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Goldratt’s Critical Chain

BUSI 650 – Operations Management

Felecia Howard

Liberty University

Key Concept Explanation

             The Critical Chain concept regarding project management was theorized  by Eliyahu Goldratt in 1997.  The critical chain is the lengthiest part  of the project in which takes more time to complete and in most cases,  it’s the most expensive.  The critical chain is defined as “a Theory of  Constraints solution that addresses the common problems found in project  management so companies can better plan, manage, and be more successful  with projects” (Bergland, 2016, p. 5).  Quite similar to the concept  behind six sigma; a critical chain was developed to control or mitigate  variations in a process or task; whether on a project or doing a simple  job.  This theory was modeled to ensure that issues that cause delays or  disruptions are mitigated.  I’m interested in this subject due to one  of my recent job responsibilities – initiating a project which occurs  annually.  In the past, this project has taken longer than anticipated  and there are many areas that are not completed accurately.  Knowing  more about this subject will assist in mitigating any foreseen delays  and disruptions in the process.


             Comparing research on Goldratt’s Critical Chain, there were several  similarities and differing views.  Goldratt’s theory was initially  designed to improve the efficiency of processes in a factory; it evolved  into the area of project management while analyzing the tasks  involved.  (Meredith & Shafer, 2016, p. 245) focus more on three  specific areas of Goldratt’s theory that assist in evaluating the  process flow; a) inflated activity time estimates, b) activity time  variability with a path interdependencies and c) resource dependence.   (Bergland, 2016) argue that Goldratt’s theory maybe have some beneficial  aspects of it; however, the overall approach to buffering (Zhang, Cui,  & Bie, 2012) times and time delays are unrealistic.  In, Goldratt’s  theory, delaying the longest cycle of the project “critical chain,” but  still delivering on time is more beneficial than shortening cycles and  missing the overall project deadline.  (McKay & Morton, 2007, p.  761) outline five different findings from analyzing Goldratt’s theory  from the theory being a revision of earlier literature completed in the  early nineteen hundreds to this method working for some companies but  not for others, “there are hidden and implicit assumptions that restrict  the generality of the work;” additionally, the writers argue that that  are too many open questions that have not been answered in using this  philosophy.

Article Summary

             The article, “Goldratt’s thinking process applied to the budget  constraints of a Texas MHMR Facility” (Taylor & Churchwell, 2004)  reviews the results of implementing the Goldratt’s method in a mental  health facility.  It defines the critical chain theory and how the  theory has evolved over the years from project management and factory  use to an over practical application for various types of businesses.   The theory “is an emerging philosophy that offers some distinct  advantages, both theoretical and practical” (Taylor & Churchwell,  2004).  The medical teams applied Goldratt’s theory to lower cost,  increase proficiencies, and reduce the variations in many departments in  the facility.   The writers focus on three different areas that  experienced overwhelming successes after full completion of the  projects. The first improvement was close to a million dollars in  savings by the elimination of bottlenecks in their billing processes.  Other successes noted were over a 100% reduction in cancellations; as in  the past, this area cost the firm an abundance of resources and  expenses. Additionally, implementing the theory raised compliance over  100%, reduced cycle times and lead times overall.  

Biblical Integration

Applying  biblical principles to improving a process by delaying timelines can be  related to the Christian walk. We go through this life awaiting the  return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to return.  Facing challenges  each day that examines our faith in God’s ability to deliver us.  Even  in our healing or when we are in a difficult period in our lives whether  financial, emotional or spiritual; it feels as though there is no light  at the end of the tunnel and the breakthrough has been delayed. One of  my favorite scriptures in the bible is Jeremiah 29:11, God states, “For I  know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and  not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (NIV).  This scripture  is encouraging knowing that God wants us to live in abundance and he has  set forth plans for our success in life.  


             Applying Goldratt’s theory of the critical chain has been successful in  many businesses as noted in earlier references; depending on the nature  of the business and the project being performed, some of the successes  can be observed immediately and others over time.   The constraint  theory can be applied to any type of business; such as in air services;  where savings were experienced and over an eight percent reduction in  maintenance time identified (Kulkarni, Yadav, & Nikraz, 2017).     

Annotated Bibliography

Bergland, E. (2016). High-Level Critical Chain Overview. In E. Bergland, Get it Done On-Time (pp. 5-22). APress. Retrieved from https://link-springer-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4842-1860-0_2 

The  writer in this article outlined a simplistic way to understand what a  critical chain is and how it operates; additionally the benefits of  using Goldratt’s theory in improving the chain.  It provides a role-play  situation which is very relatable and easy to understand; in the  role-play the persons would provide examples to help the reader  understand the purpose of Goldratt’s theory, how it has evolved and how  it can provide benefits to companies that use that method. 

