Visual Thinking with Theory of Constraints

I am a big fan of Theory of Constraints (TOC). I read the book “The Goal” years ago – actually after I was presented the great application “Flying Logic”. Ever since then was I wondering why Flying Logic is so expensive. It is such a great tool and so applicable to many kind of issues – but simply too expensive. When I was starting with the Visual Thinking for IBIS application did i have Flying Logic in mind. I wanted a Mac tool that is similar to Flying Logic, but easier to use.

I have now done a big step in that direction. I have released the first version of “Visual Thinking with Theory of Constraints“. It is an early release as the visual language is more complex and will need some adjustments. Next problem is that TOC has several different diagram types and the app needs to cater for it. But, I have a workable first version.

Please add comments to the project page.

Switch to new blog side

I changed my blog side. It is now integrated into my webpage www.kneupner.de. New material will be published there. Old material is converted manually. Therefore not everything is available yet through my “new” blog side.
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Flying Logic for Visual Thinking

Some time ago, I was pointed towards a software tool called “Flying Logic” from Sciral. I was told that Flying Logic would support to plan backwards from the goal. I like software that helps me to display my thoughts (I call that “Visual Thinking”) and I fully subscribe to the thinking backwards idea (famously promoted by Stephen Covey’s “7 habits for highly successful people” as “Begin with the End in Mind“). 

The structure of this post
Therefore I downloaded the software and used the 30 days trial to play a bit around. Flying Logic is actually a tool that maintains a directed graph. Each node of the graph has a type that is shown as a description. Therefore you can have a “goal” node or an “action” node. This is very simple and you can only influence the colour of the node frame based on the type. Flying Logic auto-layouts the graph without giving you many possibilities to influence the graph. The focus is clearly on clarity – not on creating the nicest graphs. But the result is decent. You can use these facilities to create your own node types and therefore to create your own thinking “grammar”. As an example, I tried to prepare this blog entry based on a simple grammar using “Fact”, “My part of the story”, and “Conclusion”. It isn’t the perfect grammar yet, but it allowed me to arrange the pieces of this entry first visually before the writing. Which was for once fast and straightforward. On the support page you can see that other people use the tool for areas like web-page design where they use their own custom-designed grammar to plan a webpage.  
Flying Logic has a set of already defined grammars “out-of-the-box”. Those grammars are mainly related to “Theory of Constraints” (TOC). TOC is a so-called management philosophy. Thankfully, Flying Logic comes with an eBook explaining TOC. Whilst what I read was really interesting I quickly found out that the eBook is very dense, i.e. packed with information. Hooked as I was I started to map out the content of the book and created a TOC mindmap – another way of “Visual Thinking”. By now I use Flying Logic regularly and use my mindmap as a guide to the eBook and to TOC. 
Mindmap: Theory of Constraints with Flying Logic
TOC provides different model types that help you focus on different aspects. Two of these models are the “Current Reality Tree”, which is used to analyse the weaknesses of the current situation, and the “Future Reality Tree”, which is used to envision a future solution. The latter, the Future Reality Tree, is actually the model type that let to me learning about Flying Logic. You start with the goal and analyse from there backwards how to achieve that goal. The provided grammar helps to think in a constructive way.
Overall, Flying Logic is a simple tool that allows you to display your thoughts. It comes with strong support for a backward thinking (“Begin with the End in Mind”) due to the underlying theoretical framework TOC. My understanding to the framework is available here as a mindmap. But Flying Logic is not limited to the framework and you can easily create your own graphs types. The tool isn’t cheap, but it was worth the money for me. 

Business Motivation Model

I mentioned the Business Motivation Model earlier. The Business Motivation Model is a model that explains core terminology for an organisation. The model is an OMG standard.

I got aware of the model during a conference when one of the main authors (the Business Rules expert Ronald Ross) explained it briefly. It doesn’t surprise that he uses the model to explain how Business Rules fit into an organisation.

I used the model to define the strategy of our department. The big advantage is that it explains easily the difference between concepts like “Vision”, “Mission”, “Goal”, “Objective”, “Strategy”, and “Tactic”. Having the clear distinction of these terms facilitates discussions that allow focusing on the “why” behind your activities. The terminology and relationships between the concepts provided by the model make it simple to see the bigger picture and how everybody’s work relate to our goals.

The model includes further related concepts as can be seen from the diagram on the right side. 

The “Why”

Sometimes, so see/hear/learn something that immediately connects with some loose ends that you have in your mind. During my MBA did “learn” about the importance of strategy. How everybody needs to understand the connection between the current work and the overall direction. Every now and then you can extend your understanding. On a conference in June about EA and BPM for example, did I learn about the “Business Motivation Model” which can be used to describe the main concepts like vision, mission, goals, and strategies. And now, on my “Leading Others” course, this video was shown. Another tidbit, that connects some pieces of the puzzle. Enjoy.

New Mindmap: Information Rules

I added a new mindmap on my website. This one covers the first chapter of a book on the nature of the information business. It shows some interesting aspects that everybody has to keep in mind when developing a business model on information. Why only the first chapter? Because it is the overview chapter. If you are interested in more on a specific topic, just read the according chapter. 

New Mindmap: Enterprise Architecture as a Strategy

I released another of my mindmaps. This is on an Enterprise Architecture book that I can recommend for people working in the EA area or for people coming from the business side to IT. I refer to the 4 maturity stages on a regular base as the model sets the scene for much of my current work.