About the question “What is TOC?”

Jelena Fedurko-Cohen,  4 August 2019

After our recent broadcast of ThinkCamp OnAir on 1st August, an unexpected for me topic – “Does everyone share the same understanding of what is TOC, and what is the definition of TOC?” – emerged in the course of the after-the-broadcast discussion.

My answer in this discussion was: “In our (Oded’s and mine) understanding TOC is a combination of principles and rules that are the basis for specific mechanics and tools to manage some types of social systems.”

Since I am still puzzled by the question, this morning out of curiosity I opened Eli Goldratt’s Chapter 1 in Theory of Constraints Handbook (Mc Graw Hill, 2010). Chapter 1 title “Introduction to TOC – My Perspective”.

The very start of the chapter, p.3, Eli: “[…] can we condense all of TOC into one sentence? I think that it is possible to condense it to a single word – focus.”

This goes on to the sentence opening the first section titled “Focus”.

p.3, Eli: “There are many different definitions to the word focus, but a good starting point is a simple definition such as “Focus: doing what should be done.”

p.3, lines fourth and third from the bottom of the page, Eli: “[…] when we can’t do it all, it is of the utmost importance to properly select what to do; it is of the utmost importance what we choose to focus on.”

p.4, the last sentence in the section “Constraints and Non-Constraints”, Eli: “We don’t have a choice but to define focus more narrowly: do what should be done AND don’t do what should not be done.”

With that I would like to refine the definition of TOC that I have given in the discussion. In my understanding, TOC is a combination of principles and rules that are the basis for specific mechanics and tools to manage some types of social systems in such a way that it allows those who manage these systems to do what should be done and not to do what should not be done.”

The section titles in Chapter 1 and the content of the sections list the key ones of these principles, rules, mechanics and tools:

  • Constraints and non-constraints (p.4)
  • Measurements (Throughput Accounting with T, I, OE) (p.4)
  • DBR and Buffer Management (in the section “The Goal and The Race”) (p.5)
  • 5 focusing steps (in section “Other Environments”). On p.5, Eli specifically defines 5 Focusing steps as “a precise verbalization of the focusing process”. Hence, tying WHAT is TOC (=focus) to the process outlined by 5 focusing steps.
  • CCPM
  • The Thinking Processes. On pp.5-6, Eli specifically points out: “To focus properly, the following questions had to be answered: How do we identify the constraint? What are the decisions that will lead to better exploitation? How do we determine the proper way to subordinate the non-constraints o the above decision? […] There was the crying need to provide a logical detailed structure to identify the core problem, to zoom in on the ways to remove it, and to do so without creating new UDEs.”
  • The Market Constraint (p.6)
  • Capitalize and Sustain (pp.6-7)
  • POOGI (in section “Ever Flourishing”, p.7)
  • S&T Trees (p.8)

Keeping the above in mind, I feel steady proceeding with my definition of what TOC is: a combination of principles and rules that are the basis for specific mechanics and tools to manage some types of social systems in such a way that it allows those who manage these systems to do what should be done and not to do what should not be done.

To answer a possible comment regarding how to treat TOC principles and applications that are not outlined by Eli in Chapter 1 of the Handbook, I will quote a line from the short story with which Eli started Chapter 1: “[…] the rest is just derivatives.”    

  Jelena Fedurko-Cohen,  4 August 2019  

 

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