If TOC is a supreme management approach how come we have such difficulty to market it?
I believe this is the most common question of all the TOC enthusiasts. It is the one fact of life that points to a potential hole in the generic approach. I have heard many explanations, including from Goldratt himself, as well as from people outside of the TOC circle. The key undesired effects (UDEs) of the current state of TOC are:
- The late Dr. Goldratt has been and still is the ONLY leader, guru, truly known and influential figure in TOC.
- TOC challenges too many paradigms.
- There is no agreed-upon definition what is TOC.
- The rating of TOC is still low relative to the time since its appearance.
- Only few people seem to be content with the wide scope of TOC.
- TOC includes many thought-provoking concepts, developed by Goldratt, which lack overall clear unity and lack effective ways to implement the whole scope.
I have heard from many people the first five UDEs. The sixth one is my own observation and it differs from what Goldratt believed just before his death. Goldratt view was that TOC has reached the level of robust knowledge that can be put in a template and be repeated. I don’t think this is the current state, but I believe it is possible to achieve it.
I have outlined the CRT of the current state of TOC based on my views and rationale. Of course you all are invited to challenge every link in the tree. There are TWO resulting big damages:
Many potential clients and academics refuse to learn TOC
The actual overall value generated by TOC today is limited
The latter one is the ultimate measure of the current state. The problem is that it is in contrast with the belief of thousands of Goldratt people, students and followers that:
TOC has the potential to bring HUGE value to the vast majority of the organizations
We currently lack a single person that has the charisma, intellect and character to take over the leadership of the TOC community to eventually achieve the goal of having TOC as the recognized way to manage, and by that generate huge value.
Do we really need ONE leader to carry TOC ahead?
The resulting personal core conflict is between every person operating individually according to his/her power and depth of knowledge, or collaborating in a synchronized way with many others to overcome the UDEs and especially unifying the knowledge to be effective for marketing, sales and implementation that would deliver huge value.
TOCICO supplies some of the necessary conditions to lead the TOC community to new achievements. It allows new people access to knowledge in various ways and it provides the infrastructure to meet other people from all over the world in an annual conference, which gives the chance for TOC experts to demonstrate their own abilities. But, TOCICO does not initiate business, does not educate and does not support any implementation. TOCICO has initiated the white-paper process to progress the body of knowledge, but so far it has not yield much response and new knowledge.
Here are some options for the basic Strategy for a TOC consultant:
- Operate on your own.
- Rely on the name of TOC, Goldratt and ‘The Goal’ to get better chance to get projects, which are entitled according to the methodology used: S&T, TP, Supply Chain in the TOC Way or CCPM.
- Stop using the name of TOC and present yourself as a versatile problem-solver, tackling any major problem or major opportunity of the client. You may, or may not, use the techniques of TOC to deliver the value.
- Combine TOC with other methodologies, like Lean or DDMRP and offer the combination as your own special advantage.
- Create or join a larger real or virtual organization, and by that be able to offer higher chance of generating real value to the client as more highly skilled people are involved.
- A large organization can be more effective in developing the missing parts in the knowledge and offer auditing as a mechanism to keep the right track.
Let me just state that the big consulting companies are not attached to a specific methodology, but they gain a competitive edge, some of them a truly decisive competitive edge, by being big with wide experience.
TOC has very strong international spread, and the accumulative experience is pretty wide if we succeed to bring it together.
Any other idea that might lead you, a TOC consultant, to achieve a decisive competitive edge?
A practitioner within an organization who strives to make a real change that would yield a leap in performance has to be careful in dealing with several threats:
- Being viewed as a Goldratt zealot.
- Failing to understand the different perspectives of other functions.
- Ignoring the personal power game within the organization depending where the practitioner is located within the organization chart.
- Failing to identify the risks and thus not looking to reduce them.
- A risk is a probability for a considerable damage.
I claim that involving an external TOC consultant in internal implementations offers higher chance of success even when the internal TOC champion is very knowledgeable. The seemingly objectivity of an outsider causes less internal tension. The other reason is that an outsider has a bigger chance of coming with a truly new paradigm that is not common within the specific business sector. New paradigms have the potential of generating huge value, because the competition is slow to digest the paradigm.
Let’s have a public open discussion about the problem that is common to all of us. Please respond by commenting what direction of solution you see.
34 thoughts on “Marketing the Value of TOC”
As usual your analysis is immaculate. After Eli G, we look up to Eli S for guidance and leadership.
My 2 cents:
TOC practitioners / evangelists preach FOCUS. I guess we must eat of own dog food and practice FOCUS.
I propose the point of FOCUS as – SPEED of delivering results.
TOC in my understanding is supposed to deliver FAST. Even if the value of results is not gigantic, if the results can be demonstrated in matter of days and weeks which other approaches would take months and years, then the level of attention and interest to learn TOC would gather momentum. I believe next TOCICO and TOCPA conferences should focus on case studies and knowledge of implementations where results were achieved very FAST.
For next few years, as a community TOC implementers and practitioners by consensus adopt one message – SPEED of delivering results.
Upfront we must talk about it and create implementation plans and execute for SPEED. Spread the word about successes on each and every fora about this aspect of adopting a philosophy.
I am sure we can create an FRT and PRT for this injection.
