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The Five Focusing Steps
  The underlying process used in all aspects of TOC is the Five Focusing Steps. This method helps us to focus our efforts to maximise system improvement.

It begins with the assumption that any system has something holding it back, preventing it from achieving more of its goal – a constraint. The first step is therefore to identify this constraint.

Step 1 - Identify the constraint.
If a constraint governs the output of a system, then before the system output can be improved, there must be a clear idea of where that constraint is!

Step 2 - Exploit the constraint.
If a system is only capable of producing at the rate of its constraint (a chain is only as strong as its weakest link), then that part of the system must be kept busy all of the time and squeezed for all it is worth! One unit lost at the constraint is a unit lost for the system as a whole.

Step 3 - Subordinate to the constraint.
If there is a weakest link in a chain, then it follows that the rest of the chain has the ability to produce more than the weakest link. The role of the rest of the chain is not to produce more than the weakest link. Instead, it should help support it or be subordinate to its needs, ensuring the constraint is able to focus on doing only what it is meant to.

Step 4 - Elevate the constraint.
Eventually the system will reach a point where its constraint has been exploited or squeezed to its maximum. At this point, investment in additional capacity is usually considered, and this is known as “elevation” of the constraint. The elevation step is usually, but not always, a strategic decision.

Step 5 - Do not let Inertia become the constraint.
Once the system constraint has been elevated, the constraint will move to a new point in the system! The system therefore cannot be managed the same way as before and Step 1 must be revisited. In this way, a process of continuous improvement begins.

Please click on the links opposite to see a brief flash demonstration of the Five Focusing Steps in:

Manufacturing or operations
IT industry
Services industry



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