The Theory of Constraints
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So you’ve finally and decisively (hopefully) made up your mind and now your goal is clear. But did you know that no matter how good you are at what you have set out to do, your performance will most likely be sub-optimal? The Theory of Constraints, developed by Dr. Eli Godratt (1984) attempts to explain this for us. Essentially Dr. Godratt is saying what we’ve heard from youth, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link.” When a business or an individual sets out to accomplish a goal, they will be hampered by constraints.
Constraints in an organization can relate to people, supplies, information, equipment, or policies. They can be tangible and intangible (e.g. organizational culture) and can also be internal or external to an organization. Constraints on a personal level can involve skills, knowledge, attitudes, people, finances, tools/equipment, environment (e.g. domestic, geographical, national, global). As in organizations, personal constraints can be tangible or intangible, and internal or external.
If we look at constraints as related to weaknesses or vulnerabilities, then there may be several such factors relevant to your particular goal. However, in the Theory of Constraints, there can only be one (1) constraint at a time. The weakest link. The factor that causes the…greatest… vulnerability or threat to the achievement of your goal. It is instructive to understand and remember ,that it is the weakest link that sets the pace of your progress towards achieving your goal.
Therefore your goal setting activity must include up front, the identification of your constraints, and careful judgment on your part of which of them represents your weakest link. If you wish to increase the likelihood of achieving your goal, then once the constraint is identified, you must manage it. That means take action to completely eliminate it, if that is possible, or manage it well. After you have implemented your strategy to manage your constraint, you should do an evaluation to determine whether your progress towards your goal has improved. If not, then adjust your strategy and evaluate again, and repeat until the constraint is effectively managed. If yes, you can expect your progress will speed up. It is now time to determine what is the next weakest link and take action to manage that and so on.
It is very likely that , many persons have aborted, and still-born goals in their personal history. This is not because the goal was intrinsically nigh impossible. This is not because they themselves were no match for the goal. It may simply be a case of setting a worthy goal, becoming distracted and enamoured with the idea of accomplishing the goal, and embracing the positive changes that it will bring, without doing the hard work of considering the disabling factors within and externally, which may get in the way. Then reality strikes at the most inconvenient time and they lose their self-confidence, and energy, towards their vision for their lives, and self-doubt , fear and hesitation increases.
Goals are there to help us keep focus on and bring into our lives the things we value most. Yet the process of setting goals must be done properly if we are to achieve them and develop our lives in the way we desire and deserve. Have you aborted a goal because you were hi-jacked by a constraint you didn’t pay early attention to? Did you miscalculate which constraint represented your weakest link? Remember the constraint can be internal or external. Interestingly, some experts argue based on the Pareto Principle that most of our constraints are internal. How does this apply to you and your habit of setting or not setting goals? Do you cultivate a mindset of limiting beliefs? Do you suffer from procrastination or indecisiveness? Do you typically jump into things without careful analysis and reflection? Do you properly plan concerning others but poorly plan for yourself? Do you avoid asking for help from family, friends, experts, colleagues?
You owe it to yourself to live your life fully. You can do this by examining what’s holding you back in any or every area of your life, and begin crafting a plan, then taking action to eliminate the constraint, even if you discover that it is you who are standing in your own way.
Godratt’s Theory of Constraint (Parts 1 of 3)
The Theory of Constraints
Living Without Limits
Cheryll Messam, is a Personal & Professional Development Consultant, Life & Corporate Coach, Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer and LinkedIn Profile Writer. Through coaching, consultations, and training opportunities, Coach Cheryll supports Professionals who wish to master or eliminate challenging workplace, interpersonal, productivity, self-confidence, and career issues or set and accomplish realistic goals.
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