A series of 5-minute posts on applying principles of flow to knowledge work

Below you can find all the posts published so far, and a quick 3-point summary of each.

101: Introduction to the Series

The basic premise of the Theory of Constraints as outlined in The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt; the definition of a bottleneck or a constraint; why the only way to improve a system is to improve the constraint

102: The Illusion of Local Optima

Why local and global optima are mutually exclusive; why a company where everyone is busy working is terribly inefficient; any improvement not at the constraint is an illusion

103: The Four Fundamental Principles of Flow

A brief history of how the fundamental principles of flow have been manifested over time; the importance of limiting work-in-progress; Goldratt’s proposal of time-based mechanisms for limiting work-in-progress

104: Balance Flow, Not Capacity

Drum-Buffer-Rope, the original application of TOC to manufacturing; why no company should take on more work than their bottleneck can process; for even one part of a system to be fully utilized, every other part must have excess capacity

105: Drum-Buffer-Rope at Microsoft

A case study of how a software engineering team at Microsoft used Drum-Buffer Rope to dramatically improve its productivity and throughput

106: The Five Focusing Steps

Brief overview of the continuous improvement method at the heart of TOC; how dynamic systems provide feedback in correctly identifying the constraint; how TOC proposes improving complex, dynamic systems

107: Identifying the Constraint

Step #1 in the Five Focusing Steps; how to find the organizational constraint in knowledge work; policies and rules as the most damaging (and easiest to change) constraints; running experiments to find constraints

108: Optimizing the Constraint

Step #2 in the Five Focusing Steps; how to optimize the organizational constraint in knowledge work; TOC as a targeting and implementation system for all other improvement methods

109: The Psychology of Subordination

Step #3 in the Five Focusing Steps; how subordination brings the psychological and political aspects of organizations to the forefront; why our system of measurement incentivizes local, not global, productivity

110: Elevating the Constraint

Step #4 in the Five Focusing Steps; why it’s not wise to jump directly to step #4 in applying principles of flow; practical techniques for elevating the constraint

111: Critical Chain Project Management

Application of TOC to project management; how high-confidence time estimates lead to massive padding; why time estimates for knowledge work tend to always expand, and rarely contract

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