New course – Introduction to TOC

with 12 Comments

Hi everyone, I’m starting to develop a very short course that introduces a newbie to the Theory of Constraints – in less than an hour! That’s the challenge anyway!

My thinking is this – imagine you get a new colleague start on your team. They’ve never heard of TOC and look at you real strange when you mention it. Like you’re cultist or something. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. So, how do you, in less than an hour, totally brainwash them, er… …sorry, I meant GET THEM UP TO SPEED ON TOC? 🙂

That’s the objective of this course. A 45-60min video that you can sit them in front of and that explains the basic thinking and principles behind what is now quite a large body of knowledge. There’ll be some additional bells and whistles should they want to explore further but that’s basically it.

At the end of the hour you’ll have someone who knows what you’re talking about and actually thinks you’re really smart.

So, question for you guys is this: What should be on the syllabus? When you were first introduced to TOC, what really helped to make TOC make a lot of sense? And why did it help?

So far, this is what I’m thinking:

  1. How this course works
  2. Learning objectives
  3. What determines the output of a system? Introducing the idea of constraints or ‘the weakest link in the chain’ using a simple graphical model
  4. Goal orientated systems – why do systems exist? Three goals – owners, employees, & customers.
  5. Key measures – throughput, inventory and operating expenses and the correct prioritisation
  6. The Five Focusing Steps and how they apply to the simple model.
  7. Where is TOC used today? Functions and industries.
  8. How did TOC develop? Short Goldratt bio.
  9. How do I learn more about TOC? Reading recommendations, The Goal, etc.
  10. How do I get more help? Recommendations

What do you think? What have I missed out? What else would improve it? Stories? Analogies I’d love to hear your feedback (feel free to comment below or direct, both are fine).

Appreciate your help,

12 Responses

  1. Patrick
    | Reply

    The first time I met Eli was in a big theater with a couple of hundred “C-level” business people. Eli did his P&Q story and left the room to drink coffee. He gave us also half an hour to come up with an answer and enjoy our coffee break. You could only get back in the room if you gave a numeric answer. He then drew a graph of all our different answers and suggested we go for the most votes; -$300. After he explained how simple it is to get to the right conclusion by applying the 5 focusing steps he could not resist. He asked the people from Philips: “Ok this was a calculation with two products, how many products do you have?”
    For me this P&Q example was all the inspiration I needed to want to know more about TOC.
    (BTW why is the website box below mandatory?)

    • Alex
      | Reply

      Hi Patrick,

      Great to hear from you! Hope things are good with you.

      Yours is one of three great replies this morning (I will encourgae the others to post their emails). That’s a great story. I bet a few of the Phillips people choked on the question about the number of products! 🙂

      P&Q definitely has that effect on people. Really smacks them between the eyes. I was going to use it on the Throughput Accounting course but you’ve made me think now…

  2. Alex
    | Reply

    Received via email…

    Good morning Alex, hope I find you well,

    It looks as though all pertinent points are covered, but I do have a minor thread which I feel should be laced through the content to some level, and in a way it’s all about ‘getting them up to speed.’

    I find one of the most challenging sides of introducing people to TOC, especially if they have spent even the briefest time at all in a ‘traditional’ manufacturing environment, is to instil in them that this approach at its core is as much about understanding when not to produce as it is about how to approach the underlying process of producing, and that not producing is an acceptable state.

    As a result Parkinson’s law seems to require almost constant policing, and it strikes me that to have a manufacturing mentality is to have an innate tendency to over produce ‘just in case’ or to ‘help out’ when it’s actually no help at all, no matter how clearly you think you’ve explained all the reasons not to do it. The mere suggestion that an individual should look for mechanisms to avoid out pacing the constraint can sometimes feel like you’ve levelled a challenge to do the exact opposite.

    Other than that I have little to add, I can see nothing that you haven’t covered, but I hope that’s of some use to you.


  3. Katja
    | Reply

    Hello, I find the focus in Eli Goldratt makes toc a bit of a spiritual following. My comment would be, reference EG and use the time you saved to focus more on what Alex said.

    • Alex
      | Reply

      Hi Katja, thank you. I will bear that in mind. I hope you’re well! A

  4. Paul Matthews
    | Reply


    John and myself found the matchstick throughput game opened peoples eyes when you
    are trying to reach staff at a lower managerial level. If you could video this game and selectively
    edit to show the difference in performance it could possibly add something??
    Regards Paul

    • Alex
      | Reply

      Hi Paul,

      Great to hear from you! Hope you’re well.

      I don’t actually know that game. Did Mike show it to you?



      • Dave

        Alex I think it’s the dice game… I know you use counters but in ‘The Goal’ I think he uses matches…

  5. Alex
    | Reply

    From an email….

    Hi Alex,

    Do you really need that a newbie will get to speed on TOC in an hour?

    Isn’t it enough that the person would become intrigued by very few insights and become open to know more? Even achieving this is quite a challenge because people think that what they know is right, while we try to tell them that big part of they know is wrong. This is not easy to swallow.

    Then there is inertia, which impacts in a different way. A person can recognize that there is a weakest link, but still not challenge the paradigm that saving an out on a non-constraint does not improve the output. This is inertia, we continue to believe in what we believed so far, unless a very specific insight highlighted that one paradigm is wrong, and even then we might automatically continue with what is wrong, because our automatic mind simply continues the old way. It takes time to absorb and adapt to new rules.

    TOCICO now launches a series of Basic-TOC webinars. I don’t think it should compete with your course, but you need to define better what the participants will achieve through your course. I really think that the basic-TOC webinars should, first of all, generate the recognition that “there might be something in TOC” and encourage people to know more. Problem is – there is no simple straight-forward way to get to know TOC in some depth except reading books, and most people are not able to read and learn from books. What you course should do is to create more complete knowledge of TOC in an area where it could be implemented.

    Alex, instead of writing emails or comments, let’s speak directly through Skype. Let me know what time suits you.

    Be well,

    Eli Schragenheim

  6. Ian Heptinstall
    | Reply

    Hi Alex,

    A few immediate thoughts.

    – You have too many things in your list for an hour (max)!
    – You could cut 1, 2, 5, 8.
    – In an hour I think you need a hook to excite/intrigue. Maybe even use something like P&Q as pre-course marketing – “If you want to learn why -£300 is NOT the right answer, join me here…”
    – The key message – from systems theory – is that things that work well with linear systems cause harm in more complex real-world systems. This for me was my “OMG!” moment. The realisation that I cant manage a project just by scaling up my personal to-do list practices, and if I try I actually make things worse. If you can get that it might help with the motivation to find out more. I like the story in Critical Chain about Johnny Fischer’s lecture in ch11.
    – The logic side of my brain would also like an overview picture – not easy given the scope of TOC. I like to split the TP tools from the applications, and that is probably enough.
    – Then some real cases/stories about the kind of fast and sustainable changes TOC has delivered. I think a great message is that big improvement is possible without computers, with the same people, and without having to change leaders/managers (well except for the stubborn old sods 😉 )

    Good luck.

    • Alex
      | Reply

      Awesome! Thanks Ian. I’ll read through this more carefully later this evening.

  7. Alex
    | Reply

    Another received via email…

    Hi Alex,

    Good luck with this!

    My only thought would be to keep it light on the theory and concentrate more on the content – for an introduction you don’t need to “prove” to people that it works, more just describe “what” it is. That’s what The Goal is for, to prove to Engineer-types that the theory is sound.



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