Change and TOC

Malcolm Ryder has a recent piece that looks at Change, Change How You Change, that provides some steps to consider on the way to creating change within the organization.  His focus is strategy setting, and as I read his article, I saw some parallels to the Theory of Constraints' focusing steps, which can be thought of as a way to focus strategy.  Here are Malcolm's steps and the TOC focusing steps (somewhat revised):

Malcolm Ryder Theory of Constraints
  1. we learn or otherwise acknowledge that needs are not requirements
  2. identify the right problem to solve
  3. choose your pain
  4. change how we change
  1. Identify the constraint
  2. Decide how to best utilize the constraint
  3. Align everything else with this decision
  4. Elevate the constraint
  5. If the constraint has moved in this process, return to step 1

The focusing steps usually start with a "step zero" that looks like "Define the goal of the system," and Malcolm has a similar comment in that the organization needs to decide what their purpose is, rather than defining the solution up front.

While the parallels aren't perfect, the ideas seem to be the same, particularly in the "Identify the constraint" and "Identify the right problem to solve" parallel.  This path to creating change is not focused on the change itself, but on changing how the organization sees itself.  From the TOC perspective, the difficulty is that organizations don't know their constraint, so they have nowhere to focus.  With no focus, there is no alignment, and no growth.  With that focus and alignment come vast capabilities for improvement.  And this change happens without mounting an explicit effort to create change in the organization.

Here is Malcolm's perspective on "changing how we change:"

Changing how we change does not necessarily produce a different outcome -- instead, the point of it is to be able to produce the needed outcomes in a different way. Developing a strategy is creating a way of being; and changing a strategy is changing a way of being. Being strategic is a competency, not an event.

2 Comment(s)

Wouldn't you agree that TOC provides a better way to analyze the need for change and clearer criteria for determining what needs to be changed.

With Ryder's "choose your pain", I feel that organizations would choose the most immediate and easiest thing to change rather than tackling the underlying constraint. The identification of the "right problem to solve" means finding the problem that produces the most value if it is solved. This seems like it would force organizations to solve local optima problems rather than looking for the global optimal solution as Goldratt suggests.

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

Thanks Bill. It's certainly not a perfect parallel, but once you've chosen the right problem, the pain should be a lot more obvious... This is the process of understanding the current situation and all the problems (undesirable effects), and working through them to discover the (likely) one underlying cause of all of the undesirable effects.

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