Deepak, is the velocity of getting the first results the most important value for the user? The value of getting fast results is to support the continuation of the implementation. We still need to have the “pot of gold” as the real target, and we need to make sure we can sustain the early benefits.
The most important message of TOC, to my mind, is the holistic approach coupled with the simplicity and the focus derived by it, which make the holistic view possible. We can add also getting some results very fast. Is it too broad?
Well done Eli. It is a good subject that deserves even more than the considerable consideration it has already received.
What I am wondering is are we “pull” advocates relying on a “push” approach for TOC? I know that many things we do have “pull” aspects, like TOCICO’s offer of knowledge and presentations from which people can just draw according to their interests.
I think the time for TOC consulting has not yet arrived for lack of demand. I suggest that we make TOC advocates very rich – Red Curve rich that they gain the same type of international attention as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. And, I want to reinforce that this must be a TOC advocate, not the client of a TOC advocate, because the client will have many to thank (and seldom the TOC consultant) for his or her rise to fortune, particularly him or herself. A TOC advocate MAY resist the “it was all me” and give credit to TOC. This is a powerful “pull” to others which will make a market in TOC consulting.
A few of us are already working on the flat part of a Red Curve now. More should jump in – the water s warm!
Guerrilla warfare suggests using the enemy’s strength against him. In the case of winning using TOC, early movers have the huge advantage that few competitors are even aware of the concepts which are being used against them.
I’d be very happy if many TOC consultants become rich, because they make their clients rich. There are several consultants, Vector Consulting Group, for instance, that truly succeed to do it. In the summary CRT in my post I have included the UDE that only few of the TOC people are content with the wide-scope of the TOC knowledge. Now, I claim that in order to yield very high value to a client organization we need a wide-scope of TOC thinking and tools to be in place. In the days of Goldratt Schools we tried to train more and more people that would be content using the variety of tools and insights. I think we got better and better, but maybe not quite enough. Do we have something equivalent now?
I am a client of a TOC Consultant. I am very happy with my implementation, with what I have learned and with my consultant, there is still a lot of work to be done but I have gotten already very good results.
I would recommend to apply more of an “open source” approach. It is currently very difficult to find information on TOC online or anywhere for that matter. TOC is currently relying only or mostly on consultants, and there is a natural fear that consultants have, to give out too much information away because maybe “they won’t need us anymore”, and that is actually counterproductive and hurting them and their business. The only organizations that exist are all revolving around consultants, there is no (that I know of) organization for clients, no TOC foundation, etc. TOCICO, the main TOC organization worldwide is a certification organization. If you apply an Open Source approach and put more information out, freely available, people would get interested, learn a little about TOC online, but they would always turn to consultants for an actual implementation, and there would be more people looking for consultants to implement solutions, instead of consultants having to go everywhere and convince clients that they need them. Currently consultants spend most of their time teaching clients instead of actually implementing solutions. With this approach clients could turn to other sources for learning and turn to the consultant for the expert support on an implementation.
An open source approach would also help the state of TOC to evolve, because as stated before consultants are usually very jealous with their information and if they find improvements they are going to, most likely, keep it to themselves and their clients, their are not going to share with other consultants as easy, because their business depends on it.
I hope that I am not way off base, and that my thoughts are helpful.
Ary, please let me understand what you mean by “open source”. From my perspective there is a lot of open source on TOC. You read my post in my blog, now containing about 100 posts, all are open source. There are several other similar blogs, like the one by Kelvyn Youngman. Then there are many books on TOC. In what way they are not open source? What about the huge book The TOC Handbook? What about The TOC Dictionary?
Now, TOCICO has the ‘certification’ in the title, but it is mainly an international association of people interested in TOC, practitioners, consultants, academics and people who like to learn. TOCICO offers huge open source of videos of presentations at its annual conferences. It runs conferences every year. For 2018 it is going to be at Las Vegas, April 30 – May 1st.
I know of some very knowledgeable TOC experts who are not consultants: they are managers, academics and/or investor.
I do think that a consultant should, first of all, lead an implementation – not just educate. I even write a post about the role of the consultants that you can find in my blog.
So, what is the “open source” you are looking for? Please, give me more explanation.
I have given it a lot of thought over a significant period of time I think I may have a direction of a solution but we will have to see if the group agree. I thought of going the technology questions route but then decided against it because it may not create the insights i think is needed to move forward. Based on the previous comments I would like to point out that from a positioning point individuals or consultancy houses needs to decide where they want to operate. Do you believe or want to position you as a swat team ie turning around companies or provide short term fast improvement. From a marketing point one should then develop an audit template that will enable you to clearly identify the gap and the potential and make an offer based on the potential of the gap and the closing of the gap and the increased bottom line effect and a one time benefit for the consultant. Short term turnaround limits the external exposure and market changes on the project. To date we have been mostly unsuccessful in this approach to achieve repeatable successes.
This could be for many reasons from not knowing the industry to not being able to make a correct complete assessment of the gap but if we can do it well there should be an unlimited market to tap into.
On the second point I have met with people that understood the principles and implemented as his own – so he was known for being the “star” and receive a lot of benefit. So I believe the second suggestion has very little chance of happening but I can be wrong.
