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Showing 1-10 of 47 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on April 8, 2011
If you were stuck in a production environment gone horribly wrong, and you had no clue at all how to begin fixing it, this might give you some ideas to think about. But if you are that lost, why would you be managing a huge production operation to begin with. It isn't that the ideas are bad ones, but they do have limited application. Also, I would definitely say some of these theories have been improved on greatly in the 20 some years since the book was written.

The sub-story of the author's marriage gone horribly wrong is just sad. He apparently knew as little about marriage as he did about managing a production operation. The wife's confession that she just wanted to go shopping and have a nice house and nice things and nice kiddies with a doting husband... well... gag.

With that said, it must be extremely hard to write a business book that comes off like a novel (albeit a cheesy one). It wasn't as much of a snoozer as most of these mandatory reading assigments we get from management. And there is nothing inherently wrong with the info. It's just a bit simplistic. There are much better resources for teaching constraints, socratic method, and six sigma. But if you need the basics and you need them fast, this is a reasonable book to get.
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on March 22, 2015
I haven't read that many business books. The ones I have are usually more poorly written than the economics books I read. I know that there is often a dedicated course in business writing in the academy, but in my experience, it isn't a focus of the program.

So when I was assigned a long business book as additional reading for my operations management class, I wasn't too jazzed. I was pleasantly surprised though, the Goal isn't that bad.

To talk about the Goal, I have to talk about the structure. It is a 330-page business novel. I had no sense on going in what a business novel would be like, and it is basically that, a novel with plot and characters.

The problem is that it is a didactic novel. That means it is teaching you something. And in that role, it is often very heavy handed. The plot is that Alex, the main character who we get to enjoy present tense first person narration though, has been promoted to be the plant manager of his hometown plant. It is not producing the profits that corporate would like to see. On top of that, the orders are late and they're always in a rush. So corporate comes down and gives Alex an ultimatum that you have three months to turn around the plant or we will look into closing it.

So what does Alex do? Thankfully, Alex meets an old physics teacher friend of his named Jonah, who happens to be an internationally famous business consultant. The problem here is that Jonah is always busy, so he can't handhold Alex to improve the plant. This device is here so that you as the reader and the character of Alex isn't told straight up what changes to make. You/Alex need to find from the stated principles to improve the plant. The whole thing is based on the idea of the Socratic dialogue where the teacher doesn't tell you anything but the educate is a coming to knowledge of the student. It's really heavy-handed, since the author mentions it in the introduction and also has a subplot where Alex's wife starts reading philosophy and they have a couple dialogue exposition-dump conversations.

Ultimately, Alex does come up with a process of improvement where he takes some of the old rules off the board and looks at defining the ultimate goal of the plant vis a vis the company and what he can do to help the plant meet those goals. He and his team identify bottlenecks in the plant, reimagine them, and the plant is a success. He is promoted to district manager at the end, and he and his team start to see how they could apply the more general principles they had determined to processes that are harder to define than movement of material in a plant. For me, the end was the weakest part because I work in service and I kept trying to figure out how this could apply to me in my job. I still haven't and I hope there was a sequel or something that applies the goal to a larger organization.

The general processes that Alex worked out by way of Jonah (who is a total stand-in for the author) are:
1) Identify the system's constraints
2) Decide how to exploit the system's constraints.
3) Subordinate everything else to the above decisions
4) Elevate the system's constraints
5) If in the previous steps, a constraint has been broken, go back to step 1, but do not allow inertia to cause a system constraint.

They sound like good general principles, and they work in the book. I do have some issues with the book and the idea though. First of all, the structure of the book feels entirely unnecessary. We as the reader have very little context for what the company Alex works for even makes. It is just some generalized manufacturing plant in a nameless town. That means the process described in the book cannot be fully trusted to have worked. I would like to see evidence-based material to prove that the process works. As it, it might as well be like the mystery writer who cannot really solve mysteries but just knows what he wants at the end so he can work backwards.
Second, the novel approach is just weird. It makes the book longer by three times than it could be to convey the same information. For example, there is a part in the book where the main character takes his son on a walk in the woods with the rest of the Boy Scout troop. The whole thing is just in there to illustrate that any process is only as strong as its weakest link or as fast as its slowest part. And it takes a long time to do so. The characters never really develop a secondary consideration. There's a whole subplot where Alex and his wife are fighting and she ends up moving out for a while and it is just ridiculous. As a reader of fiction, it is horrible. You don't know why these characters are in love in the first place and their reconciliation is unbelievable. It is also completely unnecessary for what Goldratt is trying to teach in his book. It just adds pages and I still never really cared about the characters.

Smaller things nagged as well. For example, what is it about the impetus to restructure the company? Do you need to be close to failure to rethink your processes? Alex only went ahead with it because he had nothing to lose. That gave him reason to change. If things are working well enough at work, why change, even if efficiencies can be found? Another is that this book has been around a while now. Are efficiencies still possible? Or does every generation of managers have to relearn the same general principle here? Further with the decline of manufacturing in the states to more labor-intensive countries, did the companies that embraced the goal succeed? There's no indication in the book of the real world, so that bugged me.

