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Theory of Constraints - Recommended Readings

As far as books about the Theory of Constraints are concerned, the obvious starting points are those by Eli Goldratt. His best work is found in the four "business novels" . . .

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The Goal: A Process of On-Going Improvement
(Goldratt and Fox)

Goldratt's seminal work, introducing the idea of constraint management and the five focusing steps (Identify, exploit, subordinate, elevate, and start over). - Also available on audio cassette, unabridged.

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It's Not Luck
(Goldratt)

A sequel to The Goal that talks about creating value as an organization. Introduces the thinking processes, the distribution solution, and ideas for addressing market constraints, as well as the concept of necessary conditions from which a goal is chosen.

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Critical Chain
(Goldratt)

TOC applied to project management. The book talks mainly about single projects. If this is of interest to you, we should talk about the extension of Critical Chain to the multi-project organization.

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Necessary But Not Sufficient
(Goldratt, Schragenheim, and Ptak)

The role of ERP and effective information management (necessary), but only sufficient if they support meaningful processes. This book reminds me of the backlash against Business Process Reengineering due to its de-evolution into an excuse for technology-driven cost-cutting. The theme of this book put the "business" and the "process" back where they belong -- ahead of the re-engineered technology.

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In addition to his novels, Eli's other books include:

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The Race
(Goldratt and Fox)

An straightforward explanation of Drum-Buffer-Rope, the application of TOC to Production Management. While some of the basics were introduced in The Goal, The Race fleshes it out with buffers and buffer management for production.

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What is This Thing Called TOC?
(Goldratt)

Introduced the what-to, to-what, and how-to cycle of change and the concepts of Throughput, Investment, and Operating Expense as a scalable financial model for rational operational decisions.

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Haystack Syndrome - Sifting Information from a Sea of Data
(Goldratt)

The first 2/3 of this book are well worth reading, talking about the ideas behind financial decisions and the risks of relying on cost accounting concepts for operational decisions. The last third is a rather dense analysis of what it might take to put together an TOC based production-management system. - Also available on audio cassette, unabridged. (I'll admit that that last third of this book on tape is a great sleeping aid.)

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Essays on the Theory of Constraints
(Goldratt)

Collections of short essays on a variety of TOC topics.

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Late Night Discussions
(Goldratt)

More short pieces on a variety of TOC topics. The Late Night Discussions come from a series of columns Eli wrote for the magazine, Industrial Week, back in the late 80's, and are presented in the form of conversations between Jonah and Alex, the key figures in The Goal.

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Beyond Goldratt's output, there is an impressively growing body of TOC writing by other authors as well . . .

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Deming and Goldratt
(Lepore & Cohen)

My favorite non-Goldratt book is highly recommended for how TOC fits into the practice of management. It describes a 10-step process that combines the thinking of Deming and Goldratt for understanding and managing the systems we call organizations. For some web-based information on their ideas, check out The Decalogue.

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Throughput Accounting
(Corbett)

An easy to read introduction to an approach to management accounting (i.e., accounting that is useful for operational decisions) that utilizes the TOC breakdown of finances to Throughput (similar to contribution margin), Investment (including inventory), and Operating Expense (whatever is spent to turn raw materials and investment into throughput).

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Critical Chain Project Management
(Leach)

Beyond (with no false humility) my own web-based writings, Larry Leach's book on Critical Chain-based project management is the best one out there. It covers both single- and multi-project management and connects CCPM to the larger "body of knowledge" associated with the project management profession. While top management should peruse Goldratt's Critical Chain, practicing project managers should dig into this one.

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Manufacturing at Warp Speed: Optimizing Supply Chain Financial Performance
(Dettmer and Schragenheim)

If Leach's book is the one for project management the TOC way, this is the one for production management, clearly explaining Drum-Buffer-Rope, as well as introducing S-DBR (Simplified Drum-Buffer-Rope). Includes a CD-ROM based management simulator.

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Advanced Project Portfolio Management and the PMO
(Kendall and Rollins)

This book is a "stealth" TOC book, largely staying away from a lot of the jargon and instead focusing on the subject at hand. The linkage of enterprise strategy to portfolio and project management may be "advanced" to some, but to those familiar with constraint-based strategic planning and critical chain-based multi-project management, this one simply puts it all together in a coherent whole.

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Breaking the Constraints to World-Class Performance
(Dettmer)

Using the TOC Thinking Processes to apply constraint theory in a variety of organizational systems, this book does a very good job of demonstrating how TOC can be used to address both improvements and problems.

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Goldratt's Theory of Constraints: A Systems Approach to Continuous Improvement
(Dettmer)

A lot of "self-educated Jonahs" swear by Bill Dettmer's first book as an excellent reference for the basics of TOC and the Thinking Processes. There are a few unusual deviations from the standard Thinking Processes that have not quite caught on in the TOC community, but that said, if there is a textbook/reference for the Thinking Processes, this is it.

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There is also a series of books published by APICS and St. Lucie Press on the topic of Constraint Management. Some are better than others. Some are unreadable dogs, in my opinion. These are the ones I enthusiastically recommend...

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Management Dilemmas
(Schragenheim)

Excellent for a big picture view of applying TOC in organizations. Even with my TOC experience, this book helped to solidify for me the real meaning and importance of the "subordination" step in the 5-step process of improvement. Put this one together with Deming and Goldratt, and you've got the whole "big picture."

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Thinking for a Change
(Scheinkopf)

Excellent -- Highly recommended introduction to the thinking processes. The best book out there on the topic.

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The Measurement Nightmare: How the Theory of Constraints can Resolve Conflicting Strategies, Policies and Measures
(Smith)

Debra Smith is one of the leaders in the area of Throughput Accounting, and this book is a deeper look into the subject than the one by Corbett. It'a a good book for someone trying to set up rational measurements in their organization.

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The World of the Theory of Constraints: A Review of the International Literature
(Mabin & Balderstone)

This book is an academic collection of abstracts of published writings on TOC. It includes pointers to articles that relate to the experiences of 82 companies that publicly stated their success with TOC, as well as other "think pieces" and "how-to" articles.

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Project Management in the Fast Lane
(Newbold)

If you are interested in project management, this is a good one. It does go a bit astray in some of the details of multi-project approach, but the topic has been evolving and maturing since the book was written. This little quibble is no reason to not look into it. (If you are interested in multi-project management, we should really get together and talk about it.)

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A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up familiar with it. - Max Planck

The Complete FP Bookshelf of TOC and TOC-Compatible Readings...

(If any of these books or videos are on your wish list, please be aware that buying them from Amazon.com by clicking on the images will support the Focused Performance website and weblog. After all, "without billings, it's just a hobby.")

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