Theory Of Constraints (TOC)


This page describes the essence of the Theory Of Constraints from the perspective of its original contribution to our discovery of the Fractal Phenomenon and the development of Systemic Thinking - and doesn't even seek to do justice to it.  For a detailed overview of the Theory of Constraints, go to: or google "Theory Of Constraints").

TOC Overview

The Theory Of Constraints (TOC) is based on the assertion that the performance of any system is constained by a very small number of constraints (seldom more than one).  The most often quoted analogies are:

  1. The system-wide bottleneck and 
  2. The weakest link in a chain.

The constraint is caused by the locally optimal (instead of globally optimal) resolution of a core conflict.

TOC comprises:

  1. A set of powerful Thinking Processes
  2. A set of simple but more meaningful constraint-related performance measurements and
  3. A library of specific applications/solutions for improving the performance of different organisational functions like
    1. Production
    2. Marketing
    3. Projects
    4. Distribution
    5. Strategy
    6. Finance

Eli GoldrattTOC is Eli Goldratt's brainchild and he has authored a number of business novels designed to convey an understanding of the principles, methods and solutions, the best-known of which are The Goal (Manufacturing), Critical Chain (Projects) and It's Not Luck (Marketing).

The Goal and Critical Chain are prescribed reading in nearly every MBA or Masters in Project Managment.

There are thousands of TOC practitioners worldwide and an international certification organisation (TOCICO - that oversees training and qualifications.

Contribution to the development of Systemic Thinking

Although Gary and Lynne were familiar with Lateral Thinking and other De Bono insights and techniques and had, shortly before got very excited by Systems Thinking, discovering TOC was the real trigger for the development of Systemic Thinking.

The most significant contributions made to the development of Systemic Thinking by TOC were:

  1. The Conflict Pattern - also evident in TRIZ (contradiction), Systems Thinking (Decision-Point) and NLP.
  2. The Three-Cloud Technique - a technique for finding the core conflict within a complex situation.  The basic idea is to identify three conflicts ("clouds" in TOC-speak) and use them to surface a generic conflict.
  3. The Cause-Effect Pattern.
  4. The Prerequisite Pattern.
  5. The basic concept of their being a single constraint, which, on integration, arrives at the conclusion of a single constraint pattern.
  6. The idea of generic solutions - the TOC solutions are actually solution patterns. 

Click here for an overview of TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, developed by Genrich Altshuller

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