A Theory of Constraints discussion list pointed to this article by Tim Sullivan, "TOC and Lean" from the Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) at Iowa State. Essentially, he is comparing TOC and Lean: where are they similar and where do they differ.
Eli Goldratt has said that TOC, JIT, TQM, and Lean are all pieces of the same puzzle. What exactly does he mean? I don’t know for sure. So the following paragraphs contain my opinions on this subject as it pertains specifically to Lean and TOC.
Sullivan looks at the definitions of Inventory, Waste, One-piece-flow and Focal points of each discipline. And he provides a familiar comparison of 25% cost savings vs. 25% throughput improvement. He clearly leans toward TOC, but he also acknowledges that Lean does a lot of good things as well. He also suggests that the practice of TOC and Lean is beginning to grow and learn from one another.
I also like how he talks about the holistic / strategic aspect of continuous improvement (TOC specifically): not only do you need to work on the current improvement efforts, but you have to understand how improvements there will affect the overall system. What happens when the bottleneck goes away? Where will it shift to next? (There is always a constraint somewhere!) This is built into the TOC Five Focusing Steps, but it should also be part of the overall philosophy behind any improvement concepts.