New Section! Understanding TOC Concepts: Bad Multitasking

The TOC solution for Project Management strongly addresses the need to eliminate or significantly reduce “bad multitasking”.


But, what is actually “bad multitasking” and what is the difference with just “multitasking” or “good multitasking”?

The TOC Dictionary provides the following definition:

Stopping work on a task before it is completed in order to start work on another task.
Usage: Multitasking itself is neither bad nor good. Bad multitasking occurs when switching tasks does not help any project finish earlier.
Example: In a multi-project environment it is common for resources to be required to switch between tasks on various projects (or within the same project) in order to show progress. Such multitasking usually extends the duration of all projects and, therefore, is bad multitasking. If, however, a resource is forced to stop a task on one project in order to complete a task that is delaying the critical chain or the most penetrating chain on another project, thereby helping that project to finish earlier, it is usually considered good multitasking.

Cox III, James F., Lynn H. Boyd, Timothy T. Sullivan, Richard A. Reid, and Brad Cartier, 2012, The Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization Dictionary, Second Edition, page 82.

Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt clearly explains “bad multitasking” and provides examples in two of his presentations:

  • Taken from the Goldratt Satellite Program (GSP Series) – Watch the video →
  • As part of the Goldratt Strategy and Tactics Series (formerly known as the Webcast Series) starting from the minute 38:50 on – Watch the video →

In 2011 under the instruction of Dr. Goldratt, Lisa Scheinkopf presented the analysis and impact of “bad multitasking”:

The TOC Handbook slightly refers to “bad multitasking”:

Multitasking is shuttling between tasks without finishing either, and hurts the quality of work because people lose concentration.

Footnote on page 82 (Chapter 4: Getting Durable Results with Critical Chain – A Field Report)

As you know, bad multitasking is prevalent in multi-project environments, such as R&D or maintenance departments in any company, where shared resources are working on many projects in parallel. The solution to reduce dramatically the bad multitasking in such envi- ronments is simply to set a maximum number of open projects (even if it means freezing existing projects). Only when a project is completed is a new project opened.

Pages 593 (Chapter 21: Less Is More – Applying the Flow Concepts to Sales)

This entry was posted in Articles, TOC Focus 5, Understanding TOC Concepts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *