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Sustainability: Moving from Common Sense to Common Practice
2016 International Conference
Leesburg, VA - National Conference Center

September 18th - 21st


The Challenge of Complex Systems: Finding TOC's Place in the Firmament

H. William DettmerSenior partner, Goal Systems International



If TOC is so damned good, why aren't more people, and organizations lining up to embrace it? Why has it been so difficult to gain broad, sustained acceptance? I submit that it's the result of a kind of myopia. We see tools, principles, and case studies of applications and think we know everything we need to know. But almost nobody looks at the situation from a meta-level: a systems perspective.

"If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves. . . . There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding."

- ROBERT PIRSIG, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Neither TOC nor any other management methodology (lean, six sigma, business-process re-engineering, etc.) exists in isolation... or even in a direct singular internal-external relationship (e.g., supplier-customer). It's more like part of a "neural network". The key to understanding the successes, failures, or sustainability of TOC is to examine (and understand) the meta-system in which it operates.

"You think that because you understand 'one' that you must therefore understand 'two' because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand 'and.' "

― DONELLA H. MEADOWS, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

PART-I: TOC and Complex Systems: "The Bullets and the Gun"
- Differentiating knowledge and process
- The most common analysis pitfalls
- Outer limits of methodological effectiveness
- Limits to knowledge: What do we know or not know?

PART-II: "The More Things Change... the More They Stay the Same"
- The cognitive side of change: why apathy/resistance occurs (psychological basis)
--Theories of Action
--Risk-taking vs. risk aversion
--Mental models
--"Hard-wiring"
--Neuroplasticity

- Change strategy
--Cognition and executive psychology
--How new ideas get in
--Who leads?
--Behavioral reinforcement

PART-III: Navigating by the North Star: The Goal tree

"A system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.

―DONELLA H. MEADOWS, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

- What IS a Goal Tree?
- Why bother with a Goal Tree?
- What a Goal Tree looks like
- What a Goal Tree can do for you
- Generic types of Goal Trees
- An example

"Purposes are deduced from behavior, not from rhetoric or stated goals.”

―DONELLA H. MEADOWS, Thinking in Systems: A Primer


H. William Dettmer Senior partner, Goal Systems International. Consultant to major companies, including:

Deloitte & Touche LLP, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, Lucent Technologies, NEC America, Raytheon Electronic Systems, USAF Software Technology Support Center, and U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command. Former adjunct faculty member (systems management), University of Southern California. USAF (Ret.) command pilot, logistics planner, and political affairs officer.

Author of Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints: A Systems Approach to Continuous Improve­ment (ASQ Quality Press, 1996), Breaking the Constraints to World-Class Performance (ASQ Quality Press, 1998), Manufacturing at Warp Speed (St. Lucie Press, 2000), Strategic Navigation: A Systems Approach to Business Strategy (ASQ Quality Press, 2003) and Brainpower Networking Using the Crawford Slip Method (Trafford Publishing, Inc., 2003).

Bachelor of Arts, Rutgers University; Master of Science, University of Southern California.




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