In the first part of this series, we introduced the “Engines of Disharmony”, which lead to a demotivating working environment and prevent the business from developing its full potential. In this second part, we will discuss the steps necessary to lead you to Harmony instead.
A systemic change
The change we seek incorporates the entire organization and requires a fairly radical cultural change. This is a non-trivial undertaking, but by no means impossible if you accept that people are inherently good: they want their work to be meaningful, they want to work productively and harmoniously with others, and they want to contribute to the business’s success.
The Theory of Constraints offers a number of practical tools to assist you on your path from Disharmony to Harmony. It is important to keep in mind here that this path has its place within the full Process of Ongoing Improvement (POOGI). None of the tools are a magic fix that will produce breakthrough results on their own (although you will still likely get some benefits from each of them). Only a fully functioning and healthy business provides an environment where employees will feel satisfied and content.
The main tool used to achieve Harmony within the organization is the Transformational Strategy & Tactic Tree, which aims to get all employees and stakeholders involved in the development and implementation of Strategies and Tactics. As a result, each employee is aware of their own contribution (engine 1) as well as everyone else’s (engine 2). This process also ensures that all rules and procedures are aligned with the organizational goals (engine 3) and any lurking conflicts are identified and eliminated.
A solid structure: the Organizational S&T tree
For people to interact effectively and smoothly in a professional environment, they need clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Unfortunately, this is far too uncommon in practice. You can use the Organizational S&T Tree to verify and (most likely) rectify this within your business. This blog post tells you how to do this in detail.
This allows you to break open the “Engines of Disharmony” one after the other and uncover their underlying causes, which you can then tackle with the other tools the TOC provides:
1. Every role in the organization is clearly defined with all its functions. This process happens in collaboration with the employee in question, ensuring that all questions about responsibilities are clarified and answered. As a result, everyone will know exactly what their role is within the business.
2. The same is true with regards to all other employees and their roles: the second Engine of Disharmony has been removed.
3. Conflicts and contradictions (in terms of rules or responsibilities) are identified and clarified or eliminated by the appropriate management level. It is crucial at this stage to fully respect priorities: local optima must never interfere with the overarching organizational goals.
4. S&T audits (also detailed here) are used to uncover invalid or harmful rules. With the help of the Change Matrix, the necessary changes can be developed. You can find out how to do this in this blog entry.
5. Frequent firefighting (as identified in phase 2 of the Organizational S&T tree) points to gaps between authority and responsibility. These gaps can be closed using the Lieutenant’s Cloud as detailed below.
Testing the rules: the Lieutenant’s Cloud
The Lieutenant’s Cloud is based on the Evaporating Cloud (or Conflict Cloud) and specifically tackles the conflict between a necessary action on the one hand, and a rule preventing the action on the other:
To draw up the Lieutenant’s Cloud, start by noting the need that the action (task) fulfils (B), followed by the rule blocking you from doing this (D’). Then fill in the task itself (D) and the need protected by the rule (C). Finally put in the (common) goal. If you are presenting the Cloud to someone else, it is best to start with the side that person identifies with – this minimizes resistance.
An example of the situation described might be a customer service manager needing urgent input from a difficult customer in order to fulfil an order. The rule states that only the (currently unavailable) key account manager can contact that customer. The rules in these scenarios will generally have a good reason for their existence – but often, not all potential implications were considered when they were set up. The result is a procedure which frequently does more harm than good to the organization. It may be beneficial to the relationship with difficult customers if they have a single point of contact, but with time-sensitive decisions it can lead to delays and ultimately inconveniences both sides.
The focus then will be on questioning the assumptions the Cloud is based on (represented by the arrows) and to decide which are invalid and can be replaced. In our example, we may conclude that delayed delivery of the order will damage the relationship with the customer far more than the call might do if they really were upset by it.
Satisfied employees are better employees!
By following the above steps, we can thoroughly check the entire organizational structure and make improvements in tight cooperation with all involved. Invalid or harmful rules are eliminated or amended. For this process to be fully effective, it is important to approach it with an open mind: if you encourage employees to point out problems, their suggestions have to be taken seriously and discussed. This does not mean a change will always be required (or the best solution) – but you can only find this out if you contemplate the possibility.
The Change Matrix allows you to juxtapose positive and negative effects of change versus non-change and make a fully informed decision. Using the Negative Branch Reservation, you can then explore potential undesired side effects in case the proposed change elicit objections.
The end result is an organization which offers its employees a far more pleasant working environment. Everyone is aware of the common organizational goals and understands that it is in all of their interests to work towards them, in unison. That this is most likely to result in higher throughput and long -erm increased profits for the organization can be seen as a positive side effect of the true goal we are seeking: happier employees.