When you are on the brink of bankruptcy, the launch of a grandiose program
to overcome the predicament only delays the inevitable.
seen several organizations launch Lean, Six Sigma, and other programs when they are struggling to survive. While the success
in sustaining these types of programs has been low, what is even worse, is that they tend to overburden the already overburdened
part of the organization — the bottleneck or constraint.
example we have encountered is the launch of a 5S program in operations struggling for survival. They were told that 5S is
fundamental to Lean implementation and would help improve their situation. Many areas of the organization began conducting
workshops, kaizens, etc. … and getting more organized while a few areas did not. The audit scores were posted and those
with the lowest scores were chastised. What they failed to realize was that the non-bottleneck areas had time to get engaged
in the program and improve, while the bottleneck areas did not. This pressure choked the bottleneck further. People in the
bottleneck areas either left due to the high pressure or were let go. Change in personnel in the bottleneck areas further
choked the bottleneck and, in turn, the organization to the point of strangulation and bankruptcy.
We also noticed a similar situation in program management. A 24-month program was at the final stages
of validation and verification to launch hi-volume production. The team was working extremely hard to be on time and within
budget with no quality hiccups. The plant manager, who had recently come from another organization, indicated that his previous
organization had about a hundred-point checklist tied to several standard forms that enabled them to achieve flawless launches.
The operations manager jumped on the opportunity to start copying the same program as the plant manager’s previous organization.
Again, the engineers, struggling to complete the scheduled tasks, were asked to implement the new forms — further burdening
These types of actions have led several organizations
to bankruptcy despite their winning several prestigious operational excellence awards.
What, then, is the answer to an organization that is already struggling? Our experience indicates solving
problems at the bottleneck areas – reduce the burden rather than to strangle them. A well suited, commonly used approach
is to apply the principles of Theory of Constraints (TOC) to identify and alleviate bottlenecks continuously. This approach
helps organizations move from a vicious downward spiral to a success cycle. Compared to launching new programs that strangle
the bottleneck, TOC focuses on leveraging the bottlenecks. Unfortunately, most organizations have neither the skills nor mindset
to apply TOC and will need to work under the guidance of a coach. According to TOC expert, Dr. Rex Draman, all it takes is
an introductory training and a couple of days a month of coaching to start moving the needle forward.