Sunday, August 28, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 51

In the last decade or two, there has been a lot of focus on two major improvement initiatives, namely Lean and Six Sigma. Each movement, on its own, has promised to deliver better processes with less waste and variation and each, to some degree, has delivered their promises to the world. Processes do have less waste and variation which should translate into better profit margins. Some have and some have not or at least not enough to justify the large sums of money spent on the lengthy training required. What we did create was an impressive army of Lean Senseis and Six Sigma Black belts.

Somewhere along the way, someone had an idea that if we combined these two methodologies, that the hybrid, Lean-Six Sigma, would be even better. The purists of each individual movement resisted this integration, but at the end of the day, the masses saw the benefit of this natural evolution and accepted it as a “better way.” And so it goes, someone events something and someone else sees a way to make it better. If this natural evolution didn’t happen, we’d probably all still be riding around in a horse and buggy. The fact is it’s a natural tendency for human beings to improve things……to take an idea someone else has and expand it to suit their needs.

In the mid-80’s, Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt came up with an idea of how to accelerate the improvement of processes with his now famous Theory of Constraints (TOC) methodology and presented his five focusing steps:

1. Identify the system constraint.

2. Decide how to exploit the system constraint.

3. Subordinate everything else to the constraint.

4. If necessary, elevate the constraint.

5. Return to Step 1, but don’t let inertia create a new constraint.

Goldratt’s contention was that improvement in anything other than the constraint was a mirage. In other words, if you wanted to maximize the throughput of your process or system, focus your efforts on the constraint in order to leverage the improvements. And so another improvement movement was birthed that spawned another idea. Someone else decided that since we already had Lean Six Sigma methodology, why not combine this movement with TOC? The concept was to use TOC to identify the constraint and then focus your improvement efforts there and only there. And so this new movement, known as TLS began in earnest. Once again, an idea evolved into something new and perhaps better. And again, predictably, the Lean Six Sigma purists pushed back against this change, but the movement continued.

And so it goes, it starts with a brilliant idea from someone and then someone interjects a new way of looking at that same idea and change happens. This change or evolution is not confined to systems. In fact, it happens at the “tool” level as well. For you old timers like me, remember how SPC started out? It was simple to learn and apply, but somewhere along the way, new ideas were interjected and the new tool became even better than the original one….it evolved into something better.

In the TOC world, there is a branch known as the Thinking Processes (TP). Goldratt developed a series of logical tools which included the Current Reality Tree (CRT); the Conflict Diagram (CD); the Future Reality Tree (FRT); the Prerequisite Tree (PRT) and the Transition Tree (TT). The CRT, FRT and TT are considered sufficiency trees and use the simple if-then form. In order to use these trees, we ask simply, is this enough to cause that? The CD and the PRT are necessity based trees and are read, In order to have…..we must have……because. The TOC purists teach us that there is a natural order in which to use these tools and without doing so, your analysis might well be flawed. It is also true that these tools can be used as stand-alone tools when trying to solve a problem or resolve a conflict.

In 2007, Bill Dettmer1 introduced us to a new TP tool named the Intermediate Objectives Map (IO Map). The IO Map, as explained by Dettmer, is a tool used to identify a Goal, plus Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) and Necessary Conditions (NC’s) or high-level requirements that must be satisfied if the goal is to be achieved. These three entities (i.e. the Goal, CSF’s and NC’s) are arranged in a hierarchy with the goal at the top, the CSF’s directly underneath the goal and the NC’s directly beneath the CSF’s. The IO Map is another necessity based tree that shows us the necessary linkage between the three entities. The goal can’t be realized or achieved without all of the CSF’s realized and each individual CSF can’t be achieved without the NC’s in place. All three of the entity types are presented as terminal outcomes as though they were already in place. In effect, these three entities could be considered destination finders and the roadmaps to get us there.

So why I am reintroducing the IO Map? You will recall I had Bruce Nelson write several blog postings in the past. Bruce and I are about to have a new book published at the end of this year and in it, we have introduced a new way of looking at the Thinking Processes. Specifically, we are recommending a new way of using the IO Map in conjunction with another tool. We believe it’s another natural evolution. We’ve had so many people tell us that the TP tools are difficult to use, so Bruce has come up with what is perhaps a revolutionary way to simplify the TP tools. We know that there will be the familiar pushback from the TOC purists, but we feel this evolution is too important not to step outside the TOC comfort zone not to do it.

Bruce is writing a white paper on this subject now and when it’s complete we’ll either post it here or post it on my website, so stay tuned. Both Bruce and I want your comments (good or bad) after you read his paper. Bruce and I have both used this new toolset and based upon the comments we’ve received, everyone loves it and says it is so much easier than before. Time will tell….

Bob Sproull

No comments: