A Guide to Implementing the Theory of
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The lieutenant’s cloud addresses the case where someone wants to do something that is necessary for the success of the organization, but is unable because they are blocked by an internal procedure of the organization (1). The conflict arises because the people concerned have the responsibility for success but not the authority to carry out the needed action. Therefore, every time they need to carry out the responsibility they must obtain permission to do so – hence the firefighting. We need to remove these misalignments between responsibility and authority.
Let’s have a look at the structure of this cloud.
There is a common objective that we want to meet. In order to meet this objective, we (either ourselves or our subordinates) must protect a system need of some sort. And in order to protect the system need we must carry out an action of some kind. However, in order to meet the common objective we must also protect another system need. And in order to protect the system need we have a “rule” in place. The rule and the action are in conflict with one another.
We have to break the conflict. You know how to do this now. Most likely you will want to surface the assumptions and search out the invalid ones or write injections to overcome the valid ones. Its is likely that you will find an injection to overcome the rule.
The rule, by the way, may be perfectly acceptable, in its original context. The rule writer just didn’t understand the ramifications that the rule might have in other places at other times within the organization.
We formulate this cloud in a slightly different sequence than usual (1). We write the need that we have to protect first, and the rule that is blocking us from taking the needed action second. This is like writing the rock and the hard place first in these two boxes. Then we can write the action that we want to undertake but are blocked from doing so (third), followed by the need of the system that the rule protects (forth). Lastly we write the common objective that both needs seek to serve.
How you read the cloud depends on who you are reading it to. Quite simply, read the side of the cloud that belongs to the person you are reading it to first. This mitigates the resistance that might occur if you read the side that they have the conflict with first.
This is an extremely important little cloud. Write it out on a 3 by 5 inch system card and keep it in your top draw or under you desk blotter – somewhere that you can see it quickly to remind yourself of what to do until you have committed it to memory.
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(1) Lepore, D., and Cohen, O., (1999) Deming and Goldratt: the theory of constraints and the system of profound knowledge. The North River Press, pp 140-143.
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