I’m very happy that due to several thought provoking comments I feel like to continue “thinking aloud” about the boundaries of TOC, the topic of the previous post.
Humberto Baptista is right noting that the set of two axioms I have introduced define the conditions where TOC is effective in guiding management to achieve more, but they do not define what TOC is. Boundaries do not define the essence of anything, just the areas it applies to. Still, the boundaries are important to understand why the methodology cannot apply if the conditions are not valid. Philip Marris raised reservations that TOC applies even when the conditions do not, like leading to agreement on the goal using the thinking Processes, and taking some mandatory steps when the performance to clients is chaotic. I think that one or two TOC ideas might be useful, but TOC as such is not effective when one of the axioms do not apply.
It occurred to me that another axiom exists:
- The goal of the organization is unlimited.
When the intent is achieving a specific result, like raising donations for a specific case, and then dismantle the organization, many of the TOC guidelines, like ensuring win-win, do not apply.
The Pillars raise very interesting remarks from Humberto, but also one big question on my part:
Is TOC an Ideology?
In other words does TOC guides us just to get more from the goal, or there is something higher than the goal?
Goldratt spoke several times about the necessary conditions that accompany the main entity of the goal. By stating necessary conditions, based on specific values, the owners of the organization are able to include their own ideology within the goal. For instance, a necessary condition could be treating men and women equally in all levels of the organization. As a necessary condition this is stronger than making more money, or whatever the goal of the organization is.
To my mind, TOC itself is not an ideology; it is built on certain observations that in the vast majority of the time are required for achieving the goal. The pillars are such key observations, but, I don’t think they are axioms. There are two necessary conditions for an axiom:
- Any claim which is in conflict with even one axiom is, by definition, invalid.
- An axiom cannot be logically deduced from the other axioms.
Take the pillar about resolving any conflict. Do I conceptually believe that there are no conflicts in reality? I admit I have difficulty in accepting that basic assumption. However, I think it is mandatory to do our best to resolve any conflict as such a solution has better chance to achieve much more of the common goal than any compromise. I like to deduce from that pillar the importance of collaborations, the opposite of conflicts, as a generic direction to gain extra capabilities and capacity required to achieve more. I believe that TOC needs many more collaborations to spread its reach.
I do not believe that reality is harmonious. I do believe we should strive to achieve harmony.
The belief that “The Bigger the Base the Bigger the Jump” is associated with “Never Say I Know”. However, I doubt whether it is always true in reality. The idea is to encourage those who are already exceptional to be aware that they can still jump to an even higher base. I agree to that, I just cannot say whether the jump is bigger than for those with currently smaller base.
Do we, the TOC community, truly look for the next Jump?
What do we do about it? Do we all look for knowing more?
The difference between ideology and pragmatism is that every part of an ideology is absolutely mandatory, while pragmatism might sometimes relax one or two leading principles. My own observation is that TOC is mainly pragmatic and the pillars are guidelines rather than instructions. Thus, I would treat an idea that includes blaming people as TOC when the cause and effect analysis shows that the blaming does not cause serious negative branches. In other words the specific blaming would not allow reducing the responsibility for results and would not reduce the motivation of people. That said, I might not like a certain idea because it clashes with a certain value that is important to me. I’d just refrain from calling that idea non-TOC.
Humberto suggests adding a fifth pillar: “Don’t optimize within the noise.” This is certainly an effective TOC generic guideline for improvements and our expectations from them. I only think that it could be deduced from two of the existing pillars. The inherent simplicity means ignoring many variables that have much lesser effect than the natural noise. I interpret “Never Say I Know” as encompassing the cause-and-effect I’m currently not aware of with the natural fluctuation of many variables that impact performance. This defines a very wide base of what we don’t know; to me this is the uncertainty we need to live with, while trying to reduce it.
What I miss in the pillars is the recognition of the power of cause-and-effect analysis to predict outcomes, and when a prediction does not materialize going back to the analysis and identify the flaw. It is possible that this realization can be deduced from the other pillars, but then I like to see the analysis and spread the knowledge.
So, is TOC an Ideology defined by the Four Pillars?
Are we allowed to challenge the pillars? Is each of them fully mandatory for TOC? Would this attitude support making TOC the way to manage organizations?