Bottleneck Game

An extensive simulation called the Bottleneck Game can be found on This game deals with the Theory of Constraints, and comes with a 29 page! session guide as well as a handout and work instructions for running the game:

From the guide:
"This session is typically used at the start of a process improvement effort in order to get an overview of the existing process as well as identify where best to apply improvements. Use this session when you want to widen the scope of an improvement effort so that everyone becomes aware of the “big picture” (strategic) approach."
The focus is on software development, but this simulation is applicable to any Lean roll-out, since it focuses on the Theory of Constraints, identifying bottlenecks and improving flow.

"The Theory of Constraints offers a simple but effective process improvement process: the “5 focusing steps”. The 5 steps consist of continuously:
  • Making the goal of the system explicit
  • Finding the bottleneck where the system’s constraint lies
  • Exploiting the constraint to get the most value
  • Subordinating every decision to the constraint
  • Elevating the bottleneck"

The teams fold paper hats and boats, using candy as money!! You get a piece of candy for each correct hat/boat made, but have to pay out candy for each person working. Great incentive! Here's an example of one of the work instructions:

For all the details and much more information, head to

I've added this game to my collection of free lean games and simulations.

For more information on the Theory of Constraints, check out the book, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. Written by Eliyahu Goldratt, it's one of the pillars of lean, dealing with the Theory of Constraints in a fictional fomat. 


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