Kulkarni, A., Yadav, D. K., & Nikraz, H. (2017). Aircraft maintenance checks using critical chain project path. Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology,  879-892. Retrieved from  https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1961802780/fulltextPDF/87C6ABEAE244E83PQ/1?accountid=12085

 In  this article, the writers performed research on how applying Goldratt’s  Critical Chain theory to aircraft services can produce success.  The  research was completed in several areas in the aircraft service such as  in maintenance and engineering.  The research was based on surveys  performed over some time to document the current process and any areas  that can be improved.  The findings provided management with essential  information on which areas required the most improvement and where  savings could be made. The results of the implementation enabled the  company to save millions and reduce cancellations in addition to other  successes. 

McKay,  K. N., & Morton, T. E. (2007). The Review of: “Critical Chain”  Eliyahu M. Goldratt The North River Press Publishing Corporation, Great  Barrington, MA, 1997. IIE TRANSACTIONS, 759-763. Retrieved from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/07408179808966521?needAccess=true 

The  writer in this article provides a review and analyzation of Goldratt’s  theory including providing historical information on why it was  developed and how it has evolved throughout the years.  The research  focuses on the uncertainty of time in the critical chain; additionally,  the writer discusses safety time and multi-tasking.  Lastly, the article outlines five different findings from analyzing  Goldratt’s theory from the theory being a revision of earlier literature  completed in the early nineteen hundred to this method working for some  companies but not for others.  Additionally, the writers argue that  that are too many open questions that have not been answered in using  this philosophy 

Taylor,  L. J., & Churchwell, L. (2004). Goldratt’s the thinking process  applied to the budget constraints of a Texas MHMR Facility. Journal of Health and Human Service Administration, 416-37. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/200016613?pq-origsite=summon 

The article reviews  the results of implementing Goldratt’s method in a mental health  facility.  It defines the critical chain theory and how the theory has  evolved over the years from project management and factory use to an  over practical application for various types of businesses. The writers  focus on three different areas that experienced overwhelming successes  after full completion of the projects. The first improvement was close  to a million dollars in savings by the elimination of bottlenecks in  their billing processes. Other successes noted were over a 100%  reduction in cancellations; as in the past, this area cost the firm an  abundance of resources and expenses 

Zhang,  X., Cui, N., & Bie, L. (2012). Buffer sizing approach with  dependence assumption between activities in critical chain scheduling. International Journal of Production Research, 7343-7356. Retrieved from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/full/10.1080/00207543.2011.649096 

The  purpose of this article is to provide specifics on the buffer time in a  critical chain.  The writers examine the different sizing to buffers  and which to apply for which process.  Some steps in the process require  shorter times to complete than others; Godratts’s theory suggests using  half of the buffering time as safety times.  Additionally, the article  discusses the impacts of the dependency on activities in the project  against the overall completion timeline. 




Sydney Price

Liberty University


I chose kaizen as my key  concept this week because the description “continuous improvement” ties  in cooperatively with Amazon’s corporate culture.  Amazon is the  organization I have chosen for my Integrative Learning Project.  Kaizen and the continuous improvement process has always been an essential means of performance at Amazon.  Kaizen is the philosophy of effectively and efficiently improving the  processes and products of a business to meet or exceed changing customer  requirements and the organization’s standards.  The philosophy of  continuous improvement, which focuses on the elimination of waste or  non-value-added activities throughout the organization, follows Amazon’s  values. 


Kaizen is a Japanese word that means change or continuous awareness of wanting to improve.   “The term Kaizen is the combination of two Japanese ideograms (Kanjis), Kai (改) which means change, and Zen (善),  which means to improve or to be reborn” (Barraza, González, &  Dávila, 2018 p. 250).  This management approach leads to the creation of  new habits, beliefs, and feelings by focusing on the following  philosophies: traditional values, process orientation, and improving  perfection.  Kaizen is seen as a portion of total quality management  (TQM) or another improvement or innovation program, generating changes  using small incremental improvements in an organization’s work  processes.  According to Marin-Garcia, Juarez-Tarraga, & Santandreu-Mascarell (2018), to adopt a successful kaizen implementation of “strong  and committed leadership from a senior management team, communication,  learning and training, quality culture, customer management, and quality  data” (p. 302) are imperative.

Different standpoints exist as to whether kaizen is  synonymous with CI or just a closely related concept.  Kaizen means  change for the good which is a school of thought focused on continual  improvement (Carnerud, Jaca, Bäckström, 2018). 

