This short article summarizes Eli Goldratt’s 2008 whitepaper Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.


The full article, although quite a lengthy read, is well worth it (link above to a Goldratt original) for anyone considering process improvement. Production-worded, the main points are still applicable to any workflow process, regardless of whether you are in manufacturing, professional or trade service industries.


According to Goldratt, there are 4 main points to consider when improving processes, regardless of the chosen methodology.


  1. Focus on improving the flow. This should be your main objective, whether you are a boat manufacturer or an accountant; the inevitable outcome of which is reduced lead time and less stressful work environments.


  1. Do not over-produce. Ford managed this by limiting space…literally, the space on the production line, and Ohno (Toyota Production Systems) did it by limiting inventory allowed to accumulate between work centres. The logic here is that once flow improves and we are going “faster” let’s not turn around and clog our workflow channels with more work, just because we can. Overproduction leads to increased work in progress, slower lead times and slower responsiveness to customer demand.


  1. Get rid of local measurement. Local optima, coupled with free capacity uncovered by improving the flow, puts us at risk of over producing and violating step 2). It is inherent in the human behaviour that we view idleness at work as bad, when in fact it is only bad if it is due to a lack of work, not when it is due to us choosing not to overproduce.


  1. Balance the flow of work, NOT the capacity. Invent a mechanism by which we will maximise the continuity of the flow of work, rather than maximising our resource capacity; which overburdens the system and encourages the start-stop work ethic.


If there is an aspect of what you read above that you wish to discuss, please contact Peter Thorby at

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