Introduction To The Theory Of Constraints (And Applying It To Growing An Online Business)
Ever got that feeling as if you’re working your ass off, but not much is changing? Let’s equate this to the world of online marketing and blogging: You’re sending emails to your subscribers about some offer you have, but sales are low and you can’t figure it out. You’re writing your face off for…
Ever got that feeling as if you’re working your ass off, but not much is changing?
Let’s equate this to the world of online marketing and blogging:
- You’re sending emails to your subscribers about some offer you have, but sales are low and you can’t figure it out.
- You’re writing your face off for your blog, but traffic doesn’t seem to budge in the up direction.
- You’re networking on social media until your fingers are about to fall off, but it doesn’t seem to reflect itself on ANY of your statistics.
- OR… you’ve still barely gotten off the ground. Your blog, in your view, looks like crap. You THINK you’re writing decent content, but you have no idea if you’re the only one who thinks this. Frustration mounts.
Chances are, you’ve felt that. And, it is YOU who I want to keep reading this post.
If every single thing you do in your business works, your stats are all flying upward, and you are confident that you really have nothing you could improve upon, then feel free to leave my site right now.
OK. Still here? Good, let’s get going…
In my last post, I introduced the concept of systems. A system is a series of steps that take some form of input, do something to it, and results in an output on the other end. Think of it like an assembly line.
Now, our businesses are, in essence, systems. When somebody arrives on your site, they are the “input”. Then, your system is designed to work them through certain steps and produce an output on the other end. That output would be the TRANSFORMATION or the OUTCOME (see the second post in this series for more on that). And, when you do this well, MONEY is a result.
Now, our businesses are also composed of systems. In other words, there are SUB-SYSTEMS in our businesses. Each sub-system has an output, and when you put all the outputs together into the right order, you get the OVERALL output of the main system.
Still with me?
And, just so you see that pretty much everything in our business is a system, let me illustrate:
- Your BLOG is a system. It is part of the marketing system of your business.
- The process by which you author and prepare a blog post is a system.
- The process by which you distribute a new post once published is a system.
- The process by which you set up your blog in the first place is a system.
- The actions you take to turn a new arrival to your site into an email subscriber…. that is a system.
- The work you to do produce a video is a system.
- The work you do to create a product and make it ready to sell is a system.
Get my point? EVERYTHING is a system.
What Is The Theory of Constraints?
As we’ve done before, let’s turn to Wikipedia for a definition:
The theory of constraints (TOC) is a management paradigm that views any manageable system as being limited in achieving more of its goals by a very small number of constraints. There is always at least one constraint, and TOC uses a focusing process to identify the constraint and restructure the rest of the organization around it.
Sounds a bit academic, perhaps? Yeah, I hear ya. But, its actually pretty dang simple.
- In our perfect world, every system would result in the perfect output in the perfect amount of time and minimum resources required.
- In that “perfect world”, we could say that the system has no constraints.
- On the flip side, when the system is NOT optimally producing the desired output, we can logically assume that there ARE constraints.
- Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the same fashion, any system is held back by its constraints, and it is the BIGGEST constraint which has the biggest impact on the system.
- Applying this theory uses a series of processes and tools to detect the primary constraint and then handle it.
In a nutshell, that is the Theory of Constraints.
What things could be a constraint? Well, it is anything which is holding back the system.
For instance, if we look at the actual act of blogging. The act of producing a blog post is a system. Now, for some people, it takes literally HOURS to produce a single blog post. There is nothing wrong with that… UNLESS it is getting in the way of actually executing the system. If the mere idea of blogging gives you a cold sweat because you’re frustrated by how long it takes for you to write a single post, then that is a constraint.
If you’re producing a video and you’re feeling blocked by your lack of knowledge on how to do video editing, then that is a constraint.
If you’re still confused as to what your niche or market should be, then that is a constraint. In this instance, it is the lack of decision which is the constraint, and there is a process we can go through to bust up the real “why” on that decision hanging up for you.
