem exists in the first place. Once you have identified and understand the core problem, you can begin to develop an idea to resolve the problem and improve the process. A tool to help you through this step is known as the Evaporating Cloud.

The Evaporating Cloud tool is a set format with five boxes. The user identifies two opposing wants, that reflect the conflict, the need that each want is trying to accomplish, and a common objective that both needs are trying to achieve. Once completed, the user can begin to surface the assumptions that underlie the connections between the objectives and needs, needs and wants, and in the process, discover the root causes for the conflict.

The Evaporating Cloud helps to achieve the following:

  • Confirm that the conflict exists
  • Identify the conflict perpetuating a major problem
  • Resolve conflict
  • Avoid compromise
  • Create solutions in which both sides win
  • Create new breakthrough solutions to problems
  • Explain in depth why a problem exists
  • Identify all assumptions underlying problems and conflicting relationships.

How to Cause the Change?

To cause change in an organization it is important to have the right people in place to invent and promote solutions. Each organization has unique culture that needs to be taken into a consideration when implementing change. To have success then, one must consider their implementation carefully. This requires an in-depth analysis of the plan, including what actions must be taken, by whom and when. The Socratic Method has been a helpful tool to help discover how to cause change in the Theory of Constraints.

No matter how perfect your plan seems to be, there will certainly be some resistance to change in any organization.

Overcoming Resistance To Change

Within the Theory of Constraints is a process founded on the psychology that recognizes and systematically addresses the questions people intuitively have when confronted with change.

  • Is the right problem being people addressed?
  • Is the general direction that the solution is heading a good one?
  • Will the solution really work to solve the problems and what’s in it for me?
  • What could go wrong? Who might get hurt?
  • How the heck are we going to implement this thing?
  • Are we really up for this? Do we have the leadership and the commitment to pull this change off successfully?

If your plan does not address and answer each of these questions for the each of the members that are implementing and those being affected by the change, the proposed change will not have the impact it was designed to have.

Additional Resources