After listening to the free podcast version of Rolling Rocks Downhill by Clarke Ching – a fairly entertaining business novel – I got interested in the theories behind the story. The story is centred around solving organisational problems, specifically software development problems, with the Theory of Constraints as formulated by Eliyahu Goldratt.
Goldratt’s biggest claim to fame is the business novel The Goal first released in 1984, which has become a management classic. I picked up a copy of Theory of Constraints from a second-hand book shop, and tried to disregard the tasteless cover.
Tasteless cover or not, I found the book pretty dated – first released in 1990 – and boring. Goldratt’s theories primarily focus on manufacturing chains, and the language is pretty dry and the tone self-righteous. The theories are applicable in software development as well, as in Rolling Rocks Downhill. However, there are more modern and readily available methods and processes for software development. In light of this, Goldratt comes off as a peddler of repackaged ideas. Because, to be honest, it’s just lean thinking with different terminology and a few new methods of decision making.
I don’t mean to dismiss Goldratt as a fraud, his success clearly shows he was on to something, but Theory of Constraints wasn’t as good a read as I’d hoped. The book refers to The Goal on every other page. I haven’t read The Goal, but it seems that’s a better point to start if you want to read up on Goldratt and his theories.