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Unconstrained Thinking
-- Strategy for the Masses

In a previous Unconstrained Thinking column, I focused on the old saw, "If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail," with the goal of pointing out the need for a roadmap to get where you want to go. While the context of that column was an individual effort (a project), a plan is probably even more critical to take an organization where it needs to go -- a strategic plan.

When one thinks about strategic planning, what comes to mind too often is a lengthy multi-million dollar effort driven by some high-powered Big Six (or is it now the Fat Four?) consulting firm. This is probably not something that smaller businesses, or even individual divisions of larger firms consider an appropriate endeavor.

But strategic planning doesn't have to be so daunting, once one realizes that there are ways of simplifying how one thinks of the organization. There are only two sets of interdependencies that need to be taken into consideration. The first is the chain of functions and processes that the organization uses to create value. By recognizing that there are very few (usually one) weakest links in that chain, the strategy must simply deal with that constraining weakness in order to achieve significant benefit.

In order to develop an effective value chain strategy (a breakthrough) that will survive the first challenge, and that can't be easily copied by the competition, a second set of interdependencies must also be dealt with. The continued existence of the chain's weak link is directly related to the cause-and-effect system connecting perceptions, polices, practices, and performance and the dilemmas that result. In order to do something different over the long haul, the planning process needs to dig out the root causes of less than stellar performance, which is most often found in erroneous perceptions about how an operation should be managed.

Use your own intuition and experience to focus on your constraint (your weak link) and maybe get some help for uncovering and attacking your perceptions. With a bit of "structured but unconstrained thinking," a strategy for significant and sustainable im-provement can result.

Think about it . . .

©2002, Frank Patrick

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something. - Thomas H. Huxley

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, PMI, 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:

Clear Focus Planning - A Leadership Workshop for Building Your Future - A fast and effective process to align your efforts for success.

Unconstrained Thinking - If You Fail to Plan... - You know what you can plan on.

Avoiding Disappointment in Improvement Programs - Don't do programs! Turn your management efforts into a process for aligned, on-going improvement.

Unconstrained Thinking - A Route to Roots - A short piece on getting to root causes and core problems for complex systems (aka organizations)

Small Business Strategy - Think you're too small for strategic planning and structured problem solving? Think again!

The Strategic Constraint and (local) Department Goals

TQM and Constraints

Unconstrained Thinking Index

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