Monday, March 25, 2013

Fall from grace

It has been over a year since I last wrote in this blog and while I have plenty of excuses, I'll be the first to admit most of it was just inertia. The other part, the thing that veered me in the wrong direction in the first place, was another round of disillusionment. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not finger pointing, it is totally my fault that I let this disillusionment take over, but that's just how it goes.

This is not my first round of disillusionment with Theory of Constraints and I consider these just growing pains, mainly since I am going through the process on my own, without a guiding hand. So I thought I may not be alone in this and that it might be a good idea to share my experience, it might be helpful to others.

I was first indoctrinated in Theory of Constraints through Dr. Goldratt's business novels, as I believe many others have been.  Business novels make a great teaching tool and I find a business novel creates the best business management book, as they make holistic action easy. They also read a bit like a cook book. When you read a cook book you can visualize everything coming out perfectly. In much the same way, business novels make things look easy even when the characters claim they are struggling. So when I tried to put these enticing concepts to practice I failed, miserably. I blamed the writers of the books, claiming it's easy for them as they control the fantasy world in which the story takes place. "It's like detective books" I told myself, "life doesn't work this way". And with that I put Theory of Constraints aside for many years.

I was lured back in the the Theory of Constraints world by courses I took during my MBA and then I had a chance to hear Dr. Goldratt talk. I was sold, it just made so much sense, it was just so simple it had to be right. This led to my decision to commit to learning Theory of Constraints and now there are plenty more resources available. I went to the Goldratt House for a seminar, read "The Choice", one of my highly recommended business books. Following all this I got the TOC handbook (well, the Kindle ebook, it's much lighter) and started making my way through it. Good read. A lot of useful information and then BAM, the idealization took another hit.

I was reading a chapter about the different uses of the evaporating cloud when it hit me. To me, this is one of the major shortcomings of the Theory of Constraints teaching I have encountered so far. I thought this presents a major set back for self learners and maybe for all newcomers, since it did for me. The problem is simple -  many of the examples available are recycled. The same example is used over and over to explain or present different aspects, without any new spice being added and it just looses traction, it is no longer explanatory. As far as I'm concerned, being that I learn better by doing and so need plenty of examples I can relate to, using the same example to explain the same concept is just as bad. I want new examples so they point to things I have not noticed with the previous ones.

Now, just to be clear, I am not claiming there is but one example out there. Certainly not! I am also not saying all Theory of Constraints thought leaders are doing this. Far from that! I'd also like to admit I understand where this practice is coming from, writing up examples is hard and even harder when you need to keep propriety information under wraps. All that being said, I think that if this is hindering my ability to use the text as it was meant to be used (that is - learn from it), it is my duty to point it out and share this information with the writers of the texts.

So yes, I was acting like a petulant teenager who just realized her idol was merely human, and I had it coming to me, as I really should not have done that. Still, the issue is real to me and I am taking liberty and calling out to all Theory of Constraints scholars - please make sure you give us a wide range of substantial examples.

And if you are on your own Theory of Constraints journey, please remember this is not a cult but a science and as such it has shortcomings. Just like in any other science, the work is never done. So do not idealize, that way you will not experience a fall from grace when things aren't exactly perfect. When you find that imperfection - that's your chance to make your mark in the world of Theory of Constraints, by doing what you can to fix it. I promise I'll try and contribute to fixing the example issue, even though I think I'm far from being a Theory of Constraints scholar.....

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