Among the most frustrating work requirements, whether in business, education, volunteering, or any other endeavor, is how to prioritize the myriad things that cry out to be done. Serious endeavors in process improvement are no different, as you typically uncover a long list of product and process issues to resolve—and all should have been done yesterday. There are as many reasons for failure as there are things to do, but the top cause is simply trying to fix too many things at once. Can I get a witness? No trouble there.
So begins my September article in Professional Builder. After we complete a LeanWeek implementation with a client, there are typically 125 to 175 specific improvement ideas and if we include plans, that number may reach 250 items. They are all coded and nicely ordered on a spreadsheet, with priorities, dollar values, degree of difficulty and champions assigned. Now begins the hard part, as every participant has their regular job to do.
I’ve learned over the years there is an absolute key to helping people break through to see the light under what appears to be a huge burden. First, they need to gain the revelation that everything identified was there before the week started, and dealing with the consequences has been consuming a huge portion of their time and energy. Once they get that, all effort becomes an investment with huge payback, not an expense in time or a distraction.
The final trick is how to prioritize using a logical process that everyone can understand and buy into. For that, I’ve never seen any method more simple, powerful, and quick than Eli Goldratt’s “Theory of Constraints” (TOC.) You can spend your life studying Goldratt and TOC but if you want to learn the essence and how to apply it to prioritization, open my article and in 10 minutes you’ll have it down pretty well.