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Hanging Fire by Jeff Cox, Dale Houle and Hugh Cole

The full title of this book by Jeff Cox, Dale Houle and Hugh Cole is

Hanging Fire: Achieving Predictable Results in an Uncertain World

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave the book a 4 Stars rating. This means it is  Good to Very Good.

Here is my book review.

A critical chain novel about the Theory of Constraints solution for project management

Eli Goldratt, the father of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) died in 2011 but the concepts have continued to advance.

Back in 1984, Goldratt and one of the authors of this book published “The Goal” which introduced TOC in a manufacturing setting. It’s an outstanding book but it did lead to TOC being pigeon-holed as a technique to improve manufacturing.

It’s much more than that and despite additional business novels by Goldratt about logical thinking and marketing (It’s Not Luck), project management, technology and retail distribution it’s still best known in manufacturing circles.

Other authors have also written business novels about TOC in different settings include my own area of interest, small service businesses.

Here Cox is back in 2014 with two experts from the company Goldratt founded to look at how TOC has developed and it’s set in a multi-project service business that develops new products for itself and for clients.

In the early chapters, my stomach got churned up from the stress and chaos portrayed. Not pleasant but I was absorbed in the story.

The problem of variability, resource overloads and dependent events was vividly portrayed in a journey from an airport to island hotel for a conference. If you’ve read The Goal, this was the equivalent of the first part of the scout trek where the line between the first and last scout was getting bigger and bigger.

It was also when we met the equivalent of Jonah, this time an ex employee called Sarah. She organised the trip back from hotel to airport using critical chain portfolio techniques and it was much better.

The book then goes into quite a lot of details of what’s involved with implementing critical chain as part of the story.

This didn’t go entirely smoothly and that’s probably a good thing since it helps to portray the common or easy mistakes to make.

I thought the book finishes rather tamely with a quick summary of other Theory of Constraints applications for manufacturing and distribution.

Eli Goldratt wrote the first book on this topic, called Critical Chain and it’s also a business novel.

I guess the obvious question is whether you should read both or just one of them.

Critical Chain explains the basic project management ideas better but Hanging Fire handles the portfolio approach of projects much better where one has a knock-on effect on others through the shared resources.

I recommend you read both, starting with Critical Chain. There is some overlap but it is helpful to reinforce the basic principles in different situations. The TOC solutions tend to be counter-intuitive under our established paradigms. This is usually because we settle for compromises when we find two objectives in conflict while TOC thinking helps you to tackle root causes and identify inappropriate assumptions that cause problems.

You can buy the book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com


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