Almost Daily Web Log What's new?
Miscellany Questions? Comments?

Strategy & Alignment Operational Problem Solving Project Management Implementation & Change Management

Clear Focus Planning
-- A Leadership Workshop for Building your Future

With rare exception, today's organization is structured in a way that each of its different parts (each department, function, cost center, business unit, etc.) is induced to operate, almost exclusively, as if an independent entity. Each part is managed according to its own "bottom line," its own strategic and tactical plans, its own budget and plans for using it, its own policies, measurements and/or procedures - most of these having been created in isolation, without taking into account their impact on the other parts, or the organization as a whole. No wonder it's so common to find parts of an organization in conflict with others, improvement projects rarely achieving their intended benefits, organizations disenchanted with empowering their people and spending exorbitant amounts of financial resources teaching their employees conflict resolution - with seemingly little impact!

Unlike most improvement efforts, the Theory of Constraints (TOC) provides organizations with common sense solutions and methodologies that enable the parts of an organization to synchronize themselves around achieving the greatest benefit for the organization as a whole; to clearly focus on global performance, rather than local performance.

No single component of an organizational system (a company, for example) is responsible for global performance. The ways in which the individual pieces are managed must be in sync with the others. An across-the-board understanding of the key issues facing the key functions is necessary to avoid having one's future performance jeopardized by unfocused, unaligned policies, processes and measures. Two absolutely necessary conditions for success are for the key players of an organization to have a common insight into the needs of the other links of the value chain and to reach across-the-board consensus on precisely how to proceed, given this new understanding.

Focused Performance provides a fast and effective approach to facilitate the key players in your organization to do just that: to reach a clear consensus on what, why and how to build a new picture of the future and to achieve it. The approach is as follows:

  • Part 1 - One to two days are spent reviewing common (and not-so-common) approaches to dealing with key processes and functions found in the organization. The dilemmas associated with the way in which companies commonly manage operations, measure success, plan, promise, and track projects, deal with the supply chain, and define and deliver value to customers are reviewed. The purpose is to assure that all the key players have an appreciation for what is faced by their organizational teammates. Throughout this introduction, the Focused Performance facilitator leads discussion as to how the various components apply to your organization, in terms of the problems it addresses and their solution. The major problems are highlighted to be dealt with in the second part of the Clear Focus Planning workshop.
  • Part 2 - After alignment of thinking regarding the needs of the various links of the organization's value chain is achieved, the Focused Performance facilitator and the organization's key players spend two to three days integrating their new knowledge and insight into a clear vision and strategy for enhance future performance. This plan is designed to enable the organization to achieve optimal global performance, to embark upon a meaningful process of ongoing improvement, and to set up the organization for moving on to bigger and better things.
  • Part 3 - Once the Clear Focus Plan is developed, one day is spent designing precisely how your organization will proceed to implement it.

This approach, called Clear Focus Planning, takes only about a week of group "face time" with the key players. The process for Parts 2 and 3 takes advantage of proven TOC Thinking Process to follow a scientific, yet simple, logical thinking process that any rigorous, systematic improvement process should follow - answering three questions: (1) What to change? (2) What to change to? And (3) How to cause a change?

What to Change? Consensus on the Problem...

Just as a physician diagnosing the disease causing many of a patient's symptoms, the facilitator and your organization's key players use cause and effect to identify and reach consensus on the core problem causing many of the symptoms existing throughout your organization. This core problem is responsible for significantly constraining your organization's global performance. People intuitively understand the futility of fighting symptoms; once your organization knows its core problem, it knows precisely where to focus its scarce resources to achieve the greatest impact on its global performance.

What to Change To? Consensus on the Solution...

By understanding the prevailing cause and effects existing in your organization, and its core problem, the facilitator and your organization's key players have, in effect, created the road map for constructing the strategy for synchronizing the parts of the organization around achieving their optimal global performance. More specifically, the strategy's design process begins by identifying what each part must do to contribute to alleviating the organization's core problem directly. Then, using the cause and effects already surfaced, each part determines what else it must do to ensure that each and every one of the symptoms surfaced the previous day are remedied, without creating significant negative side-effects for the other parts, or the organization as a whole. By having each part working alongside the others, we ensure that not only will all the parts of the organization be synchronized, but we will also have across-the-board consensus on the resulting strategy.

How to Cause the Change? Consensus on the Implementation Plan...

Every journey has its milestones. Getting your organization from where it is today, to an implemented strategy and future reality, will be a journey. On the final day, the facilitator and your organization's key players will define the milestones that must be achieved along the way and then sequence them in time, i.e., which comes first, second, third, what can we do in parallel, etc. From these milestones will derive the specific actions that must be taken to achieve each and every milestone in turn, and to fully institutionalize a meaningful process of ongoing improvement. These actions provide the basis for the project plan for implementing your organization's new strategy.

An essential part of implementing any improvement is consensus and buy-in for the change. We've all experienced people's resistance to change and know that it is a force not to be underestimated. Throughout Clear Focus Planning (and its implementation), emphasis is placed on seeking the participation and buy-in of all participants in designing the strategy, as well as all others in the organization who will be either instrumental in the implementation process or will be effected by the change.

The implementation of the resulting project plan must be managed very carefully so that it does not fall prey to the typical problems encountered by the vast majority of projects attempted. To ensure this, we use the TOC approach to managing projects, Critical Chain. The final day consists of applying these concepts to the project plan, and assigning the duties and responsibilities of the participants in overseeing and managing the project's implementation.

The Results

Clear Focus Planning results in a plan that will enable your organization to achieve optimal global performance and embark upon a meaningful process of ongoing improvement. As important, if not more so, it results in a leadership team that is in complete consensus and alignment with each other and the organization's strategy, and who are wholeheartedly committed to making the implementation of the effort a complete success.

Have Any Doubts?

An experienced TOC practitioner from Focused Performance is prepared to present either a half- or one-day "First Focus" introduction to your organization's key players and decision makers. Your team will then be able to form an educated opinion about the value of utilizing Clear Focus Planning as the means to achieving optimal global performance and for embarking upon a meaningful process of ongoing improvement. Contact Focused Performance to arrange this eye-opening session for your leadership team.

Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems that we created with our current patterns of thought. - Albert Einstein

Related links:

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!

Unconstrained Thinking - Strategy for the Masses - It's easier, and can be quicker, than you might think.

Focus on the Big Rocks First

The Strategic Constraint and (local) Department Goals

TQM and Constraints

Who is FP?
Web Log
Contact Focused Performance