A Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints (TOC)





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Taylor & Social Darwinism

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Paradox of Systemism




Yes, There Is More

This page is a place holder for a number of things that I want to address, in fact, need to address.

The bulk of this website was written over the period 2003-2004.  The drum-buffer-rope pages; especially make-to-stock, received a small overhaul in April/May 2005.  The replenishment page got an overhaul in June 2006.  The evaluating change page was written near the end of 2005, to replace one called accounting for change, and it didn’t really get the complexity wrung out of it until December 2007.  More recent pages are described in the postscripts below.

At the end of 2004 I knew that we had been down this path, the path of industrial systemism, several times before in the last 100 years.  Goldratt’s journey is just the latest and maybe the most significant.  It was apparent that Deming had “been there done that” – well almost – and that nobody had listened.  Actually that is not entirely true; some people did listen.  Henry Neave listened, H. Thomas Johnson listened, and Donald Wheeler the student of Deming who was the student of Shewhart listened and carries the knowledge forward.  However, I was amazed at the mis-information, or rather, mis-interpretation that surrounds Deming.  Maybe it isn’t even mis-interpretation, but mis-appropriation of his name in support of something that other people wanted to believe that he stood for.

If I was amazed at what Deming had done and had been misinterpreted for, I was absolutely dumbfounded at Taylor.  Almost everything that I read about Taylor, and believed, is wrong.  How do I know that?  I went and read what Taylor said himself and it bore no relationship what-so-ever with what other people said that he had said, or said that he stood for.

How is it that these two gentlemen, so incredibly important as they are, have been so strongly mis-interpreted?  How is it that one set of actions can be interpreted as the direct opposite and then so readily bought into by others?  Why do we so readily want to believe and re-believe these wrong stories?  What comfort does it bring to us?

Not unrelated to this is the interpretation of Japanese approaches to industrialization and their transmission back across the Pacific Ocean to America, often severely distorted in the process.  It is the same issue.  From the West to the East the message is clear and undistorted, but on the return trip from East to West most of the message is lost.  We are repeating with Lean the same errors that we have experienced twice before.  The content may be there in part, but the context has been stripped clean.

If we don’t learn from this, we will just continue to make the same basic error, time and time again, that is for certain.

I was also interested in organizations as communities, and had bought into the idea that hierarchy and bigness were bad in some way, but it was not clear to me how.   That idea didn’t survive as I will explain in a minute.

In early 2006 I began to play with an idea that a fundamental lack of exposure of individuals to “industrial experience” underlies the paradox of why common sense in this environment so often isn’t.  I think common sense should be common, but if we are deprived of the common experience, or some other prior experience blocks us from future learning, then common sense isn’t necessarily common at all. 

I shared my draft of that idea with the late John Caspari and I am especially grateful for the one line e-mail that came back, it gave me considerable confidence that I was on the right track.  That material is basically available at the moment as a PowerPoint, stripped to the bare bones and called Values, Beliefs, and Industrialization.  That PowerPoint stands on its own two feet without modification, but I have since made the operating distinction that we are dealing with, in the words of Taiichi Ohno, “beyond common sense.” 

More recently a number of important things fell into place.  Bill Dettmer sent to me an audio disk of Jerry Harvey talking about the Abilene Paradox and negative fantasies.  Ah, how often had I heard negative fantasies and had not known what they were, or how to handle them, or indeed what gave rise to them.  Harvey’s work lead me to Elliott Jaques and all I can say is thank goodness the psychologists understand (because apparently nobody else does).  Elliot Jaques shows how hierarchy should be enabling, and offers a view on human capability, and maturation of that capability, which is the antithesis of most of the pulp that masquerades as management literature (and I mean the material coming out of our best universities).

Finally, my personal fascination with tacit knowing and abduction in logic, as a process of learning, dragged me back to several books written by Gregory Bateson, and another one written on Bateson by someone else.  Bateson’s emphasis on errors of logical type explains to me why we observe what we observe of the interpretation of Deming, Taylor, and currently of Lean and Theory of Constraints.  It also has independent and powerful congruence with the work of Elliott Jaques.