One last thing. Alex always refers to the cars he and his wife owns by their make. He has a Mazda, and she has an Accord. If he works in domestic manufacturing, why the heck does his family have two foreign cars?
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on February 12, 2015
From the perspective of reviewing a novel:
Not good. Two stars tops.

The main character is incredibly unlikeable, alienating his wife and children, blowing off meetings, and leaving work with no explanation for hours at a time. He supposedly is capable enough that he was promoted to plant manager, but he has no idea what's going on from day to day at his home or plant. He gets drunk after work with a female coworker, has her drive him home, "accidentally" falls and drags her on top of him, and then when his wife (who has been waiting for him for hours with no news of a his whereabouts) sees them and gets angry, he feels wronged. When he takes his son for a Scouting hike, he spends the whole time thinking about the plant and not interacting with the kids, except as relates to his job. He named all his plant bottlenecks Herbie after the slower, pudgy Scout on the hike. I could go on. And on.

In a painfully obvious case of Marty Stumanship, Goldratt writes himself into the book as Jonah, a jet-setting Israeli genius who gets paid phenomenal rates to bless manufacturers with his gems of wisdom. Most of the characters are two-dimensional talking heads with acute tendencies toward info dumping. No kidding, one of the character's names is Bob. I lost count of the number of times I saw the phrase "As you know, Bob...." The storyline is patchy and inconsistent, the characters' motivations are hard to understand, and the story's conclusion is abrupt and doesn't wrap up most of the plot threads.

From the perspective of reviewing a business book:
Four stars. I liked Goldratt's ideas. The common sense approach to processes was refreshing . In spite of how bad it made the main character look, my favorite part of the book was the Scout hike. It extracted the process concepts from complex environment of a manufacturing plant and put them into simple terms that made sense to me.

I think he chose to write the book as a novel because he could pad the content. It probably should have been a pamphlet. If you'd like to get the gist of the useful content, I suggest reading his article "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants." It's available free online and contains all the useful bits from the book, plus external sources and a case study.
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on September 1, 2014
Funny, real, relevant, and useful for middle and upper management. If you want to present this to your team though, make sure you aren't actually representing the villain in this book and try to present it to your team as if you are the hero. That is what our boss did, and it was hilarious. All of the things that this corporation was doing wrong, and all of the negative ways the big fig heads were treating their staff was exactly what was going on in our team, and the book was being presented to us as if the company was not parallel with those themes. Clearly our boss was disconnected with the reality of the working situation. Good book to read. I would add this to the set of books I have my new managers read to optimize success. I'll give you a hint; it includes "the one minute manager" and "start" by John Acuff.
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on September 11, 2015
Good read. Not just a business book, but about problem solving in general. Other reviews will tell you more. Kindle version is terrible. Many missing words. Can figure most of it out from context, but it disturbs the flow, and, well, you just shouldn't have to. 4 starts for the book, 2 for the kindle screw up.
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on October 21, 2015
It is informative and did help with the class on operational management I am taking in my college. The story is easy to follow, but the MC seems a little to simple, like its obvious that he is a tool to help the reader learn by asking simple questions and seems more like a student who is just learning about operations than a man who took an MBA on it already. However, the book was made at a time where perhaps they didn't know the importance of bottlenecks in relation to system capacity.
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on February 17, 2016
I finally read this book after hearing about it for over decade. I don't quite get the hype. It is fairly well written and entertaining for a "business fable" where the lessons are learned through a story. But the main learning is fairly intuitive after it's first mentioned: plan around your biggest bottleneck. You can't produce any faster than the throughput of your biggest bottleneck.
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on March 15, 2013
I'm really 50/50 on the book. I really like how Goldratt explains the importance of Lean and looking at bottlenecks throughout your plant's processes and how to correct them. I hate the melodramatic home life of the main character. Everytime the story goes back to the problems with his personal life I skimmed through them. I understand why the book is set up this way because Goldratt wants to illustrate how there are many factors outside of work which can compound stress and how the reader should really think about their work/life balance but it is not very good. I would hope if I worked at a plant that was shutting down, and if it does, I'm out of a job which means I would not be able to provide for my family, my wife would be a little more understanding than the protaganost's wife is acting in the book. I wish this book's narrative only took place in the plant. I also realize you're not reading this book just for the narrative.

So, if you are wanting to learn about improving processes in
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on December 10, 2014
Got this for my MBA class. The "story" elements in the book were horrible, and this book should've been 50-75 pages shorter. However, the information regarding process improvement is decent, which is why I gave three stars. I would recommend only reading if you have to for a class.
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on February 21, 2014
This book was required reading for my MBA supply chain management class. It definitely read easier than a textbook, but the writing was subpar, trying to create a fictional situation that was both educational and dramatic. I felt like I was reading through a lot of fluff that the author added in trying to make the book more like a work of fiction.
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