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Theory of Constraints #tocot The Problem Isn’t What You Think

by Dr Lisa on January 2, 2013

Most of the time when I’m doing private consulting, the problem that my clients think they have is NOT actually the real problem.

If you think about it, it makes sense that most people don’t understand their real problem.  Because if they did, they would just fix it.  The fact that the problem still exists is a likely indicator that the real issue has not been addressed.

We know from Theory of Constraints that most people work on the symptoms of their real problem.  And while we understand this intellectually, that doesn’t mean we are immune to working on symptoms.

I’ve given well over 100 Vistage speeches and I’ve spoken to some groups more than once.  Have you noticed that some people report the same problems over and over again?  A year later they are still dealing with the same issues?

Is it possible that YOU are working on your symptoms and are unaware of the real issue?

Let’s check …

As you’re preparing for the new year, what do you want?  What are your goals?  (Write them down.)

Are these things that have been on your list for a while?  Maybe you’ve made some progress toward them but have not truly achieved them.  (Mark the ones that have appeared before.)

If you don’t fully reach your goals or objectives, then it is not only possible, but probable that you’ve been dealing with symptoms and/or don’t have the right approach to improving things.

What you want is always valid.  Your approach to how to get it can be the issue.

My job as a consultant is to provide perspective.  To help clients understand the real problem – the thing that’s blocking them from achieving their goals.

For example, most custom job shops I work with think that to increase due date performance or ship more or increase profits – they need to be more efficient.  They know based on data or in their gut that they have unused capacity.  And so they pursue becoming more efficient – getting better utilization of that capacity.

This sounds logical, doesn’t it?  But why then do they not substantially succeed at increasing profits by shipping more with the same people and resources or getting more on-time?

… because their approach to solving the problems is wrong.  Low efficiency or utilization is a symptom.  Focusing efforts on becoming more efficient often result in little or no benefit or things can even get worse.

Instead, these shops should focus on FLOW.  (Read how a Michigan precision machine shop did this.)

But that’s just an example.  The point is that YOU may be missing the boat to REALLY improving your business.

According to one of the Vistage economists the first half of 2013 will be more of the same.  However, the second half may see some slowing.

NOW is a good time to kick into gear to be strong for whatever the second half of the year has in store.

MAKE it a Happy New Year,

By Dr Lisa Lang

P.S.  Leave comments or questions below.

P.P.S.  If you’re a custom job shop check out

2016 Copyright Science of Business, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Bryon Brandt, PE, LSSGB April 27, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Hello Lisa,

This reminds of “Don’t Solve the Problem That The Client Asks You To Solve” that I great consultant told me years ago.
Which consultant that was I’ve forgotten. His point being though, like yours, that the real Root Cause problem, is unlikely to be the one that the client is asking you to resolve, and that if you don’t solve that underlying (Inherent Simplicity) cause, the symptom will just come back again.

So as much as I believe in the point you are making, my question is, what are your suggestions for convincing the client, that the Root Cause is the real cause, so that you don’t get questions like “What are you doing over there, are problem is over here?”.

I know this is a rather generic question, though I expect you’ve encountered multiple cases of this, where the client is encouraging/forcing focus primarily on the Symptom.

Thank You!

Dr Lisa April 27, 2016 at 11:33 pm

I use cause and effect logic to show that the symptoms are related to one root cause. This Theory of Constraints tool is called a Current Reality Tree. It is part of the thinking processes and is well known. What is less well know and practiced is how to use it directly or indirectly to sell.

So you don’t TELL them, you ask questions so that they discover the reality.

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