“The Goal” and “The Phoenix Project”

I have been spending some time looking at how to apply some of the lessons of lean to software development team, and part of that has been catching up on some reading.

One of the classics is “The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt. In this book, he introduces his theory of constraints and bottlenecks, which is all about looking at process from a high level, figuring out where the main problems are, and addressing those. There is a ton of useful information there and I think it applies well to the software world.

The book is very approachable because it’s written as a novel; the main character works at a manufacturing plant. It’s the “can’t-put-it-down-business-hit-of-the-week”.

If you want something that is a bit more computer related, you could choose to read “The Phoenix Project”, which is like The Goal, but the story is about IT instead of manufacturing. It is also a novel. I think it has most of the goodness of “The Goal”, but it is missing the more formal definition of how to deal with constraints. Perhaps start with the Phoenix Project and read “The Goal” if you want more.

Both are recommended.

What will you learn from these? Well, one of the themes of both books is that the process only works if you do the discovery yourself, so I’m not sure I should tell you the whole story, but here’s the basic overview.

The big factor that controls how much you can do is how quickly you can move work items through the system. Only by identifying the bottlenecks in the system and working to increase their throughput will you increase the overall throughput of the system; if you optimize the steps that are not bottlenecks, the output will not improve. Interestingly, you may need to de-optimize the non-bottlenecks to improve the overall throughput and/or latency of the system.

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