A Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints
How Many Layers?
The layers of resistance are an integral and – I would argue – pivotal part of implementing any Theory of Constraints application; logistical, non-logistical, corporate or personal. There are in fact a number of different verbalizations by various authors and each of these seeks to make finer subdivisions than the original 5 layers. Let’s work through these verbalizations to ensure that we are familiar with them all. Then we will attempt to synthesize a composite verbalization that is both compact and useful. Then, at the end of this page, we will present a table to map all of the verbalizations onto the appropriate Thinking Process tool.
Let’s have look then.
The earliest public domain verbalization of the 5 layers of resistance appears to be in Goldratt’s My Saga dating from 1996 (1). However, the concept predates this by some several years.
(1) Raising problems having one thing in common – it’s out of our hands.
(2) Arguing that the proposed solution cannot possibly yield the desired outcome.
(3) Arguing that the proposed solution will lead to negative effects.
(4) Raising obstacles that will prevent the implementation.
(5) Raising doubts about the collaboration of others.
In this first published verbalization we see the basic framework; the problem, solution, reservations, obstacles, and leadership issues.
However, it wouldn’t be too long before other people began to see additional subtlety and introduce additional layers.
Lepore and Cohen published a 6 layer version of the layers of resistance in their Decalogue (2). Here the second layer – the solution – is broken into two; disagreement about the direction of the solution, and lack of faith about the completeness of the solution. Let’s have a look.
(1) Disagreement about the problem.
(2) Disagreement about the direction of the solution.
(3) Lack of faith in the completeness of the solution.
(4) Fear of negative consequences generated by the solution.
(5) Too many obstacles along the road that leads to the change.
(6) Not knowing what to do.
In addition to the new subdivision we can also see additional richness in the last 3 layers as well.
Chad Smith, in an appendix to Debra Smiths’ The Measurement Nightmare wrote an additional verbalization of the 6 layers of resistance (3). Again the original second layer – the solution – has been broken into two.
(1) Disagreement about the nature of the problem.
(2) Disagreement about the direction of the solution.
(3) Disagreement as to whether the solution will result in the desired effects that are necessary for the organization.
(4) Disagreement that the solution has no disastrous side effects.
(5) Disagreement that the solution is viable in the environment.
(6) Unverbalized fear.
We saw how this particular verbalization had been rephrased in the language of agreement on the page that we came from – the page on agreement to change.
Now we enter “internet territory.” Efrat Goldratt is credited with developing 9 layers of resistance, but I only have a transcript of the event (4). Never-the-less let’s include it until a more official source is located.
Here, the original first layer – the problem – is now broken down into 3 parts. The original second layer remains broken into two parts as above. The original forth layer – obstacles – is now subdivided as well into; obstacles, and communicating/implementing the intermediate objectives that overcome the obstacles.
(1) There is no problem
(2) I think the problem is different
(3) The problem is not under my control
(4) I have a different direction for a solution
(5) The solution does not address the whole problem
(6) Yes, but the solution has negative outcomes
(7) Yes, but the solution can not be implemented
(8) It is not exactly clear how to implement the solution
(9) Undefined / fear
This is the most complete verbalization to date. Once you have seen each of these layers in action you won’t forget the sequence.
If we have a good 9 layer verbalization, why compress things back into 5 layers? Well, in part because the sequence; the problem, the solution, reservations, obstacles, and leadership is fundamental. It is also easier to understand and remember without prior experience. If we need more detail we can always come back to one of the more extended verbalizations presented here.
Firstly, I want to “borrow” Lepore and Cohen’s second layer subdivision of “direction” and “completeness” of the solution and make them one composite layer. Secondly, I want to keep the third to fifth layers as simple as possible. Thirdly, I really want to make a fundamental distinction in the first layer. The distinction does exist in Efrat’s 9 layer version, but it is not sufficiently explicit.
This distinction is based upon experience in one large factory – in fact the largest factory of its kind in the world – where there was an MRP system that finite scheduled one group of machines as a constraint. This was interpreted by the management as a quasi drum-buffer-rope solution and thus neither heaven nor hell was going to allow a true drum-buffer-rope modification to be implemented. What to do?
There was no disagreement (after about a week) on the extent of the problem – very long lead times and huge work in process. But clearly there was real disagreement about the nature of the cause, the nature of the problem. The constraint machines were considered to be identified and fully exploited already so they couldn’t be the cause. Therefore the “nature” of the problem was identified as batching policy. Therefore the “direction” of the solution became a change in batching policy and we could show how this would substantially reduce many of the problems (but not all because we didn’t address the real core issue).
Thus I find the previous verbalizations lacking in this distinction between the extent of the problem and the true nature and cause of the problem. Therefore I want to construct a composite first layer that addresses this. This is what I have come up with.
(1) We don’t agree about the extent or nature of the problem.
(2) We don’t agree about the direction or completeness of the solution.
(3) We can see additional negative outcomes.
(4) We can see real obstacles.
(5) We doubt the collaboration of others.
This is simple and compact without detracting from the richness of the more involved verbalizations. Moreover, it allows us to examine the richness in the first and second layers. And to do this we really need an appreciation of Senge’s detail and dynamic complexity (5).
In essence we can subdivide layers 1 & 2 into two;
(1a) We don’t agree about the extent of the problem – detail complexity.
(1b) We don’t agree about the nature of the problem – dynamic complexity.
(2a) We don’t agree about the direction of the solution – dynamic complexity.
(2b) We don’t agree about the completeness of the solution – detail complexity.
When we reach the discussion on the Thinking Processes we will see that there is one tool that is especially suited to dynamic problems – the cloud. There are two tools that are more especially suited to the detail of the problem and of the solution, the current reality tree and the future reality tree. These three devices together allow us to determine the problem and to determine a solution. However the key is the cloud.
We have presented a number of verbalizations of the layers of resistance and derived a compact synthesis that will be useful later in these pages. For the time being, let’s map these various verbalizations against the Thinking Process tools and see if that better helps to understand the interrelationships.
Five layers, six layers, or nine layers; it doesn’t really matter too much. Remember, most people will automatically relate to the original 5 layers based upon their own experience. However, people who are facilitating the process should be aware of some of the finer subdivisions.
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(1) Goldratt, E. M., (1996) My Saga to improve production, Avraham Y. Goldratt Institute, 7 pp.
(2) Lepore, D., and Cohen, O., (1999) Deming and Goldratt: the theory of constraints and the system of profound knowledge. The North River Press, pp 83-88.
(3) Smith, C., In: Smith, D., (2000) The measurement nightmare: how the theory of constraints can resolve conflicting strategies, policies, and measures. St Lucie Press/APICS series on constraint management, pp 156-159.
(4) Bakker, P., (2000) Notes from the 4th Annual TOC For Education International Conference, Monterrey, Mexico, August. Seminar delivered by Rami Goldratt on the 9 layers developed by Efrat Goldratt.
(5) Senge, P. M., (1990) The fifth discipline: the art & practice of the learning organization. Random House, pp 3, 23, 71-72.
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