Q: It is relatively easy for me to characterize others -- especially their weaknesses. I am sure I have weaknesses, but it is very difficult for me to identify them. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Yours is a common problem. We all have attitudes and assumptions that are difficult for us to identify or change. And they prevent effective, two-way communication, which, in turn, can be detrimental to our performances.
Before you can identify your weaknesses, you must admit you have them. This takes courage.
Next, gather data. Introspection helps here. Review why you made certain decisions and why certain situations did not turn out the way you hoped they would.
Also, seek input from others you can trust--your spouse or a close friend. Ideally, your manager can provide effective input in a performance evaluation.
A detailed time log of your activities might help you recall situations that you should review, as well as characterize where you place your priorities.
In any case, attain several perspectives to create a realistic characterization of yourself. Team members might anonymously make lists of your characteristics for your benefit. This usually works best when participants use descriptive words or short phrases. The individual being characterized can then analyze the lists.
Next, take action. Decide what you want to change and then document a plan so that you can periodically review and update it. Then, tell others what action you plan to take. It is difficult to not follow through when you have written and spoken plans to improve yourself.
Obviously, this is not a one-cycle process. You should gather new data, make new plans, and carry them out on a continuous basis.
Theory of Constraints spots weak management
Dr. T.F. Gautschi
Wellesley Hills, MA
Becoming aware of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) and its strategic approach can positively influence your management methodology.
Developed by Eliyahu Goldratt and the Goldratt Institute in New Haven, CT, TOC is a management model that teaches applying logic to several situations, and is compatible with other managerial concepts, such as total quality management, collaboration team building, empowerment, and project management.
TOC views an organization as a system consisting of three sets of interacting components--inputs, internal processes, and outputs--working together to achieve a common goal. A useful analogy is a chain, or a network of chains. As with a chain or a network of chains, the weakest link in an organization determines its performance, wherever it might be and no matter how strong the other links are.
The strategy of TOC is to successfully identify and strengthen the weak links in an organization. The identification process is continuous because, as you discover and amend each constraint, a new one occurs. Constraints may involve insufficient, high-quality raw materials (inputs), a production bottleneck (internal processes), or inadequate market demand (output).
TOC attempts to demonstrate that the optimization of subsystems is most often a waste of time, money, and energy, and that management-crafted policies and procedures are often the root of many business problems.
TOC is more than just a theory; it includes several principles, as well as five distinct logic trees and the "rule of logic'' that governs their construction. The trees include the Current Reality Tree, the "Evaporating Cloud,'' the Future Reality Tree, the Prerequisite Tree, and the Transition Tree. They attempt to answer the following basic system management questions:
What to change?
TOC is documented in a series of five books, including, The Goal and It's Not Luck (see "Traditional thinking won't do in the 1990s'' in the August 28, 1995 issue of Design News), and is taught in a series of programs conducted under the guidance of the Goldratt Institute. The Goal and It's Not Luck briefly discuss the application of the logic trees.
The principles and tools of TOC are not limited to specific applications. As you apply TOC in a new situation, it does create a distinct solution. However, the solution often suits other circumstances. For example, The Goal describes a TOC solution to a production control problem in a particular plant, while It's Not Luck describes TOC solutions to several marketing problems. These solutions can become the basis for a generic solution applicable to similar situations in other plants or industries.
Interest in TOC is growing amongst managers; the May 1, 1995 Business Week best-seller list includes The Goal. Global monthly sales of the book amount to approximately 19,000. And American Production and Inventory Control Society APICS recently held a symposium on constraint management.