Friday, December 5, 2014

Implementing the Theory of Constraints: 2562.2 to 2583.3 Miles

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Virtual Hike
Segment 39 Map
Animated Street View

The route is in eastern Montana. There is an error in the plan. The route will need to go into Forsythe, take a frontage road near Interstate 94 and go north where the 94 is on the map. Go north to intersect the planned route.

The road is narrow and old, but there isn't much traffic.

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Implementing the Theory of Constraints

Random Ball in the center median


The goal of the training phase is to deliver a body capable of averaging 24 miles a day to the start of the 48 state hike. This is no different than the goal of a production process being to deliver 24 units of a product on a given date. 

There are five steps to the Theory of Constraints Process.

  1. IDENTIFY the system's constraint(s)
  2. Decide how to EXPLOIT the system's constraint(s)
  3. SUBORDINATE everything else to the above decision
  4. ELEVATE the system's constraints.
("The Goal: A process of ongoing improvement." Eliyahu Goldratt)

Let's look at these one at a time.

Do you see the moon?

IDENTIFY the system's constraint(s)

Yesterday, we determined the time available to train is the constraint for the training phase. There are many ways to find time in the day and I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. Don't do it right now. After you learn this process, consider time as a product and work backwards to find the constraint and go through the process.

Decide how to EXPLOIT (UTILIZE) the system's constraint(s)

Once you have found the time, it is essential to use the time efficiently. This means having the best training plan you can devise. Don't delay training to find the best plan. You can start with something simple like walk for a half-hour each day. Let's use this for the starting plan because it makes the later explanations easier.

SUBORDINATE everything else to the above decision

Once you set aside a half-hour each day, make that time untouchable for anything. Even if training is not the most important thing in your day. Even if it is the LEAST important thing in your day. 

A surprising thing happens when doing this. Everything else in the day becomes more efficient. Let's say the half-hour is during the lunch break. You will do everything before lunch more efficiently because if you don't, you miss your half-hour. You will do everything after lunch more efficiently as you have limited your time. 

When time is limited to the least amount needed to do a job, then people tend to work more efficiently.

ELEVATE (Utilize) the system's constraints

Translation: Use the time in the most efficient way.

Make sure you use the entire half-hour. One time I was on a six-week business trip to Minneapolis. It was the type of thing where everyone wore suits or similar clothes for women. We had an hour for lunch. We  walked briskly to the food court in the nearby mall to get something to eat. Since the lines were long in the food court we wasted time in line. Then we gobbled down our food and walked briskly back. We arrived back in the classroom for about 15 minutes early and talked. The total walking time was about 20 minutes.

Nobody complained we were walking in business clothes. Nobody warmed up before walking. Nobody insisted on taking a shower before returning to class. Could these we have worked a half-hour of brisk walking into this lunch hour and still had time to spare?

Why certainly! If a person wanted to, they could bring their lunch. They could leave the classroom, walk for a half-hour in the mall and return to the classroom after a half-hour. Then they could eat their lunch during the remaining half-hour.

There is no need to stretch before walking. You might have to start at a slower pace, but stretching exercises are unnecessary for most. There is no need to walk in athletic clothes. Nobody wears athletic clothes to walk to a bus stop. 

Second Iteration

Once you get to where you can walk a half-hour each day, what's next? Time again becomes a constraint and you need to find more of it!

Let's use the same lunch hour.

How long does it REALLY take to eat a sandwich you bring from home? Maybe 10 minutes, that's all.

There are five hours of lunch during the week. You could theoretically use all five of them for walking, but it would probably leave a new walker sore and tired. I propose a different plan.

50, 45, 40, 35, 30

The order is important, but not for the reason you might think. It's important from a training perspective, not from "the student paper" perspective.

When I look at this, I say, "Great, if I miss time early in the week, I can slip the miles until later in the week!" If this is done, at best the walker will find themselves walking 40 minutes each day. At worst, they will need to find time to walk 200 minutes on Friday.

I'll explain more about this in a later post, but for now, if you miss the goal one day, skip the day. If you want to walk more on the last day because you feel good, do not. It has a ripple effect through the whole training program.

Don't do it my way!

This example was to illustrate the process of the Theory of Constraints, not to dictate an answer.


This process will apply to any task from walking, to finding time to making blog posts to spending time with your family.

There is a saying among the Jewish people that learning without doing is like a load of books on an ass. I say there is no learning without doing, so don't waste time reading if you don't intend to implement at least part of what's in the reading. Napoleon Hill says there is no learning without teaching. 

If anyone decides to test this theory, I'd appreciate it if you leave a comment about how it worked.

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