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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1949 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Reaching the Goal - How Managers Improve a Services Business Using Goldratt's Theory of Constraints
John Ricketts
IBM Press
Frances Buontempo
management process
Appeared in:

disclaimer: I am not a manager, so cannot comment on the accuracy of any of the technical details in this book.

In a nutshell, Goldratt's theory of constraints (TOC) [see] concerns identifying bottlenecks in a process, such as a machine that has a fixed throughput, and using that as a positive way to organise the work flow. Conventional wisdom might see this as a bottleneck which must be overcome in order to increase profits. Buying more machines would allow you to produce more and thereby make more money. Instead, Goldratt's theory of constraints treats this as a basis for reorganising a service industry business's process, which according to some measures could increase profits. Pushing more products onto the market may not be the best way to go. The organisation must decide their purpose first, and can use the bottlenecks to drive what happens when. Instead of pushing products onto the market/production line, things are pulled as required. This, apparently, files in the face of traditional approaches. The impact on sales and marketing as well as supply chain, logistics, accounting and internal organisation is also considered. The analysis, with clear, specific examples, was easy to read and thought provoking, given I have no background in this area.

The book briefly considers the theory of constraints in other types of business, and draws attention to particular problems in the service industry. In particular, predicting work flow is hard if your raison d'être is to help/provide a service on demand. Special consideration is given to these problems. For example the author shows how various measures should be adopted in order to take these problems such as unpredictable work flow into account. The author briefly mentioned agile, but emphasised TOC is a different approach, relevant when the requirements cannot be changed. TOC deals with fixed requirements.

This book is easy to read with clear examples. Frequently, the approach dictated by Goldratt's theory of constraints differs from the usual business approach taken, and this is clearly spelled out each time. It was interesting to consider how this different approach could change organisations where I have worked and if it would change things for the better. I suspect it also made me consider things from a manager's point of view and learn some of their lingo, which is always a good thing.

The only difficultly I had with the book was a periodic, in your face, evangelical tone of voice adopted to emphasise how TOC could solve almost everything. That aside, it is a good book, assuming a minimal levels of background knowledge. If you need to learn about TOC this is probably a good place to start.