The third option is to achieve Eli G dream and that is to make TOC an acknowledged and appropriated use as part of the business improvement. This means we have to understand where and how all the improvement technologies fit in and use them where appropriate (ie Lean, 6Sigma etc) and if we do not have the skills for it we must be able to pull in specialist to deliver that part of the improvement. We need to get TOC in the DNA of the company. This is very difficult to sell and will only be successful if the CEO has fully bought into the solution and understand the solution and whats needed and what should be done and drives i personally. We had a number of those companies as successes, but getting these contracts was a process under the guidance and marketing and credibility of Eli G.
SO before we continue lets start to understand what we really do when we implement TOC. So let me state what we do not do. We as TOC practitioners does not change the existing business value chain/activities. Then what do we do? This has been an insight to me. Eli always talked about policies and I have struggled to find them within companies until I realize that what we do in TOC is
1. Identify the appropriate flow model
2. Implement the appropriate TOC policy
3. Implement buffer management
Step one can have some complexity because the world sometimes provides us with a mixture and we need to figure out the correct policies for that specific flow. The second part is to write the policy for the constraint. Now is this supposed to be a lot of people? I think not lets look for eg a a distribution solution. How many people is placing orders for the replenishment? only a few or maybe just one!!. Lets look at manufacturing – how many people do we have to impact? Again we probably only need to interact with the planner that release the work to the plant. If he releases the right work, (this is just a release policy we have written) WIP will be down and flow will improve.
So why is it so difficult to do? Why do we not have more companies using TOC. Is management the obstacle? is it so simple that we cannot ask a good price for the consultancy work?
I look forward to some feedback
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Albert, this is a very good expression of the difficulties and dilemmas of a TOC consultant. As you have put it what eventually you many other consultants do is: 1. Identify the appropriate flow model 2. Implement the appropriate TOC policy. 3. Implement buffer management. You also stated that you don’t change the existing business value chain.
OK, this is of good value to some organizations. Others claim that they can improve the flow as well, so there is a competition. The value of improving the existing flow plus buffer management is nice, but maybe not so big, because marketing and sales, and the services around the products have not changed so the impact is not full.
What if you would be able to challenge not just the flow, but the value created by the products? Selling such a project is difficult, and so are the diagnosis, buy-in and implementation when you do get the project – much more difficult. But, if you do overcome the difficulty the value, both for your client and for you, is much bigger.
What if your way with the client is being supported by an international virtual organization of TOC experts, providing more likelihood of getting projects and then receiving real support by discussing the issues with other consultants, who are not directly involved (the client continues to see mainly you at the organization?
Let’s think from the client point of view. Somehow the clients needs faith in the consultant(s). The client also faces problems that are not part of the regular group of problems all TOC consultants have experience with. For instance, the worker union is about to call a general strike. What if you are able to listen to both sides and offer a win-win to overcome the issues? After all you, as an experienced TOC consultant, cannot tell the management of the client that the strike is his problem! It is definitely yours as well and you need all the support you can get to help your client, and yourself, to face the problem in the best way. If you do – don’t you think the client would recognize your contribution and have faith in you?
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Hi Eli. Yes the above is true, but I find that in many cases it not the lack of a solution, but the lack of a toolbox of how. LEAN and Six Sigma has a plethora of tools and many organization’s have developed the tool boxes and training materials to assist the implementers with the practicalities of How.
As you know so well, this subject is one that has received a great deal of energy for decades with no widely accepted solution. It seems as if most everyone has thoughts on this, and some are pursuing their own solutions … I am one of those.
At the same time, I am willing to publicly state that I do not have a clear solution to even a small segment of this challenge.
From my perspective, I propose that a great deal of effort will need to go into understanding the question and several of the basis for the question.
I begin only from my personal experience which I do not claim is anywhere near comprehensive. I like to start with the fantastic insight of Dr. G when discussing a start up company. He proposed the simple question of “what limitation does my solution diminish?”
So what limitation does TOC diminish? We should be specific as to the constituency.
If you are interested in this way to address the discussion, may we start by using the constituency of the CEO.
What limitation of a CEO does TOC diminish?
Remember: to maintain a bit of discipline, we probably should think of our answers as if we said our answers to very next CEO we meet.
Do we really want to say to a CEO something like “we overcome flawed thinking” or “we solve the problem of management attention even though you have no idea what this is or why its a problem.”
On top of it, we need to remember that we will have to test our solution with “if and only if.”
Michael, I have expressed some relevant views of mine in my previous post on the value consultants generate and also the limitations of it. My own school is that I never tell a CEO “I’ll solve your problem!” I tell him “together we have considerably higher chance to identify the problem and overcome it.” Within that saying I take into account that I do have ideas, usually taken from other environments than the one I deal with now, that MIGHT work with some changes. I also take into consideration that an open dialogue between a CEO, who should know about his specific situation more than anybody else, and me who is an outsider with knowledge and ideas from other environments and other people (like Eli G.). I realize more and more that our area of “I know” is limited and even a truly great CEO has difficulty to evaluate the situation in depth and come up with clear decision. Discussing what we know and what we don’t has the potential of highlighting an uncertain situation and come up with a solution that, on average, yields very good results, while being aware that sometimes we lose.
I see here a real value of TOC consultants that are ready to look on a holistic situation and discuss with the one with the best information and intuition what is the superior move.
