The nature of this day of the conference was around hearing new applications and new thinking behind Theory of Constraints. The Rami Goldratt keynote was one example of this. The rest of the day was composed of talks by the nine semi-finalists and finalists for the Goldratt Foundation Award of new applications of TOC.
All of the presentations were geared around showing how the idea builds on existing knowledge within TOC and might be potentially expanding what has come before. Specifically, people have been talking about the Standing on the Shoulders of Giants process as a way of framing the conversation. Each of the discussions could deserve their own blog entry. But not today.
Shimeon Pass of Focused Management Ltd presented what seems like an obvious idea but isn't built into most of the TOC discussion of project management and Critical Chain Project Management: Add value to the equation - add value to the "golden triangle" of time - budget - scope. In particular, when looking at multi project environments, there is always going to be a point where the portfolio management team need to look at the possible projects to add to the mix and make decisions about which are the best ones to add. Of course they consider value, but the interesting thing is that the TOC discussions of multi-project CCPM do not talk about how to make this evaluation. Pass provided a framework around doing just that.
Boaz Ronen (a colleague and co-author with Shimeon Pass) presented an interesting application of TOC in the justice system geared around speeding the turnaround time of civil cases in the court system. The scope of the problem is quite large: thousands of cases in backlog and very long turnaround times to get final judgements. Their solution was geared around helping the individual judges, who are the constraint of the court system. Interestingly, the unique expansion presented by Ronen was that they created a mechanism that had two DBR solutions around scheduling a two very different aspects of the judges' work. The proof for them is in the ability to speed case resolution time by better than 25% in two different court systems.
Eli Schragenheim presented some thinking he has around helping management make high-level decisions and the challenges of both Cost Accounting and Throughput Accounting (TA). He is worried that TA doesn't make sense to management because some of underlying assumptions of TA don't work for high-level decisions. TA doesn't do a good enough job in accounting for uncertainty and risk. His idea is to use the power of current technology to develop a simple-to-use calculation tool to test decision scenarios. The goal isn't to develop a tool that makes decisions - we need a tool that we can use to help inform decisions and thinking about various decision scenarios. He also suggests that the Sales and Operations planning activity should at least look at an optimistic and pessimistic scenario for each proposal as part of the assessment. One person from the audience suggested that he might want to explore system dynamics modeling tools, though Schragenheim emphasized that he really wants a calculator. And I wonder if the people who do scenario planning might have thought of this problem as well.
Finally, Kelvyn Youngman presented his current thinking about the buy-in tools that are in common use in the TOC community: the Layers of Resistance and the Change Matrix (this the 2x2 matrix with the Mermaid, Alligator, Pot of Gold and Crutches representing the allure of the current system, the problem with the current system, the allure of the new system, and the problem with the new system). Youngman's starting point was a frustration that the evaporating cloud tool - particularly when applied to core conflicts - should somehow be connected to the traditional Layers of Resistance. In his thinking about this, he realized that the Change Matrix helped him to see it in a different way and then gave him a mechanism to translate the both the Change Matrix and the Layers of Resistance into the cloud. Even more, this has helped him see two things. One that the Layers model is missing a key type of resistance: there is no explicit discussion of how to deal with resistance associated with losing "the mermaid." There are things that people like about the current situation. Solution design needs to address that resistance. The other realization he has is that the combination of Change Matrix and Evaporating Cloud is a more powerful representation of the core conflict that people face. The Change Matrix articulation can help validate and check a conflict cloud. Youngman has validated his approach with clients. He also used the Copernican Revolution as a test example for explaining his line of thinking - I think that might have gone over a few heads.
These last three presentations were the finalists for the Goldratt Foundation award for new developments in TOC. They were all interesting presentations and very different takes on what TOC might become. We'll learn the winner later in the conference.