“I smile and start to count on my fingers: One, people are good. Two, every conflict can be removed. Three, every situation, no matter how complex it initially looks, is exceedingly simple. Four, every situation can be substantially improved; even the sky is not the limit. Five, every person can reach a full life. Six, there is always a win-win solution. Shall I continue to count?”
Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt 1947- 2011
When I first read Eli Goldratt’s book The Goal, it was in 2005. I had been using XP and Scrum for 3 years and understood the value of good process improvement ideas. I was stunned after reading it. Not only was the book fantastic, I was shocked: this book had been written in 1986?!?! I felt embarrassed that I had never known about these ideas. In 1986 I was still in engineering and these ideas were cutting edge at that time. Is Theory of Constraints taught in engineering schools 25 years years later? A search of goldrattschools.org reveals 9 affiliated universities, and google searches are not filled with education institutions teaching Theory of Constraints (TOC). It seems most people learn about Theory of Constraints through direct efforts of Goldratt’s various institutes, the Goal and subsequent books, and word of mouth. I have told many people about and given away copies of the Goal, creating numerous converts to Theory of Constraints thinking. Goldratt’s ideas provided many insights into systems thinking and process improvement. As a software development manager who had already transitioned from more traditional management to Scrum and Extreme programming, I found TOC provided another set of thinking tools to analyze a work system. These tools complimented Lean and Agile without reducing their value or conflicting with those ideas. For example Theory of Constraints provides a way to prioritize process changes found using Lean tools or impediments found by the team using Scrum. However the biggest change was that TOC made me think differently. It changed my perspective on systems, on software development and work in general. Like Lean thinking, TOC colors my thinking about any system and gives me greater insight into the natural properties of systems.
Ours and future generations are indebted to Goldratt’s ideas and his insights into people and systems. His ability to write about these ideas using non-technical stories was almost as important as the ideas themselves. His writing allowed many people to pickup his books and within a few hours understand the core concepts of Theory of Constraints. The appeal of TOC ideas caused them to look for ways to apply TOC to their work, while his easy and accessible style created powerful incentives for people to learn more.
I am truly sorry to hear that a genius such as Eli Goldratt has passed away at the relatively young age of 64. I am grateful to have been a student of his ideas and hope to carry on the work of spreading the ideas of TOC and its applications in software development and knowledge work.
From the Goldratt Schools website:
Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt spent his entire adult life fighting to show that it is possible to make this world a better place. We must have the honesty to see reality as it is, we must have the courage to challenge assumptions, and above all, we must use the gift of thinking. Having applied these principles to various management fields, he created the Theory of Constraints. His concepts and teachings have expanded beyond management and are being used in healthcare, education, counseling, government, agriculture and personal growth – to name a few fields using TOC. His legacy is invaluable. On June 11th, 2011 at noon, Eli Goldratt passed away at his home in Israel in company of his family and close friends.
The strength and passion of Eli allowed him to spend his last days sharing and delivering his latest insights and breakthroughs to a group of people who have committed to transfer this knowledge to the TOC Community during the upcoming Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization Conference in New York. It was Eli’s last wish to take TOC to the next level – truly standing on the shoulders of the Giant he is.