What it takes to achieve your objective: Means, Method and Motivation

When facing a challenge, many subordinates quickly complain about the lack of means and  scarce resources. But what it takes to achieve an objective is more than just means.

The common complaints about means

Complaining about scarcity of means or resources is a convenient way to push the responsibility of the difficulty of the challenge and the possible failure to the boss, and often comes without any evidence for the resources really being scarce.

You may like my post Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are

Time allocated to achieve something can be considered as a means. If the management gives no time or too few time for some tasks but expect a result nevertheless, the complaint about not having enough time can be legit.

This is the case with daily machines cleaning  (Autonomous Maintenance) after the shift is over, allocating some time to stop production and clean, lubricate and visually inspect the machines for the sake of failure prevention. But if production is late and management orders to work till the very last minute, there is no time left for the daily basic maintenance. If this is repeating over and over, the machines’ condition may decline and a serious failure stop them for a longer period.

Some means are absolute prerequisites to achieve the objective and if they are not granted, the objective may be out of reach, despite the alternative or creative ways people try.

Means are also often confused with method or a process, and people complaining about insufficient means are in reality worrying about how to proceed. Having the appropriate means is then synonymous to knowing how to do, with the hope that this or that tool, machine, equipment, etc. will bring the solution with it.

The triple prerequisite to achieve an objective

Besides appropriate means, the method or way to proceed is another prerequisite. If you get all the parts necessary to assemble a computer but have no idea how to assemble them, you have all the necessary means but are still unable to have a working computer. Therefore, the second prerequisite, besides means, is method or know-how or knowledge, procedure, instructions, etc.

There is a third prerequisite to achieve an objective: motivation. If you have all necessary means and have necessary know-how and skills but no motivation (or will, desire), the objective will not be achieved.

The triple requirement for achieving an objective is to have appropriate Means, Method and Motivation, which can be memorized as 3Ms.

Now when assigning tasks or objectives to teams, managers better make sure the means are provided, the know-how or skills are available and check the motivation.

This post was inspired by an explanation of my friend and mentor Bill Dettmer during a Logical Thinking Process training course. You may listen and watch Bill’s explanation in the video beneath. To understand the context you may read my post Goal Tree Chronicles – Enablers vs.triggers.

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How to identify the constraint of a system? Part 5

This is part 5 of a series of posts about identifying the constraint of a system and time for wrapping up and a conclusion (of the series, not the topic!).

Newcomers to Theory of Constraints understand quite easily the concept of bottleneck but are frequently puzzled when looking for them in a real-life process. Furthermore, people have usually difficulties to distinguish bottlenecks or Capacity Constraint Resources from the system’s constraint. As only the latter controls the Throughput of the whole system, meaning it does control the system’s profitability, constraint hunters should better not mismatch the focusing point.

Through the examples in the previous posts, readers can understand that there is no such a thing like a simple trick, neither ready procedure to find the constraint, but a necessary and sometimes painstaking investigation process.

If you missed previous posts, you may check:

Some constraints can really be well hidden and remain elusive, leading analysts to be wrong when identifying it. Because of the growing number of standard and regulatory requirements, the constraint is more and more often found in the paperwork process, in quality assurance or information flow. And this is the wrong place for the constraint to be.

How to be sure the constraint is found?

With so many opportunities to mismatch the constraint, how can one be sure about having found the constraint? Well, by definition the constraint controls Throughput. Elevating the constraint is like opening a valve, the flow through the constraint increases. And as, also by definition, all other resources have excess capacity compared to the constraint, the flow should soon reach the process’ output. This enables the organization to ship more, to ship on time, take more orders and shorten time-to-cash.

For non-profit organizations, the Throughput is expressed in “Goal units”, meaning achieve more of what the organization exists for, like treating more patients for a medical center, providing more food to the homeless, etc.

Now this is quickly noticeable if the downstream process steps are waiting for supplies from the constraint, otherwise the flow from the constraint may take longer to reach the process’ end.

Be aware of the S curve and Valley of despair

As with many improvement initiative, the result may be delayed to a point that some stakeholders come to the conclusion it doesn’t work. Before getting trapped in this pitfall, the project manager or the leader should be aware of the frustration with the S curve.
When dealing with bigger projects rather than improvement activities, it’s not only the S curve the project manager and the sponsors should worry about, but also the “Valley of despair”. This valley is a low in morale following the excitement and expectations about the benefits that the new project will bring. The drop in morale comes when issues and bugs let the new solution appear worse than the old. The challenge for the leader is to get everyone as quick as possible through the valley of despair, accommodate the new way or system and eventually recognize the benefits.

Keep on alert once the constraint is found!

Now once the constraint is properly identified and the efforts to exploit and elevate it begin, the leaders should immediately take care of the consequences of releasing more “goal units” through the constraint.

  • First because the constraint will most probably move to another spot and again this can be anywhere in the process.
  • Second because upstream as well as downstream process steps may be taken by surprise. Upstreams by an increase of demand in order to supply and exploit the increased capacity. Downstream by the flushing of the work in progress that may propagate a significant wave of workload.
  • Third because management must anticipate any necessary action to sustain the flow at the new level, otherwise the success will only be sporadic and ultimately disappointing.

I recommend reading two other posts related to these warnings:


The search for the system’s constraint can be very simple and straightforward, but most often it is tricky and leads to identify wrongly some resources as culprits. It is no rocket science but needs investigation skills and rigor. Experience helps a lot and the good news is that taking care of constraints is never-ending, so experience may accumulate fast.

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

About the author, Chris HOHMANN

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