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Unconstrained Thinking
— Process Mis-Management

A client, having lived with TQM for a long time, once told me that “If all of the processes for the internal customers are perfect, that means, they make that customer, the employee, happy, the performance of the processes, aimed on the external customer will improve.”

This is true, but only "if all of the processes...are perfect."

However, all is never perfect. There is always room for improvement. At the same time, there are limited resources available to carry out needed improvements.

Common practice in process management is to spread these limited resources out among the varied processes, creating process owners, teams, etc., which focus on the deliverables that pass across the individual links of the chain/web of internal customers and suppliers. A plethora of measures and targets are set up to assure that the local goals are met and local performance is improved.

Is this the appropriate focus for improvement? Is this focus? Is local improvement the goal of process management? I don’t think so.

Yes, the individual processes must be improved, but unless they are improved with an eye toward how they impact the total system's constraint process, and unless special attention is focused on that constraint, there will be no significant total system improvement.

Process management and TQM is one piece of the puzzle. Awareness of the system's constraint is the other. The two of them have to support each other for real improvement. Process management at its best will raise the capability/capacity of the constraint (and hence the system). Awareness and identification of the constraint provides the focus for the management of the various processes that will provide a true process of ongoing improvement for the entire system.

©2000, Frank Patrick

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem - in my opinion - to characterize our age. - Albert Einstein

This is one of a series of columns on improvement, TOC, constraint management, change management, systems thinking, uncommon sense, and whatever else comes into my mind. Suggestions for topics are welcome. - FP, 908-874-8664 or via the contact page of this site.

If you are interested in using these 1/2-page columns for your APICS, ASQ, or IIE newsletter, let me know through the same channels, and I'll send you the more easily usable MS Word versions.

-- Frank Patrick

Related links:

The Strategic Constraint and Department (local) Goals

TQM and Constraints

Unconstrained Thinking Index

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