Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 61

Here is the second half of our Preface which outlines some of what is to follow in our book, Epiphanized.  As always, Bruce and I welcome your comments.

Preface Part 2 for Epiphanized©
A book by Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson

This book is the story of Joe Pecci, a newly hired manager of the Office of Continuous Improvement (CI) for Barton Enterprises, a multimillion dollar company that produces fuel tanks for the aviation and defense industries.  When Joe walks into this new organization he finds the situation to be in chaos with some significant issues that need attention.  There are serious problems with on-time delivery performance and no clearly defined path to improve it.  Joe befriends Sam Henderson, Barton’s VP of Operations, and together they discover and forge the future path to prosperity.  They accomplish this effort with the help of a very talented bartender named Connor Jackson.  This is the narrative of a very rapid and successful organizational transformation.  It portrays an innovative approach to rapid and sustained growth and profitability using some uncommon, and yet exceptional, improvement tools and methods.  It‘s a success story with a triumphant ending.

The primary theme throughout this book has been to unify and enhance improvement tools and methods.  This is a sort of grand unification that combines improvement methods and tools to create a new level of usefulness.  Emerging situations and problems can quickly expose the need to gain access to new and different problem-solving tools.    This same spirit of unification has also been manifested within the methodologies themselves.  Sometimes tools within methods have been combined to create new tools for solving problems.  Systems and people are just not as linear as we would like them to be, and neither is life.  Things happen and things change, sometimes at an exponential rate. 

We believe that in writing this book we have laid out a pioneering pathway for significant gains in profitability and market share for any company employing the methodology presented here.  We are both convinced that the integration of the Theory of Constraints with Lean and Six Sigma, known as TLS, is the wave of the future.  We also believe that explaining it through the eyes of Joe Pecci, in a business novel format, will add relevance to its usefulness and power.  The concepts, tools and principles presented in this book may be counter intuitive to many, but if the principles are followed, the results are sure to come.  If your company has been struggling with a Lean or Six Sigma implementation and you’re not happy with the bottom line improvement you’re getting, the integrated TLS methodology can give you the improvement you are seeking.

As you read this story, please pay particular attention to the subtleties that are presented within the body of the book.  You’ll see that taking the time to recognize and truly engage the subject matter experts within your company in your improvement efforts will lead you to new levels of profitability—if you’ll just let them actively participate in your company’s success.  This is a lesson that is confirmed several times during the development of this story.  We believe that your company is poised for greatness, and if you will use the lessons presented in our book, it will happen.

In our next posting, we will start Chapter 1 and introduce you to three of the main characters in this book.  So sit back and enjoy it and please send us some comments on what you think about the book.

Bob and Bruce

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 60

I know we’re a day earlier than we announced, but Bruce and I are anxious for everyone to see parts of our book. So, as promised, for the next couple of months Bruce and I are going to share the Preface and Chapter 1 of our new book, Epiphanized – A Business Novel About Integrating the Theory of Constraints, Lean and Six Sigma (TLS).  The title of the published book may change as the final copy moves forward, but the content will not be much different than what we share with you.  We invite your comments and look forward to the book’s release.

Preface Part 1 for Epiphanized©
A book by Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson
How many times have you started reading a book, and you weren’t sure of what the author was actually writing about?  You read their words, but since the subject is new to you, you want to be sure you’ve grasped the intent.  So what do you do when you’re faced with this situation?  Do you put down your book and go to a familiar search engine and try to find information about the subject in question on the internet?  Or maybe you go to your own personal library of books and try to find out more on the subject?  Whatever you end up doing, it is troublesome or maybe even upsetting because it takes time away from your reading and causes an obvious break in the flow of information or the story line.  We also have experienced this situation, so when we decided to write this book, we considered this scenario and how we might be able to neutralize it or reduce the effects of the interference.  What if we were able to write a story and have the reference material contained within the same narrative?  We thought so too so we have added appendixes to make it easier. Using appendixes at the end of the book certainly won’t totally alleviate the problem of having to search for reference material, but it may save some of your valuable time and preserve the flow of new information.

Our book is written primarily in a novel format that tells a business story, weaving in an assortment of well-known and not-so-well-known tools and techniques.  Some of these tools and techniques may be new to some of you, depending upon your experience and frame of reference.  The book is primarily focused on an improvement methodology known as the “Theory of Constraints (TOC).”  In writing this book, it is our hope that we will have demonstrated to the reader that TOC, by itself, is not the only improvement methodology to drive significant bottom line improvement.  In fact, the best results can be achieved by the integration of TOC with two other popular methodologies known as “Lean” and “Six Sigma.” If done correctly, using all three methods should result in significant financial returns.  So as we tell our story, we use several appendixes to provide more detail and rigor on the subjects presented.