I’ve tried, once again, briefly, to capture the germ of the ideas of Harvey, Jaques, and Bateson in a Power Point; Logical Types, Clouds, and Fantasies.  A stand-alone text will have to wait, and maybe graphics are far more effective in any case.

Bateson’s work introduced me to the concepts of epistemology, and I began to learn as a doctor of philosophy why we are doctor’s of philosophy and ought to remain so.  Until we are willing to learn how we know what we know, we are “bound” to continue repeating the errors of the past that we have observed in applying systemic approaches to industrialization.  We still don’t understand the “patterns that connect.”

As I said at the start of this page, there are a number of things that I want to address, in fact, need to address; it requires time to access the information and winnow the wheat from the chaff.  There is no shortage of chaff.  But at least I hope that I have given you some indication of the direction that I believe that we need to take.  If nothing else, at least there are a couple of Power Point presentations available in the meantime.

Postscript 1

I put some time aside in March/April 2008 to pummel the pages in this section into shape; they have sat around in varying degrees of incoherence since 2005.  Instead, however, I overcame a blockage regarding the Theory of Constraint’s approach to project management, Critical Chain, and consumed that carefully allotted time with writing new pages about project operations rather than rescuing these old pages on broader and more fundamental issues.

At the same time a need arose to introduce healthcare and to differentiate between Theory of Constraints and Lean.  If we don’t understand this difference now, then we, in the West, are going to go down the same path of “current fad = eventual failure.”  That people are open to such fads is powerful evidence that we all want to improve, and I care a great deal that failure to improve will be read as a fact that we can’t improve, rather than as a failure to truly understand the underlying and fundamental problem.

Writing about projects gave me some insight into how much multiple parallel dependencies in healthcare are the cause of so much of the chaos and falling productivity there.  A significant issue is that without an underlying logistical approach – without bringing time into the focusing process – we will not know the difference between the important and the urgent in healthcare.  The Toyota Production System, upon which Lean is loosely modeled has an underlying logistical process embedded within it.  Lean unfortunately has been ported to healthcare without this.  Not knowing where to focus, and why, therefore becomes totally non-systemic.  “Totally non-systemic” is a nice way of saying “reactionary.”

Having to write something to differentiate Lean and Theory of Constraints has been, in retrospect, a useful exercise because it helped me to frame how to deal with the jumble of Toyota, Kaizen, and Lean.  New English translations of the early work of Shingo and Ohno are also now available and that should help even further.

I am reminded, more and more, that the fundamentals – well almost all of the fundamentals – that we must address were identified and effectively dealt with between the 1880’s and the 1920’s.  That is they arose with industrialization and were overcome.  The only aspect which had to wait until the 1970’s was the formalized concept of a weakest link.  If we return to the original work of Taylor, Deming, Ohno, Shigeo, and Goldratt, we will be so much better off.  To do so begs that we accept responsibility ourselves rather than to transfer it to someone else.

Postscript 2

Recently I said to a good friend something to the effect that I had a few loose ends to tidy up on my website.  I realized later that this has been a consistent story for longer than I cared to consider.  But it is closer to the truth now than ever before.  Early in 2009 I made a concerted push to finish the page that I had come to call the paradox of systemism.  And at the end of 6 or 7 weeks of concentrated work; 19,000 words or so, and 58 diagrams, I had to put it aside.  And in a way that was useful.

It was useful because I was trying to explain things by not using clouds and also by using clouds, now I have less reluctance to use clouds in that text, but will retain that two-stage approach.  However, a number of other important things happened.  Fellow New Zealander Gavin Cherry introduced me to the concepts of Russell Ackoff – as though I had come from another planet – which sent me off into a parallel universe.  Ackoff appears to have had a very strong influence on Deming’s Systems Approach.  Moreover, I understood for the first time the huge breach that exists between the original system’s thinkers and the later system dynamicists.  Its that same damn old dichotomy once again (no not again); the systemic view versus the reductionist view.

