Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ask SKI :: Tenet #11


A fellow Throughput Consultant asks...

In Purple Curve you wrote:
TENET #11: Only by fixing cashflow can most businesses survive long enough to find and fix the true weakest link.

"I can’t agree more with that. The question is how you can do that as long as you didn’t find and fix the true weakest link. Isn’t it a chicken and egg situation?"

Great question. The short answer: "No."

Remember that we are dealing with cause and effect logic. Recall the proverb "For want of a nail?"

There is order in the universe. One event does cause others to occur. However, you are exactly right when suggesting that it may not be easy to find. This is another area where I give Eli Goldratt credit for a simple yet profound tool: "the bitch & moan" session.

I also touched on it in another portion of Purple Curve Effect relating Suzie in HR's problem to Todd the Throughput Guru. It has been my soapbox for years that most business owners know the general area of concern and therefore the weakest link; they are just good at explaining it away or downplaying its ramifications.

In one case, it took me a week to determine the weakest link, but after five months, the owner continued to refuse to address this fact, and we parted ways. It was in an area that he considered outside his span of control (as VP of a family owned business).

But, there are times you cannot be 100% positive that you have identified the true weakest link. So now what?

Give up?

Hardly. Are you ready for the secret? Sitting down?


I hear you, "Guess?" Yes, make your best guess. One of the hidden virtues of Constraints Management Model (CMM) is that if you guess wrong, in very short order, you will sense that the constraint has moved, and you then may tackle the new weakest link.

Actually, it will become apparent that you did not "choose wisely" your first time out. No big deal. Within days (if not hours, depending how dynamic the environment), the real bottleneck will raise its hand and say, "Yo, over here!"

This is where Goldratt the physicist was not clear enough for business practitioners; however, H. William Dettmer made it clear in Strategic Navigation: We need Colonel John Boyd's OODA Loop! We must take action!

Get moving!

Take action. Now if your gut is telling you (or the client, which is your SME — Subject Matter Expert) that you may not be 100% sure of the weakest link, do not spend a lot of money attacking your first guess. Again, as most Throughput gurus know, often the solution requires very little capital investment. If it does, consider a pilot implementation. Remember that I also advocate testing, and then testing some more!

As this questioner knows, the most damaging constraints are stupid (but well intentioned!) policies... W. Edwards Deming taught us to consider solutions regardless the rules that might need changed. That is the only way to bring holistic thinking to bear.


P.S. Do you have a question concerning making money in your business? Ask!

Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey, Jonah
+1 330.432.3533

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