If your business is feeling constrained by lack of traffic to your site, then traffic is a constraint. But, then, by applying the tools of TOC, we work it backwards. We break up this big thing of “traffic” into smaller constraints, and ultimately we arrive at the largest constraint which is holding you back from gaining more traffic.
Nested Why’s – One (Of Many) Techniques To Spot Constraints
Here’s the odd thing about constraints…
They aren’t always obvious. In fact, many times, they’re most definitely not.
See, if it were glaringly obvious, it wouldn’t be a constraint any longer. Because you’d just deal with it, alleviate it and move on. The mere fact that it IS a constraint depends on the truth that you haven’t discovered it yet. OR, you’ve looked right at it and didn’t realize the true nature of what it was.
One of the things you can do to work on finding your constraint(s) is what I’m calling nested why’s. It is the simple idea of asking WHY you don’t have the outcome you want right now. Then, ask “why” again. And again. And so on.
For example, the current reality for you could be “I’m not making the money that I want.”. OK… why?
Well, I don’t have enough traffic right now. OK… why?
Well, I haven’t really written a decent blog post in awhile, so nobody is really paying attention to anything I’m doing. OK… why?
I don’t really know what I can provide that people will want to see. OK… why?
Well, I haven’t talked to anybody about it or really verified that there is any market demand here to begin with.
AHHH…. OK, then. We’ve just gotten a lot closer to the real constraint. (And, BTW, in the Academy training, the module on niche selection goes into exactly that. Because, I am literally building the Academy training around alleviating these constraints.)
See, we stop asking “why” when we either get to a point which you can see an immediate path to handling… OR when we get to a point where the question “why” simply doesn’t provide any new answers.
For some, the “why” might go really deep into matters which have little to do with business. For many, the nested why will bring you down to the fact that you’re simply so overwhelmed that you don’t know which way to go, and that is affecting EVERYTHING above it.
And that’s why I am stressing systems so hard. Therein lies the key.
It Is Constraints Which Are Holding You Back
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the beginning phases, or if you’ve already got an established business…
If you’re not growing at the rate you want, then the answer lies in the detection and alleviation of constraints.
Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, your business and your blogging IS A SYSTEM. Quite honestly, if you haven’t approached it that way, then that right there is one hell of a constraint. Operating with no system in mind is what leads you into spinning your wheels and going nowhere really fast.
And, once you realize that it is a system and you begin to arrange it as such, you then immediately dive into the world of finding the constraints.
We ALL have constraints. In the beginning, the constraints are many and can be overwhelming. The reason so many newbies give up, however, is because they’re lacking a system and haven’t truly zeroed in on their own constraints. Or they’ve pinpointed the wrong constraint. Because, here’s a truth about constraints…
If you tackle the wrong constraint, you’ll usually screw up the system even worse than it was.
When you see bloggers spinning their wheels tweaking the design of their blog endlessly, in most cases they are tackling the wrong constraint. Tweaking the blog isn’t going to get you any more traffic. It is the WRONG TARGET. And the result is that your stats decrease even more, or remain at rock bottom if you’ve never risen above zero.
This stuff is an exercise in LOGIC.
Inside the Academy, I’m dedicating an entire module simply to Systems and the Theory of Constraints. I want every one of my students to know how to do this – and do it well.
There are several extremely powerful tools to help guide you with this. Wikipedia called them “focusing processes” in its definition of TOC. As with many things in TOC, it can be a little mind-numbing to try to make sense of it. When I was first exposed to TOC, I damn near went cross-eyed trying to figure it out. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine sat down with a small group of us and spent all day going over it that it began to “click”.
From there, I took it upon myself to simplify it. I firmly believe that true power lies in simplicity. So, that’s what I’ve done.
Today, I use TOC to guide what I do with my time. Many time, I actually do my daily work now with a tool called the “current reality tree” open on my screen at all times. When I work with that thing open, I know that what I am spending my time on is laser-focused on a constraint. No aimless work. No wheel spinning and getting to the end of the day feeling like I didn’t get much done.
