A Guide to Implementing the Theory of Constraints (TOC)





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Dead Horse Strategies



Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you’re riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.  However in business we often try other strategies with dead horses, including the following;

Buy a stronger whip.

Change riders.

Threaten the horse with termination.

Say things like, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse.”

Appoint a committee to study the horse.

Arrange to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

Lower the standards so that dead horses can be included.

Appoint a tiger team to revive the dead horse.

Ride the dead horse “outside the box.”

Buy a commercial off-the-shelf dead horse.

Create a training session to increase our riding ability.

Reclassify the dead horse as “living-impaired.”

Compare the state of dead horses in today’s environment.

Change the autopsy report to declare that “This horse is not dead.”

Kill all the other horses, so this one will look the same.

Name the dead horse “Paradigm Shift” and keep riding it.

Ride the dead horse “smarter” not harder.

Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.

Do a time management study to see if the lighter riders would improve productivity.

Declare that “No horse is too dead to beat.”

Call the dead horse a “joint venture” and let others ride it.

Provide additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.

Do a cost analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.

Purchase an aftermarket product to make dead horses run faster.

Declare the horse is “better, faster, and cheaper” dead.

Form a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.

Declare that “This horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.”

Get the horse a Web site.

Promote the horse to a supervisory position.


Time for a question.  Did any of these seem vaguely familiar to you?  A few I suspect.  So, now that you have read about all the things that you shouldn’t do and already know, please go to the beginning of this website and check out all the things that you haven’t read about that you should do and don’t know!


The dead horse strategies were reproduced with the permission of Bill Dettmer.  From Appendix F, Strategic Navigation.  ASQ Press (2003).