Step 6 of the 5 Focusing Steps

You’ve been applying the Theory of Constraint’s 5 Focusing Steps and you’ve been able to increase throughput of your system/organisation. But you’re running out of ideas to get more throughput. What now?

Try the 6th Focusing Step: Change The System

Changing a system is hard. You’re up against years worth of accumulated rules, regulation, processes, tacit knowledge about “the way we do things ’round here”. Like Laurent says many of these rules have accumulated over the years. Maybe they were effective at the time, but they failed to adapt to a changing world and are now holding back the organisation.

And people don’t like change.

As that eminent business consultant Machiavelli noted: “He who wants to change the organisation will only get lukewarm support from those who stand to gain from the change. He will get fierce opposition from those who gain from the current situation“.

How can you make changes easier? Here are some tips that sometimes work for me:

  • Involve those who will be affected by the change in shaping the change. Nothing worse than having a change foisted upon you.
  • One thing at a time. If you change several things at once, the change becomes very complicated and it’s hard to tell what worked and what didn’t. If you perform regular, incremental changes, people get used to the rythm of change.
  • Let people “taste before they swallow”. This is an expression by Virginia Satir (via Jerry Weinberg and Nynke Fokma). If you encounter a new idea, have a taste of it. If you don’t like it you can always spit it out. Only swallow it when you like the taste. Propose that people try the change for a set period, after which there will be an evaluation. The change is instituted if the evaluation is positive. Make sure that the evaluation is genuine and not a rubber-stamp process.
  • Trust me, I know what I’m doing. This is a tricky one… When people are afraid of a change, a little show of confidence can pull them over the line. And now you’ve put yourself on the line…