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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 150-page text squeezed into a 300-page novel., September 28, 2002
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This review is from: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement (Paperback)
In "The Goal," Eliyahu Goldratt has written what has to be one of the most-read business books in existance. It's an introduction to his "Theory of Constraints" (TOC), but it's presented in a radically different form than the traditional business book. Most business books are either substantial, yet dry, text books or more engaging, but less substantive, anecdote-filled treatises. "The Goal" is a novel. About a Plant Manager. Who learns about the Theory of Constraints. While saving his plant. Sounds electrifying, huh?
My first reaction when I heard about it was: "A novel about a plant manager? And people actually paid money and read this?" Part of me wanted to read it for the sheer novelty of it. And part of me was interested in some of the buzz I'd heard about TOC. And here's the weird part; the book actually works. It's engaging, particularly if you've ever worked in or around a plant (and know how intimately your personal success is tied to the success of nebulous factors that no one seems to understand). It gradually introduces you to the concepts of TOC in a way that gives you a decent handle on them without mining them to the point of mind-numbing boredom.
What is TOC? Well, without re-writing the book here, it's about changing the focus of the organization to understand that the overall flow of work is more important to the success of the organization than the contribution of single parts. That is, managing the manufacturing capacity of the process is more important than ensuring that each manufacturing machine is producing at optimal capacity. In this sense, it's a lot like mathematical optimization, but TOC presents this in a fashion that's much more intuitive (it almost kills me to say that, as I spent a lot of my life gathering math degrees). If you're interested, Goldratt explains all of this in a much shorter book, The Theory of Constraints; however, it's much less interesting than The Goal. And as it basically covers the same information, I'd recommend The Goal before The Theory of Constraints.
There are no explosions. No one dies, and there are no conspiracies. At the end of the story, the hero (Alex Roge) doesn't end up in a nail-biting shootout with the enemy (although that might be a nice touch). It's a simple manufacturing plant in a company town that's doomed to extinction (the town and the plant), if things don't improve and improve quickly. And you find yourself pulling for Alex and his team as they honestly try to save the company and the town.
As a novelist, Goldratt will certainly never be mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway or Steinbeck. But don't sell the book short; it communicates a fundamentally different business point of view in a quick and effective fashion. And it does it in a way that has the reader anticipating the next development, rather than having to force themselves to slog from chapter to chapter. In the end, I'm glad I read it, and I recommend it highly.
Now if he could just turn Alex into an action hero for the sequel...
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