A black and white sketch of a person being measured from the spine to the cuff with a measuring tape.

Imagine your friend showing up in a really nice suit or dress. If you got an exact copy, would that work as well on you?

For tailored clothes we take measurements. The model is chosen based on the body type of the person. When picking a color the complexion is taken into account. And last, but not least, the clothes are fitted before completed.

When it comes to processes we often ask for a copy of the suit. In his paper “Standing on the shoulders of giants” Goldratt states “What we have to bear in mind is that the application makes assumptions (sometimes hidden assumptions) about the environment. We should not expect an application to work in environments for which its assumptions are not valid. We can save a lot of effort and frustration if we bother to explicitly verbalize these assumptions.” This is from a discussion on the Toyota Production System. Other companies tried to copy it, but never did as well as Toyota.

Toyota Production System is like the suit. Making the assumptions explicit is as having measurements added to prefabricated items of clothing. But you can only get the best results with something carefully tailored. That is why I think that learning how to evolve an organisation and its processes is far more important than adapting the correct pattern or method. Get your organisation “tailor-skills”, practise measuring and fitting.

An organisation can use retrospectives, system wide measurements and the “thinking processes” that Goldratt developed as measuring tape and a dressmakers ruler. By looking at what others do we can get a starting point, a base pattern for a cut we like. But just copying what someone else is doing will never bring excellence.

Just as a piece of clothing will always look best on the person it is tailored for, only the organisation that invented a method can get the most out of it. So get the skills to tailor your own organisational model!

ps. When your body changes a tailor can help with altering the clothes. An organisation with skills for adapting processes is prepared for change.

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