As with Tuesday, this day of the conference was packed with a variety of talks from descriptions of project implementations to thinking about how to use TOC in different contexts to combining TOC with other thinking to create even better solutions. This is it from the conference - I'm heading home today.
Some highlights from today:
- He who has a why to live can bear almost any how - Nietzsche (live with a purpose!)
- When people stop using their arms to produce, they use their brains to improve. (A concept from Lean)
- PODS = process of ongoing downsizing. (Humor to counter the more positive POOGI = process of ongoing improvement.)
- People tend to adopt management techniques that fit their current assumptions, so introducing counter-intuitive techniques raises barriers.
- Getting buy-in is much easier when considered a team sport, rather than the arena of a Lone Ranger. (from Eduardo Moura)
There was a thread of conversations through the conference on using TOC with other improvement tools - usually Lean and Six Sigma. One of the challenges with just about any community is the us vs. them issue with other communities that walk along similar lines. The TOC community usually talks about other techniques as being in support of an overall TOC approach. And similarly, those other communities may talk about TOC as a supporting technique (if they talk about it at all).
With that in mind, it was interesting to hear people talking more directly about the combinations and the fact that Lean is in many many more companies than is TOC. And that it makes much more sense to honor the environment of a client - whatever that might be. Present your ideas, figure out an approach that will work WITH the client, and get moving. If they discover that some activities don't make sense for them, it is they that will make the change. This is much more powerful.
Philip Marris talked about exactly this in an implementation where he helped a deeply Lean organization grow output by 32% - by showing them that inserting a buffer before the bottleneck would help (violating the one-piece-flow mantra). In this case, the buffer needed to deal with minute variation in the line that caused the bottleneck to be out of commission for one to three minutes.
Eduardo Moura talked about using the TOC Thinking Processes to help an organization be more strategic. I liked how he talked about the tools as items in a shopping cart. You might use a Lean tool, or a Six Sigma tool, or something from TOC, or from Business Process Management. The key for him was that the tool has to fit the situation - it has to solve the problem in question. This suggests to me that there also needs to be a clear purpose and strategy in order to direct the conversation about what problems are important and need to be solved.
One way to spread Theory of Constraints is to buy a company and install management that are sympathetic to TOC thinking. I'm not going to be doing that any time soon, but there are a few companies out there doing that. Henry Camp is setting up an investment company to do just that (I didn't hear his talk). And then Kobus van der Zel works in the Turnaround industry and uses TOC to help struggling companies recover. He also talked about the market for TOC knowledge (and improvement knowledge in general). He has done a lot of study of business history and is predicting a cyclic downturn that will create the need for people who know how to bring companies through a slump successfully. He trumpets TOC as the way to make it work.
Yesterday, I neglected to mention Hadas Schragenheim's talk, "Information Out of the Data Ocean," on using a company's own data to help walk them through the buy-in process. She gave three examples of taking historical customer data and simulating their actual actions and the actions of an implementation of TOC principles. In every case the data showed the customer things that made them question the decisions they had been making, and it helped in the buy-in process to be working with actual client data and policies.