Policies can be changed
David Anderson is a fellow Theory of Constraints enthusiast, but it doesn't take TOC to see that policies often get in the way of doing more with your business. He reminds us that with Policies - You've Got the Power (excerpt).
Policies are under your control (or maybe your boss or an upline manager).
If a policy is affecting the performance of your team - change it! Show some courage. Make a change. Just do it!
Policies that hold you back from getting work done are just as bad as, if not worse than, physical constraints in the system. They both keep you from getting more through the system, and this translates into $$$. (And if it doesn't translate to $$$, then it's probably not a constraint in a profit-making business.)
As David notes, these policies come about many ways and have all sorts of history. Unfortunately, many policies are so buried in the way things are done that they aren't obvious to the people on the floor. Finding them usually involves talking about what are the most important things to do and what is standing in the way of that work. Discussions of "What Good Looks Like" turn up interesting policies.
For example, I was working with a manufacturing plant in which the flow through Lab X was critical to keep at a high level to ensure a high level of production further down the line (and a high level of products moving out the door). There were a number of policies in place that restricted the flow of materials through this area: fear of cross-contamination; lab techs mopping the floors; preparation for tomorrow; work scheduling; ... One of these was easy to deal with: Do the lab techs really need to mop the floors at the end of the day? What advantage can be had if the cleaning crew does that instead? Policies around cross-contamination can be tested by looking at the data: has it happened and what's the risk.
The impact of one of these policies was more difficult to see. The group was responsible for doing the work of the day and for preparing work for tomorrow (materials needed to "bake" for a specific time period). After discussing the process a number of times, the realization dawned that they were only preparing enough for the bare minimum of work the following day, on the assumption that wasted time and materials were expensive. Once this surfaced, we were able to do a calculation that showed the cost of preparing extra materials (and possibly having to throw some away) was minimal compared to the advantage of having additional material flowing through the system (or backups in case of Murphy).
What is the constraint in your business? What is keeping you from getting more through that constraint?
If it is a policy, how long does it really take to change that policy?
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