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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Several Moderate "AHA"s Make This Book Valuable
Eli Goldratt continues his application of Theory of Constraints (TOC) to various business processes by focusing on project management with this latest business novella. TOC is a method of creating ongoing improvement in operational processes, as well as a general management philosophy. Goldratt introduced this theory to world in his best-selling book THE GOAL, where he...
Published on December 15, 2001 by Kindle Customer

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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Thoughts About Scheduling and Coordinating Projects
There is an old saying. To a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail.
Having now read two of Mr. Goldratt's books, it appears that to him every management issue is a scheduling and coordination problem. While that's true, product development management of difficult tasks is also sensitive to many other things like getting competent resources, having the right...
Published on January 11, 2001 by Donald Mitchell


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76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Several Moderate "AHA"s Make This Book Valuable, December 15, 2001
By 
Kindle Customer (Chagrin Falls, OH USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
Eli Goldratt continues his application of Theory of Constraints (TOC) to various business processes by focusing on project management with this latest business novella. TOC is a method of creating ongoing improvement in operational processes, as well as a general management philosophy. Goldratt introduced this theory to world in his best-selling book THE GOAL, where he applied the principles to a manufacturing setting.
In CRITICAL CHAIN, Goldratt builds upon the teachings found in THE GOAL. He quickly describes of constructs of TOC, while spending more time addressing some specific phenomenon of project management versus process management. This is where the "Aha"s come into play.
Goldratt's characters debate and learn why projects often run overdue and over budget, or finish with less completed than originally specified. The characters debate critical path vs. non-critical path tasks, early vs. late start, resource conflicts, safety buffers in each task, negotiating with subcontractors and suppliers, as well as the erroneous progress accounting/measurement techniques that give everyone a false sense of progress toward completion.
Each of these topics were useful in challenging the conventional wisdom of project management. Each presented some new techniques for managing projects more aggressively. In my job, I indirectly manage a large number of construction project managers, and this was useful in understanding some of the reasons we struggle to deliver on time and on budget.
For those of you looking for the same enlightenment that you probably derived from THE GOAL, you will be mildly disappointed. For those of you who have not yet read THE GOAL, I highly recommend reading it, because it will provide the foundation material (TOC) in much more depth and clarity.
For me, TOC completes the loop of operational concepts that I have pondered over my career, namely how to improve processes and improve overall organizational productivity, while eliminating "fire fighting" and bottlenecks in production. CRITICAL CHAIN furthers the progress of this thinking relative to a project vs. a process environment.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Thoughts About Scheduling and Coordinating Projects, January 11, 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
There is an old saying. To a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail.
Having now read two of Mr. Goldratt's books, it appears that to him every management issue is a scheduling and coordination problem. While that's true, product development management of difficult tasks is also sensitive to many other things like getting competent resources, having the right amount of input from each function early in the process, and developing the ability to produce the finished product efficiently and effectively. Those other issues are essentially untouched in this book.
Think of this book as applying the system coordination and optimization concepts of Mr. Goldratt's famous novel, The Goal, to project management.
If you have already read The Goal, this book will be much easier to understand than if you have not. Although many of the same concepts are explained here as in The Goal, the explanations in this book are not nearly as thorough and clear. Also, the plot and plot line in this book will probably not be as enjoyable to you as The Goal. I rated the book down two stars for these kinds of weaknesses.
If you have read The Goal, Mr. Goldratt basically substitutes scheduling safety margins for work-in-progress inventory, and then applies the same debottlenecking concepts as in The Goal.
If you have not read The Goal, Mr. Goldratt's argument is that schedules are put together with too much slack. Everyone wants to be almost sure they can meet a deadline. The deadkube date they pick usually relates to the most they can get away with. Usually, that much time is not needed and people start late. If they end early, they never tell anyone. So any delay puts the whole project back because there is no project scheduling slack. With many tasks going on simultaneously, often none of them get done well.
The solution is to cut back on each individual schedule in favor of having all of the slack managed for the whole project, and communicating frequently about when the work really will be done so the next step can be ready to take up the baton. Then focus all measurements on project completion, rather than task completion. Give priority to whatever can hold the whole project back. Add resources there, too, if possible. In doing this, focus on both activities and resources as potential bottlenecks.
The book also has some good sections on how to negotiate with external suppliers to improve performance, and how to think about the tradeoffs between speed and cost as a supplier and as a purchaser of supplies and services.
Without changes in top management policies, most project managers will not be allowed to use all of these principles. So be sure to share this book upward, as well as sideways, and downward in the organization. If you are in a small company, it will be much easier to do.
After you have finished reading this book, I suggest that you look at the last 20 projects that your organization has done. What was done well? What was not? Which of these issues can be helped by Mr. Goldratt's ideas? Which cannot? For these latter, I suggest you look for best practices and imagine what perfection could look like to design a simple, but effective, alternative with better communications. The new book, It's Not the BIG etc., may be helpful to you in this regard.
May you continuously improve your effectiveness in project management!
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Goal re-applied to PM, December 17, 1999
By 
Adrian P. Wible (Coconut Creek, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
I received The Goal as part of my MBA Operations Management course but held off reading until I graduated. I couldn't put The Goal down, nor could I put down Critical Chain. Critical Chain revisits the same ideas from The Goal and applies them to Project Management. I hoped for an aha... and got several minor ones. I do recommend this book. But don't let the book lull you into thinking everything is figured out. I haven't quite figured out where the precise misses are (relative to my world), but I know there are some gaps. Guess I'll have to think some... but don't we all!
Recommended reading approach: read once through and then revisit the chapters where our hero is in class and also the one where he is enjoying the TOC lecture (ie. on the second pass, ignore the fictional dialog regarding our hero's fight for tenure). Read SLOWLY at this point, and have a notepad handy to apply the ideas to your world. Think! I learned a heck of alot more the second time through.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Typical Goldratt, July 2, 2001
