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Thinking Tools: Our Top 10 Books

As a learning organisation, we put great store in books. These are thinking tools, really, by the innovators who have influenced our own approach to creating ‘innovations in productivity’.

Some are classics while others are newer additions to our library. Even the older books—perhaps especially those—contain ideas that are more important than ever.

1_thegoal‘The Goal’ by Eli Goldratt — The book that launched the Theory of Constraints (TOC) takes the form of a novel (written with Jeff Cox) about a manager’s quest to save his manufacturing plant and his marriage. Guided by his former physics teacher—clearly Goldratt’s avatar—Alex Rogo learns how to see the world differently. Thirty years later, the principles are no less powerful. TOC is a beautifully elegant system based on falsifiable hypothesis. It’s the method at the heart of Ensemble’s innovations in resourcing and operations.

The late Goldratt was an iconoclast who could rub people the wrong way. But he also had a sly humour and the chutzpah to follow his own path. His ideas deserve widespread attention. This ‘business novel’ lays them out in a way that seems like common sense. But, as Goldratt himself noted, common sense is so rarely common practice. He adapted the principles from the original production environment to other domains in later books, such as ‘Critical Chain’ which redefines project management.

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Analyse This

The way we look at high-performance teams has moved on since Jungian archetypes. How do mindsets affect team performance?

According to the man who founded analytical psychology, Carl Jung, we are all endowed at birth with a bias toward one of two basic attitudes—expressed in the well-known idea of the introvert and extrovert. Jung describes the introvert as a power-oriented person who focuses on their own internal image of how things should be. The extrovert on the other hand turns outward, losing themselves in another object. (more…)

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What is the Theory of Constraints?

You’ve probably heard about managing your work using the Pareto Principle, or the ‘80/20 rule’. The idea being that 80% of outcomes derive from 20% of the causes. The causes may be clear in retrospect. But how do you know what to focus on in advance?

Organisations are complex and interdependent in nature. What one person believes will improve the organisation is usually limited to their domain expertise. Many times, individuals can’t see the global impact of their localised perspectives. Compounding the issue, management rewards behaviours using metrics and accounting systems that optimise local priorities at the expense of the business as a whole. (more…)

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Building a shared vision

Culture is, pretty much, a force behind everything we do as human beings. Indeed culture is to humans as water is to fish. Asking them ‘What is water?’ would seem a futile question. It is simply, and in a profound way, the medium in which they live their lives.

To we humans, culture is both the light we project and the lens by which we see it. Sir Edward B Tylor, considered by many as the founder of cultural anthropology, said culture is ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’. (more…)

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