Eliyahu Goldratt helps us think about constraints

Eliyahu Goldratt's business novel teaches about the Theory of Constraints.

We are just about at the July 4th weekend, so a book about business may not be top of your reading list.

I urge you to hang in, however.

Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal is a business novel that combines business acumen and philosophy with a surprisingly engaging and deftly written personal narrative.

Many thanks to my brother-in-law Josh Kelly for lending me his copy of this book.

The Goal contains the theory and application of the theory of constraints.  As the book opens, Alex Rogo is managing a metalworking plant that, like his marriage,  is barely functional.   These two interrelated strands of marital discord and company dysfunction form the book’s central threads.

Alex is largely left to tackle his marriage on his own, but gets help on the business end of things from Jonah, a distance acquaintance who bears more than a distant resemblance to Goldratt.  Through a series of conversations and phone calls with Jonah, Alex starts to run his plant more effectively and strategically, and, in so doing, comes to value and reconnect with his wife, who had moved out of the house.

The Theory of Constraints is illustrated in the book as Alex takes an inventory of work processes. realizing quickly that there are many unnecessary stoppages due to two areas of production being linked when they do not have to be.  Disentangling them and starting to streamline the different components allows Rogo to improve his factory’s quality, mend his relationship with his wife and earn him a promotion.

Goldratt has Jonah use the Socratic method with Alex so that he can arrive at answers himself, rather than simply looking to his teacher for the correct response and direction.

I have found the theory of constraints to be repeatedly and remarkably useful in personal and professional parts of my life.  At work, for instance, I traditionally would wait until a data analysis had been run to start doing another task.  I do that less often now. I also learned yesterday that our computers function more rapidly on individual drives rather than as part of the network’s server.   Using the server, then, is another constraint.

If you want a sustained and pointed critique of capitalism and its excesses, you’ve got the wrong resource; I would suggest Michael Moore’s film Capitalism instead.  But if you want a handy and thought-provoking work wrapped in an easily digestible story, The Goal may be just the work you need.

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2 responses to “Eliyahu Goldratt helps us think about constraints

  1. People resist change! Really? Check this out…

    Script: Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt

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