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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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gem of a product in its day. And then investors gave him more money so they could make a bundle and J. Bart could make an even bigger one.

But is making money the only goal? What are all these other things I've been worrying about?

I reach for my briefcase, take out a yellow legal pad and take a pen from my coat pocket. Then I make a list of all the items people think of as being goals: cost-effective purchasing, employ- ing good people, high technology, producing products, produc- ing quality products, selling quality products, capturing market share. I even add some others like communications and customer satisfaction.

All of those are essential to running the business successfully. What do they all do? They enable the company to make money. But they are not the goals themselves; they're just the means of achieving the goal.

How do I know for sure?

Well, I don't. Not absolutely. But adopting "making money" as the goal of a manufacturing organization looks like a pretty good assumption. Because, for one thing, there isn't one item on that list that's worth a damn if the company isn't making money.

Because what happens if a company doesn't make money? If the company doesn't make money by producing and selling products, or by maintenance contracts, or by selling some of its assets, or by some other means... the company is finished. It will cease to function. Money must be the goal. Nothing else works in its place. Anyway, it's the one assumption I have to make.

If the goal is to make money, then (putting it in terms Jonah might have used), an action that moves us toward making money is productive. And an action that takes away from making money is non-productive. For the past year or more, the plant has been moving away from the goal more than toward it. So to save the plant, I have to make it productive; I have to make the plant make money for UniCo. That's a simplified statement of what's happening, but it's accurate. At least it's a logical starting point.

Through the windshield, the world is bright and cold. The sunlight seems to have become much more intense. I look around as if I have just come out of a long trance. Everything is familiar, but seems new to me. I take my last swallow of beer. I suddenly feel I have to get going.



By my watch, it's about 4:30 when I park the Mazda in the plant lot. One thing I've effectively managed today is to evade the office. I reach for my briefcase and get out of the car. The glass box of the office in front of me is silent as death. Like an ambush. I know they're all inside waiting for me, waiting to pounce. I decide to disappoint everyone. I decide to take a detour through the plant. I just want to take a fresh look at things.

I walk down to a door into the plant and go inside. From my briefcase, I get the safety glasses I always carry. There is a rack of hard hats by one of the desks over by the wall. I steal one from there, put it on, and walk inside.

As I round a corner and enter one of the work areas, I hap- pen to surprise three guys sitting on a bench in one of the open bays. They're sharing a newspaper, reading and talking with each other. One of them sees me. He nudges the others. The newspa- per is folded away with the grace of a snake disappearing in the grass. All three of them nonchalantly become purposeful and go off in three separate directions.

I might have walked on by another time. But today it makes me mad. Dammit, the hourly people know this plant is in trouble. With the layoffs we've had, they have to know. You'd think they'd all try to work harder to save this place. But here we've got three guys, all of them making probably ten or twelve bucks an hour, sitting on their asses. I go and find their supervisor.

After I tell him that three of his people are sitting around with nothing to do, he gives me some excuse about how they're mostly caught up on their quotas and they're waiting for more parts.

So I tell him, "If you can't keep them working, I'll find a department that can. Now find something for them to do. You use your people, or lose 'em-you got it?"

From down the aisle, I look over my shoulder. The super now has the three guys moving some materials from one side of the aisle to the other. I know it's probably just something to keep them busy, but what the hell; at least those guys are working. If I hadn't said something, who knows how long they'd have sat there?


Then it occurs to me: those three guys are doing something now, but is that going to help us make money? They might be working, but are they productive?

For a moment, I consider going back and telling the supervi- sor to make those guys actually produce. But, well... maybe there really isn't anything for them to work on right now. And even though I could perhaps have those guys shifted to some- place where they could produce, how would I know if that work is helping us make money?

That's a weird thought.

Can I assume that making people work and making money are the same thing? We've tended to do that in the past. The basic rule has been just keep everybody and everything out here work- ing all the time; keep pushing that product out the door. And when there isn't any work to do, make some. And when we can't make work, shift people around. And when you still can't make them work, lay them off.

I look around and most people are working. Idle people in here are the exception. Just about everybody is working nearly all the time. And we're not making money.

Some stairs zig-zag up one of the walls, access to one of the overhead cranes. I climb them until I am halfway to the roof and can look out over the plant from one of the landings.

Every moment, lots and lots of things are happening down there. Practically everything I'm seeing is a variable. The com- plexity in this plant-in any manufacturing plant-is mind-bog- gling if you contemplate it. Situations on the floor are always changing. How can I possibly control what goes on? How the hell am I supposed to know if any action in the plant is productive or non-productive toward making money?

The answer is supposed to be in my briefcase, which is heavy in my hand. It's filled with all those reports and printouts and stuff that Lou gave me for the meeting.

We do have lots of measurements that are supposed to tell us if we're productive. But what they really tell us are things like whether somebody down there "worked" for all the hours we paid him or her to work. They tell us whether the output per hour met our standard for the job. They tell us the "cost of prod- ucts," they tell us "direct labor variances," all that stuff. But how do I really know if what happens here is making money for us, or

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