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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Down 'n Dirty with TOC and PM (Part 2) -- In the second installment from Hal Macomber in our series on the Theory of Constraints, he rounds out a taxonomy of constraints, adding "policies and paradigms" (Joe Ely, the third in our little trio, makes a nice point by referring to them as "traditions.") to the more obvious "physical" constraints of people, equipment, and space. Hal's discussion of the lift, or probably more accurately, the way the lift is used to get workers to the work on upper floors, as a possible contributing factor to the existence and persistence of project constraints makes a good point. While the obvious stuff will get watched and managed, it's possible for some otherwise "invisible" factor, if misused and mismanaged, to become, or at least contribute to the constraint on the project.

Here's another example, from a white collar, product development environment. A particular office might be subjected to a range of outsourcing and downsizing of "non-value-adding" functions that might include, let's say, the mail room. As a result, mail runs are cut from four per day to two. Sounds reasonable, at least until the chief designer (whose scarce skill and experience, combined with the fact that a lot of projects depend on her input, makes her the locus of a potential bottleneck or constraint for the firm's product development efforts), has to leave her workspace to trek down to the receiving dock to expedite delivery of a prototype for which she is waiting. This too common, penny-wise, pound-foolish mode of "management" has just moved a possibly significant company-wide constraint -- the ability of the organization to develop new products quickly and frequently -- to the shipping dock. Trust me, this is not exactly where I would suggest a company's competitive advantage be located.

How Hal's lift is managed could be a similar situation. The solutions that he suggests in this example, staggering crew starts or limiting lift usage to longer trips, are ways of "subordinating" policies in administrative or supporting aspects of the project. As a result, the real "value creators," and especially those that might be associated with the critical constraint of the project, can be fully "exploited," in the best TOC sense of the word.

Watch for part three from the three of us tomorrow, and again, please use our comment links if you are so moved.


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