The end result of the course is that I am now an Application Expert for the Theory of Constraints supply chain logistics applications: operations and distribution. (Correction: I will be an expert when our final tests are graded.) Having this certification, I can now work on the operations and distributions aspects of Viable Vision projects with other TOC experts. Of course, I can also use this certification to support my own consulting projects as well.
About the Course
The overarching goal of the course and of Goldratt Schools is to develop more Application Experts for Viable Vision projects. The connection to Viable Vision is the In fact, ours was the second time the course was taught, and a third session started in South America as ours was completing. More information can be found through Goldratt Consulting, though at this time I don't see a description of the course I took.
The course has a number of immediate educational goals
- Teach the Operations and Distributions (supply chain logistics) applications.
- Reinforce the TOC Thinking Processes (see notes below), which are possibly more important than the specific applications.
- Teach the Viable Vision process, particularly how the application expert (AE) fits into the process.
- Teach the very structured method of initiating the AE's activities in a project.
Most of the course is taught through demonstration and case studies. By the end of the five weeks, we getting into some very interesting discussions around the cases, showing just how much we had learned and absorbed in the course.
Ideally, students come to the class with a TOC ICO certification in supply chain logistics, but Goldratt Schools recognized they might not be able to find enough qualified students, so they offered the initial certification test about half-way through the program. This certification exam covers the basics of TOC, the supply chain logistics applications and the thinking processes. Nearly all the students in our class took the test and found it to be quite difficult. But we all passed this initial step of the TOC ICO certification process.
The students (15 people) came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. A couple people had plenty of formal TOC training, and others had read the books but were otherwise inexperienced. I fell somewhere in the middle. There were a couple people from companies that were currently going through Viable Vision projects, and it was very instructive to learn from them and hear their experiences on what had happened thus far. Some people were at the course in anticipation of being placed on a Viable Vision project shortly, and others had no upcoming work but were excited about the possibility. There were also two business professors, who were taking the class in anticipation of teaching courses like this at their universities or becoming instructors for Goldratt Schools.
I enjoyed the course overall. As we got into the meat of the basic TOC material, I was surprised at how much of the Thinking Processes and Supply Chain Logistics applications I already knew from my work with Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) over the past several years. I learned CCPM organically with my colleagues, and did not realize how much of the core TOC tools were being discussed and used.
In our course, we had the opportunity to visit a local business as a real life case study that really showed the power of the basic analysis tools that Theory of Constraints provides. In the case of this manufacturing company, it was blindingly obvious to the students where the company was doing business as usual and how that was hurting them. We spent three hours discussing the business with operations management and were able to come back to class and develop some solid recommendations for short- and long-term changes that would provide great value to their operations.
On the "room to grow side," the course is new and was in development while we were there. As a result, we experienced a few hiccups along the way. There were points where it wasn't completely clear what the goal of specific activities were, which was frustrating for the students, though the instructors knew where they were going. Having students from such a wide variety of experience was also a barrier to smooth operation as some people needed more detailed coaching through questions than did others. Of course, this varied depending on what sections of the material we were covering.
Of course, spending five weeks with the same people was not all work. When we weren't doing homework or studying, we went out for food and got to know one another pretty well. In the spirit of TOC becoming a new business standard, one of the students came up with a new set of names for levels of expertise: Green Rat, Black Rat, and Gold Rat. And a musically-inclined student came up with "The Ballad of the '05 AE's" as sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies TV show theme song.
Now that I have this certification, what happens? I get onto a Viable Vision project, which is in the works. Actually, Goldratt Schools have a vested interest in getting students onto projects because GS gets paid only when the students get paid in their work on the projects.
Viable Vision is Goldratt's specific offer to achieve in less that four years net profit equal to their current sales. The best description of Viable Vision is this ~10 minute video of Eli Goldratt describing his thinking. I just started a Viable Vision page at Wikipedia. If you know more, please update it.
With respect to the Thinking Processes, the Wikipedia has an entry that scratches the surface. The thinking processes are a systematic set of tools to help walk people through envisioning what the problem is, what needs to change, what they need change to, and how to cause that change. The essential tools are the Current Reality Tree, Evaporating Cloud, Future Reality Tree, Prerequisite Tree and Transition Tree. These are best described by seeing them in action or by diving into the details of TOC for yourself.