Monday, January 21, 2013

The Theory of Constraints

For the last couple of weeks, I've been racking my brain trying to recall a management concept I first encountered back in 1999, when I was working as a consultant in Cable & Wireless.

This theory had a small band of evangelising adherents who were trying to introduce it into C&W and I was one of the senior managers proselytized. In fact I was sceptical and confused: the new fad had baffling jargon (Drum-Buffer-Rope) and seemed fluffy and hard to pin down. I then discovered that its inventor, a guy named Eliyahu M. Goldratt, had written a novel - 'The Goal' - to expound and illustrate his theories. I bought and read it, finding it informative though not compelling as a story. In any event, I failed to convert. Time moved on, the Theory of Constraints never achieved purchase in C&W, and I forgot all about it.

Lately I've been thinking about novels - what makes them meritable and successful. Characterisation seems key, and this set me thinking about the validity of the novel of ideas .. I dimly recalled a novel written to promote a management methodology. What on earth was it?

Synchronicity: this morning a book catalogue flopped unbidden through the door. It was mostly about six-sigma, Lean Processes and The Toyota Way. I idly skimmed titles till my eye was caught by a volume describing the Theory of Constraints. A flag went up in my subconscious, Wikipedia was consulted .. and so it all came back.