TOC is now at a cross-road. On one hand we have well-defined methodologies for improving the flow of products and services, also making the delivery reliable. On the other hand, Goldratt taught us the use of cause and effect tools for diagnosing the current blockages to success, pointing to future ramifications, challenging assumptions and coming up with a winning strategy plan. The critical blockage, by the way, does not necessarily delay the flow of products. Many times it is being in the wrong market, failing to see the right needs of the market or de-motivating the employees.
We have a conflict: do and sell what we know well versus trying to shoot to the sky, using the variety of the TOC tools, and maybe other tools, to solve the real problems that block the organization from achieving much more.
Here is the conflict – the way I see it:
The well-known TOC methodologies are DBR,SDBR, buffer-management, Replenishment, CCPM and possibly throughput accounting. The full scope would include also the TP, the six questions, S&T, SFS, the pillars, the engines of disharmony and many other insights that are not well integrated into coherent BOK.
The cloud, one of those tools which are not part of the “well known and effective TOC methodologies” represents a wicked-problem in the TOC community. The upper leg expresses the notion of a “small-TOC”, which is proven to give excellent results and can be nicely sold (when the focus is on it), while the bottom leg, the “big-TOC”, brings higher value as it integrates the functional results to bottom line improvements and is more universal, but is also more difficult to sell.
What is not mentioned is my additional observation of an undesired-effect (UDE):
There is growing competition on improving flow of products, services and projects from other methodologies.
The point is that those new competing methodologies are not superior to TOC, but they are superior to the current practices, so they compete on the mind of potential clients, including The Goal readers. These methods compete with Small-TOC, but not with Big-TOC. Let me just mention Lean, DDMRP and Agile as such methods. If you agree with this assumption than the advantage of selling Small-TOC is threatened and could be temporary.
Most of Small-TOC implementations are functional, and thus do not need the full support of top management. Big-TOC should be sold and addressed to top management as its advantage is integrating the whole company to the desired state of growth coupled with stability.
How can we evaporate the above cloud?
We certainly have difficulty in selling Big-TOC, but selling Small-TOC is also far from being trivial.
A potential solution, challenging the above critical assumption, is to present TOC as a method to answer two critical questions, as verbalized by Dr. Alan Barnard:
- How much better can you do? In other words, what is limiting the performance of the organization from achieving much more?
- What is the simplest, fastest, low cost and low risk way to achieve that?
These questions are holistic and generic and they apply to the top management of the organization. While the two questions can be easily translated into actual value to the client organization, they raise the issue whether the client trusts that TOC can lead to effective and safe answers to the questions. More, letting “consultants”, with all the connotations it raises, lead the strategy of an organization generates fear, which is also personal (what it might do to ME?)
The obstacles for convincing executives who have some idea of TOC, like The Goal readers, are much better handled when the clients see a large organization of truly experienced TOC experts, who closely collaborate to achieve the most effective answer to the second question.
Currently there are two relatively large TOC consultancy companies who do well, even though their growth in not spectacular, and they are not truly large compared to several non-TOC consultancy companies. Having several high level consultants be involved in every implementation provides an opportunity to quickly identify unexpected signals and draw the right response, and by this reduce the risk – and this is also what the client expects from an array of highly experienced people.
TOC Global is a new TOC non-profit organization aimed to solve wicked-problems that limit the performance of organizations, by combining the experience and knowledge of diverse group of TOC experts. TOC Global is an international network of top consultants, coaches and practitioners who are ready to contribute time and efforts to improve the awareness, adoption, actual value generated and also the sustainability of TOC implementations. There are three major routes that TOC Global is determined to take:
- Supporting new and ongoing TOC implementations to achieve very high value. This means guiding local consultants and practitioners through active dialogue to address the specific issues, challenge hidden assumptions, and deal with the fears of managers, which block them from moving. In other words, help those who are ready be helped to deal with their wicked-problems of specific implementations. A free service of Ask-an-Expert is an initial step in this direction (write to firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Choose challenging wicked-problems and run projects to analyze, carry careful experiments and eventually complete an effective solution, which would add huge value to the specific organization and similar ones.
- Improve the awareness to TOC through investing in marketing efforts.
This activity would lead to another desired effect: Turning the current TOC BOK to be more complete and more effective. Being a non-profit organization allows sharing the lessons and the new knowledge with all the TOC community.
Big-TOC always looks for possible negative branches of any new exciting idea that solves a problem. The grouping of specific people in the TOC Global naturally generates concerns of possible competition with other TOC experts. The only way to trim that negative branch is by instituting very strong ethical codes, and by being ready to collaborate and join forces with others. The real competition of TOC is not Lean or Six Sigma, it is the big consulting companies. Big-TOC offers leaner and more collaborative process based on focusing on the truly critical issues, helping the organization to verbalize their valuable intuition, and achieving huge value based on simplicity and reliability. One might say this is the right way to become more antifragile.