Problem Solving With Theory of Constraints Part 1
To solve any problem, to complete any project, you need to answer:
- What is it that you have now?
- To what do you want it to change?
- How will that change happen?
- To What?
Problems are a difference between a perception and a desire. A system is a way of looking at the world, as a number of components and a whole. Organizations, individuals, products and services are all systems, and also parts of systems.
A system has a purpose. A purpose is an answer to the question "Why does this exist?" As such, it is partially subjective, it is dependent on who we ask it of. The purpose of the bank to the homeowner is different than the purpose of the bank to the robber. As a system designer, or someone who works in a system, you have to keep this in mind.
Solving Problems in Organizations
Organization performance is predicated on three factors:
- Clarity of purpose
- Quality of relationships
- Flow of information
These are interrelated and correlated. As clarity of purpose builds, flow of information increases, as flow of information gets better, relationships improve.
The Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes are tools to improve the flow of information and problem solve.
The fundamental questionst that the Thinking Processes help answer are:
- What is the current state of things?
- To what do we want to change things?
- How do we go about doing this?
Three questions that need to be answered before these are:
- What is the system?
- What is the system's purpose?
- What measures show whether the system is succeeding or failing?
I'm using measure in a very general way. It's not necessarily a metric or quantity, but some detectable signal that we are on the right track.
The fundamental question to start with is always What to change? This can be phrased as: - What is going on right now? - What are our problems? - What's going better or well right now?
The key tool of the thinking processes to handle this is the "current reality tree".
First, we list the relevant Existing entities. In problem solving, these will be undesirable effects, in key strength finding, it'll be desirable effects.
Then we determine the causal relationships between these entities. Once we understand the causal relationships, we are able to find what the key issue is.
All problems can be stated as a conflict, and any system will have many overarching goals which both sides of the conflict feed into. These conflicts exist because there is at least one assumption that is wrong about the situation. This may be miscommunication between parties, a misunderstanding or some other error in thinking.
The rest of the theory of constraints tools are about taking ideas for solutions and elaborating them and what needs to be done to fix them.