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Applying The Theory of Constraints in Six Sigma Implementation Projects

Mar 24, 2008
How Does The Theory Of Constraints Relate To Six Sigma?

Considering the above definitions and explanations, it may seem that TOC is quite similar to the concepts and procedures deployed in Six Sigma implementation projects, but the fact is that both are quite different from each other. What is even more ironical is the fact that even though both Six Sigma and the theory of constraints share the same basic objective (i.e. process improvements, they are often found in conflict with each other).

The main reason for conflicts is usually their divergent inherent characteristics in that whereas the theory of constraints utilizes a logic-based approach, Six Sigma strictly follows a data-driven approach for solving problems and making process improvements. Now, these conflicts may certainly pose a big challenge, but since both Six Sigma and the theory of constraints are necessary for making process improvements, businesses cannot just afford to replace one with the other.

In effect, if businesses want to get anywhere near to their process improvement aims and objectives, then they have no other option but to combine and make the best possible use of these two conflicting management theories.

How to Resolve Conflicts During Six Sigma Implementations

Resolving conflicts is no doubt difficult, but if the right tools and techniques are used, the task can be made much simpler. The best way to go about it is to concentrate more on the end-objective rather than waste time over selecting specific procedures and methodologies, something that often creates conflicts. For example, if TOC suggests procedures A, B, C and Six Sigma suggests procedures X, Y, Z to achieve a given objective, then the right thing to do would be to select a procedure that holds the most potential rather than waste time over defining the individual merits of these procedures.

In effect, the selections should be based more on the practical applicability of the suggested procedures rather than following a fixed theoretical approach. It also implies that the implementation team would have to let go of its old beliefs and analyze the situation from a completely new perspective. This may certainly be difficult, especially for experienced personnel having pre-conceived notions about things in general, but since options are fairly limited in this case, efforts have to be made to follow the prescribed method for resolving conflicts.

It is only when conflicts are resolved can businesses hope to move forward (i.e. combine and apply the merits of both TOC and Six Sigma so as to achieve the desired results). Until then, it will just be like sailing in a boat with a hole or betting your house on a game of poker. So, take your pick - the choice is yours!
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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