When Support is Truly Required


No matter whether you are a consultant leading an implementation at a client organization or a practitioner leading a change, you are bound to face certain outcomes that find you unprepared.

For example, you have chocked the release of orders according to the new shipping buffers. After one or two months the WIP went down and deliveries were on time. Now you are approached by the production manager who is worried that two or three non-constraints are idle for three days in a row. Is this a natural consequence of being non-constraints? Could it be a signal that the buffers are too small?  Is it possible that another constraint upstream of the three work-centers has emerged?  Are you sure you know?  The ramifications of a mistake could be very bad to you!

In other cases you struggle with one of the details of the TOC solution and ask yourself: does it really apply in this case?  

For instance, should every single task planned for a CCPM network cut by half? Should the red-zone always be one-third of the buffer?  Should we offer perfect availability for ALL the SKUs held at our supermarket stores? Should we always exploit the constraint before elevating it?

“Never Say I Know” said Eli, but we still have to take actions that might cause serious ramifications. Whenever we introduce a significant change there is a risk of causing damage.  There should be considerable efforts to reduce the risk by carrying good logical analysis and inserting sensors that would give timely warning of something going wrong.

Is that all one can do?

What if the logical analysis failed to identify certain negative aspects? We all use preconceived assumptions in our analysis and the quality of the analysis is depended on their validity.  Many of the critical assumptions are hidden – meaning we are not aware we use those assumptions.

A simple answer to the need is sharing our analysis with people we appreciate. There are two different positive ramifications:

  1. By having to explain to someone else we have to articulate the problem and the proposed solution in clear cause-and-effect way. We cannot “cut corners” that we do when we think “in our head”. So, the mere fact that someone else is listening and we feel obliged to clarify the logic for that person, forces us to go through the logic. Then we sometimes see for ourselves what is missing, usually a critical insufficiency.
  2. When we don’t see the possible flaw then the other person might lead us to see it. Not necessarily the assumption we take to granted is shared by the other person. Of course, now the quality of the feedback has a lot to do with the expertise and open minded of the other person, and also with our readiness to digest feedback that contradict our own analysis.

Our own biggest obstacle to improve our life is our ego. It prevents us from being open to ideas and opportunities.  I don’t have any insights on how to deal with that, just be aware that you lose from refusing to listen to others.

Listening is not the same as being led. Eventually we all have to decide for ourselves what to do, including whom, if at all, to listen to.  The assumption that listening to others diminishes our own reputation and ego is definitely false.  Discussing issues with another person requires a certain respect to that person; at the very least some appreciation for his/her knowledge and ability to think with fresh mind.  But that person does not need to be considered on a higher level than us; actually such a case has some negative impact, because at such a case it looks as if we have to accept that person view even when we are not convinced.  I have to admit that when I wanted to discuss an issue, something I felt important to me, with Eli Goldratt, I had that concern: what if Eli suggests something I choose not to follow?  No matter what – the final decision has to be our own.

When should we seek the support of somebody else?

Certainly not every issue requires such efforts. It should be used when our intuition tells us we are not sure.  I think that whenever we struggle with a certain issue there is a reason for it.  We might believe we have eventually verbalized the conflict to ourselves and “evaporated the cloud”, but when it still hangs on us there is a reason for it.  A reason we might fail to fully recognize and then our intuition continues to radiate dissatisfaction.

A personal story: I realized the critical importance of that kind of intuition when my first book “Management Dilemmas” was translated into Japanese.  The translator sent me several paragraphs asking me “What’s the hell did you mean in this paragraph?” Well, she used much more polite words, but that was the meaning.  It was with a lot of pain that I realized that every paragraph she included caused me, when I wrote it, a struggle and eventually dissatisfaction, which I simply ignored.  If only I had the wit to ask one of my friends to read and comment.  In my later books I have co-authored with others, mainly with Bill Dettmer, to avoid this feeling.

So, this kind of sanity-check and getting support in diagnosing problems and shaping solutions, is something we should sometimes do – based on our true intuition.

This is what we, at TOC Global, have in mind when we offer the free service of 30-minutes of Ask-an-Expert. We in no way check the time with a stopper. We recognize the simple fact that discussing practical and possibly debatable issues is a real need.  The TOC world does not know of any super-expert that does not need to talk with another knowledgeable person.

TOC Global website is www.toc-global.com.  You can register through the site or send a mail to info@toc-global.com.   It is free and it brings value.


Published by

Eli Schragenheim

My love for challenges makes my life interesting. I'm concerned when I see organizations ignore uncertainty and I cannot understand people blindly following their leader.

3 thoughts on “When Support is Truly Required”

  1. I have a saying I share with all my new employees.

    “Very seldom do you make a mistake by surprise – when you really had no advance warning from your subconscious. Almost every time, especially as you become more expert in your job, your intuition will scream at you before you make that mistake. It is the Devil on your left shoulder who whispers ‘be efficient’ that precedes a major mistake. The Angel on your right shoulder begs you to be humble and effective.”


  2. Thank you very much Eli for this blog. I can very much relate to your ideas and initiative!

    Your initiative reaffirms the fourth assumption of ToC: there is always a way to improve. Goldratt is quoted as saying that of the four assumptions he himself violated this one the most. Of course we shouldn’t follow him in this respect :).

    Among other things, I agree with what you say about the ego being a thread to listening to feedback. Egomaniacs are a thread to their own improvement and to that of the community they live in.

    The world is full of examples of that. The prospect of an egomaniac getting to the highest position in the USA is just one of them.


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