Understanding that the constraint isn’t fixed and your actions may make it move
How do you know if your constraint has moved? And, if it has, should you worry?
The short answer: no!
Actually, it is often a good sign if you suspect that your constraint has moved. What indications have caused you to suspect its change of location? Usually, because the actions you are taking have ceased to continue to improve performance. So, to suspect it has moved, we have to know:
- that you have identified your constraint correctly;
- you’ve worked to exploit the constraint and subordinate to the constraint;
- you’ve been effectively monitoring the effects of your actions (exploiting the constraint and subordinating to the constraint) on performance;
- and you know these actions have been improving performance.
All reasons to be cheerful so far.
But, now… your monitoring is telling you that your actions to exploit the constraint are not resulting in the performance improvements they once were.
So what should you do now?
Step five of the Theory of Constraints comes into play here: don’t let inertia become the constraint.
It is possible that your actions aren’t having the effect on performance improvements they once were having because the constraint has moved. In fact, if you’re doing them right, the first three steps can easily move the constraint. So step five leads us straight back to step one: identify the constraint.
The good news: you’ve already done this once, so this time should be even easier. In Goldratt’s business novel, The Goal, the constraint moved: from the NCX-10 to the market. Alex Rogo, the novel’s hero, was quickly able to identify this new constraint and work to exploit it.
And so your focus will now shift to the new constraint. And you begin the process again: exploit the new constraint and subordinate to the new constraint… and your performance improvements should pick up again.
This is another opportunity to leverage existing resources simply by changing the way they are utilized and prioritized, and thus another opportunity to delay those big cap-ex projects.
Perhaps it isn’t as sexy as the big high-profile projects (like Alex Rogo’s robots) but it can help deliver much better performance improvements for a lot less capital expenditure.