The theory of constraints thinking processes: retrospect and prospect

Seonmin Kim (Department of Business Administration, Seoul National University of Technology, Seoul, South Korea)
Victoria Jane Mabin (Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
John Davies (Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Publication date: 1 February 2008



This paper seeks to provide a timely review of developments to the theory of constraints (TOC) body of knowledge, particularly the TOC thinking processes as reported in the public domain peer‐reviewed literature, and to present an analysis of the nature of the thinking processes (TPs), and their methodological and applicatory evolution.


Research reported in the public domain from 1994 to early 2006, as peer‐reviewed journal articles or as papers published in refereed conference proceedings, was reviewed to summarize key research issues that have been studied and to suggest future research. The literature is categorized along several dimensions and according to several emergent and self‐defined clusters that relate to application area, methodology and epistemology.


This paper presents a comprehensive review of the TP literature, identifies specific publication and research gaps as they relate to the defined classification and also provides some future research topics.

Research limitations/implications

The review addresses only the peer‐reviewed literature spanning a limited period from 1994 to the time of the current work in early 2006 – that is the period since the publication of Goldratt's It's Not Luck. In doing so, the review complements the work of others for the period to 2000, extends previous reviews beyond 2000, whilst providing an additional focus on the TPs.

Practical implications

This paper provides useful insights about the development of the TOC body of knowledge, especially as it relates to the development and reported use of the TPs as stand‐alone tools or in tandem with other tools or methods. It provides a valuable summary, for academics and practitioners, of the developing TOC body of knowledge that has been reported in the peer‐reviewed literature.


The development of the TOC body of knowledge has been largely practice‐led, manifested not only in the diverse nature of application areas and in the diverse use of TOC tools, but also in the broader evolution of TOC methodology, methods and tools. Earlier reviews of the literature in this journal preceded many of the developments documented here. This paper will help position the many TOC methods and tools in relation to one another, as well as capturing developments in multi‐methodological usage across several domains.



Kim, S., Mabin, V.J. and Davies, J. (2008), "The theory of constraints thinking processes: retrospect and prospect", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 155-184.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.