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The Strategic Constraint and Department Goals

Tony, in response to Nelson, wrote:

>Further, within each division, the application of the five steps
>appears to make a good deal of sense. But the five steps must first
>be applied to the entire throughput chain (or throughput stream).

The five steps start with identifying the (current) constraint. In the kind of strategic thinking that we're discussing here, we have to go back a step and ask what our constraint should be.

Way back in my Jonah's Jonah course, my training partner and I developed the original version of the following "logic tree" to clarify the idea of a "strategic constraint." In its original form, it was presented at the Spring '96 Jonah Upgrade Workshop in Washington as "The Strength=Constraint Paradox." I think it has something to add to this discussion of "divisional goals."

    If . . .
    (10) A strength of a system is a function or combination of functions at which it excels.
    . . . and if . . .
    (15) A strength of a system is a function or combination of functions which can put/keep it ahead of the competition.
    . . . and if . . .
    (20) It is desirable to count on your strength rather than on a non-strength to achieve your goals.
    . . . then . . .
    (30) It is desirable that system's strength be the determining factor of its success.

    If . . .
    (40) The determining factor of the system's success it that which limits it from achieving more success.
    . . . and if . . .
    (50) The constraint of a system is that which limits it from achieving more success.
    . . . then . . .
    (60) The constraint of the system is the determining factor of its success.

      If . . .
      (30) It is desirable that system's strength be the determining factor of its success.
      . . . and if . . .
      (60) The constraint of the system is the determining factor of its success.
      . . . then . . .
      (70) It is desirable that system's strength be its constraint.

        If . . .
        (70) It is desirable that system's strength be its constraint.
        . . . and if . . .
        (80) The current system constraint is not always its strength.
        . . . then . . .
        (90) The system must take actions to assure that anything that is not its strength does not remain its constraint.

Using production as a model, someone previously mentioned the fact that there are different "goals" for functions, depending on whether they lie ahead of the constraint, or are the constraint, or lie after the constraint (or maybe even are unrelated to the constraint). My tree adds another issue into these possibilities; whether we have determined if the function is our "strategic constraint" (that function on which we have determined we want to base our business.

For our example of Product Development, we might want to ask how we want Product Development to perform (and what its goal is) in the following four cases:

1) Product Development is not the current constraint of the organization nor has it been deemed an appropriate strategic constraint.

[How should Product Development perform in order to subordinate to the current/strategic constraint and avoid becoming the current constraint? (Probably depends on the nature of the competitive environment and what the desired strategic constraint function is.)]

2) Product Development is not the current constraint of the organization, but it has been determined that it should be our strategic constraint.

[How should Product Development perform so that its strength is not wasted while the current constraint is being addressed? (Probably depends on what function is on the hot seat.)]

3) Product Development is the current constraint of the organization, and we have determined that something else should be the strategic constraint.

[How should Product Development perform in order to be exploited and elevated out of its constraint character, in subordination to the desired strategic constraint? (Probably a fairly straightforward application of 5 steps.)]

4) Product Development is the current constraint of the organization, and we have determined that it should be the strategic constraint and want to keep it as the constraint.

[How should Product Development perform, in conjunction with subordinated functions, to remain the constraint, yet allow the organization's throughput to grow? (Probably involves the 5 steps internally, with a special eye toward not stressing other functions.)]

Everything has something to do with it. - Tom Robbins

The source of this page is a posting made by Frank Patrick to one of a variety of online discussion forums, most likely an e-mail discussion list. It's tone and style may be informal, occasionally provocative, and sometimes, even impertinent. There may even be typos until an opportunity arises to clean them up for more formal presentation. Despite these minor shortcomings of style, the content is worth sharing.


Related links:

FP's Postings - others like this page on a variety of topics

Unconstrained Thinking - a collection of more polished mutterings and musings, written as a column for APICS chapter newsleters

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