I admit it, I need to be challenged. I try to engage in discussions to see how “controversial statements” are reached, and I argue my case. But it all boils down to a constant strive to find new perspectives and to get new input for reflection and learning. Sometimes it starts with something said during a morning radio programme, a headline in a newspaper article or someone telling a story or simply asking “why?”, “why not?” or “what if..?”

My favourite Saturday morning radio show is a programme with three guests called The Monopoly. The panel discusses small, big, important and funny everyday dilemmas coming in from everyday people. The point of the show is to try and find a new perspective on a particular subject. The Monopoly just sits and discusses what could be done and gives advices on how to solve the dilemmas. The guests do not know the problems up front, and they only say what they are thinking, leaving it to the “dilemma owners” and the listeners to decide how to use The Monopoly’s input.

The issues are about everything happening in our lives and the premise is that everyone from time to time can do with an outside perspective. The good news is that the direct feedback, as well as follow up discussions via social media, gives high ratings due to the decent, outside-viewed advice from The Monopoly guests, who are able to see the issues from other perspectives using their own experiences and stories. Often it takes an outsider to bring us back on track, because outside viewers tend to see the system and not the individual silos.

I find it hard to disagree with Bill (and Deming and Ranney as well) when he describes the consequence of narrow objectives and the fact that problems all too often are tried solved with point actions apparently helping the business. All too often so called business objectives lead to sub-optimization, because each functional silo focuses on fulfilling its own targets and forgets to take a holistic perspective. My hypothesis is, it is also because of the way we tend to measure success.

I have the privilege of having a dear friend who worked for many years with Dr. Deming and she tends to remind me about a phrase from the New Economics describing the purpose for any organisation as:

“The aim proposed here for any organisation is for everybody to gain – stockholders, employees, suppliers, customers, community, and the environment – over the long term.”

To me, this is one of the best descriptions of the power of systems thinking, and it  furthermore tells us about the consequences if we try to implement simple short-term solutions.

Bill is absolutely right that we often only see the last straw as the reason, and fail to remember the actions and things leading to the last straw. Even though management literature is full of examples and good advice on how to deal with similar issues, any change tends to start with a burning platform – do something about it or be out of business. My argument is that this is a result of narrow silo-focused objectives, and more people should study and discuss causes of this problem and test theories in the hunt for real examples from across industries and environments of more end-to-end solutions.

From a customer perspective, trouble occurs when there is no flow in the process (regardless of industry). Studying and learning from Goldratt’s theory of constraint (ToC) might help – it should anyway, be worth testing:

  • Identify where the information or product flow stops (identify the constraint)
  • Exploit the constraint
  • Subordinate everything else to the exploitation decision
  • Elevate the constraint
  • Repeat the above steps for any new constraint created

The entire system needs to be aligned in regards to speed, as any misalignment results in stoppages (lack of flow). If everybody does not gain, there is a constraint somewhere in the system and it needs to be handled, otherwise we end up with the last straw.

Working with business development and process optimisation, I find the best results emerge when there is a vision guiding and testing the ideas and proposed solutions. The aim is for everyone to gain and, therefore, we need a method to ensure we do not mess up the bigger picture solving a specific (local) issue.

I do not believe there is one right solution fitting all, and therefore we cannot just copy tools and solutions without understanding the problem first. We can, however, show interest, study the system and test hypothesis of causes. The only prerequisite for this is a natural curiosity and imagination.

Imagine an organisation where everybody gains in the long term. What would it take to make your organisation like this?

Imagine a place where it would not come to the last straw. Why should it not be possible?

Imagine what we could accomplish if we help each other to have a holistic view and test our ideas in a small scale environment (laboratory) to see the consequences before we go large.

Imagine if there is no limit for learning. Maybe it is only about asking questions?

Imagine if we could keep an open mind and ask “what if…?”

Let’s test our imagination with a simple question – Who is on the team? Maybe it leads to a new question about boundaries..?

Thanks to Bill for challenging our thinking and revealing elements of Deming’s thinking in a new perspective. I really like the way you start the debate and open our minds to see things through new glasses. Please continue.