I like the Deepak’s comments about speed. Also agree that speed is necessary but not sufficient.
There are a few conflicts that come up in the marketing subject, when pulling prospects towards what we do…
Call it TOC / don’t
Promote that it’s old & robust / promote that’s it’s new
Expose the paradigm breaks early / defer the paradigm breaks discussions
Sniper rifle / shotgun (wrt to project focus)
Start at the top / start with middle management
Talk about outcomes / talk about actions
I’m sure there are more, but I’m typing on a phone so won’t ramble on.
I like your CRT but I feel that the subject space was marketing and so the conflicts I’ve just articulated should reflect udes in that current reality. And the resulting feedback loops must show that this causes TOC advocates to fail in marketing, by compromising the needs lying under those conflicts.
We should also distinguish marketing from sales, in this discussion?
I agree to all the potential conflicts you mention. While the CRT is supposed to present the current state without too many details, the emerging question is how do we deal with basic conflict of no leadership, which raises the individual conflicts of what to do.
I’ve focused on Marketing, not on Sales, because it seems to me the most immediate obstacle. Once we know how to market we might find out that selling poses more obstacles.
Could the problem here be how TOC consultants work? As I work through a CRT with the same UDE’s, I get a different tree. Perhaps it is because I have viewed both sides of the fence – as a customer and as a consultant.
TOC Consultants are competitors to each other, and rarely work together for the good of TOC as a whole. While they may share some high level information, but they don’t really want to work together. If I want to learn from another TOC consultant, he will ask me to pay him.
So there can never be a replacement for Eli Goldratt. This would probably mean that the large group of consultants that make up the TOC community would have to acknowledge that one of their competitors is better than they are. That might be very difficult.
At the same time, most consultants have had some success making money (their goal or purpose – motivator 1) with one of the tools. They want to sell the solution they have mastered (motivator 2). But they also want to decide how to run their business (to be autonomous – motivator 3). So TOC may look to challenge too many paradigms, because they are so many different people presenting partial (not systemic or holistic) TOC solutions. But it turns out that there is strong motivation NOT to work together and learn together.
Competitors also will struggle with both the loss of time and possible loss of income while learning the rest of TOC. Should I be doing more sales and implementation of what I know, or stop and spend my money to learn another tool? Should I pay one of my competitors to teach me this new material? This conflict would make it hard to be content with a wide scope of knowledge that is TOC. For these consultants, TOC looks too wide, and there are too many tools. And this perception may be passed on to their customers.
Can these individual competitors work together to help define what TOC is or is not? Can they work together to develop clear unity and effective ways to implement the whole scope? If they can’t work together, they can’t.
With all of this going on, there has to be a lot of conflict in any organization looking to do this work. Is that true in TOC-ICO governance? Are consultants with a strong background leaving the fold, so to speak?
The paradigm of TOC, because it is thought provoking, makes it more difficult that copying any improvement program that just cuts costs. TOC required deliberate practice (I think of all the time it took to master trees and clouds), which is hard! So with the discord in the community, and the more work it takes to understand TOC, the rating of TOC will continue to be low as compared to other methods, and may continue to decline.
Do we need a holistic approach? Certainly, but we may need a group working together for the good of TOC, not a group of competitors working against each other to capture part of a shrinking market.
Kevin, you ask: “Could the problem here be how TOC consultants work?”
Let me ask you back: Does the competition between TOC consultants limit the overall value generated by TOC, or it is the resulting effect from not having strong leadership?
The nature of consultants is to work by themselves, thus be in constant competition with each other. The big consulting companies, like McKinsey, succeed to create a hierarchy of working relationships. What happens then is that successful consultants leave McKinsey and look for projects of their own, but overall create only minor competition with McKinsey, whose size and accumulative experience is their decisive-competitive-edge.
I see a somewhat different solution where several international knowledgeable experienced TOC experts, organized as a large and international virtual organization, support TOC projects. Certainly when such a support is given then part of the T generated by the consultant has to be shared with the supporters. But, this is not similar to a consultant having to invest time and money to learn – this is done only when he/she are making money from a project.
What are the negative branches?
Certainly the personal ego of a consultant getting support from someone else. I don’t find a solution to the irrational ego impact. I think if we do evaporate the rational negatives then we can go ahead with people who have a certain control on their ego.
A more rational possible negative branch is the quality of the support when the supporting veteran consultant is not an official part of the project, the client does not know of him, so everything he knows is based on the consultant reports. I think the value is still high, BUT in some cases maybe the older consultant should become an official auditor in order to know more of the details of the project. Certainly there need to be trust that the older consultant would never put the reputation and respect for the active consultant in any doubt. If the older consultant is part of the proposal for a project, then I assume the chance of getting project is higher.
OK, this is my proposed solution. I have presented first the problem, from my rationale, and I still pose the question:
What is YOUR solution to the problem of lack of leadership and the consequences of generating limited overall value and low rating of TOC?
Your article comes good for my, because I read it for many times and each of it comes with different messages about future of TOC Knowledge, community, thinking process example and now I’he got a new one — about language we use in communication inside TOC.
There was developed a perfect tools for communication like different kinds of trees. It’s clear to understand logical component, easy to use and don’t bomb user’s attention with tons of facts — only most important.
