Tag Archives: Theory of Constraints

Management Improvement Carnival #134

snow pack on trail in North Cascade National Park

Snow pack on the Helitrope Ridge Trail in North Cascade National Park. Photo by John Hunter.

The Curious Cat Management Improvement Carnival has been published since 2006. We find great management blog posts and share them with you. We hope you find these post interesting and find some new blogs to start reading. You may submitted a post to the management subreddit to have it considered for the next carnival. See more photos from North Cascade National Park, Washington, USA.

  • To Change Culture, Change the System by David Joyce – “Deming learned it’s not a problem of the people it’s a problem of the system that people work within. He found that if you want to change behaviour, then you need to change the system, and change management thinking that creates it. Doing so, culture change is then free.”
  • Customer Engagement is Employee Engagement (and vice versa) by Julian Birkinshaw and Simon Caulkin – “And that was the conclusion: putting every employee in the customer loop on a regular basis could strengthen the entire culture of the company. Every time a Roche employee met with a customer, the employee would leave more engaged in the work of the company.”
  • Looting Factories For Fun and Profit by Bill Waddell – “These sorts of leveraged buyout games have made investment bankers millionaires, and destroyed tens of thousands of manufacturing companies over the last thirty years. It is a legal way to suck all of the value others have created from a company without adding anything.”
  • Why? Such a powerful question by Mishkin Berteig – “This communication is paramount during the Sprint or Cycle but is absolutely mandatory during the planning meeting. A team cannot simply be given a list of instructions to follow. The team needs to understand what their Goal is.”
  • Whoever Experiments Fastest, Wins by Mike Rother – “our current management paradigm tends to seek certainty. How rarely do we hear, ‘I don’t know,’ ‘Let’s observe what happens,’ ‘Not sure yet,’ ‘We’re testing that.’ (it is a shame when people are afraid of saying “I don’t know”John)
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Management Improvement Carnival #34

Please submit your favorite management posts to the carnival. Read the previous management carnivals.

  • Introduction to Factorial Designs by Jonathan Mendez – “I like the idea of velocity in marketing — test, learn, test, learn, test. Instead of one large test I prefer focusing attention on certain areas or elements to achieve deeper understanding.”
  • MIT’s Message about Lean Enterprise Transformation by Mark Edmondson- “1. Market leaders are good at embracing enterprise change; 2. Enterprise change requires a holistic approach that engages all stakeholders. This includes employees, suppliers, customers, unions, and investors/owners”
  • Two Types of Bottleneck by David J. Anderson – “I now teach that there are two types of bottleneck: capacity constrained resources CCRs; and non-instant availability resources”
  • Oranges, Pebbles, and Sand by Ron Pereira – “In this video my daughters and I demonstrate how meeting an objective is just the beginning to improvement.”
  • Why errorproof when you can double-check? – “If you are in the position to prevent the error in the first place, why wouldn’t you? And, I’d argue, if you can write a tool to detect the screw up – ie, it is possible to programmatically figure out that the template is wrong,”
  • Systems and Improvement by John Dowd – “Thus did Deming, over sixty years ago, show a basic model about how to think about quality and improvement.”
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Systems Improvement Example

New Jamarat Bridge Saudi Arabia

Interesting paper – The Dynamics of Crowd Disasters: An Empirical Study [the broken link was removed] (see other interesting material on the website). Systems thinking allowed the engineers to design a solution that wasn’t about enforcing the existing rules more but changing the system so that the causes of the most serious problems are eliminated.

analysis of unique recordings of the Muslim pilgrimage in Mina/Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It suggests that high-density flows can turn “turbulent” and cause people to fall. The occuring eruptions of pressure release bear analogies with earthquakes and are de facto uncontrollable.

entrance of the previous Jamarat Bridge, where upto 3 million Muslims perform the stoning ritual within 24 hours.
On the 12th day of Hajj, about 2/3 of the pilgrims executed lapidation even within 7 hours.

