The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, North River, 1984
Don’t let its publication date fool you The Goal has long been, and remains to this day, one of the 25 most influential business management books according to Time.
Most interesting is that Goldratt was a physicist and not from the normal circles of business book authors. As such he writes The Goal in the style of a novel that was both refreshing and, for me at least, quite captivating. As an entrepreneur I found this book both foundational and influential towards my own thinking on how to go about running a better business and fixing a broken one.
The book’s main character is Alex Rogo a production manager with a scant three-month turnaround time frame for an unprofitable manufacturing plant with the added complexity of a failing marriage. The Goal explains the “Theory of Constraints,” and the thought that, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. Rogo focuses on removing one productivity bottleneck after another. I think you’ll also enjoy meeting Herbie who at first looked like a problem constraint until he became the solution as an exploited constraint. Herbie acts as a memorable metaphor that the job of all non-constraints is to subordinate their decisions to the constraint’s needs.
The Goal was written at a time when outsourcing (the precursor to offshoring) was the current of the day. While the novel is true to the period and before the digital era, it still has lessons for entrepreneurs. Some of these include the lesson that you can’t reach your goal unless it’s clearly defined and articulated for everyone. A second lesson was to optimize systematically, not departmentally. On this point even if you don’t work in manufacturing, the factory analogy still applies. In every business work originates somewhere in your company, moves through a process, and eventually get received by a customer. The takeaway is that you can’t optimize a single part of a business without factoring in how it may affect the other parts. A third lesson is that the process of continuing and ongoing optimization (continuous improvement) is the key to profit and whole life balance.
While not every lesson is relevant in today’s digital world it’s a light and captivating read that will help you grow your business management toolbox. A true classic, I hope you enjoy reading, or in my case re-reading, it as much as I did.
Have a great summer and I hope you get to enjoy a much-deserved break with friends and family. We’ll look forward to reconnecting with you soon.