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Exploring the Theory of Constraints
Eliyahu Goldratt's "Theory of Constraints" is a continuous process improvement method that was developed in the manufacturing world and is now being applied to other industries, among others in IT. In this respect, its history is similar to that of "Lean Thinking". Where Lean tells you HOW to optimize a system, ToC tells you WHAT to optimize.
The basic insight of ToC is this: every system has ONE constraint (or 'bottleneck') that determines the throughput of the system. If you want to improve the system, you have to find and work on the constraint. The same way you need to strengthen the weakest link if you want to make a chain stronger.
From this idea, ToC derives a program of continuous improvement steps to increase throughput, by attacking the system's constraint. These ideas have been developed for manufacturing plants, but, like "Lean Thinking", they can be applied suprisingly well to software development. ToC principles have been applied to planning (the "Critical Chain" planning method), to accounting/management decision support ("Throughput Accounting") and to Systems Thinking (the "Thinking Processes").
This session is a mixture of tutorial, simulation and workshop/discussion.
To start the session, we run a small simulation of a development team. This simulation provides a visualization of some of the ToC concepts and can be revisited when we want to experiment with some part of the theory.
The "5 focusing steps" for optimization are introduced. Participants try to apply them to the simulation.
ThroughputAccounting is introduced as a model for measurement and management feedback. Participants apply the
Finally, participants are asked to summarize how and when they could/couldn't apply ToC to their projects.
Some experience with different software development processes and/or optimization could be useful, but is not required. Depending on the previous exposure of the participants to the Theory of Constraints, the session will devote more or less time on explaining the basic principles vs discussion of its applications.
This session was run before at the Belgian XP Users group meeting
The session will be run again at XP 2005
We want to compare and contrast the outputs of the different sessions.
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