Theory of Constraints and its Thinking Processes - A Brief Introduction
The core constraint of virtually every organization The Goldratt Institute has worked with over the past 16+ years is that organizations are structured, measured and managed in parts, rather than as a whole. The results of this are lower than expected overall performance results, difficulties securing or maintaining a strategic advantage in the marketplace, financial hardships, seemingly constant fire-fighting, customer service expectations being rarely met, the constraint constantly shifting from one place to another and chronic conflicts between people representing different parts of the organization, to name a few.
Once the barriers that block those parts from working together as an integrated system are removed, significant and sustainable improvement in each and every problem mentioned above is the result.
What blocks organizations from tearing down these barriers? Organizations are often so consumed by the pressures to achieve their short-term performance targets, that taking the time to plan for the future is a luxury they can’t afford. Or, they have plans for the future, but are faced with the difficulties of balancing the risks of change with the opportunities they create – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Is it possible to use change to create a competitive advantage? Is it possible to do that quickly, without risk and while creating a reliable platform from which to seize the opportunities of tomorrow?
Process - A Healthcare Analogy
The Theory of Constraints (TOC) applies the cause-and-effect thinking processes used in the hard sciences to understand and improve all systems, but particularly, organizations. The process a clinician applies to treating a patient is an excellent analogy for explaining how TOC recommends going about solving a systems problem. If we were to describe the overall process used by a clinician treating a patient it would look something like:
1. Diagnosis: Knowing the futility of treating the symptoms, a clinician begins with a list of observable symptoms and uses cause and effect to seek out the underlying common cause for all of them, the “disease” or core problem.
2. Design of a Treatment Plan: Considering the uniqueness of the patient and his/her diagnosis, a treatment plan is developed that first and foremost treats the disease. (e.g., surgery), but also suggests what other things must be done alongside that “cure” to ensure the treatment will work (e.g., pain relief and bed rest) and that the best possible health is restored to the patient (e.g., physical therapy). In this process, any potential side effects of the treatment are identified, and the means for preventing or mitigating them become key elements of the treatment.
3. Execution of the Treatment Plan: Taking into consideration, the uniqueness of the patient’s situation, a plan is developed for how to...