Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finding the “Herbie” in Your Change Initiative
Elizabeth Doty


Quite thought provoking regarding the principles of "theory of constraints" to driving change within your company/organization

Eli Goldratt’s “theory of constraints.” Goldratt’s 1984 classic, The Goal, is still one of Amazon’s top sellers in organizational change. His theory is based on the idea that, in the face of interdependencies and variability, maximizing the activity of each part in a system reduces the output of the system. Drawing on the analogy of a scout troop on a hike, Goldratt showed that only one factor determined how fast they would get to their destination: the speed of the slowest scout, a poor soul named “Herbie.” To maximize their speed as a troop, they needed to let Herbie set the pace. They put Herbie at the front of the line, then did everything they could to lighten his load and help him do his best.... 

...When applied to leading change, the theory of constraints reveals that a business can only operationalize real improvement at a certain pace. Yes, your business is more flexible than a factory. But chances are you are wrestling with interdependencies and bottlenecks. And wherever you have interdependencies, your slowest resource governs how fast you will get to your future state. Go faster than this, and you create confusion and waste, undermine your core business, or drift into “fake change” — incurring all of the costs of implementation, with few actual shifts in behavior. The key is to know your business’s limit, and to manage it like a hawk. Here are a few suggested steps, loosely adapted from Goldratt’s Five Focusing Steps:
  • .Identify the current constraints on your progress. Imagine you are a new CEO, looking at your company with fresh eyes. Ask yourself: What function or resource most constrains our progress? Where would the smallest improvement yield the biggest impact on our business? In other words, you need to identify your “Herbie-group.” 
  • Set a pace that supports your “constraint resource.” Rather than viewing your Herbie-group as a “weak link,” think of it as the player on your team that currently has the ball. How well are you blocking to ensure this player gets to the end zone? 
  • Sequence priorities over time. Too often, we sequence change haphazardly based on timelines set by the groups initiating change. Instead, try to introduce improvements in a logical order for the groups on the ground, at the fastest pace they can handle. 
  • Elevate the pace. Next, look for ways to increase your Herbie-group’s capacity by investing in systems, processes, tools, and training. 
  • Pay attention as your constraints shift. Don’t expect to get rid of your constraints! Something always limits your progress; the key is to know where it is. Create a dashboard to help you stay on top of interdependencies and key initiatives across the enterprise

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