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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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And then there is the conversation I had with Jonah in New York. I haven't had any time to think about that. I'm rather curi- ous to know what a physics teacher is doing riding around in limousines with corporate heavyweights. Nor do I understand what he was trying to make out of those two items he described. I mean, "dependent events"... "statistical fluctuations"-so what? They're both quite mundane.

Obviously we have dependent events in manufacturing. All it means is that one operation has to be done before a second oper- ation can be performed. Parts are made in a sequence of steps. Machine A has to finish Step One before Worker B can proceed with Step Two. All the parts have to be finished before we can


assemble the product. The product has to be assembled before we can ship it. And so on.

But you find dependent events in any process, and not just those in a factory. Driving a car requires a sequence of dependent events. So does the hike we're taking now. In order to arrive at Devil's Gulch, a trail has to be walked. Up front, Ron has to walk the trail before Davey can walk it. Davey has to walk the trail before Herbie can walk it. In order for me to walk the trail, the boy in front of me has to walk it first. It's a simple case of depen- dent events.

And statistical fluctuations?

I look up and notice that the boy in front of me is going a little faster than I have been. He's a few feet farther ahead of me than he was a minute ago. So I take some bigger steps to catch up. Then, for a second, I'm too close to him, so I slow down.

There: if I'd been measuring my stride, I would have re- corded statistical fluctuations. But, again, what's the big deal?

If I say that I'm walking at the rate of "two miles per hour," I don't mean I'm walking exactly at a constant rate of two miles per hour every instant. Sometimes I'll be going 2.5 miles per hour; sometimes maybe I'll be walking at only 1.2 miles per hour. The rate is going to fluctuate according to the length and speed of each step. But over time and distance, I should be averaging about two miles per hour, more or less.

The same thing happens in the plant. How long does it take to solder the wire leads on a transformer? Well, if you get out your stopwatch and time the operation over and over again, you might find that it takes, let's say, 4.3 minutes on the average. But the actual time on any given instance may range between 2.1 minutes up to 6.4 minutes. And nobody in advance can say, "This one will take 2.1 minutes... this one will take 5.8 minutes." Nobody can predict that information.

So what's wrong with that? Nothing as far as I can see. Any- way, we don't have any choice. What else are we going to use in place of an "average" or an "estimate"?

I find I'm almost stepping on the boy in front of me. We've slowed down somewhat. It's because we're climbing a long, fairly steep hill. All of us are backed up behind Herbie.

"Come on, Herpes!" says one of the kids.


"Yeah, Herpes, let's move it," says another.


"Okay, enough of that," I say to the persecutors.

Then Herbie reaches the top. He turns around. His face is red from the climb.

"Atta boy, Herbie!" I say to encourage him. "Let's keep it moving!"

Herbie disappears over the crest. The others continue the climb, and I trudge behind them until I get to the top. Pausing there, I look down the trail.

Holy cow! Where's Ron? He must be half a mile ahead of us. I can see a couple of boys in front of Herbie, and everyone else is lost in the distance. I cup my hands over my mouth.


Herbie eases into a trot. The kids behind him start to run. I jog after them. Rucksacks and canteens and sleeping bags are bouncing and shaking with every step. And Herbie-I don't know what this kid is carrying, but it sounds like he's got a junk- yard on his back with all the clattering and clanking he makes when he runs. After a couple hundred yards, we still haven't caught up. Herbie is slowing down. The kids are yelling at him to hurry up. I'm huffing and puffing along. Finally I can see Ron off in the distance.

"HEY RON!" I shout. "HOLD UP!"

The call is relayed up the trail by the other boys. Ron, who probably heard the call the first time, turns and looks back. Herbie, seeing relief in sight, slows to a fast walk. And so do the rest of us. As we approach, all heads are turned our way.

"Ron, I thought I told you to set a moderate pace," I say.

"But I did!" he protests.

"Well, let's just all try to stay together next time," I tell them.

"Hey, Mr. Rogo, whadd'ya say we take five?" asks Herbie.

"Okay, let's take a break," I tell them.

Herbie falls over beside the trail, his tongue hanging out. Everyone reaches for canteens. I find the most comfortable log in sight and sit down. After a few minutes, Davey comes over and sits down next to me.

"You're doing great, Dad," he says.

"Thanks. How far do you think we've come?"

"About two miles," he says.

"Is that all?" I ask. "It feels like we ought to be there by now. We must have covered more distance than two miles."


"Not according to the map Ron has," he says.

"Oh," I say. "Well, I guess we'd better get a move on."

The boys are already lining up.

"All right, let's go," I say.

We start out again. The trail is straight here, so I can see everyone. We haven't gone thirty yards before I notice it starting all over again. The line is spreading out; gaps between the boys are widening. Dammit, we're going to be running and stopping all day long if this keeps up. Half the troop is liable to get lost if we can't stay together.

I've got to put an end to this.

The first one I check is Ron. But Ron, indeed, is setting a steady, "average" pace for the troop-a pace nobody should have any trouble with. I look back down the line, and all of the boys are walking at about the same rate as Ron. And Herbie? He's not the problem anymore. Maybe he felt responsible for the last de- lay, because now he seems to be making a special effort to keep up. He's right on the ass of the kid in front of him.

If we're all walking at about the same pace, why is the dis- tance between Ron, at the front of the line, and me, at the end of the line, increasing?

Statistical fluctuations?

Nah, couldn't be. The fluctuations should be averaging out. We're all moving at about the same speed, so that should mean the distance between any of us will vary somewhat, but will even out over a period of time. The distance between Ron and me should also expand and contract within a certain range, but should average about the same throughout the hike.

But it isn't. As long as each of us is maintaining a normal, moderate pace like Ron, the length of the column is increasing. The gaps between us are expanding.

Except between Herbie and the kid in front of him.

So how is he doing it? I watch him. Every time Herbie gets a step behind, he runs for an extra step. Which means he's actually expending more energy than Ron or the others at the front of the line in order to maintain the same relative speed. I'm wondering how long he'll be able to keep up his walk-run routine.

Yet... why can't we all just walk at the same pace as Ron and stay together?

I'm watching the line when something up ahead catches my eye. I see Davey slow down for a few seconds. He's adjusting his

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