June, the month of the Logical Thinking Process

For the second consecutive year (2016), June will be the month of the Logical Thinking Process with the return of Bill Dettmer for his intensive Logical Thinking Process (LTP) training here in Paris, France.

Dettmer and Hohmann

Dettmer and Hohmann

The idea of learning to think logically can make some smile, however, experience shows that the general population is not as rational in its analyses and choices one might think.

Actually thinking logically, more specifically the Logical Thinking Process, is more a means to analyze and solve complex problems whose causes appear as multiple, elusive and entangled.

Bill Dettmer has enriched the original Theory of Constraints / Logical Thinking Processes corpus by creating an additional tool which I am very fond of: the Goal Tree. Bill also wrote several books and popularized his knowledge making his expertise available to the public in accessible language (English) and offering a pragmatic approach to what he calls “strategic navigation” and “complex problem solving”.

I am fortunate to find myself on the organizing side of LTP training lasting six days (2×3) and therefore able to “participate” again after completing the cycle and getting my LTP certificate in June 2015.

After the training session, we’ll meet former Bill’s students for an alumni meeting, two days to exchange our experiences and benefit from the latest developments of the “Dettmer Method”.

I’ll post tweets and articles over the days.


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Respect for people starts with saying hello

Lean respect for people principle is somewhat difficult to grasp in first place. While some gurus say it is not (only) about saying hello, I do think respect for people definitely starts with the basics of politeness, especially saying hello.

Respect or signs of reverence have long been unidirectional, from the lower ranking to the higher ranking, from subordinates to higher authority.

The mighty demanded respect to show how mighty they were and the lower ranking paid respect to the unquestioned power, especially when they were on the pointy side of the sword.

Everyone having been on the modern form of the pointy side of the sword (whatever it now is) understands that not been greeted or not been returned a hello is a deliberate sign showing some (real or pretended) distance.

Still in our days many higher ranking believe it is not necessary to say hello, return a greeting or simply be polite with “lower rankings”.

Respect for people is therefore, at least for me, recognizing the other as a peer, regardless of conventional or social ranking. Being polite is recognizing the other as a peer and showing him or her respect and saying hello is the very first polite sign to give.

When it comes to Lean Thinking and working to improve a process, the gathered talents can come in many forms and are all welcome. Original Lean did not come with grades and belts to show some kinds of ranks but put very different talents together to solve problems. And it usually works fine, especially when participants don’t have to care about (artificial) ranks or social differences.


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Is Lean about eliminating waste or not?

Some thought leaders and Lean promoters stress the fact that Lean is about eliminating waste while others seem to get away from this idea.

Could some have been wrong? Is there a shift in Lean Thinking? What is Lean finally about? Is Lean about waste elimination or not?

Well, yes and no.

Defining waste

Waste is an outcome of problems, the result of processes not delivering what is expected but Undesirable Effects instead. In order to avoid the same consequences occurring again in future, something has to be corrected and/or improved.

So when someone mentions eliminating waste, in a Lean Thinking context, it means (should mean) solving problems.

Lean for everyone

As Lean is a philosophy for everyone, not for experts only, it is necessary for people on the shopfloor, manning machines or doing routine administration tasks to develop and hone their Lean awareness and culture by eliminating waste and solving problems.

In order to do that, they have to be trained and coached to identify problems and learn how to solve them. They will do so in their familiar environment first and yes it can turn out as a kind of systematic waste hunting.

On the other end, senior management need to setup the “True North” a far away and visible reference, a Goal to achieve for the organization. It is then necessary to solve the various problems hindering the organization to achieve its Goal and improve the processes accordingly.

This again can be called waste hunting, yet it is (should be) focused onto most important problems (and wastes) standing in the way of the organization’s attempt to achieve its Goal.

Once the True North is defined, everyone is expected to align his/her contribution to the achievement of the organization’s Goal. This means pick and work on the problems necessary to be solved.

So Lean is about waste!?

A Lean transformation is not an all-out elimination of waste, but focusing limited resources on the most important leverage points to let value flow faster to the customer.

For instance, if a machine critical to timely deliver goods to the customer has very few spare capacity and often this capacity is wasted by some problems (e.g. late raw material supply or quality issues), then solving the problems in order to reduce the waste of capacity is meaningful.

If a machine in the same process has a lot of spare, unused capacity, it may be seen as a waste of capacity too, but it would only be counterproductive to reduce this waste by running the machine more than necessary. It would end up with overproduction of unecessary parts, excess inventory and transforming raw material that can no longer be used for producing anything else.

Lean is not about waste when it means optimizing every process step by eliminating waste, simply because the sum of the local optima cannot lead to the system optimum.

Wrapping up

When some Lean promoters state Lean is not about waste, they probably mean Lean is not solely about eliminating waste, as waste elimination is a means, not a goal.