Mendez & Vila-Alonso (2018) mention the term kaizen  sustainability as the capacity of this model to endure over time  effectively and irreversibly even after the problem has been solved.   There are different approaches to continuous improvement, employee  suggestions, management demand, or executive level proposals.  The  participation of people in such activities is usually considered a means  of developing critical skills in the employees.  When kaizen is in  place, individuals and organizations are focused on the greater good in  the long term.  According to Masaaki Imai, the man who introduced the  term kaizen to the western world, kaizen means ongoing improvement  involving everyone (Carnerud, Jaca, Bäckström, 2018), this includes top  management, middle-managers, and front-line workers.

The complete process of continuous improvement may take  over a year to implement, however shorter kaizen events or ‘kaizen  blitzes’ are becoming a more popular alternative.  The kaizen blitz  consists of “a day or two of training in lean concepts followed by  completing a continuous improvement project (Meredith & Schafer,  2016, p. 278) and can often be completed in less than a week.  A kaizen  event is “a focused and structured improvement project, using a  dedicated cross-functional team to improve a targeted work area, with  specific goals, in an accelerated timeframe” (Marin-Garcia,  Juarez-Tarraga, & Santandreu-Mascarell, 2018, p 299)

Article Summary 

Ron Dyer describes kaizen as  the “philosophy of continuously improving the pursuit of perfection”  (Dyer, 2016, p. 19).  Every company has a problem whether it is big or  small; solving them is the basis of kaizen.  Toyota has a mature kaizen  culture.  Toyota adopted kaizen very early on, the Toyota Production  System (TPS) began in 1950 using people as the problem solvers.  

Kaizen can occur at different  levels in the organization, at the job site, management, or executive  level.  Between 2 people or a whole group in a workshop as in a kaizen  blitz, where a group is sequestered for 3-5 days to solve a specific  problem.  When a company is further along in the kaizen culture this may  not be necessary because many employees are already looking at  problem-solving as part of their job.  As all employees continually make  small improvements, the company will see vast improvements in  production, value, and safety while also reducing expenses. 

A kaizen culture allows the  employees who do the work every day to present the problems and help in  the solutions.  They “are the ones who have the knowledge to identify  and solve problems” (Dyer, 2016, p. 20).  The ability to use job  knowledge, creativity, and innovation is more effective and efficient  because they are more qualified to carry out the results.  This allows  more people working together in the problem-solving process.  The focus  of kaizen are the four purposes of improvement defined by Shigeo Shingo,  a famous Japanese industrial engineer who helped to develop the Toyota  Production System (TPS).   He said, “There are four purposes of  improvement: easier, better, faster, and cheaper.  These four goals  appear in the order of priority” (Dyer, 2016, p. 21).  Kaizen philosophy  focuses on using people and their innovative ideas to solve problems  for continuous improvement.  These will eventually eliminate waste and  streamline the effort needed to do the same work, resulting in  diminished costs.      

Biblical Integration

The term kaizen is used closely  with continuous improvement, and when a business is fully kaizen,  everyone is working together as we, as Christians should be doing in our  lives and for others.  “And we know that for those who love God all  things work together for good, for those who are called according to his  purpose” (Romans 8:28, English Standard Version).

When one is in a situation that  needs improvement, whether personal or within a business organization,  there are always a group of like-minded people that it makes more sense  to group with, the more efficient workers, the ones that do not waste  time and focus on the job at hand, and the betterment of the company  will prosper in the end.  These are the people with whom one wants to be  associated.  As stated in Proverbs 13:20, Whoever walks with the wise  become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (ESV).

A corporation should always be  growing as should the engaged employees, if they are satisfied where  they are in the organization, then they are stagnant and are not looking  out for what is best for themselves or the business.  2 Peter 3:18  says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus  Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.  (ESV). We should not sit back and expect to be given what we have.  We  must work and grow for ourselves and for God.  


Kaizen was made popular by  Toyota, and it is rare to hear one without the other.  The two  foundations of The Toyota Way are 1) Wisdom and Kaizen and 2) Respect of  humanity.  Kaizen is focused on continuous process improvements,  resulting in higher quality products.  Improving all processes is the  way to attain customer satisfaction.  This thinking practice has become  the substance of the current Toyota method referred to as “Kaizen-(every  time improvement, everywhere improvement, everyone improvement;  continuous improvement)” (Hibino, 2017, p.47).

Toyota does not believe in  management focusing on results. Instead, it focuses on the process, as  seen by the Toyota Production System (TPS).  Toyota does not selectively  pick one tool, system, or habit and assume that this one item will  define success.  They are integrated and need to be used in conjunction  with each other. 

