Hanging Fire: Achieving Predictable Results in an Uncertain World

Jeff Cox, Dale Houle and Hugh Cole


Level of TOC knowledge acquired:



326 pages

Designed for:

Academics, Business owners, Consultants, Executives, Leaders, Managers, Project Managers, Students and Supervisors


Project Management


Buffer Management and Critical Chain







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Many businesses have multiple projects underway at any given time. Projects for customers. Projects to improve something. Projects to maintain equipment. Projects to align the organization. Projects to find the next big money-maker.

But these efforts are always subject to uncertainty...
  • When will it be finished? Sometime between sooner and later!
  • How much will it really cost? Probably more than we expect!
  • Will it do everything we want it to do? Well, we sure hope so, but maybe not!
  • And often these projects have to compete with each other for funding, for internal resources, and for priority.

Hanging Fire is about that uncertain world – your world. It is about discovering a way of thinking that enables you and your colleagues to manage the unknown, achieve predicable results in the face of uncertainty, and gain 30% to 50% in capacity with minimal or no additional investment.

  • Hanging Fire postulates a project-based business with multiple projects underway at any given time. But the same underlying principles presented in this project business can be applied to ANY environment where the combination of dependencies, interdependencies and variability leads to less-than-desirable outcomes. The major theme in Hanging Fire is creating reliable speed to market - developing new products and services expeditiously, getting them to the market rapidly, and have them generating revenue as soon as possible.
"Have you ever heard of TOC - the Theory of Constraints?"
"No, what's that?"

"It's a business management concept for controlling flow," Sarah said.

"Flow of what?"

"The flow of whatever the organization is supposed to create."

"You say 'constraints'? Is that what our problem is? Too many constraints?"

"No, a constraint in TOC thinking is not what it sounds like. A constraint -- in particular a system constraint, as it's called -- is a regulating device that governs the rate of results of the system. TOC holds that every business -- every
organization -- should have a recognized system constraint in order to govern flow."

"I don't understand. If we have a constraint in the system," Rolly asked, "wouldn't we want to get rid of it?"

"You have constraints in your business no matter what. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many people, so much equipment -- and only so much money as operating capital. At the limits of those resources you have, for each one, a constraint. Nothing is unlimited."

"Got it."

"In most cases, though, the capacities of the resources are ample enough that the limits are never reached if the resources are managed well. And TOC posits that a primary tool for managing well is to have a system constraint."


"Think of it as a valve. Like a master valve. As something to regulate flow. It's not there because it's a problem; it's there for a purpose. And that purpose is to synchronize everything that's going on throughout the system so that there is smooth, fast flow."