At the stroke of midnight, Naomi decided to lead a healthy lifestyle this new year. She even set up a fitness plan to help her manage her diet and exercise routines. However, as the days progressed, she continued to face several challenges. From increasing workload to personal emergencies, Naomi kept getting sidetracked.

Naomi won’t be able to progress unless she overcomes the roadblocks that are interrupting her plan. Not only individuals but also organizations face setbacks that need to be addressed. These limiting factors are also known as constraints and they have been widely studied in the Theory of Constraints. So,  what is the Theory of Constraints? Read on!

  1. Meaning Of The Theory Of Constraints

  2. The Importance Of Identifying Constraints

  3. Understanding The Theory Of Constraints Principles

  4. Final Thoughts

Meaning Of The Theory Of Constraints

Eliyahu Moshe Goldratt was an Israeli physicist who later became a business leader and educator. He is most widely known for the Theory of Constraints, which he introduced in his book, The Goal. The Theory of Constraints refers to the process of identifying the most important limiting factor or constraint that stands in the way of goal achievement. The methodology takes a scientific approach towards improvement until you resolve the limiting factor.

In order to identify and eliminate a constraint, understand what it means and entails. Simply put, a constraint is anything that prevents you from achieving your goal(s). However, it doesn’t mean that if an organization has an endless number of constraints, the theory will solve for each one of them. There are two primary examples of the theory of constraints

  • Internal (for example, availability of materials, skilled workforce, maintenance)

  • External (for example, changing market demands)

Constraints can also arise from people, policies and equipment. When identified properly, they provide the fastest route to improvement and form the bedrock of continuous improvement. Let’s look at the various types of constraints that exist as bottlenecks in the manufacturing process of an organization.

  1. Physical

Usually includes equipment but can also refer to other factors such as lack of people, lack of space and material shortages.

  1. Policy

It refers to the recommended ways of working. An organization’s procedures, such as bonus time and overtime policy, may present limitations.

  1. Market

When the production capacity exceeds sales, the external marketplace is constraining. Organizations should work towards creating demand for the product in the market.

The Importance Of Identifying Constraints

The Theory of Constraints in project management is crucial because obstacles are inevitable in a business environment. To avoid roadblocks from limiting your business operations, you need to find the weakest link. You may have heard about ‘a chain is no stronger than its weakest link’ and finding that link will help you address underlying challenges. The Theory of Constraints methodology is the best way to mitigate or eliminate limiting factors and identifying and pursuing goals that drive business success.

A successful Theory of Constraints implementation will provide your organization with the following benefits:

  • Smoother and faster product flow i.e., reduced lead times

  • Eliminating bottlenecks i.e., improved capacity

  • Increase in product manufacturing

Understanding The Theory Of Constraints Principles

The Theory of Constraints proposes a Five Focusing Steps framework that helps identify and manage constraints so that businesses can progress towards their end goals. Let’s look at the various steps in detail.

  1. Identify The Constraint

Identifying the weakest link helps you zero in on that part of your business operations that is limiting the rate at which a goal is achieved. For example, a single employee may be overwhelmed with tasks while others in the team don’t have as much pressure.

  1. Decide How To Exploit It

Constraints aren’t always necessarily a challenge; it’s also a potential opportunity. Without undergoing expensive changes or upgrades, find effective ways to utilize a constraint to your advantage. Try to make small and quick improvements by using existing resources.

  1. Subordinate Everything To The Constraint

You need to adjust the non-constraint part of the system to a setting that’ll allow the constraint to operate at maximum effectiveness. It helps you align all the activities to the constraint resolution process.

  1. Elevate The Constraint

If, despite following the first three steps, the constraint still lingers, think about other ways to address it. Bring additional resources to the situation to increase the capacity and overcome the constraint.

  1. Repeat As Needed

The Five Focusing Steps is a continuous cycle for improvement. After you resolve one constraint, focus and address the next one. Be vigilant and look out for any unwanted constraints that might show up.

Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement in performance forms the bedrock of the Theory of Constraints. If you want to overcome roadblocks, you need to cultivate a growth mindset and step outside your comfort zone. Harappa’s Leading Self course will help you navigate obstacles and recognize areas of improvement. The Performance Equation framework will help you fulfill your true potential by overcoming challenges. Take ownership of your growth and navigate constraints effectively!


Explore topics such as Leadership Qualities That Makes A Good Leader, The Importance Of Positive Thinking, The Power of Positive Thinking & Types of Leadership from Harappa Diaries and develop skills to become a reliable leader.

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