The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a management approach to managing the weakest link in a process. A process can have one or more weak links, called constraints, that can be anything that prevents the process from performing to its maximum potential. TOC contends that a few constraints control the performance of a process, and therefore provide a mixture of related processes and interrelated concepts to increase the throughput.
Throughput – Throughput is the rate at which a process generates money through sales, not through production.
Drum-Buffer-Rope – Drum-buffer-rope is a TOC production planning technique that maximizes the flow of materials in a plant for which there is an immediate customer demand.
Theory of constraints has five steps. They are;
Whatever is the nature of your business, innovation is critical today. In order to survive competition and be the customers’ choice, you need to come up with really new products and services. All it means is that your ability to manage the change is a direct measure of your success. In other words, timely launch of new products/services in desired quality and price are going to determine your success, apart from cultural change aspect. So whether you want it or not, good project management skills are essential in today’s business to survive and win. Without digressing on other pre-requisites of good project management, let’s focus on one of most important but rarely focused area.
There are several project management techniques and tools available such CPM, PERT and Critical Chain. Immaterial of the base on which these models are structured, out of my experience, everything finally boils to predicting time duration for a task and the delivering as predicted. In small organizations(less than 10 employees), it is more of coordination, multi-tasking and communication that will determine if a task can be completed as predicted. But with organizations involving a few tens of employees, it is all about how resources and efforts are synchronized. There may be lack of knowledge of what is to be done next, on who owns which piece, how & when to escalate lack of clarity on authority and decision making. Additionally unlike bigger organizations, smaller companies will have to manage with inexperienced and understaffed scenarios.
So to make life easy for everyone, if processes associated with project management such as supply chain management processes, finance processes, clearly defined inter-department service levels and authorities, etc., are established well, that will help the organization deliver projects in time. Isn’t this what ‘Process Management’ is all about! Mathematically also it makes sense to focus on process management. For instance, consider the PERT model in which the PERT Time (Task duration) is a function of Optimistic Time (OT), Most Likely Time (MLT) and Pessimistic Time (PT). When OT and PT are wide apart, it means that it is not possible to predict the task duration accurately. In other words, the process on which the task is dependent has high variation. Such a process leads to higher PERT Time. When all the tasks of the project have widely spread OTs and PTs, the overall project duration itself will be high and unpredictable.
In order to have closely defined OTs and PTs, we should have confidence that our processes will consistently deliver on-time. In other words, our process should be statistically under control and stable. Again, it’s Process Management!