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Reading through Pat Burke’s TOCforMe website again this evening I came across this little bit on why certain people/personalities might prefer Lean vs. Six Sigma vs. TOC (Theory of Constraints).

  • Some people prefer a packaged system of to do items which will lead to improvement (LEAN).
  • Some people prefer data driven decisions (SIX-SIGMA).
  • Some people prefer a “common sense” approach of problem solving and increasing profit (TOC).

Plus he’s got a good little table there comparing some of the attributes. Lean, 6 SIGMA, TOC.

I couldn’t help but think that most of the builders and remodelers that I know that really want to improve their business’ operation are the kind that would prefer lean —”a packaged system of to do items which will lead to improvement“.

A builder I know from online forum dialogs once said “Give me 3 practical tips based on what you are saying I can use Monday morning in my building business.” and I think that’s really sort of typical of how most builders want to work on their companies. Generally speaking I think they want something hard and tangible they can see rather than something soft like “a different way of thinking”. It’s kind of like thinking what pill can I take to make my business better. People want the quick fix. Not that Lean is necessarily a quick fix at all, but it does to me seem to provide a clearer hard tangible set of things to do where TOC (Theory of Constraints) comes off as too intellectual, mushy and soft to them.

I think because Lean and Six Sigma are great at fixing local problems and people can see the results on a local the can respond and react to that either positively or negatively and at least feel like something is happening. The problem is because they haven’t been to look holistically as TOC gets us to do they don’t see the effects that a Lean and Six Sigma action can have globally and tend to miss that completely or don’t relate it to the action instead attributing it to some outside influence or random act of God (their luck changed).

Personally my preference is for TOC and my reasoning goes beyond the idea that I feel TOC can encompass and embrace the other two where the other two don’t necessarily contain TOC thinking. My feeling (and now experience too) is that TOC delivers much faster (and bigger) results right out of the box (provided you can teach and sell the ideology nd methodology). And it provides a mechanism for you to find the results of your actions even though those results might not be seen locally right in front of your face. What I mean by that is while a Lean or Six Sigma program may or may not produce a dramatic change locally it’s global effect might altogether be lost or go unnoticed.

I think the typical builder-remodeler might see a change somewhere but not connect to a Lean or Six Sigma action somewhere else, whereas TOC which seems to me to force you to think systemically helps you to see the results of your action even though they might be much further down the line or far away.

Just thinking out loud trying to figure out the character of the resistance to change that I see in the typical builder and remodeler.

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J. Jerrald Hayes
Primus Inter Pares at Paradigm Projects, Ltd.
I am an architectural woodworker and general contractor turned IT, Business and Project Management consultant, software developer wannabe senior division triathlete and ski racer, Yankee fan and founder of, 360 Difference, and now too.
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