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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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Something about Eddie has always irritated me. He's a com- petent supervisor. Not outstanding, but he's okay. His work is not what bothers me. It's something else.

I watch Eddie's steady gait. Each step is very regular.

Then it hits me. That's what irritates me about Eddie: it's the way he walks. Well, it's more than that; Eddie's walk is symbolic of the kind of person he is. He walks a little bit pigeon-toed. It's as if he's literally walking a straight and narrow line. His hands cross stiffly in front of him, seeming to point at each foot. And he does all this like he read in a manual someplace that this is how walk- ing is supposed to be done.

As he approaches, I'm thinking that Eddie has probably never done anything improper in his entire life-unless it was expected of him. Call him Mr. Regularity.

We talk about some of the orders going through. As usual, everything is out of control. Eddie, of course, doesn't realize this. To him, everything is normal. And if it's normal, it must be right.

He's telling me-in elaborate detail-about what is running tonight. Just for the hell of it, I feel like asking Eddie to define what he's doing tonight in terms of something like net profit.

I want to ask him, "Say, Eddie, how's our impact on ROI been in the last hour? By the way, what's your shift done to im- prove cash flow? Are we making money?"

It's not that Eddie hasn't heard of those terms. It's just that those concerns are not part of his world. His world is one mea- sured in terms of parts per hour, man-hours worked, numbers of orders filled. He knows labor standards, he knows scrap factors, he knows run times, he knows shipping dates. Net profit, ROI, cash flow-that's just headquarters talk to Eddie. It's absurd to think I could measure Eddie's world by those three. For Eddie, there is only a vague association between what happens on his shift and how much money the company makes. Even if I could open Eddie's mind to the greater universe, it would still be very difficult to draw a clear connection between the values here on


the plant floor and the values on the many floors of UniCo head- quarters. They're too different.

In the middle of a sentence, Eddie notices I'm looking at him funny.

"Something wrong?" asks Eddie.


When I get home, the house is dark except for one light. I try to keep it quiet as I come in. True to her word, Julie has left me some dinner in the microwave. As I open the door to see what delectable treat awaits me (it seems to be some variety of mystery meat) I hear a rustling behind me. I turn around, and there stands my little girl, Sharon, at the edge of the kitchen.

"Well! If it isn't Miz Muffet!" I exclaim. "How is the tuffet these days?"

She smiles. "Oh... not bad."

"How come you're up so late?" I ask.

She comes forward holding a manila envelope. I sit down at the kitchen table and put her on my knee. She hands the enve- lope to me to open.

"It's my report card," she says.

"No kidding?"

"You have to look at it," she tells me.

And I do.

"You got all A's!" I say.

I give her a squeeze and big kiss.

"That's terrific!" I tell her. "That's very good, Sharon. I'm really proud of you. And Til bet you were the only kid in your class to do this well."

She nods. Then she has to tell me everything. I let her go on, and half an hour later, she's barely able to keep her eyes open. I carry her up to her bed.

But tired as I am, I can't sleep. It's past midnight now. I sit in the kitchen, brooding and picking at dinner. My kid is getting A's in the second grade while Tin flunking out in business.

Maybe I should just give up, use what time I've got to try to land another job. According to what Selwin said, that's what ev- eryone at headquarters is doing. Why should I be different?

For a while, I try to convince myself that a call to a head- hunter is the smart thing to do. But, in the end, I can't. A job with another company would get Julie and me out of town, and maybe fortune would bring me an even better position than I've got now although I doubt it; my track record as a plant manager hasn't


exactly been stellar.) What turns me against the idea of looking for another job is I'd feel I were running away. And I just can't do that.

It's not that I feel I owe my life to the plant or the town or the company, but I do feel some responsibility. And aside from that, I've invested a big chunk of my life in UniCo. I want that investment to pay off. Three months is better than nothing for a last chance.

My decision is, I'm going to do everything I can for the three months.

But that decided, the big question arises: what the hell can I really do? I've already done the best I can with what I know. More of the same is not going to do any good.

Unfortunately, I don't have a year to go back to school and re-study a lot of theory. I don't even have the time to read the magazines, papers, and reports piling up in my office. I don't have the time or the budget to screw around with consultants, making studies and all that crap. And anyway, even if I did have the time and money, I'm not sure any of those would give me a much better insight than what I've got now.

I have the feeling there are some things I'm not taking into account. If I'm ever going to get us out of this hole, I can't take anything for granted; Tm going to have to watch closely and think carefully about what is basically going on... take it one step at a time.

I slowly realize that the only tools I have-limited as they may be-are my own eyes and ears, my own hands, my own voice, my own mind. That's about it. I am all I have. And the thought keeps coming to me: I don't know if that's enough.

When I finally crawl into bed, Julie is a lump under the sheets. She is exactly the way I left her twenty-one hours ago. She's sleeping. Lying beside her on the mattress, still unable to sleep, I stare at the dark ceiling.

That's when I decide to try to find Jonah again.



Two steps after rolling out of bed in the morning, I don't like moving at all. But in the midst of a morning shower, memory of my predicament returns. When you've only got three months to work with, you don't have much time to waste feeling tired. I rush past Julie-who doesn't have much to say to me-and the kids, who already seem to sense that something is wrong, and head for the plant.

The whole way there I'm thinking about how to get in touch with Jonah. That's the problem. Before I can ask for his help, I've got to find him.

The first thing I do when I get to the office is have Fran barricade the door against the hordes massing outside for frontal attack. Just as I reach my desk, Fran buzzes me; Bill Peach is on the line.

"Great," I mutter.

I pick up the phone.

"Yes, Bill."

"Don't you ever walk out of one of my meetings again," rum- bles Peach. "Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Bill."

"Now, because of your untimely absence yesterday, we've got some things to go over," he says.

A few minutes later, I've pulled Lou into the office to help me with the answers. Then Peach has dragged in Ethan Frost and we're having a four-way conversation.

And that's the last chance I have to think about Jonah for the rest of the day. After I'm done with Peach, half a dozen people come into my office for a meeting that has been postponed since last week.

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