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

September 18th - 21st

Toward Sustaining TOC:
The Importance of Changing Institutional Decision Models Workshop

Kevin Fox - Managing Partner, Viable Vision

The challenge of sustaining TOC in organizations is well known and a source of much frustration within the TOC community. Understanding the nature of the obstacles faced is an important step on the road to increasing the spread and sustainability of TOC. This presentation addresses that issue through the perspective of the roadmaps people use to make decisions in organizations, and how the prevailing maps confound the spread and sustainability of TOC.

The performance of organizations is based largely on the quality and effectiveness of their decisions. These decisions are made by following an established logic or process—a decision model—that structures how people think about a given decision and guides them in the right decision to arrive at. These models may be conscious or subconscious but they are the backbone of how people and organizations arrive at what to do in any given situation, very much like a roadmap guides us to arrive at a chosen destination.

The insights, processes, and logic of TOC present rather different strategies for making many mission-critical decisions in organizations—budgeting, pricing, supply chain/ operations management, performance measurement, and strategy to name a few. The TOC methods don’t just enhance or modify existing models, they often unseat them entirely, and do so at a very fundamental level unlike almost any other current methodology, requiring the re-thinking of many of the core principles on which current decision models are based.

This fundamental reality about TOC creates an enormous challenge in shifting individuals and organizations to the TOC decision processes, and an even greater challenge to sustaining TOC decision making over time. It is not enough to change the decisions that are made today in an organization, nor is it enough to demonstrate great results in using the TOC processes. As leaders at all levels move out and new leaders move into organizations, they will bring the prevailing decision models with them and undermine the TOC models without even realizing it. It has already happened in hundreds of companies where even a few changes in the management team have resulted in a rapid erosion of the application of TOC principles and a corresponding drop off in results—the current reality we see that so many companies struggle to maintain results over time.

A sustained change on a broad level requires a change not just in the decisions companies make, but a deeper change in the underlying models people use to arrive at those decisions. Until the fundamental "maps” people use to reach critical decisions have changed, people, and organizations, will find it very difficult to maintain and expand on the potential of TOC.

Using illustrations from wide ranging fields including manufacturing, service industries, government, investing and others, this talk explores the subject of decision models, how they are perpetuated and influence thinking and actions, and how TOC finds itself swimming upstream against the tide. By understanding this challenge we can better chart actions to improve the sustainability of both individual TOC implementations and the wider adoption of TOC. The talk will provide examples of such strategies, including many current actions organizations and TOC consultants have employed, as well as the direction of further steps that might be taken by individuals and the TOC community in general.

The aim is to create a discussion around a different perspective of what to change (the models or "maps” used to make decisions) to make TOC more and more widespread and sustainable.

Kevin Fox is a founding member of Viable Vision, serving as Managing Partner for the last 8 years. His passion is assisting leaders in finding and capitalizing on the underlying simplicity obscured by the apparent complexity of managing organizations. This passion was ignited 30 years ago and fostered by his years of close association with Eli Goldratt and Robert Fox in the Theory of Constraints.

As a consultant he has helped leaders across a wide array of manufacturing industries, and service sectors, including government and healthcare, utilizing TOC principles, to create dramatic improvements in performance. Among his most visible successes are:
  • Helping G.D. Searle to break critical bottlenecks in the development of Celebrex, contributing to what became the most successful drug launch in history

  • Assisting the leadership of First Solar in acquiring and applying the principles of TOC which have been integral to the company’s transformation into a world leader in solar energy

  • Collaborating with leaders to design and prove a model that is now being applied to improve the quality, speed, and efficiency of all facets of Utah’s state government
He understands that sustainable change must be directed and led by the organization’s management. As a result, his role as a consultant is to help leaders identify the root causes of their problems and develop solutions that enable them to generate rapid, large and lasting improvement. TOC’s logical thinking tools and robust applications are uniquely suited to facilitating such transformations, and have been central to Kevin’s success in helping organizations.

Kevin is the author of Aligned & Engaged: Hidden Keys for Turning Teamwork to Profit, a collection of some of the most powerful practices he has learned over the past 30 years, and one of the most accessible books for leaders seeking to develop their ability to achieve rapid improvement in their organization. He is a frequent speaker at professional societies and recognized as a leader in the TOC community. He is a graduate of Yale University, and resides in VA with his wife and three boys.

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