A recent celebration in Venice with our great friend and mentor, Oded Cohen, brought to mind when the Theory of Constraints (TOC) first came into our lives over 20 years ago. Oded was the person who transferred to us the knowledge, dedication and passion that comes with deep learning of TOC. Thinking back to those beginnings is a reminder of how truly life changing the encounter with TOC has been.
It started when Domenico Lepore went to the UK to train with Oded at the Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute, named after the father of Dr. Eli Goldratt who developed TOC. Oded was one of Goldratt’s closest partners. After the first week of intensive training with Oded, Domenico brought back with him new knowledge and a robust plan to launch a new activity of organizational science. It was also the beginning of a collaboration that would produce the first book to be published by Goldratt’s publisher not written by Goldratt himself. ‘Deming and Goldratt: The Decalogue‘ has become a classic of management that continues to sell and be recommended in universities almost 20 years later.
As a physicist, it was crystal clear to Lepore that both Deming and Goldratt were providing a systems view of management and organizations. However, Deming’s emphasis on understanding and managing variation was not made explicit in TOC and Deming’s monumental work lacked the practical applications that characterize Goldratt’s stunning contribution. This includes a state-of-the-art approach to Project Management. By creating a synergy between the teachings of W. Edwards Deming and the Theory of Constraints, what Lepore and Cohen achieved was a practical way to embed Deming’s teachings into operations and the design and delivery of goods and services.
Ahead of the curve of Lean, Six Sigma and Design Thinking
There have been several major players in the consulting market since ‘The Decalogue’ was published, in particular, Lean, Six-sigma and Design Thinking. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to examine the differences in approach but it is interesting to note that the attention to reducing variation seen in Lean and Six Sigma and the shake up in thinking that Design Thinking attempts have always been central to the Decalogue in a very rigorous and robust way. Moreover, when Lean, 6S and Design Thinking interventions are found lacking in situations where supply exceeds demand, that is precisely the moment when we are called in to take the subject matter deeper and further.
It’s been a long and fascinating journey since our firm started out with Quality systems back in the early 1990s. The combination of Deming and TOC has led us to work with increasingly large and more complex environments. The validity of the teachings has stood the test of time as has the firm friendship between Lepore and Cohen. Indeed, after all these years we can say that Deming and Goldratt are more relevant than ever in our world of complexity and networks.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint . This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.