Access to Ackoff’s work occurred at a particularly timely juncture and I started to incorporate it deeply within my own interpretation.  For instance I had been bothered for some time by Jaques hierarchy of: data, information, and knowledge.  A hierarchy shared by Bateson.  This was resolved by Ackoff’s extension from “knowledge” through to “understanding.”  In turn, his definition of “wisdom” as a “development” of understanding via values greatly aides the definitions of Jaques.  And as for “effectiveness” I couldn’t have efficiently defined that before, although I have been using it for years, until I read Ackoff.  All of these I will incorporate somehow into the paradox of systemism.  Ackoff’s approach to purposeful systems also provides a rationale for why we so readily, and continuously, make errors of logical type.

Again, and again, I am amazed at the fundamental work that went on in the 1930’s (Shewhart) through to the 1950’s (Ackoff) which hides in plain sight because our reductionist proclivities fail to bring it into the mainstream.  Much of Ackoff, although on systems, is so close to epistemology that it is hard to make distinctions.  Ackoff makes an important distinction between the cybernetics approach to systems (essentially that of Bateson’s approach) whereby a system is often viewed as a independent individual, and that of a more broader classification based upon purposiveness.  Out of this comes an understanding of the subsidiary nature of the components that make up the focal awareness of the whole system; and the extension that instrumentation, telecommunication, and computation make to our own sensory awareness.

I also learnt how, using the logic of abduction, to better explain the fundamental cloud that underlies our modern systemic industrialization and I have been using that with considerable success on a wide variety of people.  It is a considerable step forward from the earlier PowerPoint on Values, Beliefs, and Industrialization.  It didn’t “fall off the back of a truck” but evolved over several years and some damn hard work in-between.

I have been challenged on a number of occasions by the general manager of very large organization who effectively said “how come others don’t get this?”  My understanding of why others don’t get this is two-fold.  The first is that their sense of identity is so strongly attached to what they do know, and therefore what they “hear” that contradict this is discounted and therefore they don’t learn anything new.  I have always tried to counter this by making the learning tacit, rather than explicit.  Of course such people are “clever” and quickly claim that they have no time to waste and therefore don’t make time to experience new learning, and so indeed don’t learn anything new (or anything old that they don’t currently know).

But more recently a second theme has revealed itself.  It comes from Michael Polanyi.  Polanyi was the scientist/philosopher and epistemologist who debunked the myth of scientific objectivism and placed subjective learning – that is tacit learning – in its rightful place in Western thought (that is centrally).  Polanyi first time round is hard going – maybe the hardest text that I have had to come to grips with to date.  I’m sure now, knowing where I was meant to go, that a secondary reading would reveal a great deal more.  In fact for a considerable period of time Polanyi served better as a physical prop under my laptop than as a source of erudition; the answer to my question within finger-tip range and used for such a base purpose instead.  The concepts of subsidiary and focal knowing come from Polanyi, and much of the argument for systems and components of systems is also fully developed by him at that time.

Polanyi’s work was framed in the early 1950’s but not published until 1958, it predates the work of Kuhn, and in places describes so exactly the nature of scientific paradigm.  And in doing so it provides for me the answer to the question that I thought that I could answer; “how come others don’t get this?”  That answer falls around Polanyi’s assertion that within any paradigm (using Kuhn’s later terminology) the facts and beliefs are self-referential.  Within a paradigm, everything, even anomaly, can be explained.

The “others” who “don’t get this,” live within a local reductionist world that is based upon their individual and personal experience.  Each and every generation discovers (or not) this for themselves.  And it is totally self-referential.  This is the epistemology that Bateson described as totemism, but the history of science in general is full of this; alchemy, and solving the problems in the belief system of alchemy  lead to chemistry, astrology, and solving the problems in the belief system of astrology, lead to astronomy.  Polanyi illustrates totemism and its relationship to modern science beautifully using occult-poison of the Zande.  It has exact abductive parallels in science, and our current industrial endeavors.

So, what was missing, was my failure to recognize that the “other side” sees an internally consistent and self-referential (essentially error-free) interpretation of the “world” in which they operate.  The issue is that “we” see their anomaly” for what it is and can explain it more fully.  The skill is to make this transformation without causing damage to the other people’s sense of identity.

I have tried to explain this (and more) in the paradox of systemism – it is long and has some important “side-bar” pages.  It is much better for having waited the better part of a year in order to be able to do this.  Nothing much was dropped out, but a missing key was added in.  It is more than just the Theory of Constraints, but it is also exactly the Theory of Constraints.

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