There is one universally valid principle that no business can ignore to achieve success and sustainable growth, highlighted in the following extract from the business novel ‘The Human Constraint’, www.thehumanconstraint.ca bought in 40 countries so far.
May looked at her notes again. She had to get things right for the article about the new way that TPK holdings was organizing itself and operating. She wanted to be able to convey more clearly what they meant with the idea of a constraint. Sam, had explained how most organizations were artificially fragmented into pieces. The very language they used was about “divisions” and “functions” that were considered separate. The reality underneath it all, he said, was quite different when you understood it. He’d used the analogy of an x-ray, that if you could look beneath the surface of a company, you wouldn’t see separate parts, but a series of processes that were all interdependent. A bit like the nervous system of a living organism. Only most people didn’t get that. And so they kept imposing a divided hierarchy because they thought it was an effective way to control people and their actions. But the more people were able to recognize how work was a flow and how actions were connected to each other, the more those interdependencies could emerge and become an increasing strength, an increasing source of resilience.
There was still the notion of constraint, though, and how it was so central to their approach. She had a grasp of the idea, but if she had to communicate it to others she needed a deeper understanding. It sounded a bit negative, but she knew that was not the case. What was it, exactly, about this best practice, that was different? Sam was always very clear that she could ask him all the questions she needed to, and she reached for her phone. She knew he didn’t mind helping her, but he was probably busy. She put the phone back down. But how could she write this up without the right metaphor?
“You are not disturbing me at all, May.”
Sam’s voice on her cell phone was clear and unhurried.
“Thank you. I know you’re busy. It’s just that I want to make this whole constraint thing a bit clearer.”
“When you understand that an organization is a whole, instead of separate parts, and you understand how everything is connected in an organization, then finding the constraint and managing everything around that focal point is a huge advantage.”
“Yes. I understand that it helps you focus, but it’s still a bit vague. I’m trying to find a way to capture the idea.”
“Think of it in terms of energy. The way to harness the potential of energy is to constrain it in some point.”
May searched in her mind for an image. “You mean like an electric circuit and a plug?”
It was clearer now. “Or a dam for hydro-electric power?”
“Even better! Think about all that flow and energy in a waterfall. But the only way you can harness the potential of that energy is to constrain it in one point, through a dam.”
“So the constraint is what transforms potential into energy?
“Exactly. There’s nothing negative about it. In an organization, that flow is the flow of energy that comes from work. So we chose a point in the flow, and we make it the constraint. Then we organize everything to flow through that constraint, making sure the constraint never ever fails to do its job. That becomes the focus point for everything else, and that makes all our efforts much more powerful. Remember, the constraint is never a limitation, it actually frees up energies that would otherwise be lost.”
A liberating constraint. It sounded like an oxymoron, but if she kept the image of the dam in her head it was clearer. It was actually a thrilling notion.
“I think what you’re saying, Sam, is that we can actually design the way we do things to make them more effective. It’s beyond planning, it’s a way of shaping reality.”
“Indeed. It’s called self-determination. We can’t control everything little thing of course, because reality is too complex, but we are free to choose to avoid repeating behaviours that worked in the past but not any more. We need to use new knowledge for the 21st century.”
When she put the phone down, May felt as though she were standing in front of an open door leading to something unknown but desirable. She felt free, in the flow of thinking and processing, to imagine an unexpected future. It made her almost giddy.
Since 1999, we have been presenting a new model for a systemic organization in detail, both in terms of the thinking behind it and how to conduct operations. We work alongside CEOs and Executive Teams to support the shift towards more effective, systemic strategy and operations. Our books include ‘Deming and Goldratt: The Decalogue‘, ‘Sechel: Logic, Language and Tools to Manage Any Organization’, ‘The Human Constraint‘ and most recently, ‘Quality, Involvement and Flow: The Systemic Organization’ . We support our international clients through education, training and the Ess3ntial multi-project software using Critical Chain to schedule competencies and unlock the potential of human resources. Based on our proprietary Decalogue methodology.