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Conflict Clouds

If you advocate or are a practitioner using Theory of Constraints, then you are likely familiar with Conflict Clouds.

For example, in business we face a common conflict on doing whatever it takes to satisfy the customer (damn the costs) or maximize profitability (damn the customer service), which makes being a leader a challenge as indicated in the diagram below.

Do not bother reading any further until you watch the following video clip. I love watching television shows since some of the writers are so brilliant in being able to portray real leadership challenges even if they occur in a fictional setting. Go ahead and watch, I will wait.

So … what did you think? Who had taken the correct position? Was one party more correct than the other? Or was this just a simple nice distraction?

Both parties were absolutely correct, but it was the subtle difference between Strategic and Tactile that increased the conflict. What was missing is finding the balance so that both concerns are being addressed.

Max was definitely concerned about the environment and decided to treat the situation like a “burning platform” while the ER Doctor Lauren Bloom was facing a head-on crisis of needing additional capacity - the perfect example of a Conflict Cloud.

Finding the Balance

We witness this constant leadership struggle of how to evolve an organization forward strategically while still toiling daily to get that 100 tons of coal out of the door. We witness it with Lean Deployments where companies want to accomplish World-Class feats at the speed of light but not allowing the culture speed within their company to absorb change. Hence the deployment falters and is considered a failure. It can be the umbrella of Lean or random acts of method implementation like 5S, Kanban, SMED, etc. the company focuses on an initiative and quickly moves to the next … with the organization feeling that they are enduring through a “flavour of the Month”, instead of celebrating milestones accomplished along the journey.

Finding the balance is a challenge and if you operate with a multi-site organization the challenge just become exponentially more challenging.

Here are few suggestions that may help.

Establish a Baseline

This is actually pretty easy but can be time consuming. You need to graph “Demonstrated Output”. Get rid of all the noise and pick a pay point to graph and just accept what the numbers tell you. It can be the number of widgets invoiced daily, the number of customers processed, pounds of material shipped or pounds of material received. Indeed it may end up looking like an EKG chart but now you have an idea of our opportunity especially if you look at the most productive data point and use that as your target (the process has already spoken that it is capable you just need to make it repeatable).

Categorize Your Day

I typically suggest fragmenting your day into 3 segments.

  1. Start of day until mid-morning: deal with any issues or Disturbances to Flow

  2. Mid-day: focus on administrative chores (Charts, Reports, approvals)

  3. Mid-afternoon to end-of-day: work on Strategic Development which can include Lean Deployment, enhancing your Value Stream, Kata or Kaizen activities

You Have More Time and Resources Than You Think

If you look at a specific project with a singular focus it may appear overwhelming and will likely become a deferred project that will never be accomplished. Instead break down the project into tasks and sub-tasks that can be completed within 5-10 minutes by a person or can you group a bunch of people together.

I am always puzzled why plants have to be so messy. If one person can devote just 5 minutes per day towards cleaning that would contribute over 21 hours of cleaning annually. That's a lot of cleaning.

Ultimately we need to find the balance to devote our “Gift of Time” to both Strategic and Tactile initiatives. We need the Strategic because for most organizations 80% of revenue stems from goods and services designed and delivered within the past 5 years and of course we need the Tactile since that generates the cash-flow to fund the Strategic.

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