We covered the basics of the Theory of Constraints’ S&T Trees in our previous blog post. In the practical realm, S&T trees have found a variety of applications.
Three types of S&T Trees
So far, three main types of S&T Trees have emerged, each concerned with a different aspect of the business:
This standard tree describes the changes that are necessary and sufficient in order to achieve a required improvement for an entire system. We described this in detail in part one.
This clarifies and describes potentially necessary changes around roles and responsibilities within the business, as well as the full organizational structure. We will discuss this in more detail further down.
Clarifies and describes potentially necessary changes to products, services, projects or knowledge, as outlined below.
The following questions will be asked of each element of the Content S&T Tree:
|Content S&T Tree|
|WHY is a redesign of this subsystem necessary for the higher subsystem to perform to its required level?
WHY can’t we use the subsystem from the old design?
|WHAT is the required performance of this subsystem / part?|
|WHY do we claim the specifications of the new subsystem will ensure the required performance?|
|HOW should the subsystem design be changed (which parts and in what way)?|
|WHY is this level of detail not sufficient (i.e. why this change also requires a major redesign of sub-system components)?|
Source: Alan Barnard, New applications of, and developments in, Theory of Constraints’ Strategy & Tactics1
Each of these trees is concerned with the improvement of the current situation – while adapting to the specific requirements and circumstances of the business. It is quite possible for one tree to be the product of another, e.g. an organizational change may be a necessary step towards an objective defined in the generic transformational S&T Tree.
A number of benefits
So what exactly are the advantages of these S&T Trees compared with traditional strategy and tactic models?
A tool for implementation…
The structure of the S&T Tree provides you with a detailed implementation plan with all necessary steps arranged in detail, as it applies to each area of the business, and in the order necessary for implementation.
… and Auditing
At the same time, it works as an effective auditing tool, allowing you to verify that the necessary steps have been implemented as planned for each subsystem, as well as regularly testing the underlying assumptions for their continued validity.
Clear communication …
Unlike traditional strategy systems, the TOC Strategies and Tactics put a lot of emphasis on clear and transparent communication of every aspect of the change – from the overarching principles to the details of each individual tactic – making the underlying logic accessible to everyone.
… leads to harmony
When all employees fully understand how and why the business is changing – and are, in most cases, involved in the decision process – you will have made a big step towards eliminating one of the biggest sources of resistance and conflict: what Goldratt called the “Engines of Disharmony”.
With all strategies and tactics out in the open, everyone knows their own roles and responsibilities (as well as those of others). There are clear rules and priorities, conflicts can be easily resolved and employees will gladly and proactively contribute to the ongoing improvement. They have learnt that questioning assumptions and paradigms is welcome and expected.
Focus on the organizational structure
The Organizational S&T Tree is a particularly innovative tool to help in removing the underlying conflicts and tensions that are part of daily interactions in many organizations. It is drawn up in five phases, in cooperation with all employees of the business.
Creating an Organizational S&T Tree
PHASE 1: Start your tree at level 3 of your org chart. For each function at level 3, answer the questions and assumptions outlined below.
|IT Manager –||Roles & responsibilities|
|WHY is your job (function) necessary to achieve organizational goal?|
|WHAT must your job function achieve on an ongoing basis?|
|Headings of what occupies most of your time to achieve your strategy.|
|WHY you claim that what occupies your time is necessary and sufficient to achieve the objective?|
|WHAT type of responsibility vs. authority gap “fires” consume your time?|
Source: Alan Barnard, Background on structure of S&Ts“2
- Verify and/or amend the description of each function with the person holding it. Specifically cover the crisis situations or “fires” they have to deal with most frequently.
- Use these to identify gaps between responsibility and authority for this role, from which you can derive then the Sufficiency Assumption.
- The CEO completes their own box for level 1. Review or correct this as necessary.
- Help the CEO to do level 2 (their direct reports).
- Assemble all level 2 managers and show them an example from level 3 as well as the CEO’s box.
- Managers now complete their own box (with help from a TOC expert if necessary) and present it to the group.
- The group gives feedback and amends the results before all descriptions are finally agreed on.
- Complete all other levels in the same manner. Each manager will co-facilitate this process for their direct reports.
In this way, the Organizational-S&T clearly delineates all functions within the business and exposes any gaps or overlaps that are likely to cause frustration or frequent conflicts. These can now be clarified and eliminated in collaboration with all involved, with the result that everyone is perfectly clear on their own contribution to the business, as well as everyone else’s. This constitutes a major step towards the Engines of Harmony mentioned previously, which shall be discussed in more detail in a later blog post.
A tool for continuous improvement
The Strategy and Tactic Trees are a key contributor to continuous improvement in the business. As we mentioned at the beginning, Eli Goldratt developed his Strategies and Tactics in the context of implementing change initiatives. As a consequence, they play an important part in the Process of Ongoing Improvement (POOGI), which is built around the framework of the TOC Thinking Processes:
- What to change?
- What to change to?
- How to cause the change?
It should be clear at this stage that the S&T Tree aims to answer the third question: it provides specific steps that can be implemented in order to achieve the desired change. The entire process of ongoing improvement, and where exactly the Strategies and Tactics come into play, will be discussed here in a future blog post.
1: Dr. Alan Barnard, TOCICO Presentation New applications of, and developments in, Theory of Constraints’ Strategy & Tactics” Slide 13, 2012
2: Dr. Alan Barnard, TOCICO Presentation New applications of, and developments in, Theory of Constraints’ Strategy & Tactics” Slide 12, 2012