Using TOC in Complex Systems (Chapter 37 of the Theory of Constraints Handbook)

John Covington


Level of TOC knowledge acquired:

Advanced and Intermediate


17 pages

Designed for:

Consultants and Implementers


Holistic Implementation


Automotive and Services







This is an individual chapter of Theory of Constraints Handbook. The purpose of this chapter is to use TOC thinking to solve the core problem in complex organizational systems.

The process includes a step that might involve redefining the system to make it simpler and more manageable. Three complex systems are used as case studies including two manufacturing and one non-profit.

Three examples of complex organizations:

  • 1. A conglomerate that transforms steel rods into “sucker rods” for the oil industry. In this example, we will redefine the system, find the current logistical constraint of the new, better-defined system, and then address the mindset that would be a
  • 2. A company that makes the components of front wheel drive shafts in three different plants then assembles them in a fourth plant. All plants are scheduled by their competing customers. This case illustrates how important it is in complex systems to
  • 3. An organization that converts Non-Disciples into Disciples. This case provides a different view of Throughput being a nonprofit service provided or an intangible good. If a TOC mindset can address an issue as intangible as a Disciple, it can addre

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Complete Table of contents of the Theory of Constraints Handbook

About the Authors:

James F. Cox III, Ph.D, CFPIM, CIRM, holds TOCICO certifications in all disciplines. He is a Jonah's Jonah, Professor Emeritus, and was the Robert O. Arnold Professor of Business in the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. Dr. Cox has written three books on TOC.

John Schleier holds TOCICO certifications in all disciplines. He was President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mortgage Services Division of Alltel, Inc., Executive Vice President of Computer Power, Inc., and Director of Office Systems and Data Delivery for IBM.


The Theory of Constraints Handbook: