Theory of Constraints is something great, except for its name

Theory of Constraints (ToC) is among the three philosophies / approaches / methodologies with Lean and Six Sigma leading to tremendous success, but the only one with two frightening words out of the three of its name!

When facing tough challenge or stuck in a crisis, the last thing anyone would look for is a theory. Instead, people with urgent need for improvement would seek something practical, action-focused and yielding short-term.

Too bad, maybe the only thing that could help in such a case is named “Theory”.

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The same people firefighting with their daily problems feel having more than their share of constraints and again, maybe the only thing that could help them holds “constraints” in its name.

I don’t know what led Eli Goldratt, father of ToC name it that name, but I am quite sure it is an obstacle (a kind of constraint!) to the diffusion and adoption of his teachings.

Fame, despite the name

The problem is that Theory of Constraints is now relatively famous, at least among all those having read ‘the Goal’ and grew a corpus which make a change of name unthinkable.

The same happened with ‘5S’, made of five Japanese words few westerners remember. They keep irritating, but it’s a bad idea to rename them if you want to remain understandable by others.

Same with ‘Lean’, first thought to be a clever way to summarize frugality in operations, but this name got mean meaning over time, with a meaning closer to anorexia thanks to poorly and ill-led implementations. Yet it is too late to change the name.

Newcomers, don’t get frightened by the name!

Newcomers give it a try! Don’t get frightened by the name, Theory of Constraints (ToC) is something great, except for its name, we’ll agree.

Think about much more frightening (and unpronounceable) names of drugs you take and the cure they provide. ToC is like such a remedy, not very good sounding but effective and with only positive side effects!


More on this subject: Bill Dettmer and Philip Marris discuss the point


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