The Theory of Constraints

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The Theory of Constraints

Key Concept Explanation

Every organization has problems that operations managers need to solve. By its most simple definition, the theory of constraints is a method of thinking that is focused on strategizing for the solution of a problem (or “constraint”). Nagarkatte and Oley (2017) define the theory by saying, “a constraint is the most important factor in an organization (or personal life) that needs attention. Giving that attention, dedicating resources to improve that factor, will bring about the greatest change in the organization (or personal life).” (pg. 11). The theory was developed by Eliyahu Goldratt in the 1980s and is now used widely in companies such as Boeing, Delta Airlines, Ford, and Toyota (Nagarkatte & Oley, 2017). Practitioners of the theory ask themselves three questions: “what to change?”, “what to change to?”, and “how to cause the change?” The theory of constraints is useful for organizations of any size and from many different industries.


            There were two main differences between the information provided in the course material and the items researched for this assignment. First, the course text identified bottleneck prevention and response as one of the main functions of the theory of constraints. While this component of the theory was discussed, it did not appear as a primary functionality in the ancillary research. The additional materials defined constraints in a broader sense and recognized that they can present themselves in other ways besides as a bottleneck. For example, Kapustina et al. (2017) described constraints generally as “negative consequences”. Nagarkatte & Oley (2017) take a more general view as well, identifying the theory of constraints as a tool for determining the underlying cause of a variety of issues.

While the course material and the additional material presented the same general process for applying the theory of constraints, the course material focused mainly on doing so in the context of manufacturing. Aguilar-Escobar et al. (2016) and Pawlak (2016) explored applying the theory to the medical field. Gupta and Boyd (2008) discussed applications in operations management and how the theory’s compatibility with operations management theory make it adaptable in several scenarios. The research for this assignment highlighted the importance of the theory of constraints in many different fields.

Article Summary

Aguilar-Escobar et al. (2016) discussed how the theory of constraints was useful when the Hospital Universado Virgen Macarena applied it to the management of their medical records. The authors began their research by discussing the five-focusing-steps. Step one is to identify the constraints of a system. In this case, they discovered several issues that were causing problems including a lack of awareness of the severity of the problem (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). There was also a severe lack of storage and a lack of human resources (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). Second, they decided how to exploit those constraints by concentrating on the parts of the problem that were leading to inefficiencies and waste (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). Decisions were made about how to categorize active and passive medical records and as a result 134,515 records were released from storage, which freed up space and relieved part of the issue (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). The team then moved on to phases 3 through 5, which supported these decisions.

In step 3, the team worked on subordinating other areas to support the main initiatives. They restructured the lending out procedure while simultaneously improving the takeback process (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). Phase 4 involved increasing the constraints on the system by creating once central storage area and creating a dedicated workspace (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). Finally, the team completed phase 5. They avoided inertia by ensuring management enforced the new policies and procedures (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016). The changes that were implemented following the theory of constraints proved to be successful and led to lasting positive change within the hospital (Aguilar-Escobar, 2016).

Biblical Integration

The theory of constraints can help operations managers solve problems, but Christian leaders can also rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them when they face challenges. When attempting to identify a constraint and find a solution, believers can remember James 1:5, which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (English Standard Version). Psalm 50:15 is also applicable. It says, “And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (English Standard Version). Organizations face many challenges and they can be addressed by applying the theory of constraints. However, there is additional power available when believers rely on the Lord for wisdom and guidance through the process.


All of the research reviewed for this assignment identified the theory of constraints as an applicable tool in many fields. However, the research focused mostly on the topic in reference to the medical and manufacturing fields. The theory is a useful method for identifying problems, strategizing for their solutions, implementing those solutions, and ensuring the solutions stick. Every organization has constraints that negatively affect the business. Operations managers can utilize this technique as a standardized way to resolve problems and enhance productivity and efficiency. The theory of constraints has the ability to create more resourceful and effective processes and generate more positive outcomes.