In order to avoid counterflows of pilgrims close to the Jamarat plaza, the following street organization has been proposed by IVV Engineers, Aachen, in collaboration with us. It is characterized by flexible re-routing possibilities of flows into the Jamarat plaza close to the Jamarat Bridge (see central area). In this way, an over-utilization of one of the ramps or the entry to the ground floor could be avoided. Moreover, balanced inflows allowed for an optimal usage of the capacity of the Jamarat Bridge.

Related: Hajj stampede kills hundreds [the broken link was removed] – Hajj deaths dismay Arab presssystems thinking blog posts

Fun Camping Drum-Buffer-Rope Example

Shmula Goes Camping: Drum-Buffer-Rope

Managing the Constraint is mostly about managing the non-bottleneck systems and making them “aware” how fast they should work — when they should slow down, when they should stop, or when they should increase pace and by how much. The Drum-Buffer-Rope system allows for a systems-wide awareness.

The Drum

The Bottleneck or Constraint, acts as a Drum — it sets the rhythm that the whole system should follow. In Lean Manufacturing, this is also called “Takt Time.

Lean and Theory of Constraints

David Anderson’s post, Lean vs. TOC – No Conflict [the broken link was removed], is an excellent addition to the previous post here: Lean Thinking and Management.

I demonstrated these ideas recently by taking an updated version of my XIT Sustained Engineering paper from the TOCICO in Barcelona [the broken link was removed] to the Lean Design and Development conference and recasting all the exploitation and subordination steps as waste reduction instead.

David refers to a post, looking for a conflict, that is definitely worth reading:

This is the dilemma: “Optimize everything” conflicts with “Only optimize the bottleneck”. I like both approaches and have used them both successfully. How is it possible that two of my favourite techniques disagree?

I like the way the post looks at this question. I must admit, my personally view is that the conflict is not as stark as it may appear. I tend to believe the theory of constraints view is helpful but can be misleading since often the interdependencies within the system mean that it is not true that “optimizing non-bottlenecks will introduce waste” (that may be true but is not necessarily true – that is how I see it anyway).

These are good ideas to be discussing.



“Flow” and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [the broken link was removed] by David Farmer:

How does it feel to be in “the flow”?

1. Completely involved, focused, concentrating – with this either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training
2. Sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality
3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well it is going
4. Knowing the activity is doable – that the skills are adequate, and neither anxious or bored
5. Sense of serenity – no worries about self, feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of ego – afterwards feeling of transcending ego in ways not thought possible
6. Timeliness – thoroughly focused on present, don’t notice time passing
7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces “flow” becomes its own reward

Books by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

  • Good Business Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning, 2004.
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,1991. People enter a flow state when they are fully absorbed in activity during which they lose their sense of time and have feelings of great satisfaction. The author, a pioneer in this astonishing field of study, clearly explains the principles of “flow” and shows how it can be introduced into every level of life. (audio tape)
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1997. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with exceptional people, from biologists and physicists to politicians and business leaders to poets and artists, the author uses his famous “flow” theory to explain the creative process. Csikszentmihalyi’s objective is to offer readers an understanding of what leads to creative moments so that they can use that knowledge to enrich their own lives.

ToC Conference Recap

Thoughts on TOCICO [the broken link was removed] by David Anderson:

“Subordination happens first!” In the 5 focusing steps, the third step is to subordinate the rest of the system to the decision made in step 2 to fully exploit the capacity constrained resource. I had observed in my work with the XIT Sustained Engineering group (the subject of my paper for the conference), that the subordination actions always had to happen first before the constraint could be fully exploited. However, this is counter-intuitive given the order of the steps. As Eli reminded the audience, step 2 is “Decide what (and how) to exploit.” This then leads to a set of subordination decisions which make exploitation possible. Subordination always happens first.

Related Posts:

ToC in UK Surgery

UK surgeon uses TOC approach to double capacity and eliminate waiting lists [the broken link was removed] by Clarke Ching via Carnival of Lean Leadership II [the broken link was removed]

First, he has identified himself – or surgeons in general – as the current system constraint:

Second, he’s figured out how to exploit himself as the constraint – i.e. how to make him as efficient as possible:

Third, he’s subordinated the other resources in the process to make sure he is as busy as possible:

Excellent post illustrating how Theory of Constraints can be used to analyze why an improvement is effective.