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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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17

Monday morning is a disaster.

It starts with Davey trying to make breakfast for himself and Sharon and me. Which is a nice, responsible thing to do, but he totally screws it up. While I'm in the shower, he attempts pan- cakes. I'm midway through shaving when I hear the fight from the kitchen. I rush down to find Dave and Sharon pushing each other. There is a skillet on the floor with lumps of batter, black on one side and raw on the other, splattered.

"Hey! What's going on?" I shout.

"It's all her fault!" yells Dave pointing at his sister.

"You were burning them!" Sharon says.

"I was not!"

Smoke is fuming off the stove where something spilled. I step over to shut it off.

Sharon appeals to me. "I was just trying to help. But he wouldn't let me." Then she turns to Dave. "Even / know how to make pancakes."

"Okay, because both of you want to help, you can help clean up," I say.

When everything is back in some semblance of order, I feed them cold cereal. We eat another meal in silence.

With all the disruption and delay. Sharon misses her school bus. I get Davey out the door, and go looking for her so I can drive her to school. She's lying down on her bed.

"Ready, whenever you are, Miz Rogo."

"I can't go to school," she says.

"Why not?"

"I'm sick."

"Sharon, you have to go to school," I say.

"But I'm sick!" she says.

I go sit down on the edge of the bed.

"I know you're upset. I am too," I tell her. "But these are facts: I have to go to work. I can't stay home with you, and I won't leave you here by yourself. You can go to your grandmother's house for the day. Or you can go to school."

She sits up. I put my arm around her.

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After a minute, she says, "I guess I'll go to school." I give her a squeeze and say, "Atta way, kid. I knew you'd do the right thing."

By the time I get both kids to school and myself to work, it's past nine o'clock. As I walk in, Fran waves a message slip at me. I grab it and read it. It's from Hilton Smyth, marked "urgent" and double underlined.

I call him.

"Well, it's about time," says Hilton. "I tried to reach you an hour ago."

I roll my eyes. "What's the problem, Hilton?"

"Your people are sitting on a hundred sub-assemblies I need," says Smyth.

"Hilton, we're not sitting on anything," I say.

He raises his voice. "Then why aren't they here? I've got a customer order we can't ship because your people dropped the ball!"

"Just give me the particulars, and I'll have somebody look into it," I tell him.

He gives some reference numbers and I write them down.

"Okay, I'll have somebody get back to you."

"You'd better do more than that, pal," says Hilton. "You'd better make sure we get those sub-assemblies by the end of the day-and I mean all 100 pieces, not 87, not 99, but all of them. Because I'm not going to have my people do two setups for final assembly on account of your lateness."

"Look, we'll do our best," I tell him, "but I'm not going to make promises."

"Oh? Well, let's just put it this way," he says. "If we don't get 100 sub-assemblies from you today, I'm talking to Peach. And from what I hear you're in enough trouble with him already."

"Listen, pal, my status with Bill Peach is none of your damn business," I tell him. "What makes you think you can threaten me?"

The pause is so long I think he's going to hang up on me. Then he says, "Maybe you ought to read your mail." "What do you mean by that?" I can hear him smiling.

"Just get me the sub-assemblies by the end of the day," he says sweetly. "Bye-bye."

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I hang up.

"Weird," I mumble.

I talk to Fran. She calls Bob Donovan for me and then noti- fies the staff that there will be a meeting at ten o'clock. Donovan comes in and I ask him to have an expediter see what's holding up the job for Smyth's plant. Almost gritting my teeth as I say it, I tell him to make sure the sub-assemblies go out today. After he's gone, I try to forget about the call, but I can't. Finally, I go ask Fran if anything has come in recently that mentions Hilton Smyth. She thinks for a minute, then reaches for a folder.

"This memo just came in on Friday," she says. "It looks like Mr. Smyth got a promotion."

I take the memo she hands me. It's from Bill Peach. It's an announcement that he's named Smyth to the newly-created posi- tion of division productivity manager. The appointment is effec- tive at the end of this week. The job description says that all plant managers will now report on a dotted line to Smyth, who will "give special attention to manufacturing-productivity improve- ment with emphasis on cost reduction."

And I start to sing, "Oh, what a beautiful morning...!"

Whatever enthusiasm I expected from the staff with regard to my education over the weekend... well, I don't get it. Maybe I thought all I had to do was walk in and open my mouth to reveal my discoveries, and they'd all be instantly converted by the obvious Tightness. But it doesn't work that way. We-Lou, Bob, Stacey, and Ralph Nakamura, who runs data processing for the plant-are in the conference room. I'm standing in front next to an easel which holds a big pad of paper, sheet after sheet of which is covered with little diagrams I've drawn during my expla- nations. I've invested a couple of hours in making those explana- tions. But now it's almost time for lunch, and they're all just sit- ting there unimpressed.

Looking down the table at the faces looking back at me, I can see they don't know what to make of what I've told them. Okay, I think I see a faint glimmer of understanding in Stacey's eyes. Bob Donovan is on the fence; he seems to have intuitively grasped some of it. Ralph is not sure what it is I'm really saying. And Lou is frowning at me. One sympathizer, one undecided, one bewil- dered, and one skeptic.

"Okay, what's the problem?" I ask.

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They glance at each other .

"Come on," I say. "This is like I just proved two and two equals four and you don't believe me." I look straight at Lou. "What's the problem you're having?"

Lou sits back and shakes his head. "I don't know, Al. It's just that... well, you said how you figured this out by watching a bunch of kids on a hike in the woods."

"So what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing. But how do you know these things are really go- ing on out there in the plant?"

I flip back a few sheets on the easel until I find the one with the names of Jonah's two phenomena written on it.

"Look at this: do we have statistical fluctuations in our opera- tions?" I ask, pointing to the words.

"Yes, we do," he says.

"And do we have dependent events in our plant?" I ask.

"Yes," he says again.

"Then what I've told you has to be right," I say.

"Now hold on a minute," says Bob. "Robots don't have statis- tical fluctuations. They always work at the same pace. That's one of the reasons we bought the damn things-consistency. And I thought the main reason you went to see this Jonah guy was to find out what to do about the robots."

"It's okay to say that fluctuations in cycle time for a robot would be almost flat while it was working," I tell him. "But we're not dealing just with a robotic operation. Our other operations do have both phenomena. And, remember, the goal isn't to make the robots productive; it's to make the whole system productive. Isn't that right, Lou?"

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