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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"I honestly don't know," I say . "But at least now we can see some of what we're doing wrong,"

"So what can we do that's different?" asks Bob.

"Why don't we stop pushing materials through the robots and try to reduce inventories?" suggests Stacey.

"Hey, I'm all for lower inventory," says Bob. "But if we don't produce, our efficiencies go down. Then we're right back where we started."

"Peach isn't going to give us a second chance if all we give him is lower efficiencies," says Lou. "He wants higher efficiencies, not lower."

I run my fingers through my hair.

Then Stacey says, "Maybe you should try calling this guy, Jonah, again. He seems like he's got a good handle on what's what."

"Yeah, at least we could find out what he has to say," says Lou.

"Well, I talked to him last night. That's when he gave me all this stuff," I say, waving to the definitions on the board. "He was supposed to call me..."

I look at their faces.

"Well, okay, I'll try him again," I say and reach for my brief- case to get the London number.

I put through a call from the phone in the conference room with the three of them listening expectantly around the table. But he isn't there anymore. Instead I end up talking to some secre- tary.

"Ah, yes, Mr. Rogo," she says. "Jonah tried to call you, but your secretary said you were in a meeting. He wanted to talk to you before he left London today, but I'm afraid you've missed him."

"Where is he going to be next?" I ask.

"He was flying to New York. Perhaps you can catch him at his hotel," she says.

I take down the name of the hotel and thank her. Then I get the number in New York from directory assistance, and expect- ing only to be able to leave a message for him, I try it. The switch- board puts me through.

"Hello?" says a sleepy voice.

"Jonah? This is Alex Rogo. Did I wake you?"

"As a matter of fact, you did."


"Oh, I'm sorry-I'll try not to keep you long. But I really need to talk to you at greater length about what we were discuss- ing last night," I tell him.

"Last night?" he asks. "Yes, I suppose it was 'last night' your time."

"Maybe we could make arrangements for you to come to my plant and meet with me and my staff," I suggest.

"Well, the problem is I have commitments lined up for the next three weeks, and then I'm going back to Israel," he says.

"But, you see, I can't wait that long," I say. "I've got some major problems I have to solve and not a lot of time. I under- stand now what you meant about the robots and productivity. But my staff and I don't know what the next step should be and... uh, well, maybe if I explained a few things to you-"

"Alex, I would like to help you, but I also need to get some sleep. I'm exhausted," he says. "But I have a suggestion: if your schedule permits, why don't I meet with you here tomorrow morning at seven for breakfast at my hotel."


"That's right," he says. "We'll have about an hour and we can talk. Otherwise..."

I look around at the others, all of them watching me anx- iously. I tell Jonah to hold on for a second.

"He wants me to come to New York tomorrow," I tell them. "Can anybody think of a reason why I shouldn't go?"

"Are you kidding?" says Stacey.

"Go for it," says Bob.

"What have you got to lose?" says Lou.

I take my hand off the mouthpiece. "Okay, I'll be there," I say.

"Excellent!" Jonah says with relief. "Until then, good night."

When I get back to my office, Fran looks up with surprise from her work.

"So there you are!" she says and reaches for the message slips. "This man called you twice from London. He wouldn't say whether it was important or not."

I say, "I've got a job for you: find a way to get me to New York tonight."



But Julie does not understand.

"Thanks for the advance notice," she says.

"If I'd known earlier, I'd have told you," I say.

"Everything is unexpected with you lately," she says.

"Don't I always tell you when I know I've got trips coming up?"

She fidgets next to the bedroom door. I'm packing an over- night bag which lies open on the bed. We're alone; Sharon is down the street at a friend's house, and Davey is at band practice.

"When is this going to end?" she asks.

I stop midway through taking some underwear from a drawer. I'm getting irritated by the questions because we just went over the whole thing five minutes ago. Why is it so hard for her to understand?

"Julie, I don't know." I say. "I've got a lot of problems to solve."

More fidgeting. She doesn't like it. It occurs to me that maybe she doesn't trust me or something.

"Hey, I'll call you as soon as I get to New York," I tell her. "Okay?"

She turns as if she might walk out of the room.

"Fine. Call," she says, "but I might not be here."

I stop again.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I might be out someplace," she says.

"Oh," I say. "Well, I guess I'll have to take my chances."

"I guess you will," she says, furious now, on her way out the door.

I grab an extra shirt and slam the drawer shut. When I finish packing, I go looking for her. I find her in the living room. She stands by the window, biting the end of her thumb. I take her hand and kiss the thumb. Then I try to hug her.

"Listen, I know I've been undependable lately," I say. "But this is important. It's for the plant-"

She shakes her head, pulls away. I follow her into the kitchen. She stands with her back to me.


"Everything is for your job," she says. "It's all you think about. I can't even count on you for dinner. And the kids are asking me why you're like this-"

There is a tear forming in the corner of her eye. I reach to wipe it away, but she brushes my hand aside.

"No!" she says. "Just go catch your plane to wherever it is you're going."

"Julie- "

She walks past me.

"Julie, this is not fair!" I yell at her.

She turns to me.

"That's right," she says. "You are not being fair. To me or to your children."

She goes upstairs without looking back. And I don't even have time to settle this; I'm already late for my flight, I pick up my bag in the hall, sling it over my shoulder, and grab my brief- case on my way out the door.

At 7:10 the next morning, I'm waiting in the hotel lobby for Jonah. He's a few minutes late, but that's not what's on my mind as I pace the carpeted floor. I'm thinking about Julie. I'm wor- ried about her... about us. After I checked into my room last night, I tried to call home. No answer. Not even one of the kids picked up the phone. I walked around the room for half an hour, kicked a few things, and tried calling again. Still no answer. From then until two in the morning, I dialed the number every fifteen minutes. Nobody home. At one point I tried the airlines to see if I could get on a plane back, but nothing was flying in that direction at that hour. I finally fell asleep. My wake-up call got me out of bed at six o'clock. I tried the number twice before I left my room this morning. The second time, I let it ring for five minutes. Still no answer.


I turn. Jonah is walking toward me. He's wearing a white shirt-no tie, no jacket-and plain trousers.

"Good morning," I say as we shake hands. I notice his eyes are puffy, like those of someone who hasn't had a lot of sleep; I think that mine probably look the same.

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