• Challenges
  • Turn time for refrigeration refurbishment expected to be 72 days
    Work time reduced to 46 days, cutting the project by 26 days
  • Capacity was limited
    Additional 33% capacity at no extra cost
  • Sales could only begin as quickly as installations were made
    Earlier sales created a better bottom line
  • Overtime and reworking were expected in order to meet the deadline
    Twice as much time spent productively; overtime and reworking unnecessary


Having a big order book is usually the stuff of dreams. But in this instance, it came with a catch: The work was hemmed in by the busy Christmas period, which created an uncomfortably tight deadline for David’s team.

The team realised that the only way to meet the demand on time would be to work huge amounts of overtime and compromise on quality. They would then have to revisit the work at a later stage for no additional revenue. It was a case that required them to fire on all cylinders—but even working at maximum capacity, resources were limited.

Matador prides itself on never delivering a job late, and this was to be no exception. But staff burnout and the time and resources required for reworking were a steep price to pay for on-time delivery. David sensed that there had to be a better way, and looked to the National Productivity Institute (NPI) for help.

The Ensemble Effect

A seasoned practitioner at the NPI advised Matador to select key members of the team to attend a Thinking Process Workshop, which helped them to come to a consensus on the core problem. There, David and his colleagues learned about the Theory of Constraints (TOC), a methodology developed by the physicist-turned-consultant Eliyahu Goldratt. The TOC acknowledges that every organisation has a weakest link, or constraint, and provides a framework for managing the constraint rather than allowing it to manage the work.

Before the workshop, David remembers, ‘We were trying to keep the three major trades—mechanics, electricians and shopfitters—utilised “efficiently”.’ To that point, the team had viewed their work strictly in terms of actual time spent compared to budgeted time spent. ‘People were more interested in making themselves look good than in doing what was necessary as a team to bring the project in on time, within budget and to specification,’ David said.

Still, David was concerned that the focus was on the diagnosis, not on the cure. Fortunately for Matador, the NPI had developed a Critical Chain course, and all members of the Matador team were compelled to attend. Everyone began to understand the concept of ‘finite capacity’ and to recognise that each project was only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Having the right number of skills, in the right place, at the right time would ensure that each link was intact and the chain of operations secure and stable.

The NPI and the Theory of Constraints helped David’s team refocus their energies so that each person could make the most of the available time, even if it meant taking on new responsibilities. And a renewed sense of purpose—the sense that the project was about more than ‘just work’—unified the team so that everyone felt motivated to give the effort their all.

“We finally had some clear visibility into what could and could not be done with the resources we had available. We were able to allocate our people far more wisely, and we broke out of the habit of reacting to what seemed urgent instead of focusing on what we knew to be important.”
—Branch Manager

Read the full case study in our founding story.

To find out what we could do for you, get in touch.