As an example, one of the subjects presented in our book is the TOC Replenishment Model.  In the business novel portion of our book, we demonstrate how this concept was used to eliminate stock-outs of parts while significantly reducing the dollar value of the parts inventory.  In the appendix for this subject, we provide additional detail on how this model can be implemented and used within your own organization.

Our next posting will describe in a bit more detail what this book is about and then we’ll present Chapter 1 and introduce some of the characters.  We hope you enjoy our book and that you’ll leave us comments about your experience.

Bob and Bruce

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beginning Monday, November 28, 2011

Beginning Monday, November 28th Bruce and I will be sharing two sections of our book (Preface & Chapter 1) which will be released in mid to late January by North River Press.  We hope you enjoy the read.
Bob & Bruce

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A message to our loyal readers....

Many of you have asked us questions about the publishing date for our new book, Epiphanized.  It is scheduled to be released mid to late January, but beginning next week you'll be able to read part of it here on my blog.  Our publisher, North River Press, has agreed to let us publish the Preface and Chapter 1 so next week you'll see parts of it here.  We hope that you'll send us comments as we move through the story line.  The book is written as a business novel with a very novel appendix.  We hope you enjoy your read.

Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Blog Site and New Company

Hi everyone.  I wanted to let everyone know that I have joined a fantastic new company called NOVACES.  NOVACES is a perfect fit for me because of their guiding principles, their beliefs and their focus on the integration of TOC, Lean and Six Sigma.  I want to recomment that everyone visit the NOVACES Blog site at:

In addition to my own blog, I will be contributing to the NOVACES blog as well.  I encourage all of my readers and followers to visit the NOVACES website and see some of the fantastic work they have done for many organizations.  You will also be able to see the wide range of industry types that NOVACES has been involved with.  I am very proud to be a part of the NOVACES family!

Bob Sproull

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Focus and Leverage Part 59

Intermediate Objectives (IO) Map

The Intermediate Objectives (IO) map was developed by H. William (Bill) Dettmer3, and in the spirit of combining methods (Unification) within a methodology this tool fits the criteria.  The IO map has been refined over the years to become a very practical and useful organizational and thinking tool.  Instead of using the full spectrum of the Thinking Process tools to conduct an analysis, the IO map combines the Prerequisite Tree (PRT) and the Conflict Diagram (CD) into a single tool.  In his paper about Intermediate Objective mapping, Dettmer defined the IO Map as a Prerequisite Tree (PRT) without any obstacles defined.  Dettmer’s primary intent for this tool was to simplify the construction and accuracy of the CRT – to focus the attention on a better defined objective, rather than a core problem.   In this context the IO map can be used to surface the undesirable effects (UDE’s). In most cases, the UDE’s can be discovered by verbalizing the exact opposite of the desired intermediate objectives that are listed.   These UDE’s then become the building blocks for a Current Reality Tree (CRT).  It makes sense that UDE’s can come from the IO’s.  UDE’s are what currently exist and the IO’s are what you want to exist.  In essence, the IO’s are what “you want” and the opposite wording of the IO’s would embrace the UDE list.

Dettmer also defines an expanded function for the IO map, indicating that it serves well the purpose of strategy development, and as such, it does provide a robust tool to do that.  The IO map used a standalone technique can provide the necessary clarity and direction to accomplish a needed strategy.

The IO Map is a very concise organizational thinking tool based on necessity logic.  The IO map allows the user to define the IO’s and then the intrinsic order of  the IO task completion by using necessity logic.  In other words, it is read with necessity as the outcome.  In order to have… (Entity Statement at the tip of the arrow), I must have…(Entity Statement at the base of the arrow).  Necessity logic states, in essence, that entity B must exist before you can have entity A.  The entity cannot be there just sometimes, or most of the time, but, instead necessity states it MUST be there.  The existence of entity B is not a causal existence. Necessity requires that the “B entity” exist before the “A entity” can be achieved.

The structure of the IO map is really very simple. There are three primary levels, or thinking levels required to construct the IO map. The first level is defining the GOAL.  The second level identifies the Critical Success Factors (CSF) or, those intermediate objectives that must exist prior to achieving the Goal. The third level is populated with the remaining necessary conditions required to achieve the Critical Success Factors (CSF).  Figure 6 provides an example of the basic structure of an IO map.
Figure 6

Figure 7 shows an example of the IO map that was created using our IO list example.
Figure 7

You’ll notice the shaded IO’s in the diagram.  These are the IO’s that were surfaced when building the IO map.  These IO’s did not appear on the original IO list, but instead surfaced after construction began on the IO map.

