How I did 24 Semester Hours in One Semester in College

Before I knew the Theory of Constraints (TOC) existed I knew something about constraints.  College for me was something that was done after my 10-12 hour military duties on nights and weekends.  To achieve my career goals I often had to take more than one class at a time. I would have more family time if I selected classes that were complimentary to one another.  

What’s a complimentary class?

A complimentary class is one where the research and learning in one class can be applied in the other class.  It’s a pretty simple concept. Take classes that make sense together. While I applied this as opportunity permitted while working on my associates degree I took it to a whole new level while working on my bachelors.

In order to participate in an Army program for school I had to finish my bachelors in 18 months and make them the most productive possible.  Some of the coursework from my associates had to be redone in that time frame. For example, I had taken the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test in English which is supposed to be worth six semester hours of English credit.  My associates program required me to take English in person, so I did. During the course I asked the professor what my grade would be if I never remembered the rule about who and whom. She told me something like mid-high 90s on the final, and that’s what I got.  I aced all the other questions, but the who/whom rule is something to this day I rely on proofreading tools to fix.

The CLEP and English associates courses didn’t count towards my bachelors either.  So there I was in my second semester as a full-time student. On loan to the school from the Army with a limited window to get my degree and needing to take classes that I’d essentially already gotten credit for.  Thankfully I learned a few things that first semester about scaling-up the amount of complementary classes and took it to a whole new level.  

I took English and Rhetoric at the same time.  Information from those classes flowed well into the international business course that included persuasion as part of the covered material.  I also took a course on cross-cultural differences, small unit leadership and general leadership skills. Research from one class could be used across multiple classes.  It was a lovely semester and it’s a good thing it all worked out too. That was the same semester we had our third child and without a course schedule like this I wouldn’t have finished on time or been able to spend much time being a dad and helping out the family.

SubjectCourseLevelTitleGradeCredit Hours

How is this the Theory of Constraints?

As I mentioned before I didn’t know TOC existed.  The term was not in my vocabulary, but the concept was.  Research at school was the most time consuming aspect of that first full-time semester.  Time for research was the constraint. So, I needed to maximize the output value of any of the time spent in research.  I’d like to think that for that second semester I did a pretty good job with that. TOC’s versatility doesn’t extend to just the classes either.  It can also extend to the goals of what to do with the work created during the classes.

Disorganized Constraint

Resources can be constrained by disorganization. Disorganization can result in only being able to tackle the important things instead of all the responsibilities they have.

Enough disorganization of a critical resource and it becomes the system’s constraint.

Once a disorganized resource is the system’s constraint all other aspects of the system are subservient to the capacity of that resource.

How do you think they feel when they realize that their lack of processes impacts everyone else around them?

How should a leader respond?

Velocity Book Review

Actually, the full title is Velocity: Combining Lean, Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints to Achieve Breakthrough Performance – A Business Novel.  It’s of course listed on Amazon in kindle, paperback, and audible.  I listened to the audible version.

As is typical in business novels the characters tend to be flattened slightly to encourage the reader to pay attention to the content instead of the people in the story.  It’s a tough balancing act to have the characters and their problems be interesting enough so you’re emotionally invested in their outcome, but the author in this genre has the hard task of encouraging you to remember more about the lessons than the characters.  To do this, the authorial team included Jeff Cox, the co-author of The Goal (one of the books on my book list).

The book is well written though formulaic and its subject primarily follows implementation of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) not the implementation of Lean Six Sigma (LSS).  It does touch on it enough to help the audience understand how the disciplines can be used in concert with one another and compliment one another, but not to the extend that you learn about how to do statistical process control or value stream mapping.  While these things are alluded to or mentioned in the book, they’re mentioned as the book introduces the problems caused by applying them in ways that negatively impact the constraint.  They’re not directly mentioned at all in being a part of the solution set as the intrepid heroes (isn’t intrepid a great word?) work towards solving their problems.

I would have preferred that once the heroes had learned to apply TOC they would have spent more time value stream mapping those things that didn’t go through the constraint to find improvement there.  Or that they would have discussed more about finding the true optimum with regards to various treatments using six sigma techniques.

While that’s what I would have preferred, that would have slowed down the story significantly.  It wasn’t the intent of the authors and I’m kind of glad they didn’t do what I wanted.  The delivered a good book that introduced complimentary systems in a way that was engaging and now, because of that book and the example of their characters, I have context to do further research on my own and answer the questions I have from reading this work.

Bottom line.  Great book, glad to have read it!  Adding it to the Book List of books I’d recommend.