What’s Holding You and Your Company Back?

Are you familiar with the Theory of Constraints (TOC)? If you’re not, the theory (an overall management philosophy) came into vogue post the publication of a book entitled, “The Goal,” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

In its most basic form the theory contends that any manageable system (like your business) is hindered from achieving its potential by a very few number of constraints–of which, one, is the major one. While the book focuses on the throughput of a manufacturing concern, the theory has been expanded into a general management philosophy–which can provide major dividends for you and your business.

Without going through the whole process, you can clearly benefit, at the start of this year, by focusing on its basic idea–which is, instead of looking for 50 or 100 constraints that are holding your business back, you want to look for a handful of major constraints–and then narrow those down to your major one.

The easiest visual picture I can off you is that of a pipe. If you have one section that is clogged so that only a dime’s worth of water can flow through it, it doesn’t matter what you do to improve the other area of the pipe. You can expand the diameter of the pipe in those other sections. You could even upgrade those sections from PVC to aluminum to steel to platinum to gold. And it won’t make a difference—until you fix that one point in the pipe that only let’s a dime’s worth of water through.

Likewise, in your business, you have some built in constraints. And until you fix them, you’ll always be hindered from achieving your goals. All other activities will be less effective, until you solve that major constraint.

Now, while I think it’s true that you win games by playing to your strengths (not your weaknesses), the best teams focus some of their attention on alleviating their weaknesses. For example, a football team that has a great passing game and a terrible running game would be foolish to focus their attention on running the ball. They’ll simply lose–and lose a lot. However, if they don’t pick up their running game, they’ll hinder their passing game’s potential.

In other words, too many people make success an either/or proposition. Either you focus on strengths or you focus on building your weaknesses. When, in fact, it should be a both/and. Run with your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

However, that said, shoring up and focusing on weaknesses can be both demotivating and difficult for an organization and its people–which is why I like the Theory of Constraints. Because the theory doesn’t say focus on all of them, it says, “Focus on the major one.”

So, how do you do that? Well that’s for our next discussion. But for now, I’d recommend that you take out a piece of paper (or open a new document on your computer) and simply ask the question, “What are the major constraints that are hindering me (and my business/organization) from achieving my (our) potential?”

To your accelerated success!

Note: Your constraints could be external or internal, mental or physical, systemic or situational. For example, your constraint could be an individual. It could be a facility challenge. It could be a mental limitation. It could be a technology issue. It could be a reach issue. It could be a conversion issue. It could be a training issue. It could be a financial issue. Etc. Don’t worry about narrowing down yet. Just start thinking about your constraints.