A perfect world is a lovely place


Chris HOHMANN – Author

It happened during a project review meeting during which we went through the planned action sequences. A new late comer to the project raised a few questions and suggested some additions and changes to the action plan.

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One of the participants, visibly irritated by the new entrant and his interventions, snapped back: “A perfect world is a lovely place, but we need to focus on our goal without seeking perfection.”

He was referring to the constraints and difficulties limiting our possibilities and options and obviously trying to silence the newcomer.

As moderator of this meeting I calmly explained that at this stage of the project, any suggestion that contributes to its robustness is welcome. Furthermore, a description of perfection is always interesting.

Indeed, the ideal or perfect solution may be out of reach for the moment, but this does not mean that all options must be rejected. An evolution of the strategy, economic conditions, regulatory, state of mind of the decision makers or technology can reshuffle the cards and open the field of possibilities.

In such a case, having a complete description of an ideal future state can be a big time saver. In addition, the ideal solution is a reservoir of ideas for future improvement and it makes sense to revisit these options periodically. One or the other constraints could disappear and new options become possible.

Generally speaking, an ideal future state can always be degraded by incorporating the various constraints, but building a solution around existing constraints without exploring breakthrough alternatives typically falls within the 8th type of Lean waste: not using people’s creativity.

The meeting resumed in a little tense atmosphere due to the enmity between the two individuals, but with the new suggestions taken into account.

When it comes to Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and sketching the future improved state (Value Stream Design or VSD), the above explanation applies perfectly.

It makes sense to study the ideal target first and then to degrade it by integrating the different constraints that may not be eliminated or bypassed in reasonable time or cost.

Those readers familiar with the Thinking Processes of the Theory of Constraints certainly try to challenge the reality of the constraints with specific tools like the Current Reality Tree (CRT) and the Conflict Resolution Diagram (CRD, aka Evaporating Cloud).

At the time of this meeting, I used a Goal Tree previously built with the participants but couldn’t investigate and challenge the constraints.
It is very likely that among the listed constraints, some are more a matter of beliefs, myths and misunderstandings or misinterpretations than real constraints.

If these false constraints can be surfaced and eliminated, the solution will certainly be better and it will prove the value of exploring the ideal state before giving up too soon.

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