Guesswork is removed. Focus is restored. And, there is certainty.
In my next post, I am going to introduce to you the Academy Business System.
At least that’s what I’m calling it for now. 🙂
In this series, I’ve hammered home the idea of systems. Well, the Academy Business System is a full graphical layout of the overall business model – the system – on which the Academy is based.
See, I told you what the solid foundation of a successful business is, right?
- A real understanding of the basic principles that make this business – and all businesses – function.
- A clear pathway AND an understanding of how to forge your OWN path.
With the Academy Business System, the fundamentals taught inside the Academy, and a solid foundation in the Theory of Constraints, I believe we’ve got a very solid foundation.
And, in my next post, I hope you’ll agree with me. 🙂
P.S. Here’s what I’d like you to do now…
Try applying the nested why’s to your own situation. Start with your goal (doesnt matter what the goal is), and ask yourself…. why? WHY don’t you have that goal accomplished right now?
Then ask “why” again. And again… until you just can’t take it any deeper. Post a comment and let me know what you find. 🙂
Oh, and as of this writing, the first 5 videos of the full training lineup on this material is now ready for you inside the Academy. You can join now and get started within a few minutes.
This post was so helpful. When I read this: “Whether you’ve ever thought about it or not, your business and your blogging IS A SYSTEM. Quite honestly, if you haven’t approached it that way, then that right there is one hell of a constraint. Operating with no system in mind is what leads you into spinning your wheels and going nowhere really fast,” I sat up in my chair with my arms up in the air in triumph saying…yes, yes, yes. Finally, an explanation that made sense.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Nice Post! I have been helping companies leverage the TOC concepts for 25 years (actually worked closely with Eli Goldratt) and I really appreciate the clear, concise description you provided. Great to see the application to blogging as well–helped me to think about my own blogging SYSTEM in a different way. Thanks and keep up the good work!
Thanks, Kevin. 🙂
I’ve been researching about this very topic, so thanks very much for putting this together. Kudos!
It is great to see a system approach in your course. It is a great value compared to eclectic type of blogs that dominate.
Can you please show the Academy Business System scheme (and maybe you have a post in open access about it in more details, I think I’ve seen it before)? Unfortunately, the image in your post is illegible.
Sorry to chip in on what might become a private conversation, but I just wanted to point out that I did what I expect you want to do – derive a plan and meaning from the Business System diagram – and was reasonably successful in distilling it into a workable routine.
Then I joined the Academy.
Let’s just say that it was like going from black and white to full color HD! The System itself has a lot of value, but the real value for me was following the training with David and seeing how to really make it work for you.
Thank you for your comment.
I have no doubt that David’s Academy delivers a big value.
It is great to see that it helped you (and many others) much.
Yep, I’ll be going into more detail about it in my next post. 🙂
Great post! I put the Nested Whys exercise to use right after reading about it here, and got clear on what used to be thickly muddled grey areas blocking success in different corners of our business. I think this could really help our thinking from here.
Thank you for the post! Looking at the Academy now 😉
Would love to welcome you in. 🙂
Wow, this is a really powerful exercise! I’m looking forward to figuring out my systems and planning them out, and the nested why idea seems pretty neat. 🙂 A good way of breaking things down to one task at a time. You’re really good at this, David.
I haven’t been a blogger for long, but I don’t know anyone who understands this stuff better than you do and yet explains it so simply. I am definitely signing up for the Academy! My only question is, due to the time difference, I may not be able to participate in the mastermind calls. Is there a way I could get recorded sessions?
Thanks again David! Glad I’ve met you early on in my journey as a blogger. I believe it will save me from making so many mistakes before I finally come round full circle.
Yep, we record every mastermind call and make it available in the training portal.
Ok. Signed up for the academy 2 days ago. I’m in Module 2 and I’m luvin it. Thanks again David.