We have forgot about it, our messages comes with lot of text and demands a more time to understand it’s logic in comparison with trees.
Is it right?
Victor, you have expressed the benefits of using trees. There are also both obstacles and negative branches in using them, especially for daily communication. The main obstacle is to get used to it. The main negative branche is that it takes much more time to write and you need the aid of software and it is tricky to attach a tree to a comment. The point with documents is that they fit one clear line of thought. When the argument is going in several direction then it becomes problematic. We are used, way too much, to look on arguments as going in one clear direction only and this habit is an obstacle to much more use of trees to express an opinion. Clouds are much more handy than trees and they represent two conflicting sides, which is already huge improvement.
A very interesting post and something I as a relatively newcomer to the community have pondered myself. To me TOC must be more than just a means to earn a living. There has to be a vision for a better world behind, but who is driving that vision, uniting the community, focusing our efforts..
If the TOC community or even just a small part of it, supported by the rest decided to start a company within almost any kind of business, how fast could we create a success so big that it could not be ignored?
Rasmus, I think it is going to be a mistake to rely on voluntary efforts to materialize a vision about new better world. If I find a way to bring value to others, and by this also to myslef, I think this is strong enough common cause to make it happen.
Really interesting post as usual and thank you for sharing it using TP.
Only one idea: if we continue to develop your analysis and current reality tree, and asking as children why? why? and again why? I think your root causes could be related to a common one (a constraint?): an urgency of an “open TOC leadership”.
With “leadership” I mean not necessarily a person, but a recognized group that re-think -as you are doing right now- and re-promote TOC around the world, under a systematic and orderly way. TOC has the appropriate tools to do it.
With “open”, I mean to promote this re-think TOC approach to lead or to complement in the most efficient way (not for us, but to our customers, it is the goal!) the huge variety of approaches (as Lean, Six Sigma, DDMRP etc.) that companies are using around the world. TOC needs to capitalize the success of other approaches and at the same time capitalizing to itself. Sky is not the limit!
David I agree with you. I’m struggling with the term “leadership” and I have expressed my concerns in a previous post. Managing and supporting efforts for TOC projects all over the world seem to me more tuned to the direction of solution.
ES: Let me ask you back: Does the competition between TOC consultants limit the overall value generated by TOC, or it is the resulting effect from not having strong leadership?
Of course, the answer to the question is really both, as one UDE loops back to support the other. The lack of a strong leader – that is clearly stronger than anyone else in the field, would cause competitors to assume they know enough to continue their Marketing efforts individually with their silo skill to attempt to acquire new business – even at the expense of their competitors. A lack of a holistic solution limits the overall value generated by TOC.
And the competition prevents the idea of acknowledging a strong leader, which would undermine even someone who is very well versed in the field. The continuing lack of this leadership will cause consultants to leave the field or perhaps couch it into another strategy, like reducing OE or calling bottleneck buffers “profitable waste.” Then the lack of people who are strong in the field would dilute the need for a strong leader. And so on.
So if you break one, you stand a good chance of breaking the other.
So which UDE do we attack? Would the community support Rami, Alan Bernard or yourself as the next leader of TOC? Perhaps Dr. James Holt, who is not really a competitor, but one whose emphasis is on learning? It would be tough for him to do Marketing, however.
Or perhaps the community needs to be more like those who developed Wikipedia or Linux, Chrome or Firefox – an open source environment? Would you have bet on Microsoft Encarta with professionals being paid to develop an on-line encyclopedia, or Wikipedia, an open source encyclopedia? This is the Business Model 2.0. This is MY solution.
Parts of it are:
• Develop a group of TOC professionals who are willing to work together, and whose purpose is not for the money, but for the advancement of TOC. This could be part time, and should not all be consultants.
o For example, I would be more than willing to talk about my success at GM and other companies – and talk about failures to be avoided.
• This would be the people “who have a certain control on their ego”.
• This organization who breakdown a holistic approach into steps. An S&T, really.
• This organization would have experts in the discipline who can implement their specialty in months, and then hand off the work for the next solution to another TOC expert.
o Your veteran or skilled system consultant may be part of this.
o You may recommend a consultant that you feel confident in to get the job done if they want someone dedicated to the task.
• They would have to be non-profit – making money is a necessary condition, not the goal.
• For Marketing, they would have to have the name Goldratt someone in the title.
So finally, how is the Marketing done? How is the Marketing done with the other Business Model 2.0? Not to the CEO’s, but the people who are actually the ones trying to solve the problem. The managers and engineers. My FRT looks loosely like this. Negative Branches? Sure, but you might be able to help me develop those.
As always you ask great questions and trigger thought on important subjects. As I have thought about your analysis and the many interesting comments, I find myself trying to clarify several things. The first is ‘what exactly is TOC?’ How do we draw a box around it and say this is TOC, this is not, this is “holistic” and this is piecemeal?
Of course we have to ask whether we should even try to create such boundaries or define what is and isn’t TOC. On the one hand for TOC to survive and grow it needs to have an identity and a body of knowledge that can be taught to people. But on the other hand for TOC to be widely accepted and used it needs to be integrated with existing disciplines/ mainstream. So the conflict between Define as TOC, and Don’t Define as TOC is much more than the consultant’s dilemma, it is a dilemma for all of TOC. And the “one leader” question you ask is right at the heart of it. Should TOC be centrally “managed” and led or should it be left to individual choice and decision.
