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Taming managerial attention overload through focus and simplification

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

Mine management is easily the busiest group we deal with. With the advent of cheap computing and storage costs, the amount of data available is exploding. According to Yves Morieux of Boston Consulting, the number of performance imperatives (KPIs) executives need to meet has multiplied from 4-7 in the 1950s to between 25 and 50 today. And many of these KPIs conflict with one another. More of one means less of others. Goldratt called the managerial span of attention the ultimate constraint on improving performance. The managerial span of attention refers to the limited capacity of managers (or anyone, for that matter) to process information, make decisions, and oversee operations. With increasing complexity and information flow in today's business environment, it becomes increasingly difficult for managers to attend to all matters, potentially leading to missed opportunities or risks left unattended for too long. Fortunately, operational systems can be simplified for management purposes by using the TOC concept of Inherent Simplicity . Have a look at the image below. Which is easier to manage, System A, which consists of 4 independent parts or System B, with 6 parts, connected by cause and effect and feedback loops? Counter to our intuition, TOC claims that B is easier to manage. We can change the state of system B by influencing any of the 6 elements. If we identify and control the constraint element, we have a maximal effect on the system's state. In System A, we must influence every one of the 4 elements to change its state; significantly more effort and attention is required. How Inherent Simplicity Helps Managers Cope: Goldratt summarised the Theory of Constraints in one word "Focus". And Focus works because the system's cause-and-effect connections allow it to be described and managed using Inherent Simplicity. 1. Focus: By identifying and buffering the constraint, managers can direct their attention where it will have the most impact and simplify what needs continuous attention. 2. Simplification: As long as we ensure sufficient protective capacity in non-constraints and the buffers are in a proper state, the rest of the system needs minimal attention. 3. Delegation: Because the system is more resilient and critical problems become visible well in time, delegating and empowering employees and teams is safe. This frees up significant managerial time and attention. These three elements deliver improved system performance and stability and dramatically free up the managerial span of attention. #TOC #simplify #focus #mining

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