Constraint Theory and Process Improvement in Admissions

There is this cool process improvement book called The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, an expert in Constraint Theory. Constraint Theory is used in effectively building jets or missiles or mainframe computers. Why is an EDU guy writing an article about manufacturing efficiencies? It’s because there are analogies everywhere and, as it happens, Constraint Theory can be used very well in improving EDU marketing and admissions performance. Go figure.

Manufacturing meets Higher EDU Enrollment Management…read on.

The Goal is a manual on Constraint Theory and Process Improvement told by way of a parable. Here is the story… This dude Alex worked for a big Candy Manufacturing Company. He was brought into the VP’s office one day and was told he had to turn around this production plant or it was doomed. He had 90 days to turn around a failing production plant or it would be shut down. As it turned out, Alex grew up in the town where the Production Plant was located. Many of his buddies from high school worked there; even, his brother in law worked there. There was huge pressure on this guy to figure this problem out or he would be left a pariah in this community where he grew up, a lump of coal for Christmas from brother in law etc… 

Alex dives in scrambling around trying to make sense of the problem. To put a point on it, the poor guy is stumped and is starting to worry he can’t solve this problem…time’s running out. Alex is sweating bullets.

But, as in all great little stories, the penny drops in the most unusual way… Alex has a life outside of work and has assumed the role of Boy Scout leader for his kids’ troop. Alex takes his kids out for a big hike; his challenge to have all 15 kids make the rendezvous at a specified time and in good order or they’d miss the group rendezvous to the next location for the camp out. His problem, in this hike, the kids were stretched out all across the trail with the fast kids outpacing the slow ones, particularly this super slow kid named Herbie.

What to do…

What he landed on was crazy counter-intuitive; he actually put super slow Herbie at the front of the line, followed by the next slowest kid etc. This immediately solved the first problem of keeping them together, but the real problem was how to speed them up, how to get Herbie to go faster? He came up with his next great idea: making Herbie’s job easier. He simply lightened Herbie’s load, taking all the weight out of Herbies back pack and redistributing it among the rest of the kids. Guess what happened? Herbie, unburdened by 30 pounds, went faster and therefore the rest of the kids followed suit. They accomplished a 20% improvement in group speed. They nailed their goal!

Boy Scout Leader Alex enjoyed solving his Herbie problem. The analogy was not lost on plant manager Alex… With some intense excitement he went back to his plant early on Monday ready to get all Counter-Intuitive on his staff. The management team threw all of their resources at fixing the slowest machine in the entire plant. They fixed the one machine and amazingly, overall production immediately increased by an incredible 20%! The team then attacked fixing the second slowest machine. Like magic by tweaking only two crappy processing machines, the entire production plant became profitable. Yes, the plant was saved. Alex’s community had no idea how close they were to losing their well-paying jobs and life continued on… At his company, Alex was seen as a bit of a Hero/Guru and set about identifying ‘Herbies’ at various facilities.

How does the Story of Herbie relate to Higher Ed?

Within the Enrollment Management process there are ‘Herbies’ everywhere. Did you know when met on the phone, client facing staff will invite a prospective student to come for a school visit only 63% of the time? That is a huge waste of marketing budget and adversely affects many young people who were close to getting trained for a new career. Having receptionists sending folks to Voice Mail is another massive process leak, costing schools millions in lost enrollment revenue each and every year. At Enrollment Resources we have identified 32 places where processes leak, thus hurting enrollment revenue and depriving folks the opportunity to pursue a new career.

Let’s get on the phone and have a look at these 32 ‘enrollment leakers’ and see how you compare. If we can isolate a couple of ‘Herbies’ you can fix, you might be surprised at how quickly your overall revenue will lift… I look forward to a coffee date over the phone…

Warm Wishes,
Gregg Meiklejohn, Co-Founder
Enrollment Resources Inc.