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Uwe Techt, Goldratt and the Theory of Constraints

If you’re relatively new to the world of business, Uwe Techt’s Goldratt and the Theory of Constraints is a perfect introduction to the theory. First introduced by Goldratt, Israeli physicist-turned-business-management-guru, the theory of constraints explains how any business is limited by one or a few constraints, and must identify those constraints then restructure their business around them.

For those not up to reading Goldratt’s 384-page fictional novel The Goal, Techt concisely introduces the topic in a mere 174 business-focused pages. It begins with a quick overview explaining what the theory is and how it can benefit your business, then gets into the nitty-gritty of how to apply it using real-world examples.

It introduces the tools of the theory, such as Drum-Buffer-Rope, Buffer Management, Throughput Accounting, Pull Distribution, Irresistible Offer, Corporate Strategy, and Viable Vision, but helpfully explains what this terminology means for those who are new to the subject. It also helps that the language used is simple and easy to understand.

Not only is the book short enough to provide a quick read, but it’s also presented in helpful, bitesize chunks of information that are broken down into plenty of smaller sections with headings. A very comprehensive contents page makes it easy to find what you’re looking for and easy to refer back to relevant sections later.

There are some sample calculations to help you understand and calculate throughput, and Techt also makes you answer questions to apply your knowledge, then provides the answers overleaf so you can check whether you have the right understanding. There are visual conflict clouds and reality trees throughout, though I feel I’d need a little help filling these out and applying them to my own business scenario.

Around half of the examples are based around production and stock, such as how to identify a production constraint, how to control stock levels, and how to set marketing value. The other half, and the half I found the most helpful, were related to project management, such as how to avoid projects going on too long, how to manage multiple people/resources trying to multitask on multiple projects, and how to convince people.

For me, some of the most useful parts were the insights that were sitting at the back of my mind that Techt really brought to life, for example, the false paradigms (local cost savings and local optimization) that many businesses rely on and utilize when trying to cut costs or resolve problems. Instead of these false paradigms, Techt provides a simple system to identify the core problems, reach an agreement about them, and resolve them.

If you own or manage a production business and are encountering problems, this book will help you resolve them quickly. If your business is more project-focused, it’s a great introduction to the topic, following which you can get a more in-depth exploration in Techt’s other book Projects That Flow.

If you’re neither a manager nor a business owner, but you see problems in your business that you want to help resolve, or you’re an aspiring leader, the book ends with the nice idea that you can only succeed in your business if your leaders understand constraint properly, so it suggests giving this book as a gift to your leaders. Doing so is really likely to influence positive change!

 

Uwe Techt, Projects That Flow: More Projects in Less Time

Having just read Uwe Techt’s Goldratt and the Theory of Constraints as an introduction to the topic, my interest was piqued and I wanted to delve a little deeper, but in a more project-focused way, as I’d been particularly interested in the project management aspects. At 374 pages, Projects that Flow: More Projects in Less Time is a much more comprehensive and in-depth exploration of the topic, and greatly expands on the project management side. What’s more, it takes a hands-on approach, which really enables you to put the knowledge into practice and use it to fix the problems in your business.

The focus of the book is on completing projects on time, within budget, and fulfilling expectations, with a strong focus on avoiding “bad multitasking”, i.e. the same resources/people trying to multitask on multiple projects occurring at the same time, which ultimately delays projects and costs businesses money as well as time.

It’s split into three parts: 1. Current (understanding the problem), 2. Future (seeing what it could be like), and 3. Transformation (knowing how to get there). In part 1, he explains how these problems occur due to Parkinson’s Law, Murphy’s Law, Student Syndrome, and Peanut Butter Spread (all memorable and useful acronyms) and the belief in false paradigms such as local optimization.

In part 2, he explains the Theory of Constraints and how businesses are limited by a constraint (the resource that is relied upon the most across multiple projects), and must identify the constraint and then focus their business efforts around it. He shows you how to identify priorities, and perform task and project management.

In part 3, he provides template worksheets so you can apply the concepts to your own business. He details the six phases of the transformation process, and guides you through each one in the format of necessity, objective, assumption, path, predicted effects, and cautions. This step-by-step approach helps you apply the concepts to your own business and actually act on the book’s content.

Despite its length, it doesn’t feel long because the book is broken down nicely into small bitesize chunks. With business books, nobody wants to read endless pages of just text, so I really like how this book is presented ­– methodically, clearly, and visually, with diagrams, bullet points, and summaries throughout. He also provides templates, such as analytic questions, logic diagrams (conflict solution and reality trees), and checklists, which are all downloadable, so you can assess your own business and apply the solutions.

The language is easy to understand and Techt frequently breaks complex ideas down into smaller pieces. He uses repetition to ensure the links between ideas are clear, which makes the book progressive, gradually building towards the solution. This very practical and hands-on approach is certainly more useful than reading solid text.

Within the sections, there are lots of smaller sections, and a very comprehensive contents page and index makes it easy to refer back to relevant sections later. It means you can easily use this as a sort of handbook of improvement. Not to mention, the glossy hardback book with thick-quality paper means this is something I’d be happy to keep on my desk!

 

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