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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Simplicity Paradox

I have been banging my head against a long-standing paradox within TOC--the paradox that while the concepts of TOC are simple to grasp and understand intellectually, they have not been simple at all for people and organizations to implement. Or said more plainly: "How can something so easy, be so darn hard to implement?"

I think that the essence of the correct answer is generally well known to people in the TOC world and is even captured in the 5 steps. The underlying reason TOC is so hard to implement, even though it is simple to understand, is inertia. The methodology, in all its simplicity, actually demands that so many aspects of how we run and manage our organizations be re-thought. Things like the metrics we use, cost-accounting, scheduling, logistics, sales, inventory management, etc. all are altered by the core principles of TOC. Each of these areas, and more, should be re-thought and re-worked in light of the TOC principles.

In other words, while grasping intellectually the 5 steps and the essence of TOC is truly simple, the implications it has for nearly everything in an organization are extremely far-reaching. The principles impact things that people have done a certain way in organizations for a long time. They encounter many points where people have inertia built from years of past practice. So while the principles can be grasped simply, we immediately bump into the need to change a significant number of things people have always done differently--if you will we activate a lot of inertia.

Since people are not generally in the habit of re-thinking everything just because they have been exposed to a new concept like TOC, there is little actual recognition that so many things are affected by the new insight of TOC. So people don't even realize in most cases many of the things that should be changed. As people we simply carry on as we always have until something causes us to see the need to change it.

I think this is exactly what we encounter when we try to bring TOC into an organization. People get the principles quickly, on an intellectual level, and because they are so simple conceptually, they have the mistaken perception that implementation will also be simple. "Yeah, we get it, find the weakest link, exploit it, etc. What's the big deal?" But the things they don't are the implications of the concepts.

I suspect that people like myself who are working to help companies really capitalize on TOC may have fallen into the same trap. We understand TOC so well and have made such a profound shift in our own thinking, that we have forgotten the magnitude of the inertia that TOC bumps into in organizations when we try to implement it. And as a result of this I think we haven't done all we can or should do to address the real barrier to implementing TOC, which is how to overcome the organizational inertia (not the intellectual inertia of understanding TOC). I don't think we have focused enough of our efforts on strategies, tools, processes, techniques, models, roadmaps, etc. to help expose the impact of TOC on existing organizational behaviors, and how to shift those behaviors.

I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I really need to know what you think about it, and whether you think my observations are sound.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. I just found your blog, and think it's very insightful.