Eliyahu Goldratt (1947 – 2011)

Eli Goldratt qualifies as a giant for me purely on the strength and importance of his first book.eligoldratt

His work appears to have come about ‘in parallel’ to that of other giants, yet there is great similarity in the underlying thinking. It’s a bit like Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz developing calculus at about the same time as each other (in the 17th century), but using different mathematical notation…they were saying the same thing but differently.

Dr Goldratt started out as a physicist but, after working with some manufacturers and developing important thinking about why they operate as they do and how to improve them, he left academia to become an author, educator and business consultant.

He is known for his best-selling management book called ‘The Goal’, first published in 1984. When I say ‘best-selling’ I mean it – we are talking millions of copies sold. It is now on its 4th edition.

What makes it different is that it is a (very well) written management book in the form of a novel (i.e. learning through reading a piece of fiction)…thereby making it really easy for just about anyone to pick up, read and ‘get’ the points within…and they are really good points! It was quite common for a manager in, say, the 1990’s to read the book and then buy a copy for everyone in their team!

The book introduces Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints (often abbreviated to TOC). I would recommend anyone and everyone in management to read The Goal – it won’t take you long and is very worthwhile.

TOC is a management philosophy that helps organisations see what is (really) constraining them from moving towards their goal and then understanding how to reduce and remove these constraints. It considers systems, variation and measurement in a very similar (yet alternative) way to the likes of the Toyota Production System and Lean Thinking…and it all comes back to the management system!

I see TOC as a useful and complimentary addition to, rather than competing with other systems thinking. But, as with everything else, it isn’t a methodology simply to be ‘swallowed and then regurgitated’.

Goldratt went on to write a number of other books as follow-ups to the Goal. They take the same message (TOC) and style (using fiction to educate) but apply it to different disciplines. Obviously you might think that the sequels aren’t as good as the original (a bit like Rocky 2, 3, and 4) but there’s value to be found within them.

Here are some of his books:

  • ‘The Goal’ (1984): TOC in a manufacturing company
  • ‘It’s Not Luck’ (1994): TOC for marketing, distribution and business strategy
  • ‘Critical Chain’ (1997): TOC for project management
  • ‘Necessary but not sufficient’ (2000): TOC for technology.

You will also find a whole society of TOC ‘practitioners’ out there.

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