High performance is core in realizing the objectives of an industry, therefore, the management strives hard to boost the overall work performance of various competencies. To do this, identification of areas experiencing bottlenecks, and holding the industry back, needs to be given priority, and then the factors eliminated altogether. How does one identify these bottlenecks? One of the core approaches is to use the theory of constraints (TOC). This tool helps in identifying the factors that inhibit performance in the systems and the processes involved. The next step is to deal with the constraints and improve the performance.
TOC has three core principles, they include; consistency, convergence and respect. The principle of convergence states that a system that is complex is simpler to manage since correction to a particular aspect impacts the entire system. The principle of consistency implies that a conflict that is external must be a result of a minimum of a flawed assumption. The assumption of respect implies that human beings are naturally good and deserves their respects even if they commit mistakes.
The theory of constraint (TOC) bases its explanation to the adage that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. The performance of an organisation is restricted by constraints. This causes an organisation not to explore its maximum performance and reaching its objectives all together. Restrictions could include people, information, supplies, policies or even equipment and could be both external and internal to the organisation. This theory believes that all systems despite the high performance, has at least a constraint that hinders its objective. This is the weakest link of the chain. The main use of the theory is identification of the constraints and changing the areas that are inhibited. It has been used successfully in manufacturing; however, it could be used in various organizational or industrial situations. It is applicable in processes that are repetitive and most useful in such organisations.
This theory is useful in the operations of an organisation, since it categorizes the way of approaching the procedures of a business and improving it. TOC assumes the diagnostic and the analytical processes and lays it out in a step by step process that will be described briefly. It also allows the relevant authority involved to focus on the process of constraints. It is seen as a method of galvanizing efforts and focusing on a particular aspect of the operations, with the intention of correcting the processes to arrive at a clear solution.
The processes that are considered in the theory include identifying constraints, managing constraints and evaluating the decision made. Identifying the constraints; the first thing is to identify the weakest link, which is responsible for holding back the organisation. One could start by closely and neatly looking at the processes that one uses regularly. Is your staff working as efficiently as expected, or are there factors affecting performance, for instance, because the employees do not have the necessary skills or training or because they lack the capacity in those key areas. To do this, tools like swim lane diagrams, failure model and effect analysis, and flow charts or storyboarding could be used to map the processes and identify the causes. One thing to note though is the fact that at times the constraints could also include things that are not physical, but intangible factors for instance communication barrier, and even poor morale of the team. Again, systems could have a constraint at a time, thus it is important to identify which factors are the weakest links really, and focus on that. However, at times this is not obvious; the use of other tools like queuing models or Pareto Analysis could be used.
Secondly, managing constraints; once the constraints have been identified, one needs to come up with a way of managing it, what should be done to ensure efficiency is realized in a particular area and curing the problem. This is what is termed as exploiting the constraint. The solution varies in terms of one’s goal, and the constraint that one is targeting to eliminate. An instance would be a resolution of helping an employee in the team to work efficiently, modifying vacation times and lunch breaks to ensure that work flows well and efficiently. Again, managers could reorganize working schedules, or task processes to increase its efficiency. Brainstorming a possible solution with the people in the team is another alternative, the use of problem solving tools for instance cause and effect analysis and five whys for the complex problems is essential.
Thirdly, evaluating the performance; closely studying how the constraints perform with the fixes put in place is important, it will help you decide if the decision taken works well, or if it still holds back the systems performance. If the constraints still persist, it is essential to go back to the second process. However, if the constraint has been effectively dealt with, one could move back to the first step and identify a fresh factor.
Hilton, R. W. (2008). Cost Management Strategies for Business Decision. New York, N Y: Mcgraw-Hill Irwin.