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The Goal (Goldratt E M)

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For a week, I wait for the blast from headquarters. But it never comes. Lou gets a rebuke from Frost in the form of a memo warning him to stick to approved policy, and a formal order to redo our quarterly report according to the old cost standards and to submit it before the review. From Peach, there is nothing.

I'm in the middle of a meeting with Lou over our revised monthly report early one afternoon. I'm crestfallen. With the numbers based on the old cost factor, we're not going to make our fifteen percent. We're only going to record a 12.8 percent increase on the bottom line, not the seventeen percent Lou origi- nally calculated.

"Lou, can't we massage this a little more?" I'm pleading.

He shakes his head. "From now on, Frost is going to be scru- tinizing everything we submit. I can't do any better than what you see now."

Just then I become aware of this sound outside the offices that's getting louder and louder.

Wuppa- wuppa-wuppa-wuppa-wuppa-wuppa-wuppa-wuppa.

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I look at Lou and he looks at me.

"Is that a helicopter?" I ask.

Lou goes to the window and looks out.

"Sure is, and it's landing on our lawn!" he says.

I get to the window just as it touches down. Dust and brown grass clippings are whirling in the prop wash around this sleek red and white helicopter. With the blades still twirling down to a stop, the door opens and two men get out.

"That first one looks like Johnny Jons," says Lou.

"It is Johnny Jons," I say.

"Who's the other guy?" asks Lou.

I'm not sure. I watch them cross the lawn and start to walk through the parking lot. Something about the girth and the strid- ing, arrogant swagger of the huge, white-haired second man trig- gers the recollection of a distant meeting. It dawns on me who he is.

"Oh, god," I say.

"I didn't think He needed a helicopter to get around," says Lou.

"It's worse than God," I say, "It's Bucky Burnside!"

Before Lou can utter another word, I'm running for the door. I dash around the corner and into Stacey's office. She, along with her secretary and some people she's meeting with, are all at the window. Everybody is watching the damn helicopter.

"Stacey, quick, I need to talk to you right now!"

She comes over to the door and I pull her into the hallway.

"What's the status on Burnside's Model 12's?" I ask her.

"The last shipment went out two days ago."

"It was on time?"

"Sure," she says. "It went out the door with no problems, just like the previous shipments."

I'm running again, mumbling "thanks" over my shoulder to her.

"Donovan!"

He's not in his office. I stop at his secretary's desk.

"Where's Bob?" I ask her.

"I think he went to the men's room," she says.

I go sprinting in that direction. Bursting through the door, I find Bob washing his hands.

"On Burnside's order," I ask him, "were there any quality problems?"

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"No," says Bob, startled to see me. "Nothing I know about."

"Were there any problems on that order?" I ask him.

He reaches for a paper towel and dries his hands. "No, the whole thing came off like clockwork."

I fall back against the wall. "Then what the hell is he doing here?"

"Is who doing here?" asks Bob.

"Burnside," I tell him. "He just landed in a helicopter with Johnny Jons."

"What?"

"Come with me," I tell him.

We go to the receptionist, but nobody is in the waiting area.

"Did Mr. Jons come through here just now with a cus- tomer?" I ask her.

She says, "The two men in the helicopter? No I watched them and they went past here and into the plant."

Bob and I hustle side by side down the corridor and through the double doors, into the orange light and production din of the plant. One of the supervisors sees us from across the aisle and, without being asked, points in the direction Jons and Burnside took. As we head down the aisle, I spot them ahead of us.

Burnside is walking up to every employee he sees and he's shaking hands with each of them. Honest! He's shaking hands, clapping them on the arm, saying things to them. And he's smil- ing.

Jons is walking with him. He's doing the same thing. As soon as Burnside lets go of a hand, Jons shakes it as well. They're pumping everybody in sight.

Finally, Jons sees us approaching, taps Burnside on the shoulder, and says something to him. Burnside dons this big grin and comes striding up to me with his hand extended.

"Here's the man I especially want to congratulate," says Burnside in a growling kind of voice. "I was saving the best for last, but you beat me to it. How are you?"

"Fine, just fine, Mr. Burnside," I tell him.

"Rogo, I came down here because I want to shake the hand of every employee in your whole plant," growls Burnside. "That was a hell of job this plant did on our order. A hell of a good job! Those other bastards had the order for five months and still couldn't get it down, and here your people finish the whole thing in five weeks. Must have been an incredible effort!"

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Before I can say anything, Jons jumps into the conversation and says, "Bucky and I were having lunch today, and I was telling him how you pulled out all the stops for him, how everybody down here really gave it everything they had."

I say, "Ah... yeah, we just did our best."

"Mind if I go ahead?" asks Burnside, intending to continue down the aisle.

"No, not at all," I say.

"Won't hurt your efficiency, will it?" asks Burnside.

"Not one bit," I tell him. "You go right ahead."

I turn to Donovan then and out of the corner of my mouth say, "Get Barbara Penn down here right away with the camera she uses for the employee news. And tell her to bring lots of film."

Donovan goes trotting off to the offices, and Jons and I fol- low Bucky up and down the aisles, the three of us shaking hands with one and all.

Johnny, I notice, is virtually atwitter with excitement. When Burnside is far enough ahead that he can't hear us, he turns to me and asks, "What's your shoe size?"

"Ten and a half," I tell him. "Why?"

"I owe you a pair of shoes," says Jons.

I say, "That's okay, Johnny; don't worry about it."

"Al, I'm telling you, we're meeting with Burnside's people next week on a long-term contract for Model 12's-10,000 units a year!"

The number just about sends me reeling backwards.

"And I'm calling in my whole department when I get back," Jons continues as we walk. "We're going to do a new campaign pushing everything you make down here, because this is the only plant we've got in this damn division that can ship a quality prod- uct on time. With your lead times, Al, we're going to blow every- body out of the market! Thanks to you, we've finally got a win- ner."

I'm beaming. "Thanks Johnny. But, as it turned out, Burn- side's order didn't take any extra effort at all."

"Shhhh! Don't let Burnside know," Johnny says.

Behind me, I hear two hourly guys talking.

"What was that all about?" asks one.

"Beats me," says the other. "Guess we musta done somthin' right."

On the eve of the plant performance review, with presenta-

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tion rehearsed and ten copies of our report in hand, and with nothing more to do except imagine what could go wrong, I call Julie.

"Hi," I tell her. "Listen, I have to be at headquarters for a meeting tomorrow morning. And because Forest Grove is more or less on the way, I'd like to come up and be with you tonight. What do you think?"

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