Theory of Constraints

I am still amazed at how few ‘Agilists’ do not know much, if anything, about the Theory of Constraints. Many are starting to hear that they should read, ‘The Goal’ . But I am amazed how few have actually read it, or other of Eliyahu Goldratt’s books. And even those who have read it may not really know or understand things like the basic 5 steps .  I would urge anyone reading this that hasn’t read Goldratt do so. It’s not a magic bullet and many systems that we come across are not necessarily linear flow, but even those can be modelled as a first approximation in that way and some level of optimisation can be made, just through applying the 5 steps.

Respond to change

The Agile Manifesto talks about responding to change rather than following a plan.  The first part of this is to avoid following a plan with no thought, even though circumstances have changed.  The second, often not fully understood, part is around the word respond.

There are two words that describe actions taken when change occurs.  There is the instinctive, quick reaction and then there is the slower and more thoughtful response.  In terms of the Chimp Paradox we’re talking of the Chimp and the Human brain.  The Chimp is more instinctive and emotional responding based on historical patterns.  The Human is more logical and uses reason and can go outside the normal patterns.

The book Thinking Fast and Slow describes the same split in a slightly less evocative way using System 1 and System 2, but describes the rationalising nature of the brain that can often fill in false logic for the decisions made by System 1 (The Chimp) to fool us into thinking that we’ve used logic and rational thinking to make the decision when it was the lightening quick System 1(Chimp).

The creators of the Agile Manifesto seem to have understood this distinction when drafting the value statement.  They clearly suggest that responding to change is a more preferred action to slavishly following a plan disregarding the changes that may occur during the journey.  This is not a knee jerk reaction to things turning on their heads, it’s a thoughtful, rational and logic plan of action.

So in the heat of a change we should not just take the first action that comes to mind, but should undertake a thoughtful analysis and then take action, if needed.  RESPOND to change not REACT to change.

Respond v React