The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a management philosophy developed by Eliyahu M. Goldratt that focuses on identifying and addressing the constraints that are holding a system back from achieving its goals. TOC is based on the idea that every system has at least one constraint, or limiting factor, that determines its overall performance. In order to improve the performance of a system, it is necessary to identify and address the constraint.


One of the key principles of TOC is the concept of throughput, which refers to the rate at which a system produces valuable output. According to TOC, the goal of any organization should be to maximize throughput while minimizing costs. This can be achieved by identifying and addressing the constraint, as well as optimizing the flow of materials and information through the system.

TOC also emphasizes the importance of balancing capacity with demand in order to avoid overproduction, which can lead to waste and inefficiencies. By carefully managing capacity, organizations can ensure that they have the resources they need to meet demand without incurring unnecessary costs.

TOC is a holistic approach to management that takes into account the interdependent relationships between different parts of a system. It recognizes that changes in one area can have unintended consequences in other areas, and encourages managers to consider the broader impacts of their decisions.

One of the key tools used in TOC is the “Five Focusing Steps,” which are a set of guidelines for identifying and addressing the constraint in a system. The Five Focusing Steps are:

  • Identify the constraint: The first step in TOC is to identify the constraint that is holding the system back from achieving its goals. This can be a physical resource, such as a machine or piece of equipment, or a non-physical resource, such as a policy or procedure.
  • Decide how to exploit the constraint: Once the constraint has been identified, it is necessary to decide how to exploit it in order to maximize throughput. This may involve increasing the capacity of the constraint or finding ways to optimize its utilization.
  • Subordinate everything else to the constraint: In order to optimize the performance of the constraint, it is necessary to align all other activities in the system with it. This may involve reorganizing workflows, adjusting schedules, or changing policies and procedures.
  • Elevate the constraint: Once the constraint has been exploited and everything else has been aligned with it, the next step is to elevate it in order to increase capacity. This may involve investing in new equipment or technology or implementing process improvements.
  • If the constraint is broken, go back to step 1: Once the constraint has been elevated, it is important to continuously monitor the system and identify any new constraints that may arise. If the constraint is broken, it is necessary to start the process again by identifying and addressing the new constraint.

TOC has been applied in a variety of settings, including manufacturing, healthcare, and service industries. It has been shown to be an effective approach for improving the performance of organizations by focusing on the key factors that drive success. By identifying and addressing the constraints that are holding a system back, TOC can help organizations achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.