Annotated Bibliography

Barraza, M. F. S., González, F. G. R., & Dávila, J.-A. M. (2018). Introduction to the special issue on kaizen: An ancient operation innovation strategy for organizations of the XXI century. TQM Journal, 30(4), 250-254. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/2075552445?pq-origsite=summon

The  kaizen philosophy approach has been present in the management arena for  several years.  This paper analyzed several different articles  exploring the kaizen philosophy.  While exploring kaizen in all aspects  from its origins to the current application, the authors are looking for  diverse perspectives and methodological approaches that explore kaizen  applications as an operational innovation strategy for organizations in  the context of the twenty-first century.  For this reason, each of the  selected manuscripts represents a significant advance in research about  kaizen.  Each manuscript is exciting and varied in its content,  findings, methodology, and conclusions.  Giving the reader additional  information if more reading and research is desired.

Carnerud, D., Jaca, C., Bäckström, I. (2018).  Kaizen and continuous improvement – trends and patterns over 30 years. The TQM Journal, 30(4), 371-390. doi:10.1108/TQM-03-2018-0037. Retrieved from https://www-emerald-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/insight/content/doi/10.1108/TQM-03-2018-0037/full/html 

The purpose of this  paper is to depict how kaizen and continuous improvement (CI) are  represented in scientific journals focusing on quality management (QM)  from the 1980s until 2017.  Additionally, the study aims to examine how  kaizen is studied and often considered an underlying element of Lean  production and total quality management.  Kaizen has evolved over more  than 30 years.  Defined by its founder as ongoing improvement involving  everyone from top management to middle-managers and front-line workers.   It has been found that implementing kaizen and CI is complex and not  always successful.  The generality and simplicity of the kaizen idea is  seen as both its weakness and its strength.

Dyer, R. (2016). KAIZEN. Cost Management, 30, 19-21. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1768413834?accountid=12085

The Japanese word kaizen comes from  the word’s kai, which means “to change” or “to correct,” and zen, which  means “good.” It describes the philosophy of continuously improving in  the pursuit of perfection.  This article details some of the ways this  philosophy is demonstrated in organizations that have kaizen cultures  focusing on continuous improvement.  In these cultures, problems are  continuously being solved by everyone at every level of the  organization. It makes sense to have employees offer suggestions for  improvements as well as management.  Kaizen is a philosophy that focuses  on people and tapping into their innovation to solve problems and  continuously improve.  It also focuses on being ahead of cutting costs.

Hibino, S. (2017). Toyota’s global marketing strategy innovation through breakthrough thinking and kaizen / (Vol. 1). https://doi.org/10.1201/9781315163567

This  book analyzes the marketing strategy of the Toyota Production System.   Authored by former Toyota marketing executives, this book details how  Toyota’s thinking habits go beyond the shop floor and influence and  guide Toyota’s marketing function.  Expanding from a venture initiative  to one of the biggest global enterprises because of its innovative  mindset (Toyota thinking habits) using Breakthrough Thinking, which  supports a new philosophical approach to problem-solving, turning 180  degrees away from conventional thinking.  This book explores the concept  of “Breakthrough Thinking,” examines how Toyota gathers information,  how they study customer use of their products and reveal how Toyota cars  have become some of the biggest selling models in the USA

Marin-Garcia, J. A., Juarez-Tarraga, A., & Santandreu-Mascarell, C. (2018). Kaizen philosophy. The TQM Journal, 30(4), 296–320. doi: 10.1108/tqm-12-2017-0176. Retrieved from https://www-emerald-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/insight/content/doi/10.1108/TQM-12-2017-0176/full/html

This  paper describes the kaizen philosophy as a continuous improvement  instrument that maintains and improves competitiveness by using  knowledge best implemented by the employees themselves.  Management is  better served in a coaching role.  By making small, incremental  improvements, the organization will see great advancements in innovation  and a reduction in costs.  Kaizen can be done over time individually on  worker or management level, or in small kaizen events or blitzes over  three to five days within cross-functional teams, focusing primarily on  lean production.  Managers and consultants commonly put forth the proposals upon which these short term, low cost, team-based, and action-oriented kaizen events are based.

Mendez, J., & Vila-Alonso, M. (2018). Three-dimensional sustainability of Kaizen. The TQM Journal, 30(4), 391–408. doi: 10.1108/tqm-12-2017-0179. Retrieved from https://www-emerald-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/insight/content/doi/10.1108/TQM-12-2017-0179/full/html

The  purpose of this paper is to analyze the sustainability of kaizen from a  three-dimensional perspective (operational, emotional and behavioral),  as well as the process of “putting down roots” related with the  implementation of kaizen until it becomes sustainable.  The authors  structure the document into three parts: the first one focuses on the  theoretical approach to sustainability, the second one focuses on  showing the experimental research on three-dimensional sustainability  and the third part deals with highlighting the theory that emerges from  the data which is essential for its sustainability.  These are the  challenges that the kaizen of the twenty-first century must face. 

Meredith, J. & Shafer, S. (2016). Operations and Supply Chain Management for MBAs (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN: 9781119239536.

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