Aguilar-Escobar, V., Garrido-Vega, P., & González-Zamora, M. (2016). Applying the theory of constraints to the logistics service of medical records of a hospital. European Research on Management and Business Economics, 22(3), 139. doi:10.1016/j.iedee.2015.07.001!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMwPV29DsIgECbGwaoPQeJMUn5K6Ww0PoBuJs2VQHQwHeji23sH2I0AIQwH33cH992ebdFvDawK_OSvVEimAklSyi4LZbZywxqEFSOcM2q7trXZrdER1xsEmoY9iYxRwg9HPsRzct-Xz5F7Yk9URGFJfJnzYEmZefvEUzlmNO9Tnjt4CXkk6gL-qiU5jrhXdPQO7HG93M83UcsPCE9WK2zQMiD8O2j7AG7Sceq87VXUgDiJxAqM9GZQE0nGyzh4iAqUtxqsmsCREOGprPu_5MdqH2lEVi9bNzht9Q_HCFbL

Gupta, M. C., & Boyd, L. H. (2008). Theory of constraints: A theory for operations management. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 28(10), 991-1012. doi:10.1108/01443570810903122!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMwdV3LbsIwEIxQD9D2G5DFuZYSp35xq1CrfkB7tuw45oSIZPh_ZnECCNpLDslknTjWejb27jxXT4hb-6osIJ5FZsDZW6kx99A_gUaIGeUoSsOVtBiZtMPwnQOg55MHBeeQi8qW7HS2T6wjrkSSCYe8Zp4dygWwOrYf-tJTme0u-0Ve8QwI4F6q36_Pn803H2UFeEfV2rgWCTQ_-thH1QSfgjdtSMpQMaWgapNknbS2TVcjHo_BKxVswlnrRbC9pSXqVbE7OW83fvfswE9aobUhtYRlAZGjdzRa8AKdExQDwAZZebsBjJKTOGQKyvPWH3N2H7fwpsCn2dMNpRyFO9N40pK87-drE2Ou8eWWB6gbYgK8_hv-fwsnAn-LQA

Kapustina, L. M., Chovancová, M., & Klapita, V. (2017). Application of Specific Theory of Constraints Technique for the Identification of Main Causes of Negative Consequences within Procurement Logistics, LOGI – Scientific Journal on Transport and Logistics, 8(1), 56-63. doi:!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMwTV1LTgMxDJ1FFxQ4hC8wUhN3kskSVSCQgFVZjzx2UnVVxHATLoydTAXLRJGlfOTYyfN7t91G89bcNX5EvS0rKlk3Q72hXUgbE3tDw1thvFk33gd1oDvEbffz8PdtC5cCVYS9nBlapbp1mZBllU_4XuB45TkFjfBAIyZo5a3ln4k3HQoH0px_seZ7PlVG7WrnilYGe_TUYQbOX9_l4LVW4Jx5udcZaTp41308PR4Pz_0qUtCLczH0wn6OxmkzSqAxFp-57ILo2swkrlgpKhXSKGDYcx64IJIk5uSjBl-UjH70pdk1ONz02TgmJmN9rh2Xr9O0HqLJJ89I2VEYaJ-yUB5zQKFZDTmRgr-AU3d-

Nagarkatte, U., & Oley, N. (2018). Theory of constraints and thinking processes for creative thinkers: Creative problem solving. Boca Raton, Fla: Taylor & Francis.!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMw42JgAfZbU5khpykZAysUM1NT8GVklpYmpqCjVcw54GMgloYmpkbmnAxOkI3oCvlpCsmgZhHodoSSYgVgX1qhJANyh4BCAWThfGqxArA1pwBpUpWlQuSBLSUeoL3AThs3g6yba4izhy70cNp46ChIvCVoUA50OCAheTXs8rDJoHjQxCBQIQD0IUZn

Pawlak, R. (2016). Theory of constraints: What can we learn to support the nursing workforce? JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 46(11), 558-560. doi:10.1097/NNA.0000000000000404!/search?bookMark=ePnHCXMwbV3BbsMgDI2qHdptH4HUXqMCpjE5d6122WFS7wgcKu3SVko-oP_QP-yX1B6JtE27ImPBE2AM9vNz9cR-a67GH0Ht1x-7T3kMY0sj8Q5GzyRFcePZaTG8DBfGIdby_jCf_CRrERfVW0lOV-ejIrkqScWEoVf36039-NtVXyclIYBqmLjAS3PhQe5feTTsyr1Uh_3usH2vxwIDNVnZXMalHE2yyQNQhAgo7Gma-PxqXG4JoYEugk3HjpBAU0zZpU12Xdf6RkqtL4va6RQP4wLog2l4RtiydWcpXaQmuxcuhUgifF_AtQ-MUNAYBKEgCHGX1R_FMQkCNLBmtiYtCOmO1HMuYmMu8X-Kf0EPD7GCduk


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