I believe it would be very dangerous to try to control TOC through a central leader. As soon as we define ‘TOC/ not-TOC’ we will have zealotry and splintering. The common negative connotation of Zealotry–a strong, vocal, but narrow or unquestioning belief in something–not only doesn’t serve TOC well, it is against its spirit and the essence of Eli G. (We’ve all heard too many times “but Eli said…”).
There are three conditions that make TOC particularly susceptible to the zealotry tag.
The first is that TOC covers an enormous amount of territory and explains and can improve a vast range of environments and situations. To a world that believes “we are different” this smacks of being pure fantasy and pie in the sky and makes it very easy to label TOC people as from another planet.
The second thing is that it works really, really well. Again the common belief is that improvement comes slowly over time so anyone who claims rapid, exceptional improvement is typically discounted from the start without any real checking or analysis. It’s simply “too good to be true”.
The third thing is that TOC is a minority that is threatening to the mainstream because it is so effective. In Exodus the passover didn’t make the pharoah want to convert to Judaism (i.e. even though they got better results than he did), it made him want to crush them. If TOC was in the majority there would be no claims of zealotry no matter how vigorously someone touted it–no one in America is called a zealot for championing Democracy after all.
So what is the direction of the ‘solution’?
I believe the direction is to foster more and more successes across a wide array of industries and applications in all kinds of organizations around the world. It shouldn’t be done while hiding TOC, but neither should it be done “because its TOC.” As has been said by many and for many years, speaking the language of value in the target’s terminology is far more effective than spewing the jargon of TOC.
As Henry said he is trying to go out and just be amazingly successful with TOC. Many people will see the success and want to repeat it, and I know he is not trying to hide the secret sauce behind it. Goldratt Consulting is leading in a similar fashion, seeking to make more and more (in their case generally larger) organizations successful using TOC. QFI is leading in applying TOC principles and processes in healthcare. And there are many others doing similar things.
I do believe that building more and larger organizations (whether companies or less formal collaborations) that produce results using TOC will accelerate the growth and assure the longevity of TOC. I don’t believe there will be one specific model and that a competitive edge can be gained with TOC in many ways. Some of these groups will use a single specific TOC application, some will combine it with something else, others will use multiple applications or even bring all of the elements of TOC together in a more holistic way. The market will decide what models deliver more value and inferior ones will be replaced by better ones, but I don’t expect this to happen quickly as even “inferior” TOC-based solutions tend to be more effective than conventional ones.
Do we tout that it’s TOC or conceal that fact altogether, or do something in between? Obviously somehow connecting great results to a foundation in TOC will foster more interest and people will know what to Google to learn more. I personally prefer to lead with the value in the clients terms, to connect the insights to their origins in TOC and to always let the results be the measure of what is “right”.
I first read The Goal in 2005 and that started me off on a journey to acquire more TOC knowledge from Eli’s books, many other authors like you, Dettmer, etc. I also acquired the TOC Insights and SLPs and eventually passed the TOC Foundation Exams in 2010 after joining the Commitment programme that should have taken me to Practitioner skill level. All the while, I had been eyeballing the TP Jonah course but could never convince myself of the ROI vs the $10k price tag.
In lieu of the Jonah TP programme, I have attended The Odyssey with Alan in Israel – great experience, and I met you 🙂 and Goldratt UK TOC Workshops where I met Martin – another great experience. But in all, I have little practical experience of implementing TOC. I tried to get an intern role that would expose me to some real TOC projects, at some point but it did not work out.
I have been fairly successful in my career as Project Manager / Business Analyst in the Oil industry in Nigeria but I have not brought to my company, industry or country, the kind of value I believe TOC can bring. Neither can I point at any wild success. I recently applied the TPs to address endemic corruption in Nigeria and published a book on Amazon, “The Survival Mindset: A Systematic Approach to Combating Corruption in Nigeria” with good reviews from readers but the proposed solutions are yet to be implemented so I cannot claim success there.
TOC is still very new or unknown in my country, as far as I know, and I fancy myself as someone who can help improve things and do we need help! But I am not convinced that I can venture into consultancy and I am not sure which is the greatest constraint; my skills, the market, TOC itself, etc.
I may not have answered your questions directly… but maybe this can also show how things look to people who are interested in propagating TOC but struggling. These thoughts have been on my mind and I see this post as an opportunity to share.
Thank you Eli for asking this question in such an open forum. Thank you also to everybody who have shared their own thoughts and provided additional perspective. Very, very interesting and a question I often ask myself.
I also am a firm believer in the TOC principles and have applied it to numerous areas of my life. Back in 2010 I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days at the Goldratt Institute applying the “Thinking Processes” to the SME IT industry. During our root cause analysis we established the true core problem of our industry and since then worked hard to develop the insights for solving our core conflict. The result of all the work is a business IT methodology called Relevant IT, which in essence is fairly similar to a S&T tree. A few months ago we took the leap and started a new business to bring these insights to the world.
You may ask, what has this all to do with the question asked by Eli?
