Subordination isn't easy, but it's critical

About a year or two ago, the Goldratt Marketing organization published this video on TOC for Startups.

The video is an introduction to a two-week program that they run explicitly designed for startup organizations to apply the TOC Thinking Processes and the TOC viewpoint to technology startups in particular.

The bulk of the 19 minutes is Goldratt talking about the "questions for technology" that I've mentioned before.

  1. What is the power of the new technology?
  2. What current limitation or barrier does the new technology eliminate or vastly reduce?
  3. What policies, norms and behavior patterns are used today to bypass the limitation?
  4. What policies, norms and behavior patterns should be used once the new technology is in place?
  5. In view of the above, what changes/additions to the new technology should be introduced?
  6. How to make this happen? (How to cause the change?)

Listening to the video in the context of startups, I am struck by another connection to Theory of Constraints principles: subordination to the constraint. In order to get the most out of the constraint of the business, all other areas of the business must synchronize to the demands of the constraint. This isn't the same as having the same capacity as the constraint, rather when the constraint beats the drum all supporting functions should be able to play in concert with that beat, whether it is fast or slow. It is this flexibility that is required to meet the needs of the organization. And it is this coordination across the entire organization that is one of the more difficult aspects to create. It is why systems thinking approaches often have difficulty (whether TOC or Lean or other approaches): synchronizing the rest of the organization requires the ongoing attention of the leaders.

In the context of this video and the approach on startups, I like how Goldratt emphasizes that we MUST respond to questions 4, 5 and 6 if we are to be successful. It is not the responsibility of the customer to make these changes, it is the responsibility of the provider to make these changes as easy as possible. The successful startup - and any successful change - can only be successful when the change is taken up by the customer.

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