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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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"Yeah, all right!" says Evan.

"You got it!" says Dave.


They're all excited now. They're practicing rolling the die. Meanwhile, I set up a grid on a sheet of paper. What I plan to do is record the amount that each of them deviates from the average. They all start at zero. If the roll of the die is a 4, 5, or 6 then I'll record-respectively-a gain of.5, 1.5, or 2.5. And if the roll is a 1, 2, or 3 then I'll record a loss of-2.5, -1.5, or -.5 respectively. The deviations, of course, have to be cumulative; if someone is 2.5 above, for example, his starting point on the next turn is 2.5, not zero. That's the way it would happen in the plant.

"Okay, everybody ready?" I ask.

"All set."

I give the die to Andy.

He rolls a two. So he takes two matches from the box and puts them in Ben's bowl. By rolling a two, Andy is down 1.5 from his quota of 3.5 and I note the deviation on the chart.

Ben rolls next and the die comes up as a four.

"Hey, Andy," he says. "I need a couple more matches."

"No, no, no, no," I say. "The game does not work that way. You can only pass the matches that are in your bowl."

"But I've only got two," says Ben.

"Then you can only pass two."

"Oh," says Ben.

And he passes his two matches to Chuck. I record a deviation of-1.5 for him too.

Chuck rolls next. He gets a five. But, again, there are only two matches he can move.

"Hey, this isn't fair!" says Chuck.

"Sure it is," I tell him. "The name of the game is to move matches. If both Andy and Ben had rolled five's, you'd have five matches to pass. But they didn't. So you don't." Chuck gives a dirty look to Andy.

"Next time, roll a bigger number," Chuck says.

"Hey, what could I do!" says Andy.

"Don't worry," Ben says confidently. "We'll catch up."

Chuck passes his measly two matches down to Dave, and I record a deviation of-1.5 for Chuck as well. We watch as Dave rolls the die. His roll is only a one. So he passes one match down to Evan. Then Evan also rolls a one. He takes the one match out of his bowl and puts it on the end of the table. For both Dave and Evan, I write a deviation of-2.5.

"Okay, let's see if we can do better next time," I say.


Andy shakes the die in his hand for what seems like an hour. Everyone is yelling at him to roll. The die goes spinning onto the table. We all look. It's a six.

"All right!"

"Way to go, Andy!"

He takes six match sticks out of the box and hands them to Ben. I record a gain of+2.5 for him, which puts his score at 1.0 on the grid.

Ben takes the die and he too rolls a six. More cheers. He passes all six matches to Chuck. I record the same score for Ben as for Andy.

But Chuck rolls a three. So after he passes three matches to Dave, he still has three left in his bowl. And I note a loss of-0.5 on the chart.

Now Dave rolls the die; it comes up as a six. But he only has four matches to pass-the three that Chuck just passed to him and one from the last round. So he passes four to Evan. I write down a gain of +0.5 for him.

Evan gets a three on the die. So the lone match on the end of the table is joined by three more. Evan still has one left in his bowl. And I record a loss of-0.5 for Evan.

At the end of two rounds, this is what the chart looks like.


We keep going. The die spins on the table and passes from hand to hand. Matches come out of the box and move from bowl to bowl. Andy's rolls are-what else?-very average, no steady run of high or low numbers. He is able to meet the quota and then some. At the other end of the table, it's a different story.

"Hey, let's keep those matches coming."

"Yeah, we need more down here."

"Keep rolling sixes, Andy."

"It isn't Andy, it's Chuck. Look at him, he's got five."

After four turns, I have to add more numbers-negative numbers-to the bottom of the chart. Not for Andy or for Ben or for Chuck, but for Dave and Evan. For them, it looks like there is no bottom deep enough.

After five rounds, the chart looks like this:


"How am I doing, Mr. Rogo?" Evan asks me.

"Well, Evan... ever hear the story of the Titanic?"

He looks depressed.

"You've got five rounds left," I.tell him. "Maybe you can pull through."

"Yeah, remember the law of averages," says Chuck.

"If I have to wash dishes because you guys didn't give me enough matches..." says Evan, letting vague implications of threat hang in the air.

"I'm doing my job up here," says Andy.

"Yeah, what's wrong with you guys down there?" asks Ben.

"Hey, I just now got enough of them to pass," says Dave. "I've hardly had any before."

Indeed, some of the inventory which had been stuck in the first three bowls had finally moved to Dave. But now it gets stuck in Dave's bowl. The couple of higher rolls he had in the first five rounds are averaging out. Now he's getting low rolls just when he has inventory to move.

"C'mon, Dave, gimme some matches," says Evan.

Dave rolls a one.

"Aw, Dave! One match!"

"Andy, you hear what we're having for dinner tonight?" asks Ben.

"I think it's spaghetti," says Andy.

"Ah, man, that'll be a mess to dean up."

"Yeah, glad I won't have to do it," says Andy.

"You just wait," says Evan. "You just wait 'til Dave gets some good numbers for a change."

But it doesn't get any better.

"How are we doing now, Mr. Rogo?" asks Evan.

"I think there's a Brillo pad with your name on it."

"All right! No dishes tonight!" shouts Andy.

After ten rounds, this is how the chart looks...

I look at the chart. I still can hardly believe it. It was a bal- anced system. And yet throughput went down. Inventory went up. And operational expense? If there had been carrying costs on the matches, operational expense would have gone up too.

What if this had been a real plant-with real customers? How many units did we manage to ship? We expected to ship thirty-five. But what was our actual throughput? It was only twenty. About half of what we needed. And it was nowhere near



the maximum potential of each station. If this had been an actual plant, half of our orders-or more-would have been late. We'd never be able to promise specific delivery dates. And if we did, our credibility with customers would drop through the floor.

All of that sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"Hey, we can't stop now!" Evan is clamoring.

"Yea, let's keep playing," says Dave.

"Okay," says Andy. "What do you want to bet this time? I'll take you on."

"Let's play for who cooks dinner," says Ben.

"Great," says Dave.

"You're on," says Evan.

They roll the die for another twenty rounds, but I run out of paper at the bottom of the page while tracking Dave and Evan. What was I expecting? My initial chart ranged from +6 to -6. I guess I was expecting some fairly regular highs and lows, a nor- mal sine curve. But I didn't get that. Instead, the chart looks like I'm tracing a cross-section of the Grand Canyon. Inventory moves through the system not in manageable flow, but in waves. The mound of matches in Dave's bowl passes to Evan's and onto the table finally-only to be replaced by another accumulating wave. And the system gets further and further behind schedule.

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