Well, quite a lot actually! In essence we are trying to do at small scale what TOC tries to do on a large scale, and this is to change behaviour by pointing out flaws in our prevalent management paradigms.
And this is where our own journey starts getting really interesting. Even though we can successfully argue why our approach is by far the best approach, we fail in one fundamental aspect (and everybody confirms this): Even though appropriate and potentially very effective, our solution is TOO COMPREHENSIVE. When our customer wants to solve a specific problem (which invariable relates to some UDE we have identified), we also tell him about all the other problems. But this is not what he asked for. And interest is lost.
Which brings me full circle to the original question. My feeling is that we operate in a world that has gotten used to breaking down things into smaller and smaller parts. We have been conditioned to be reactive, to live in the moment and, very importantly, are often expected to switch off our brains and just follow the crowds (by the way: I am not talking about TOC practitioners :-)) . By its very nature, TOC, and by analogy Relevant IT, will not be accepted by a majority of the organisations out there unless there is also a fundamental shift in the way we approach business management (and stop breaking everything down into smaller and smaller parts).
And I strongly believe we will get to this point … the question is just how long until we reach this tipping point?
And perhaps more importantly, when we reach this point, will the TOC community be organised enough to lead the way or will some startup organisation coming from one of the many Startup incubators steal the thunder?
Hello all, I’m glad we have got some very valuable comments. I like to think more about them and then probably publish a post about the various views of a possible direction. I assume a new post would be read by more people than the reads of every comment.
Kevin, Kevin, and Eli. Fabulous discussion points. Please, please do continue. I’m very interested to see where this goes.
I have only one request. “Absence of a solution I’ve thought of” is a very risky core problem / root cause. Not necessarily wrong, but risky. The absence of leadership as a cause of the stated direct effects looks strong. But is it the root cause of the subject area? I think that it is not.
As a reference environment, aren’t there many TOC consultants who do not suffer a lack of qualified leads? If so, what are they doing differently?
If there are consultants who do not have a marketing constraint, shouldn’t we look to them to find out why not? And codify that?
The presence or absence of a central leader has had no detectable effect on the operations of, or pipeline of, the TOC business or career of many of the community. Therefore I propose that the presence or absence of a central leader cannot be a root cause of the subject of marketing TOC services. Perhaps i am not understanding the goal of subject area correctly, if so please forgive me.
However, I’m VERY interested to see more detail in this analysis. Even if the core problem is incorrect, the causal feedback loops will be very revealing, and very useful.
I’m happy to offer up our organization as one that does not have a shortage of sales opportunities.
We work hard to maintain our consulting team as the constraint. It’s painful to keep it there because it means we regularly get screamed at by clients who want to ‘start early’, but it’s much better for both the economics and the manageability of the business.
We promote TOC, of course, but as a second string, after our own TOC application (Sales Process Engineering). I’ve spent 20 years blogging and speaking on that subject and, of course, the recent success of The Machine is making opportunity generation a lot easier.
I don’t think we have no problems, relative to other TOC consultancies. We just have different ones. Recruiting consultants has been our number-one issue for a long time — and it’s painful.
Happy to provide whatever insight might be useful. BTW, we charge our clients a flat monthly fee, and we have creative and tech teams that support our consultants, so our model is a little different from the norm.
Thank you Justin, this is very kind of you. In truly holistic TOC projects, like the VV or simply developing a Strategy, there is a must to go into Marketing and Sales. Would it OK for you to advice TOC consultants with some advice when needed?
Hi Eli & all, and thanks a lot of very interesting discussion.
I am personally very grateful to Eli G and TOC altogether. I love TOC.
For me there are many great and valuable insights already discussed here.
However, there seems to be a big hidden assumption connected to this topic
“Marketing the Value of TOC”.
The same assumption might exist also behind the stated TOCICO’s goal
“To make TOC the main way to manage organisations.”
The assumption seems quite obvious. It seems to be:
“TOC is for everybody”. I hope you agree.
What if we replace this assumption by different framing arguing that
“TOC is NOT for everybody”?
What if there were really valid reasons for this argumentation?
Where would this lead us? What questions could be raised?
Here are few as a starter:
What are the common charasteristics of those people prone to TOC “infection”?
What are the typical charasteristics and reasons for people not buying TOC?
Are we marketing TOC to attract talented people to join the society and develop stronger TOC or to earn our living as consultants/managers/developers?
How to be organised and where to focus the efforts and attention to get the best results of TOC value marketing?
How to merge effectively TOC thinking with other belief-systems & frameworks like Lean, SS on OM field, Business Model Generation & Value Proposition Design on Value creation model level etc.?
How to make TOC a value adding friend, but still having the capability to continue the development of the independent TOC application base & body of knowledge?
As independent isolated discipline/theory/application pool/tool kit TOC will face strong opposition for several different reasons derived from various different reasons.
By challenging this one basic assumption “TOC is for everybody” could lead us to interesting paths.
The phrase “TOC is for everybody”; what does this mean? Does “for everybody” mean the same as it does in “Health is for everybody”? TOC can benefit anyone. Health can benefit anyone. Both are true.
But in the phrase “TOC is NOT for everybody”, you’ve changed the context. The phrase “for everybody” is now being used like “Running to get fit is for everybody”. Clearly that is not the case.