This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
As he did in The Goal with production operations, Goldratt approaches project management in Critical Chain from a novel, even radical, perspective and makes some impressive insights. Through his main character, a business professor, Goldratt maintains that something is fundamentally wrong with current methodologies, and proposes a simpler, crisper alternative.
Typical of Goldratt's style, the essence of Critical Chain could be condensed into less than 20 pages. The remainder of the book consists of a superfluous, poorly developed novel, including details of the professor's troubled marriage and the attempts of a university president to turn around a faltering business school. Goldratt is harshly critial of current business school cirriculums and characterizes an MBA as essentially useless.
Goldratt's unconventional grammar, especially with regard to punctuation, and his insistence in switching between first and third person narration is distracting, but manageable.
Overall, however, Critical Chain is an achievement and should be mandatory reading for anyone involved in project management.
tpm May 28, 2001
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel Presentation of Basic Concepts, March 28, 2002
This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
Goldratt has been an especially prolific author in recent years. This is the third of three books; the others are The Goal (1992) and It's Not Luck (1994). As in those earlier works, Goldratt presents his ideas in this volume within the structure of a novel. When doing so, I think he is much less effective as a storyteller than he is introducing and then developing his core concepts about project management. I am among those who are convinced that process management and project management are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, I believe that effective project management must be integrated within effective process management inorder to improve, for example, cycle time and first pass yield. Moreover, one of the greatest challenges is to identify root causes of barriers to the process and then eliminate them.
Another formidable challenge to any organization (regardless of size or nature) is to become and then remain performance-driven, rather than culture-driven. Whatever the "critical chain" may be, its weakest "link" is the limiting factor. One of the worst mistakes made, when problems develop, is to respond to symptoms rather than to root causes. As a result, the weakest "link" is seldom strengthened and perhaps not even identified.
In this volume, Goldratt once again examines a fictional context within which there is a cast of characters, a multi-dimensional narrative (or plot), and all manner of disagreements which create conflicts. Never before have executives had more to read and less time for reading. One of this book's most appealing qualities is that it is so easy to read. (The challenge is to make effective applications of TOC in an increasingly more competitive marketplace.) Goldratt is an authority on the business subjects he discusses as well as an excellent teller of tales. That's a rare combination. Once again, he suggests all manner of applications of his Theory of Constraints (TOC). And once again, Goldratt helps the reader to determine how to apply the TOC to her or his own organization.
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read his other books, The Goal and It's Not Luck; also, to check out David Maister's Practice What You Preach and David Whyte's The Heart Aroused. With all due respect to the core concepts which Goldratt examines so brilliantly in this volume, they are worthless unless and until embraced by everyone involved. Master and Whyte can help managers to achieve that "buy in."
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this if you are a proj manager needing new solutions, July 19, 2000
This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
I received this book for an executive MBA operations management course. I found it particularly easy to read and interesting, since I had worked in project management for ten years, but in services rather than manufacturing. A most interesting concept discussed is "padding", or protecting particular steps in a project. The book discusses elevating the essential steps of a project (hence "critical chain") and removing that padding that is placed around non-essentials that can waste time and money. It also talks about realistically planning/estimating time, and how during projects we tend to over-estimate time to plan for unforseen problems (again, padding). Key take aways were the chapters about getting vendor buy in to critical chain stuff, convincing our outsourcing companies to buy in to how maximizing critical efforts can save resources and earn them additional profit. Four stars were given because of two reasons-the author assumes that we all have the inherent ability to get the higher ups unconditional buy ins that will be needed to apply this theory. The second reason was the authors sometimes patronizing portrayal of women and holier than thou professor characters.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goldratt is an Industrial Engineering Guru!, February 5, 2004
By 
Mark McDonald (Berkeley, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
Goldratt has done many valuable things for the practice of Industrial Engineering and Operations Management. To fully appreciate what he is doing, one really should have a background in mathematical programming, but what he has done for project management is truly valuable. He is very intentional in his writing style, and fortunately for the layperson, he leaves the linear programming formulation of what he's describing out of things.
It is true that Goldratt's ideas could be stated in twenty pages or so, but he is very wise and intentional in not giving away the answers. None of my professors at Berkeley would give out answers when it is better for students to learn things on their own.
At least one of the Goldratt books is tremendously helpful reading before starting the graduate programs in transportation engineering. It presents in a very intuitive way what Carlos Daganzo, Gordon Newell, Adolf May, and other big names in traffic flow theory have explained so explicitly in precise mathematical form. The five step focusing process is very useful in the evaluation of cyclic servers and bottlenecks, the statistical process control techniques are necessary to keep projects, plants, and transit operations on schedule, and the evaporating clouds are tremendously helpful in solving planning problems of conflicts between the environment and improving transportation system performancs, etc.
Goldratt's work is so much more valuable than optimization techniques alone could ever be. Goldratt helps spot what is and is not a valid optimization problem. It ingrains the basic results of optimization in the reader's mind, so it can be applied quickly and intuitively. All the benefits of the simplex algorithm with none of the mathematical formulations.
And yes, a lot of business school curricula are full of it.
Mark McDonald
MS/PhD Candidate
University of California, Berkeley
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New ideas in project management, December 8, 2005
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
This book is actually fiction, although it intended to be used as a instructional manual for implementing a new approach to project management. As a project manager I think the book is very practical and I think his approach would work very well for many projects. However, the theory that Goldratt proposes goes against all of the other commonly used project management tools (Gantt, Critical Path, PERT) that are based on timelines and milestones.

