Yesterday, we lost a great guru in the process and business improvement worlds, Eliyahu M. Goldratt, who passed away at the age of 64. Goldratt is the author of many books including The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.
I’m sure this is a thought shared by many readers, but Goldratt, The Goal, and his “Theory of Constraints” were incredibly influential to me and my career.
Goldratt’s consulting firm put out this statement on their website on Saturday about his death:
Goldratt Consulting deeply mourns the loss of our beloved visionary father, chairman, and above of all mentor. Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt March 31, 1948 – June 11, 2011 Rest In Peace
I was first exposed to Goldratt’s work when I read The Goal as part of professor Mark Spearman‘s industrial engineering class back in 1994. It sure felt strange to be reading a novel in an engineering class – this was the first, and probably still the best, “business novel” that I’ve read. Goldratt’s story telling style taught core operations concepts of bottlenecks and flow more vividly than cold equations could. Who can forget “Herbie” and the lessons learned from the fictional Boy Scout troop hike? But Goldratt’s work had a mathematical basis that could be quantified and simulated in ways that were very helpful in manufacturing settings. He was also a leader who challenged people to improve their problem solving and thinking skills, ideas that had far broader applications.
When I worked at GM in the mid-90s, we were using Theory of Constraints (TOC) principles to help understand our production bottlenecks, providing improvement resources to the right areas to avoid suboptimizing a part of the system. A lot of us went through a two-day training workshop that included innovative computer simulation exercises that helped people understand how TOC worked. We had external consultants (Paul Henderson) and internal leaders (Rich Rachner) who strongly advocated this approach. This methodology was very helpful in our engine plant machining departments.
I read some of Goldratt’s later books, such as The Race and It’s Not Luck, through the late 90s. As I got more deeply into the Lean methodology (which we were also using at GM, although we couldn’t call it “lean”), I stopped following Goldratt’s later work as closely, but I always remembered the core lessons of The Goal. There are many who have more actively worked to combine Lean and TOC principles in different settings, including in healthcare.
Later yesterday an email came out from Goldratt Institute, which read in part:
On June 11th, 2011 at noon, Eli Goldratt passed away at his home in Israel in company of his family and close friends.
The strength and passion of Eli allowed him to spend his last days sharing and delivering his latest insights and breakthroughs to a group of people who have committed to transfer this knowledge to the TOC Community during the upcoming Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization Conference in New York.
It was Eli’s last wish to take TOC to the next level – truly standing on the shoulders of the Giant he is.
What are your memories of The Goal? How have you used these lessons in your workplace? How have you incorporated T.O.C. and Lean?
You can share stories of Eli Goldratt here and please also share them for the TOC community and the Goldratt family here: www.eligoldratt.com/messages.
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