Using the Theory of Constraints in Marketing

Do you remember the novel The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeffrey Cox?

One of the unique things about this book was that it created a variety of cottage industries with one of the most obvious using a novel, a story to introduce a problem solving concept. You can think of the stories of Toyota and GE that have brought Lean and Six Sigma to the forefront but this was about a fiction story. One of my favorite questions to ask people is do you remember the main character's name? Few do, but when asked is they remember the Constraint's name or the boy scout who could not keep up on the walk, they blurt out: Herbie! The truth is that Herbie was the main character. Do you know your company's main character that well?

The Theory of Constraints was introduced in the book and it consists of these three principles:

1. A set of Proven Solutions: Drum Buffer Rope (DBR), Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), Replenishment, Sales/Marketing, Human Behavior, Measurements, Strategy 2. An Approach to Problems: Five Steps of Continuous Improvement 3. Thinking Process Tools: What to Change, What to Change to, How to Cause the Change

TOC has a very strong group of niche follows. It has never reached the levels of Lean and Six-Sigma but have been folded into each of these processes as one of the tools that are utilized. I believe the principle of Five Steps of Continuous Improvement is the one that has stuck with me. Those Five Steps are:

Step 1. Identify the system's constraint.

Step 2. Exploit the system's constraint.

Step 3. Subordinate everything else to the above decision.

Step 4. Elevate the system's constraint.

Step 5. If a constraint is broken (that is, relieved or improved), go back to Step 1. However, don't allow inertia to become a constraint.

Can you apply these principles to marketing? I believe very easily, especially when you start observing your Marketing Hourglass and your marketing value stream. We will dive into this as the week progresses.


Joe Dager is President of Business901, a progressive coaching company providing no-nonsense direction in areas such as Lean Six Sigma Marketing and organized referral marketing. What others say: In the past 20 years, Joe and I have collaborated on many difficult issues. Joe’s ability to combine his expertise with “out of the box” thinking is unsurpassed. He has always delivered quickly, cost effectively and with ingenuity. A brilliant mind that is always a pleasure to work...

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