TOC More Powerful than Six-Sigma, Lean

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Jul 06, 2006 |
Advanced Projects reports that The Association for Operations Management (APICS) released a study this spring in their APICS Magazine, indicating that "TOC [Theory of Constraints] is twenty times as effective as Six Sigma, and nearly ten times more effective than lean at causing cost savings...".  Their report calls this "the only scientific double-blind study of its kind performed 'in the wild', i.e. in actual business plants."  (The original article by Pirasteh and Farah, Continuous Improvement Trio: The top elements of TOC, lean, and six sigma make beautiful music together  is available online to registered APICS members and customers.)

How does this study relate to software development?  There are significant differences between turning out identical widgets and developing software, a creative endeavour producing different products each time.  In fact, author Mary Poppendieck notes in the preface of Lean Software: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers that CMM (Capability Maturity Model) and PMI (Project Management Institute) methodologies, with their heavy emphasis on process definition and detailed front-end planning, borrow heavily from the lean manufacturing movement.  These methodologies are in some ways diametrically opposed to Agile principles, and yet Poppendieck and other writers and teachers of Agile methods continue to find valuable lessons in manufacturing process theory.

David J. Anderson's article Feature-Driven Development: towards a TOC, Lean and Six Sigma solution for software engineering from 2004 seems to connect the dots, for those new to the subject.  Anderson uses ideas from these disciplines in his work.  Anderson is the author of Agile Management for Software Engineering: Applying the Theory of Constraints for Business Results.

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TOC and software by Bruce Rennie

I use TOC all the time to explain constraints and how to deal with them.

Let's face it, virtually all the software shops we work in are testing constrained in some way or other. I find TOC to be a much easier pill for many to swallow than the arguably more complex methods described in Six Sigma and Lean.

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