TOC is ambiguous therein. In the first case, TOC as it relates to cause-effect principles is indeed for everybody, in the same way that gravity is. If you jump from a building, you can disbelieve in gravity all the way down, it won’t affect the outcome. But a specific TOC-based solution as a methodology is NOT for everybody. Obviously.
This is why i get annoyed when i hear consultants selling “TOC” as the solution to anything. That’s like selling gravity as the solution to falling. Parachutes and gliders solve the falling problem, and you cannot invent or deploy those without some understanding of gravity. DBR and CCPM are solutions, and you cannot invent or deploy those without understanding the theory, of constraints. Specific constraint-based solutions are not “for” everybody. But the theory that system outputs are governed by constraints (and very few constraints at that), can help everybody invent and deploy solutions, and is true for everybody even if they don’t know about it.
Another parallel: Mathematics. It is true that “mathematical theory is for everybody”. Can anybody deny that the “+” operator does what it does (i.e. it works) regardless of their interest in using it? It is also true that “mathematical theory is NOT for everybody”. Are there jobs or careers or lives where knowing how to use “+” adds little personal or direct value? Sure.
In fact, TOC is frequently regarded as something egzotic. In fact, if a theory promiess to solv all people’s prooblems, it may sound suspicious. There is a need for a simple explanation why TOC is so good. I like most the statement: 6. TOC includes many thought-provoking concepts, developed by Goldratt, which lack overall clear unity and lack effective ways to implement the whole scope.
However, order in the business of TOC is easily introduced, if it is understood or acknowledged, that the key concept of the Theory of Constraints is that one needs to find a maximum while in constrains as far as space one has available for movement. In physics and mathematics these are well known ideas. In TOC it is to find the main constraint in the system, and then follow the 5 steps approach to first stabilize the situation and then overcome the constraint.
Thus the fundamntal statmeent of TOC is that there is one constraint of the whole system, and by focusing on it the problems the system faces can be solved.
And TOC has tools to identify the constraint.
From a theory one expects to have one thesis that explains many situations and permits to foresee the future or the results of actions. So the TOC approach: identify the constraint of the system, and then apply the 5 steps procedure is the fundamental idea of TOC. So I believe.
All the other, like cloud, ST tree and other, are secondary tools, which may help to solve problems on the 5 steps way, to to identify the main constraint.
The assumption, that the system has one constraint is not trivial. Intuitively, people will say: but what about this constraint, and the other constraint, and so on. Thus this is a theory, not an obvious thing.
Now TOC seen as above is at the same time very powerful and has some weaknesses.
As far as „hard things production” and chain until the final customer. I am not familiar with production issues, but there are nowadays advanced computerized systems controlling all the production steps, so I guess such systems can optimize the production processes so that everything flows smoothly. Some people call this „lean manufacturing” or there are other names or systems. I am not familiar with factories, but I feel that when such advanced control systems are there, TOC approach is applied there without much talking about it.
As far as general optimization, TOC it is of upmost importance. MBE students are thought „lean manufacturing” TQM, 6 sigma, Yoka Poka, etc etc etc. Further, any author of a method tries to give it a special name, and uses this name as a marketing weapon. But nobody teaches them why to use any of the above tools. In order to know what to do, one has to know what is most important.
Then what is most important? Difficult to know! So an “escape behaviour” could be: let’s do something, so that we look as active and competent. But asking what is most important is the most difficult question one can face. However, if one does not know what is most important, it is impossible to identify the constraint! Even more, asking such questions can be a problem for the person asking the question! The person becomes visible, and controversial, which may not be best for her/his career. Safer is to jump into a standard method.
If the situation is quite specific, like „how to achieve a specific goal?”, then the main constraint possibly can be identified. If we have an organization, then identifying the goal and constraint can be quite difficult.
Further, if the organization is not producing some material goods, which can be counted, measured, and their market value can be calculated, but immaterial goods, like technology, films, scientific results, healthy people, students, art, etc, identifying the goal and constraint is even more difficult. The difficulty comes form the incredible elasticity and creativity of the human mind. Can we predict solutions and ideas the human mind will bring? Especially under constraints, it becomes especially creative. In case of material production, one can imagine pipes along whose products flow, and there are some narrow gaps. But in case of ideas production, one can imagine these tubes to be all elastic, and where is the constraint?
In summary, I think that in order to promote TOC one should use the „marketing argument” that TOC teaches how to get the maximum under constraints. And how to overcome the constraints. It is a very simple argument. TOC tells people what to do.
But TOC asks people the most difficult of all possible questions: what is important. Thus there might be a strong trend to escape form asking such questions, and jump into some activity, like standard behaviors that are safe for the individual. Also finding the constraint might be quite difficult in many cases. Further, people are impredictible, and the constrain concept – it is not clear always can be applied.
Thus the main strength and weakness of TOC is that it is very powerful, but very difficult to apply. Nevertheless, the message: TOC may help to achieve the best results, under constraints, should sound very attractive to people, and also may help them a lot.
Witold, we are able to elevate the constraint and by this create another constraint. We can even expand our flow of products or services and by that change the constraint even without truly elevating it. On top of it we deal with flawed paradigms, facing high uncertainty and looking for ways to answer needs that currently are not answered. So, our own challenges have grown. I think we should proceed ahead instead of looking back.