Striving to eliminate all waste will not likely end up with a Lean organization.

Yet solving problems that hinder the organization to achieve its Goal is mandatory and as waste is the result of problems, Lean is about waste.

I hope this helps.

Readers are welcome to share their thoughts.


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Goal Tree Chronicles – Why You should NOT use a model

A Goal Tree is a logical structure linking the Goal of the organization to all subordinate Necessary Conditions (NCs) to achieve the Goal. The top most NCs are called Critical Success Factor (CSFs) in order to highlight their importance: they are the last things to achieve in order to achieve the Goal.

These CSFs should remain few, three to five (rule of thumb), as it is not reasonable to have a Goal depending on too many CSFs. If they are too many, chances are some of them are overrated NCs and should return some level deeper into the Tree .

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Yet saying three to five and with Eli Goldratt’s first (universal?) definition of the Goal, many will think about having maximum Throughput (T), minimum Operating Expenses (OE) and minimum Investment (I) as CSFs.

Indeed, they may very likely be found somewhere in the Tree, but are they always CSFs?

Some consultants and/or Theory of Constraints practitioners suggest having a generic skeleton of a Goal Tree ready, with T, OE and I at the top and then fill the underlying NCs with the organization’s related requirements.

I do understand the idea, but do not endorse it.

Why You should NOT use a model

A generic Goal Tree could be a consultant’s tool, not an owner’s nor CEO’s.

A Goal stated in a Goal Tree should not vary much nor frequently over time. Neither should the CSFs and NCs. Bill Dettmer states that a properly built Goal Tree remains valid as long as market conditions do not change significantly and in most businesses, the disruptions do not happen very frequently.

An owner or his/her deputies may build one strategic Goal Tree in a decade. So what is it to the CEO or owner to invest a couple of hours going through the top of the Goal Tree without any preset in regards of the life span of the Goal Tree?

Somebody’s else strategic intent

Besides, starting with a so-called generic tree is starting with somebody else’s tree, thus giving up what makes the organization specific. Does an owner or CEO only want to go for a me-too strategy? If yes, buying a how-to book on Goal Tree building or reading my posts on this blog may suffice to copy-paste what others thought out.

I believe going through the whole process, from Goal Statement to the definition of CSFs and first layers of NCs is a very useful exercise for an owner, a CEO or anybody in charge of achieving the organization’s Goal.

Much have been written about the importance of a properly stated and verbalized Goal. Giving some time to do it and review it with a facilitator and scrutinizer is often a very useful exercise and a good investment.

So is the understanding of the links from Goal to underneath Necessary Conditions. Owners and CEOs or their deputies do not have to build the whole tree, but give high level input. From my point of view, CSFs and first layer of NCs define much of the organization’s soul, culture and how this will go on in future.


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Goal Tree Chronicles – Refrain from depicting the current reality

It is silly obvious but didn’t occur to me until I faced it: building a Goal Tree is NOT mapping the current processes, a Goal Tree is NOT made to depict the current reality.

It happened while I tried to promote the Goal Tree as a tool to reengineer a process. Nothing very complicated but a challenge to get the attendants to think out of the box and redefine a much better performing process.

Not being familiar with the actual process to be improved, I clung to the methodology: wrote the Goal on top of a large paper sheet and invited the attendants to build the Tree using the necessity logic.

So we went. I asked “in order to … we must….” and the participants gave answer after answer.

The Tree that was growing was logically sound, but at some point we realized the group wasn’t building an improved process but mapping the actual one!

While I was somewhat embarrassed for letting myself trapped, I picked some useful takeaways:

Be very specific when verbalizing the Goal.

When it comes to reengineer an existing process, the facilitator can help verbalizing the (limited) Goal. This should be done with great care in order to avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings as well as for leading the participants to think properly about the possible new process.

Refrain from depicting the current reality

This warning goes to both the facilitator and the participants. A Goal Tree is a means to list all the Necessary Conditions that must be fulfilled in a sequential order so that the Goal can be achieved.

The underlying assumption is that the current process fails to achieve the Goal and therefore a new approach has to be found. Mapping the current process is not likely to bring the group very far and chance are that minor changes (e.g. incremental improvement) on the current process will not suffice to achieve the Goal.

Building a Goal Tree is not a brainstorming which is way too open, but a necessity-logic driven investigation about what is strictly necessary to achieve, in order to achieve the Goal.

Going through the exercise of building the Tree from scratch should open new perspectives and filter out the resource consuming but not contributing nice-to-haves.

A perfectly logical tree is not enough

A logically sound Goal Tree is not necessary a good/appropriate tree. Just as it happened with the group who inspired this post, if the group builds a Goal Tree which is a mapping of the current reality, it may be logically flawless but still remain ineffective.


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