Thinking For A Change by Lisa Scheinkopf

by Paul Simister on July 14, 2011

I’ve recently read Thinking For A Change: Putting The TOC Thinking Processes To Work by Lisa J Scheinkopf.

Thinking For A Change

Thinking For A Change book cover

I wish I’d read it years ago. It goes into detail on the Theory of Constraints (TOC) thinking techniques which were introduced in the It’s Not Luck business novel.

My Introduction To The TOC Thinking Processes

I first read It’s Not Luck by Eli Goldratt when I was working in a manufacturing business but I found it a frustrating read. I felt there was hidden gold in the TOC thinking processes but I couldn’t get to it from the book by Goldratt. I’ve even gone back to it several times since but again the big ideas and an understanding of how to apply the techniques proved illusory.

Lisa Scheinkopf puts this right with Thinking For A Change.

Thinking For A Change Review

The book is easy to read and Lisa gradually builds up your knowledge so you don’t get overwhelmed. It probably helps to read It’s Not Luck first to get the big picture but then I’d go straight into Thinking For A Change and start trying to do apply the techniques for yourself.

This is important because the Theory of Constraints Thinking Processes take the concepts out of the manufacturing arena and worry about stock levels and due date performance and into general business improvement, planning and strategy.

The book is split into three parts

Part 1 – the basics of the TOC Thinking Processes

There are five chapters here on:

  1. The Theory of Constraints
  2. First Steps
  3. Sufficient Cause – Effect-Cause-Effect
  4. The Categories of Legitimate Reservation
  5. Necessary Condition Thinking

Part 2 – The TOC Thinking Processes

  1. Transition Tree (TT) – used to identify what needs to be done to implement a change
  2. Future Reality Tree (FRT) – used to identify what to change in the future and the specific actions needed to create the change
  3. Current Reality Tree (CRT) – used to understand the current situation and find the cause of the many undesirable effects being experienced.
  4. Evaporating Clouds (EC) – the method to explore and break logical conflicts
  5. PreRequisite Tree (PRT) – the way to identify the obstacles that stand in the way of your goal and what must be done to move past the obstacles.

As you can see, there is a definite TOC language at work here and while the names may seem strange and even cumbersome, they do make sense when you get familiar with them. I used to get cross with TOC practitioners abbreviating so much that I found their stuff difficult to read and now I do it myself.

Part 3 – A Broader View Of the TOC Thinking Processes

  1. The Full Analysis
  2. Communication Current Reality Tree – a clever idea which combines the conflict resolution technique with the Evaporating Cloud with the problem analysis technique of the Current Reality Tree which leads to the identification of the main system constraint.

My Thoughts On Thinking For A Change

Lisa Scheinkopt is commended on the way the book makes the TOC thinking processes much more accessible and tangible than the abstract ideas in It’s Not Luck.

It’s relatively easy to read and packed with examples of how the logic fits together to create a powerful methodology for getting to the heart of issues based on logical cause and effect. It’s therefore very good to give to your team if you’re working on a Theory of Constraints project and you want everyone involved to understand the tools.

If you find the ideas difficult to grasp, I recommend that you read the book a second time. Unfamiliarity with the terminology and the ideas of sufficient cause and necessary conditions can slow down your understanding.

My quibbles are that the book is now a bit old – it was published in 1999 – and the theory of Constraints has moved on somewhat with the development of the Strategy & Tactics Tree and more factors in the Categories of Legitimate Reservation.

I bought the book partly because reviews on Amazon referred to exercises. These weren’t as extensive as I was expecting since I thought there would be a question and answer style approach. Instead there’s encourage to use the TOC thinking processes regularly.

But the basics in Thinking For A Change are still very valid and you will get a lot from the book before you move to an advanced text like The TOC Handbook.

The TOC Thinking Processes are very powerful techniques and deserve to be much better known outside of manufacturing. Sadly there is lack of solid thinking based on understanding cause and effect and as a result, people leap to “sounds good” solutions which don’t work as well as expected when put into practice.

The TOC thinking processes help to create much more robust solutions to correctly identifying the cause, developing an effective solution and implementing it.

Thinking For A Change is the easy, low cost way to introduce yourself to the ideas and I recommend you read it – probably several times. Then start using the techniques on your problems.

How To Buy Your Own Copy Of Thinking For A Change

You can get a copy of the book from or (affiliate links)

Have You Read Thinking For A Change?

If you’ve read Thinking For A Change, I’d be very interested to hear how it has helped you to apply the TOC thinking processes.

Do you agree with me that it’s a much more helpful and practical book than It’s Not Luck?

Paul Simister is a business coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.

You too can move past your profit tipping point (free report) by answering the seven big questions of business success (mp3)

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