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Lessons from Past Project Managers: Eliyahu M. Goldratt

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Claudio Gutierrez

President & Founder — Valens Project Consulting

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In this ongoing series, we have been talking about lessons we have learned from past project managers. And today, we are focusing on the life and legacy of Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

 

Who was Eliyahu M. Goldratt?

Eliyahu Moshe Goldratt (1947-2011) was an Israeli business management expert and the creator of the Theory of Constraints (TOC).

 

Surprisingly, Goldratt began his career not in business management but as a physicist. He earned his B.Sc. from Tel Aviv University and later a PhD from Bar-Ilan University. His scientific background lent him a unique, analytical perspective on business problems.

 

Goldratt’s claim to fame was the Theory of Constraints. This theory suggests that there are ‘bottlenecks’ in every system that slow it down. Goldratt argued that finding and fixing these bottlenecks could improve the efficiency of the entire system.

 

 

Valuable Insights for Project Managers

 

Find the Bottleneck

There’s always that one thing that holds back the overall progress of any project. It could be a tight budget, outdated policies, or a talent/technology shortage. Project managers must always look for these (often hidden) bottlenecks.

 

Look at the Big Picture

Goldratt taught us to see a project as a whole system. When we find a problem in one part of the system, we should consider its impact on the entire operation. Instead of only fixing a single problem area, we should consider the system’s overall health and look for lasting solutions.

“The Goal” is one of the most business novels in history. Should be required reading by every project manager.
Prioritize and Sequence Work

According to TOC, not every task on your to-do list is equally important. Some are more important because they are on the project’s critical path—the steps that control the project’s start or finish date. These are the ones we want to tackle first to use our time and resources most effectively.

 

Trust Data

Goldratt believed that project decisions should always be based on solid numbers. As project managers, we should back up our decisions with real data and analysis.

 

Think Globally, Act Locally

TOC teaches us to consider the whole project (think globally) but act locally on the most pressing issues. We must see the big picture but also focus our efforts on areas that need immediate attention.

 

Never Stop Improving

TOC promotes continuous improvement, not fixing single constraints. In project management, this approach means building a culture of constant improvement. There’s always a more efficient way to do something, even if it currently works fine.

 

Final Thoughts

Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s work has left a lasting impact on project management. His Theory of Constraints gives us a different way of looking at our projects and identifying improvement opportunities.

 

At Valens Project Consulting, we value the insights from past project management pioneers like Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Our consultants use these teachings with modern methods to deliver successful project outcomes. So, if you want to improve your project management with proven techniques, contact us today!

 

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