The book is written from a common-sense approach (in contrast to the approach used by textbooks) and some of the problems it addresses are:

1. Projects often run over budget but rarely finish under budget

2. Multitasking is actually detrimental to projects

3. Constraints arrise when multiple projects use the same resources

4. The true cost of a project (which Goldratt says is much higher than most think)

5. Negotiations with subcontractors used on a project

6. Net Present Value and payback period are inadequate measurements for the cost of a project

Don't be discouraged if you don't understand any of the typical project management jargon. Goldratt does a great job of introducing each concept and describing the basic, underlying concepts. The technical concepts are explained in question-answer form that would be similar to attending a seminar.

Lastly, Goldratt uses two types of projects (product development and construction) as examples in this book. However, the concepts and his approach could be applicable to many different types of projects. In my opinion, the determining factor for applicability of Goldratt's approach is the structure of the organization and not the type of project; the less burocratic, the more applicable.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 star concepts in a 3 star novel, October 4, 2006
By 
R. Meints (Dearborn, MI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
Eli Goldratt is one of the most respected experts in the field of Project Management. His work on the Theory of Constraints provides project managers with some very useful tools for keeping projects focused, on budget, and on target. I have definitely benefitted from Goldratt's insights into these topics.

Unfortunately, this work of fiction, with three largely separate story lines, makes for an awkward read. The 246 page novel has about half of its page count spent on two stories that add little to the main message of the book. The ongoing storylines about fixing the business school's executive MBA program and the main character's relationship with his wife Judith have nothing to do with project management. Fortunately, these two superfluous stories are at the end or beginning of each chapter and it is easy to skip over them and get to the useful subject material in the main story line, the running of projects and their problems. Skipping over about 100 pages of the book makes me question the value of paying for a book that could have easily been less than half as long. I might be OK with that if the stories were interesting or well written, but they are not.

Using the book as a reference would be challenging. It has no Table of Contents, no Index, nor a Glossary. The Chapters do not even have titles, or a summary of the key concepts at the end in most cases. I would struggle to find an important concept if I went back to the book more than a week or so after reading it.

A much slimmer, edited version of this book, with just the TOC and project management material, laid out end to end would be an instant must have, and a valuable learning tool.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, but a little out of touch with reality, October 12, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Critical Chain (Paperback)
While the core idea of Critical Chain is interesting, and may have some positive impact, Goldratt seems to not quite understand the problem. He attributes most project failures and delays to overscheduling--that is, that people build themselves in too much time to do the work required. Instead, he recommends shortening the time allotted so that people have a 50% chance of completion and then adding a buffer at the end.
Nice, but I've survived over 25 projects, and the biggest cause of delays was never people sitting idle, or taking longer than necessary to complete a task. The biggest problem in projects is rework resulting from not having done the job right the first time through. This may be in part the nature of the projects I've worked on (consulting and software) which makes it possible to pass through inadequate work which will come back to bite you later, but Goldratt's thinking just doesn't quite ring true to reality.
I'd recommend instead Mackenzie Kyle's Making It Happen, or Tom DeMarco's The Deadline.
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Critical Chain: A Business Novel
Critical Chain: A Business Novel by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
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