As a huge fan of Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, & lean manufacturing principles, my deepest, darkest, most embarrassing secret is... I have never read the legendary book: The Goal.
Until now, finally.
My journey of ToC & lean has been a backward one. I was taught hands-on by genius mentors over five years ago and have continued to put the concepts into practice ever since. I've read many other books on the topic just never the one everyone raves about: The Goal.
So I didn't read this book hoping to learn about bottlenecks, constraints, or flow. I didn't need convincing that lean manufacturing principles can be applied to software.
But still, I enjoyed reading every word of this 30-year-old classic and I would recommend you do, too.
Al is the humble hero in The Goal. He manages a manufacturing plant that is failing so badly his boss threatens to shut it down if Al doesn't turn things around in just a few short months.
Al has no clue about the Theory of Constraints. He doesn't get transported to Japan to learn about lean manufacturing, either. This book is not about an enterprise-grade transformation lead by some clever consultants.
Instead, Al and his team, through a series of small steps driven by simple hypotheses, transform the fortunes of their plant and become heroes; discovering the Theory of Constrains in the process.
As a story that I couldn't put down for the pure enjoyment and drama alone, The Goal is an excellent text. But that's not what makes it legendarily special...
Bottlenecks, Batch Sizes, & Broken Heuristics
Each twist in the gripping storyline introduces new concepts that help the reader to reason about the way work flows through an organisation. In this book it's manufacturing, but most concepts apply to all kinds of organisation - especially those relying on IT.
One of the fundamental concepts is the bottleneck. The Goal demonstrates how the throughput of a system - how frequently value can be delivered - is constrained to the speed of the slowest work centers. Those are your bottlenecks.
For example, in software development, it doesn't matter how fast your developers write code, you can only deliver at the rate of your QA and deployment process.
In fact, the more WIP created by non-bottlenecks that builds up in the system, the lower your throughput due to the negative effects of increased inventory/WIP.
The Goal completely dismantles the idea that workers should be 100% utilised, too, showing how it is detrimental to the performance of an organisation.
Throughout the story, there are just so many sub-plots and themes - fundamental lessons that almost any organisation or individual can learn from. On reflection, it's a shocker that The Goal was written 30 years ago and most of the mistakes it exposes are still the norm in many organisations.