Rest in Peace, Eli Goldratt, 1947-2011


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. Many 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:

Other lean bloggers and their thoughts:

Correction: Goldratt's Consulting site had originally listed his date of birth as 1948, although his original AGI organization and Wikipedia said 1947. I apologize for the incorrect date.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I share the sentiments of your memories regarding “The Goal”. Not mentioned is another fine book and the application of TOC to program management, “Critical Chain”.

    Eli’s style has certainly made it possible for many to grasp the concept behind what would otherwise be a complex theory.

    I appreciate your sharing and commemorating the life and works of a great leader in our field, may he rest in peace.

  2. And he kicked off a whole genre of literature – factory p*rn – exciting stories about getting orders manufactured and shipped and all that jazz.

  3. After reading his first book ‘THE GOAL’, I could not stop buying all other books of Eli. His style of explaining the concepts is out of the box.
    His revolutionary TOC is a well received concept by corporates.

    I was actually waiting for his upcoming books. But…
    I got shocked after reading post that, we lost such a wonderful thinker of era.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  4. I am sad I discoverd Dr Goldratt so late in my life, after just reading The Goal, my thinking was what a great book and what a great author, at the same time sad that he is not with us anymore. I am wondering what other methods he would have invented/discovered. But at the same time happy because that is precisely what he tought us, to think and discover things by ourselves.
    A true genious in every sense, my best wishes to him, his family and memory….


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