Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt developed his Theory of Constraints and described it in his popular book, The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox. Goldratt later credited Toyota and Lean as his foundation for the Theory of Constraints.

To help organizations profitably succeed, the Theory of Constraints aims at increasing throughput, reducing inventory and reducing operating expenses.

Training buyers and producers may not be accustomed to thinking of partially completed learning experience chunks as inventory. So, the shift in thinking takes some adjustment to see "inventory" and adopt another domain’s view, from manufacturing over 25+ years, that inventory is bad.

The Theory of Constraints is a way of identifying the main limiting constraint, or bottleneck, in a process and then systematically improving that constraint.

The Theory of Constraints aims to help us answer five big questions:

  • "What needs to change first?" (the weakest link in the process 'chain')

  • "What should it be changed to? What is the To-Be state?"

  • "What actions will cause the change?"

  • "Did the change improve throughput, inventory or operating expenses?"

  • "What needs to change next?" (the next weakest link)

The Theory of Constraints also accounts for complex adaptive systems with many linked activities. It provides the following:

  • A way to identify and eliminate constraints

  • Thinking tools for problem solving (root cause analysis tree diagrams, 5 whys, etc.)

  • A way to prioritize improvement actions on one main constraint at a time

  • Compatibility with Lean and Agile

  • Reduction or elimination of bottlenecks resulting in less work in process (WIP)

  • Improvement of overall organizational profit, rather than sub-optimizing at a lower level

The Theory of Constraints consists of five steps:

  1. Identify the constraint

  2. Exploit. Improve what you can with what you’ve got aiming to increase the throughput of the constraint

  3. Subordinate. Subordinate the rest of the process to the constraint or bottleneck. Don’t let them go faster.

  4. Elevate. Do what you can to improve it further.

  5. Repeat. Look for the next bottleneck. Kaizen. Continual improvement.

Many organizations use Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints to focus Lean efforts on the priorities that matter to the business or enterprise.

For more information, contact The Theory of Constraints Institute (http://www.tocinstitute.org).

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