The ID/IO Simplified Strategy

Now that you have an understanding of both the Interference Diagram (ID) and the Intermediate Objective (IO) map and how they can be used as standalone techniques to generate some impressive improvement results, let’s talk about how they can be combined.  The Simplified Strategy is a way to combine these two tools, depending on the situation being analyzed and the desired outcome required.  It is possible that when using the ID to define the interferences, they are actually obstacles that are not necessarily time driven, but rather event driven.  The ID allows you to define the obstacle/interference, if they are not already well know.  Sometimes, the obstacles do not provide the means to implement a simple solution in isolation, but rather are collectively connected by necessity.   In other words, when you develop the list of obstacles using the ID, the IO list becomes the verbalization opposite of the obstacle rather than just an injection.  You are looking for the IO’s that must exist in reality to make the obstacle/interference not a problem anymore.

What happens next is the listing of IO’s becomes just that - a list of IO’s.  Now, with the IO mapping tool you can establish the logical necessity between single IO events (entities) that requires another predecessor event (entity) before the event can happen.  In other words, there is a logical dependency and intrinsic order in the sequence.  Just randomly selecting and completing of IO’s will not satisfactorily achieve the goal.  When you analyze the IO list you realize that ALL of the IO’s need to be completed, but which one do you start with first?  When this is the case, the IO map can be used to determine the sequence and order of completion.  From the IO list you can determine which events are Critical Success Factors (CSF’s) and which ones are the Necessary Conditions (NC’s.) By using the IO to map to determine the necessity between the events, it becomes exactly clear which IO you need to start with to implement your strategy.  Each level of the IO becomes logically connected to formally outline the “strategy” and “tactics.”  In other words, the goal is the strategy and the Critical Success Factors are the tactics to accomplish the goal.  At the next level the Critical Success Factors become the strategy and the Necessary Conditions become the tactics.  The same thinking applies down through the next levels of Necessary Conditions.  When you reach the bottom of an IO chain, then you know what action you need to take first to start the process moving up through the IO’s.  By using the IO map as a problem solving supplement to the ID it provides the needed organization to logically align the IO’s.  The ID map will provide the well-defined obstacles/interferences to better focus the creation of the correct IO’s to negate the obstacles.  Consider also, that sometimes it is very difficult to generate a good solution without first understanding what exactly the problem is.

Even though these tools can be used in combination it might not always be necessary to do so.  In fact the power of these tools allows them to be used in reverse order if so desired.  If you already understand what you need to do, then the IO map can be your beginning tool.  If, however, you are not so sure why you cannot achieve a particular goal, then the ID helps identify the obstacles/ interferences. Even if you begin with the IO map and you discover a particular IO that is necessary, but you’re just not sure how to make it happen, then you can use the ID as a subset of the IO map to discover the interferences for achieving that IO.  If you remove the interferences for the IO, then you can achieve the IO.  When you achieve that particular IO you can move on to the next one.  If you already know how to accomplish that IO, then fine.  If not, then use the ID again to surface the interferences.

Figure 8 shows a possible template for the combined approach.
Figure 8
With the ID/IO Simplified Strategy complete you now have the outline necessary to prepare an effective and accurate Implementation Plan.  The intent of the IO map is not to provide implementation detail at a low level, but rather to provide milestones or markers to make sure you are walking the right path.  For each IO listed you can provide the required detail about how it will be completed.

In a world that requires “Better, faster, cheaper”, the Simplified Strategy approach of the Interference Diagram (ID) and Intermediate Objective (IO) Map (ID/IO) can provide exceptional results in a shorter period of time.  By combining the power of these thinking tools the user will benefit from an effective and complete analyzes that is completed in significantly reduced time.  These tools, used in either a standalone environment or a combined approach, will provide the thinking necessary to develop good results.  The speed with which these tools can be used is an enormous benefit over the original System Thinking tools to allow the ability to answer the three questions:

                What do I change?

What do I change to?

How do I cause the change to happen?

The structure and concept behind these tools makes them easily adaptable and well understood and accepted in a group situation to allow for faster collection of data and analysis of issues.

Bruce H. Nelson,
Jonah, Jonah’s Jonah
TOCICO Board Certified

1.       Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, The Goal – A process for ongoing improvement, North River Press, Barrington, MA. 1992

2.       Robert Fox, TOC Center, New Haven, CT., discussions, circa 1995.

3.       H. Wlliam Dettmer, “The Intermediate Objectives Map”,, November, 2008.

4.       Bruce H. Nelson, “ID/IO Simplified Strategy” (CS2), Original works,  March 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Bruce H. Nelson.  All rights reserved