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#31 Theory of Constraint Innovation and Optimising Outcomes with Lewis Trigger

proudly Brought to you in association with SA Partners.


Welcome to episode 31 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have Mr Lewis Trigger on the show with me today. Lewis is a constraint innovation expert, a specialist helping organisations and people realise vast untapped resources and capability. Lewis studied with Dr Eli Goldratt, the founder of the Theory of Constraints and has taken these learnings to new levels. Lewis has dedicated his career to helping others unlock potential and create a better future. Let's get into the episode. Lewis, thank you for joining us today.

Let's get into the episode.

Episode Summary

Lewis Trigger, an Australian Israeli, has been residing in Israel for the past 41 years. He grew up in Australia, with strong Anzac traditional values: solidarity, helping your mates, doing the right thing. His grandfather and uncles fought in Gallipoli and the second world war. He also had a solid grounding in Jewish culture. After graduating from high school, as a 17-year-old, Lewis was sent to Israel by the Jewish agency to gain experience in the Israeli community. The idea was that students brought home ideas from Israel to share with the Jewish community in Australia. His travel, in the year 1973, unfortunately, coincided with the October war.

Along with other Australian-Israeli students, Lewis was sheltered in the army agricultural settlement in the Sinai Peninsula. The October war strongly influenced Lewis in connecting his future life with Israel. Lewis believes that a connection between Australia and the Middle East is desirable and possible. We are all people, and all want the same securities and love in our lives.

Lewis's initial industrial engineering experience comes from the Israeli Airforce, where he served as an officer for 16 years. He was utilised as an improvement specialist, based on the demand by the Israeli population to redirect public funding from defence (which was close to 50%). Lewis was then chosen to study with the US airforce under the guru, Dr Eli Goldratt, the founder of the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

Colonel More, his mentor with the US Airforce, also inspired him and advised Lewis's thesis; a whole TOC application for one of the Israeli Airforce's maintenance depots. Professor Renolds, another mentor for Lewis, gave him an understanding of statistics.

In his book "The Goal", Dr Goldratt describes three different situations which can be improved using the TOC framework. TOC can have a tremendous impact on many systems in life, not just in business but also in personal life. This simplicity and efficiency inspired Lewis to take TOC to the next level: constraint innovation. The key to TOC is an infinite goal, which naturally introduces a constraint, often the market. This will lead you to your critical resources, which is usually a bottleneck. You take your best resource into an asset by leveraging it. TOC is the umbrella, and Lewis leverages other management tools and frameworks like Lean, Agile, 5S and packages it into Constraint Innovation. On the one hand, it is generic, but it can also build a unique system, a glove for your hand.

Back to Lewis's thesis - The Israeli Airforce gave Lewis a promotion. He was now a Major and asked to take charge of the whole scheduling and production of one of their maintenance depots. His first TOC implementation improved planning demands from 50-60% fulfilment to over 90% without changing the demands or allocating any further resources. This significant improvement created a considerable jump for combat readiness, and all other armament depots quickly followed.

Lewis believes that coming in as the expert changes his position from participant/agent to a facilitator. The generation of improvement ideas should come from the employees of the organisation, not the consultant.

Lewis gives a further two examples of the successful implementation of Constraint Innovation in entirely different industries. The first, in public health in Australia. He facilitated a patient improvement journey for a significant South Australian hospital. The idea was to reduce the lead time for the patients. Why? To free up resources in the hospital and to improve the health of the patient. Quality of care was significantly enhanced and measured. The second, for an Australian goldmine New Crest, the third-largest in the world. Employees had already identified the constraint: the crusher that liquified boulders into tiny pebbles. The solution was not to buy another crusher but to squeeze its performance and throughput.

So what stops organisations from achieving this success? Perhaps it comes down to the difference between fast thinking (intuition, emotions) and slow thinking (logic). TOC relies on slow thinking. Traditional management belief is on efficiency syndrome at the local level and measuring utilisation of every resource. Lewis believes that effectiveness needs to be built into management to allow for (slow) time for the constraint. People respond to senior leadership, showing TOC, slow thinking, and a change of mindset from efficiency to effectivity. Employees also react to their performance measurement system—traditional management measures utilisation of every resource. Successful leadership measures the connection of local action to the result on the whole system, the constraint.

Most of the time in organisations, employees are flat at every level of the organisation. The throughput goes through, but at what expense? Frustration and lousy multitasking? One of the side benefits of slow thinking and TOC is a more focused, happier business. The whole atmosphere can become calmer, focused, and decisions made based on the constraint.

Lewis concludes his interview by discussing that constraints can be either positive or negative. He speaks about the worldwide challenge (constraint) occurring right now - Covid 19, a negative challenge. The bottleneck or critical resource is the vaccine. How do we leverage the vaccine? In Israel, they believe in getting the most out of the vaccine, prioritising the vaccine's assignments. And looking further afield to the hospital and health service, corona departments become the critical resource and must be leveraged to benefit the community. Constraints, either positive or negative, lead you to the critical resource you will leverage using TOC.


Key Takeaways

The key takeaways for me from this episode were:

  1. Clearly understand your organisation's goal. Does your organisation know it? Does everyone in your organisation understand it and have a relatable plan aligned to it?

  2. Take the time to think slowly and understand your constraint. Lewis had a great point relating to getting your hands dirty, going and seeing the operation, where the work is done. Once an organisation clearly understands its constraint, it can run improvement and overcome it to keep moving towards its goal. This focus within an organisation will bring clarity and focus in a world that often lacks it. With focus, improvement becomes much more straightforward.

  3. Consider how you are measuring and rewarding people within your organisation. Is it aligned to your organisation's goal, and does it help or hinder your current constraint? Measures, recognition and reward drive behaviour. Suppose these systems are not aligned to your organisation's goal and supporting your constraints? In that case, you will have an organisation working against itself rather than aligning in a cohesive way towards your goal.

Thanks Lewis for your positivity, your amazing practical stories and your passionate nature. It was an absolute pleasure to speak with you, and we will look forward to connecting again in the future, hopefully back in Brisbane.


07:53min people are people. And that's it. When it really comes down, we all the same desires in life. You know, we want to be secure economically. We want to be secure just in terms of our lifestyles. We want to have families, you know, we want love in our life, we want to have good relationships. I mean, these are just universal things that people want to have.

17:29min This type of mindset of TOC, where you focus on where your constraint is, and you leverage it, makes a tremendous change and makes sense.

22:18min any system that's viable, it's always got a goal that's going to be infinite, and it can be proven over and over again that the goal is not a target. The goal is going to be infinite.

28:06min Wow, look how much more we're able to get out of the system without adding anything by using those principles.

42:45min well, TOC challenges that and says it's not true. In fact, the only if you want to say, resource, if you want to say, that has to do its very best is your constraint.

43:52min a certain level of insufficient has to be built in, in order to be able to make sure that you're always going to be available for the constraint number one. Number two, we talked about it before when I told you about the 5S story with Lean, that you don't introduce work there that shouldn't be there.

48:11min with leadership, if you are able to then show the leadership the logical thinking of TOC, of basically saying ok, we have to have a change of mindset of being efficient at local levels to being effective, effective at all levels, by the way, also at local level, but it will have that effective result for the organisation.

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