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The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement Paperback – June 1, 2014
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Written in a fast-paced thriller style, The Goal is the gripping novel which is transforming management thinking throughout the Western world. The author has been described by Fortune as a 'guru to industry' and by Businessweek as a 'genius'. It is a book to recommend to your friends in industry - even to your bosses - but not to your competitors.
Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try and improve performance. His factory is rapidly heading for disaster. So is his marriage. He has ninety days to save his plant - or it will be closed by corporate HQ, with hundreds of job losses. It takes a chance meeting with a colleague from student days - Jonah - to help him break out of conventional ways of thinking to see what needs to be done.
The story of Alex's fight to save his plant is more than compulsive reading. It contains a serious message for all managers in industry and explains the ideas which underline the Theory of Constraints (TOC) developed by Eli Goldratt. Eliyahu M. Goldratt is an internationally recognized leader in the development of new business management concepts and systems, and acts as an educator to many of the world's corporations. The 20th anniversary edition includes a series of detailed case study interviews by David Whitford, Editor at Large, Fortune Small Business, which explore how organizations around the world have been transformed by Eli Goldratt's ideas.
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The book has a few dings against it - mostly simply that it is dated. The deteriorating relationship with his stay-at-home wife is realistic for the time in which the book was written - but it smacks of 1986 now. (This from a guy who got married in 1986...) While it is a bit of a distraction, it does help the book make the point that improving things at work in the right way can and does improve people's outside-of-work lives in very real ways. You will not get that empathetic viewpoint from the nonfiction literature on the subject, so the inclusion is still a strength - it is just that the content has not aged all that well.
On the positive side, it swings into other ideas too. The discussion of how traditional accounting rules and consequential financial controls can create a set of counterproductive incentives is telling, and presages by a couple of decades the work being done now in the Beyond Budgeting movement. So it is a great jumping-off point for that too.
Both this book and "The Phoenix Project" are pretty easy reads. If you gun through both over a weekend or two you will be able to see how the principles of Lean developed in manufacturing can be applied to other kinds of work.
The novel is easy to read and the examples that are given make the technical aspects of the book understandable, especially the part where Rogo realizes how bottlenecks work when he takes his son on the boy scout trip.
Something else I should mention is that throughout the novel, you get some insight into Rogo’s personal life and the problems he’s having at home with his wife because of how busy he is at work. At first I thought that whole thing would detract from the book but by the end you come to realize that our work lives and our personal life are closely intertwined and one will always affect the other so it’s important to try to find that balance between your personal life and your life at work.
If you already know the basic definitions for the terms such as bottle necks, efficiency, inventory, and productivity; The Goal has Alex Rogo, the plant manager, discovering these terms and more with a deeper meaning and how they actually relate to manufacturing. For example, at the beginning of the book, Alex was extremely proud of increasing his efficiency and believed it created a positive effect on their overall productivity. After running into an old friend Jonah, which questions his increased efficiency and if they actually increased productivity, Alex soon discovers his misconception of efficiency. Throughout the book, he looks to Jonah like a mentor because Jonah guilds Alex to a deeper understanding of processing product improvement. His long hours and sleepless nights finally lead Alex to understanding the true meaning of efficiency. However, this is only the beginning of the story and Alex has the rest of the book to grasp the full picture of process improvement.
I personal do not read often because I have never found reading as a form of entertainment or enjoyment. With that being said, I surprisingly took a liking to this book and found myself dying to read the next chapter. These lessons that Alex discovered are something that should be learned by anybody studying management, production, process flow, operations, or industrial and manufacturing side or along those lines. I believe these lessons will be extremely useful to me in the future and I know you will feel the same way.