It’s easier than you think to marry holistic vision with single-minded focus
We’ve discussed the importance of holistic vision in earlier posts. The notion of ‘one focus at a time’ may seem at odds with this. But, in practice, they are complimentary ideas.
Let me explain why.
When we go into an organisation for the first time, we first look to assess the potential for improvement within the business. Based on this potential, we then define what our (achievable) goal is during the improvement process.
This goal will be the guiding principle for all future work.
The next step is to guide the business’ team through defining the strategy and tactics which will enable them to achieve this goal. As part of this strategy and tactics process, we guide the team through the identification of the constraint, and the actions that will relieve pressure on that constraint and enable them to exploit it. We will also encourage the business team to look at the likely effects of our improvement actions. Which action is likely to have the most – the best – impact? Which action is going to allow us to best exploit our constraint? In which order do we need to implement the tactical plan in order to ensure we are prepared for the likely results of each earlier action?
This whole strategy and tactics process clearly demands holistic vision. The same wide-ranging overview (or holistic vision) will need to be maintained throughout the whole of the improvement project to monitor progress and inform timely action and reaction.
The vision is useless without the action and the action is misdirected without the vision.
So, we need both vision and action. But why just the one action? Why not start all the tactical improvement activities we’ve identified at once? Surely we’ll get the improvements we want even faster?
Well, we don’t work that way. We firmly believe that starting everything at once is the fastest route to failure. Instead, we ask the business team to start on only the first tactical improvement action. Good preparation when creating the strategy and tactics tree mean we have not only a good understanding of what we need to do, but the order in which we need to do it.
Ideally, we need the whole organisation involved with – or, at least, informed about – what we are doing and why. Getting the team focused on the single activity – and excited about the results – really fosters the sense of teamwork within the business. This feeds directly into our ability to create holistic vision in wider team players.
In some rare cases we may run two tactical initiatives at the same time. For instance, if we are focused on remarkable due-date performance, we will usually start performance selling at roughly the same time. This is because sometimes it is possible to get great results on remarkable due-date performance very quickly and the sales team need to be ready to manage the consequences of that improvement.
It is alright to do this, since the two initiatives involve two different teams. Remarkable performance is the responsibility of the production team. Performance selling is the responsibility of the sales team. We would not start off two initiatives within the same team. To make change and improvement work fast and stick, we believe that the teams need to tackle one improvement tactic at a time.
This is what we mean by one focus at a time. And why one focus at a time is not a contradiction to holistic vision.
We only have two eyes. One of them has to be focused on the holistic vision, so we don’t lose sight of the big picture. The other? Well, it can’t focus on multiple things at once. We should concentrate on focusing on the job in hand until it is completed. Why waste energy refocusing between tasks instead of getting those tasks done?
Having a single focus helps us to achieve the results we want more quickly.
Achieving results quickly is a great way to cement support for our strategies – and all subsequent Theory of Constraints (TOC) or Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) activities. Success strengthens support for further initiatives. I suppose it is a little akin to the principle of Rapid Improvement Events within Lean Methodologies. We want change to happen relatively quickly in a way that involves people working across teams and that empowers staff to make changes, to take responsibility for improvements and really create an appetite for change and improvement within the organisation.
When we have embedded that initiative or new operational reality within the business (as far as possible) we will then move on to tackling the next improvement activity on our strategy and tactics tree.
As well as ensuring that everyone is working towards the same goal, it helps to ensure that everyone is clear about why we are doing what we are doing. In this way, we are able to get the whole team focused on the level of detail required to get results, while at the same time still maintaining clear sight of the big picture.
This is why ‘one focus at a time’ and creating holistic vision are complimentary ideas. The holistic vision is the why. The ‘one focus at a time’ is the how.