The Goal – Chapter 01 – Alex’s Production Site Fails

[This is #1 in a series covering all 40 Chapters – Visit the summary.]

Chapter 1 of The Goal pulls the reader right in:

  • Goldratt, the author – and creator of Theory of Constraints – sets the book in the first person, positioning the reader as Alex Rogo.
  • The setting is a manufacturing environment.
  • The settings are simple – in Chapter 1 we move from the parking lot, into the plant, and into our narrator, Alex Rogo’s office.
  • Alex’s emotions are part of how the author tells the story and teaches about the Theory of Constraints.
  • The author pulls in components of the Theory of Constraints early on – using goals as motives and hinting at how constraints impact production.
  • There is a diversity of character backgrounds and education levels – just like any work setting.


Operations Highlight

“Peach doesn’t give a damn about the other do-it-now job.”

If there was a hippocratic oath of production management, it would read – “don’t make the situation worse.” Rogo’s boss Peach wants an order shipped – and his efforts to do so cause chaos and likely throw every order for the week further behind. This will cause him to be back at the plant next week, and the problems will just grow and delays increase. There is a corollary to this hippocratic operations oath – if you don’t understand if your action will make the situation worse, be patient.

Writing Highlight

“Going into the plant is like entering a place where satans and angels have married to make kind of a gray magic.”

To tame the satans, angels and the complexity of their gray magic we must bring the simplicity of a clear goal to the plant floor.

Page by page highlights of Chapter 1; Pages 1 – 10.

Page 1 – “Too bad that I may never get the chance now.” The reader learns that our narrator also has a goal, even though it is weakly stated. He wants a shot at being CEO. In these early chapters, before ToC is introduced, Goldratt is still following the rules and laying out principals – he then pulls these concepts back in later in the book.

Page 2 – “Peach doesn’t give a damn about the other do-it-now job.” Peach, who frustrated our narrator by taking his parking space, is now causing chaos in the plant. Order 41427 is late, so change over and set up costs be damned, Rogo’s boss, Peach, is going to get that order shipped. Anyone who has worked to a deadline is familiar with the chaos caused by this behavior.

Page 3 – “Sure, uh, but what should we be working on?” Rogo is ready for action – and his team highlights two constraints to effective action – communication and prioritization. Rogo is about to hop out and get 41427 shipped, but his team doesn’t know that yet and they aren’t sure where to start.

Page 4 – “So where was I last night, he asks, when he tried to call me at home?” Goldratt pulls in a myriad of personal and life lessons in this book. Many first time readers quote these components as being cheesy, boring or not worth their time – but they are relevant. Co-workers bring these emotions to the plant floor. Work life boundaries are important to team morale.

Page 5 – “And if you still can’t do it, then I’ve got no use for you or this plant.” In my first reading of the Goal in 2001, this line struck me as to blunt and cruel. But it brings wonderful clarity to the situation for Rogo. Clear deadlines are wonderful when they exist and are known.

P006 – “From the shelf by the door, I get my hard hat and safety glasses and head out.” Rogo knows that he cannot meet Peach’s challenge in his office – it requires work out in the plant with his colleagues.

P007 – “Going into the plant is like entering a place where satans and angels have married to make kind of a gray magic.” The prose may be simple, but Goldratt has a keen ability to summon the smells, sound and sites of a production site.

P008 – “And he doesn’t talk real fancy; I suspect it’s a point of pride with him.” As the reader is introduced to the characters around Rogo, Goldratt continues to highlight the variety of communication styles and educational backgrounds. The reader senses the author’s desire to make a broad reaching book.

P009 – “But, see, the problem is that the machine itself is down and it may stay down for some time.” The reader is introduced now to the NCX-10 and first hints of the Theory of Constraints. If all work flows through this tool, and if the tool will be down for a while, how can product can be completed? How can money be made?

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