A few years ago a book changed my thinking about business in a way only one other author has managed to do. The first of these will be familiar to a lot of you, especially my clients, it is the E-Myth series. I’m not alone in having a light bulb moment with those books. The book I am talking about here though blew me away because it made me realize what was wrong with the systems I was fighting against every day.
The book was, I think, “The Goal” by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt, and the light bulb wisdom was his “Theory of Constraints“. I say “I think” because I quickly read all of his books that I could lay my hands on.
You don’t need to read up on the theory as much as I did though. In a nutshell, quoting from Wikipedia …
every organization has – at any given point in time – at least one constraint which limits the system’s performance relative to its goal
Common sense, right? Well the trick is consciously looking for the constraint, finding the real constraint, then elevating the priority of the constraint in order to fix the problem. The solution is, again, forehead-slapingly simple.
- 0. (Step Zero) Articulate the goal of the organization.
- 1. Identify the constraint (the thing that prevents the organization from obtaining more of the goal)
- 2. Decide how to exploit the constraint (make sure the constraint is doing things that the constraint uniquely does, and not doing things that it should not do)
- 3. Subordinate all other processes to above decision (align all other processes to the decision made above)
- 4. Elevate the constraint (if required, permanently increase capacity of the constraint; “buy more”)
- 5. If, as a result of these steps, the constraint has moved, return to Step 1.
Again, online marketing consulting clients who work with me will be familiar with these steps.
Very often clients are worried about traffic, or their web design. I will sit down with them or go over the issues via the telephone and we will realize web design or traffic is not their real problem relative to their goal.
Had they just fixed the symptom they identified they would be wasting their money, because the root cause is something else entirely. This is why system thinking is so important rather than reliance on tactic-du-jour.
Have you identified your constraints?