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Svetlana Sverchkova, Managing Director of Mainstream Communications & Consulting on management of changes for MMR magazine

20.07.2014

Under conditions of global economic changes when the external environment changes rapidly, PR companies should be able to respond timely to continuous challenges and not to be afraid of changes inside them. Unfortunately, not all companies are able to readjust quickly to changes caused by external crisis and new conditions of the market. Nevertheless, if the internal system of the agency is in true – changes occur much faster, and in this case the agency gets an additional competitive advantages. As a tool for these changes I would like to suggest you the tested TOC system.

Many people have heard or read about the Theory of Constraints (TOC), which is explained in lay language by Eliyahu M. Goldratt in his books, but even today it is used in service sector on undeservedly rare occasions. Is this perhaps due to the fact that the TOC was successfully applied only in some medical facilities and hotels of the world? And how wrong it is! Experience has proven that absolutely all TOC tools are applicable to PR-industry.

What’s the point?

In brief, the theory of constraints can be expressed in a simple formula: you work as quickly and efficiently as your weakest link works. The whole scope of the agency’s operations is a system of interrelated processes. Whether it will prosper or decline, depends on how wisely the interaction of all links and elements is built. The most important thing is to identify correctly where it works insufficient effectively and what is the key problem that slows down the quality progress of the entire system.

To identify this, the so-called TOC’s logic trees are built. There are only five of them: a current reality tree, a conflict resolution diagram, a future reality tree, a prerequisite tree and a transition tree. They are built one by one as detailed below and are aimed at search of possible solutions for fixing the problem at present and even in future.

CURRENT REALITY TREE is a tool for analysis of current problems. It helps to map out a sequence of causes and effects that define the current situation in team.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION DIAGRAM (or “evaporating cloud”) was developed by Goldratt to vaporise latent conflicts that usually underlie the long-standing recurrent problems.

FUTURE REALITY TREE serves two objectives: firstly, it allows to make sure that the action we are going to undertake will actually lead to the desired results, and secondly, this chart enables us to identify possible negative outcomes of the planned actions. These two points are very important and useful: we can “test” logically the efficiency of decisions before spending time, energy or resources on them. This helps to avoid deterioration of the situation. The tree answers the question “To what to change?”, and is a tool of strategic planning.

PREREQUISITE TREE is used when the decision on line of actions has already been taken, and it helps to implement this decision. It defines what can hinder our actions and what is the best way to overcome these obstacles. Besides, it allows to determine the sequence of actions necessary to achieve the goal. This chart to a certain extent answers the question “How to implement the change?”

TRANSITION TREE describes in great details a step-by-step instruction for decisions implementation and a logical justification for each step. In fact, this is a detailed roadmap for achievement of your goals, which completes the answer to the question “How to implement step-by-step changes?”

How to apply

Firstly, learn the rules of building. The process of building will take at least five days (one tree per day) for the first time, but continuous practice will help you to achieve colossal successes. Currently, there are plenty of books that describe in detail how to do this. My favourite is written by William Dettmer.

To begin with, it is necessary to identify 5-10 problems that you want to solve and understand, which of them is the key problem. Then, using the well-defined rules, each logical tree should be gradually built. They are all interconnected: once you find a key problem in the first tree, you can proceed to building of the second one and so forth.

Ask you team for help – they can help both to identify the key problems and to build interrelations between them. It is very useful to “brainstorm” together and come up with ideas for “evaporating clouds”, which will need several breakthrough ideas that will serve as a basis for further trees.

In general, TOC tools help to evaluate every managerial decision and to understand how efficient it will be for resolution of current problems and accordingly – how quickly you will be able to change something inside the company and what solutions will be the best.