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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We have to change?!! Oh no!

I get asked all of the time why TOC isn't more widespread, why it isn't at least as big as movements like Lean and Six Sigma. There are lots of theories about this from many quarters and I certainly don't have the definitive answer. I do have a couple of observations I think are worth sharing.
The TOC concepts are not complex or difficult to understand. In fact by comparison, Lean and Six Sigma are far more complex and demand much technical knowledge of statistics, variation and the like. What makes the change to TOC more difficult is not learning the concepts, but it's coming to grips with all the ramifications those concepts have for how we run our organization. 

TOC suggests a complete "re-modeling" of the organization, it's measures, the roles each function play, how levels work together, what information is important, etc. I don't think any of this will be news to most followers of TOC. I like the analogy of re-modeling the organization though, I think it offers an insight into one of the reasons TOC is not as widespread as it could or should be by now.

Think about what you would do if you were going to remodel something, say your house. What would be some of the steps you would take? Certainly you would sketch out some plans of what you want the house to look like when you are done. If it was a large enough remodel you would have a builder or an architect create detailed plans of the new layout. You would make sure that these plans then got in the hands of the builders so that they purchased the right materials, dug holes in the proper places, erected the correct structures, and executed everything you wanted properly. Without the picture (the drawing, blueprint, design) and the specifications it's hard to imagine the remodel turning out the way we want it to.

I don't think it's any different with remodeling an organization using TOC. Yet when I look at the ways TOC has traditionally been brought into organizations, I don't see many examples of blueprints for how the organization should look AFTER TOC has been rolled out. For the most part what we have given organizations is the generic process (the 5 steps) and a number of applications (DBR, Critical Chain, Throughput Accounting, etc.) to functional needs. To use the analogy of remodeling a house, these are akin to the generic process of building a house (first you dig the foundation, then you pour it, then you frame the structure, etc.) and the technical skills needed to do the various components of the remodel (the wiring, plumbing, drywall, etc.). While each of these is necessary to being successful, we still need to apply them to each organization's unique situation, and individual objectives. In other words we need the blueprint laying out how TOC is going to be applied in each specific organization.

Without a specific design for a given organization, we have no way of telling the builders (the managers and staff of the organization) what they should be doing, how they should be applying the skills and knowledge they have. Imagine hiring the best builder in the world, with the best process, skills and resources and then asking him to build you a great house without any plan, design or model. It's not likely the house would be well suited to your specific needs or desires.

I believe we have done much the same in TOC. We have great processes, and generic applications like DBR and Critical Chain, but for the most part we have not provided organizations with the picture of how to apply these capabilities in their environment. We haven't given them a very clear picture of what their organization looks like on TOC. And without a clear and visible destination it's hard to keep people focused, to keep them aligned and to keep them on-task.  I believe this inability to see what my organization looks like on TOC is a part of the problem with TOC becoming more widespread.

This is not to say that there aren't some out there who have recognized and are addressing this shortcoming. Eli's Strategy and Tactic teams provide some of the missing specifications. Realization, the providers of Concerto for critical chain, typically does a first-class job of mapping out how each client's organization will look, including definitions of the roles and responsibilities, before launching into the change process. My organization, Viable Vision, utilizes a simple visual blueprint we call the Throughput Operating Strategy in every TOC implementation we are involved in. In simple terms its a picture of the organization's workflow, and how they want to apply the 5 steps to managing their business. It documents the metrics, roles and focus of each department and level of the organization as we want them to function.I can't imagine embarking on a change the magnitude of TOC without having this blueprint of how the organization should look when it is working in the new way.

Change is hard enough, especially when it requires us to challenge so many fundamental assumptions and long-held beliefs as TOC does. I think we (the TOC community) have made it even more challenging by not giving people a clear picture of the target, the destination, the end state. What do you think?

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