Sample Literary Analysis of "The Goal" by Elihayu M. Goldratt
Elihayu Goldratt’s “The Goal” is a business novel about Alex Rogo’s attempt to salvage a failing company under a tight deadline. Alex faced various work and personal problems throughout the novel but managed to overcome them through persistent learning and improvement. Goldratt wrote “The Goal” to introduce and share his Theory of Constraints and other business concepts he wanted to discuss. “The Goal” highlights the value of learning, improvement, and productivity through Goldratt’s business concepts and the experiences of his fictional characters.
Theory of Constraints
Goldratt introduced the Theory of Constraint in “The Goal” as the process of identifying bottlenecks and taking actions to address them. This is the most popular concept from the novel and some individuals even utilize the theory in real life with success. According to Lagier, the theory follows the principle that a system is as strong as its weakest link. Any inefficiencies in a system will hinder the whole process, which would reduce productivity. In “The Goal”, Alex Rogo utilizes the Theory of Constraint to identify the inefficiencies of the NCX-10 machines and heat treatment. The successful identification of the bottlenecks allowed the company to create appropriate plans to address the issues, improving overall productivity.
The Theory of Constraint in the novel is a noteworthy concept since it transcends the fictional world and is applicable in reality. The concept's real-life applicability is due to Goldratt’s background as an entrepreneur, consultant, and physicist. Goldratt wrote “The Goal” not just as a novel but as a marketing tool to promote his ideas in production management (“Elihayu Goldratt”). Goldratt utilized his experience in management and the theories he had been working on to create a novel that would garner the readers' interest. The novel provided practical concepts to managers as well as entertainment to casual readers.
Other Business Concepts in the Novel
Goldratt also included other business concepts in the novel that had real-life applications. These included batch size reductions, the process of ongoing improvement, dependent events, and statistical fluctuations. Some of these concepts were existing business ideas while others, such as the process of ongoing improvement, were some of Goldratt’s original concepts. The novel illustrated how these concepts work and utilized them to embody the growth of the main character, Alex Rogo. Since the novel was supposed to be a marketing tool, Goldratt’s expressions of these ideas imply that they are relevant concepts in production management.
Identifying the Right Goal
Aside from real-life business concepts, readers can learn from “The Goal” by reading between the lines, similar to other pieces of literature. While others may argue that the Theory of Constraint is the highlight of the novel, correct goal identification is another concept that Goldratt continuously emphasized (Filev). At first, Alex thought the company’s goals were to reduce inventories and ship products on time. However, he later realized that the ultimate goal was to make money. Inventory reductions and on-time deliveries do not mean that a business is making money, only that operations are ongoing. After identifying that the ultimate goal was to make money, Alex was able to analyze the company’s problem properly. Utilizing the lessons from Jonah, as well as his epiphanies during a Boy Scout hike, Alex discovers ways to fix some of the company’s problems.
There was also Alex’s realization that his work was interrupting his personal life. He established his goal of preventing the plant from closing, however, this placed his marriage in danger. His wife, Julie, felt that Alex was neglecting him. Furthermore, the constant overtime and a female coworker dropping Alex by his house made Julie question his loyalty. These events showcased that while Alex identified the correct company goal, he failed to recognize his goal as a husband and father. Fortunately, Alex realized that he had familial responsibilities and cannot constantly think about work. Eventually, he found the balance between work and family, allowing him to achieve both goals.
Learning and Improving
Improvement is another lesson that the novel highlights through Alex’s persistence. According to the Theory of Constraints Institute, “The Goal” teaches readers to learn about the inner workings of a system so that they can create improvements and innovations. Goldratt illustrated this multiple times in the novel by putting Alex in situations where he must learn valuable lessons resulting in revelations that would help him reach the ultimate goal. For instance, the Boy Scout hike allowed Alex to understand the concepts of dependent events and statistical fluctuations better. With his new perspective on the concepts, he was able to create a system that would help the company be more efficient. Alex took the learning opportunity to understand concepts better and establish ways to improve upon existing systems.
The novel further imposed the importance of learning and improvement through its ending. “The Goal” ended with Alex obtaining a high position with more responsibilities and problems to solve. From this ending, Goldratt implies that learning and improving is a constant process despite an individual’s position or stature. Employees, managers, and company owners have things to learn and improve. Alex realizes there are more problems ahead and acknowledges that he must learn to address them without Jonah's assistance. This further showed that while early stages of improvement require a mentor, one cannot improve fully without independence.
The novel highlighted the importance of teamwork through Alex’s interaction with Jonah. From the beginning, Alex realized he needed Jonah’s help to address the company’s situation. He understood that his way of thinking was ineffective in solving the company’s problem. So he engaged in discussions with Jonah to further learn more about business concepts and how he could use them to improve the plant’s performance. Alex and Jonah became a great duo since Jonah helped Alex with his business problems while Alex provided Jonah with a way to satisfy his business curiosity.
There is also Alex’s relationship with his team. At first, the team was doubtful about Alex’s plans. However, they became compliant after Alex exhibited the effectiveness of his theories. Alex knew that he needed his team, and eventually, his team also learned that they needed him. For instance, during the meeting with a committee to assess whether the plant will close or not, Lou backed Alex regarding the problem with the old accounting method that projected inaccurate data. The team’s teamwork eventually led to Alex’s promotion, as well as each member’s promotion; allowing them to rise through the ranks together.
Jonah the Consultant and Thinking Like a Scientist
Lastly, Goldratt emphasized thinking like a scientist or thinking through a different perspective. As mentioned earlier, Goldratt was a physicist and an entrepreneur. He saw things not only from a business perspective but also from a scientific way. Goldratt emphasized systemic thinking instead of departmental assessment (Filev). This allowed him to apply scientific theories and methods in the field of business, leading to the creation of concepts like the Theory of Constraints. For instance, the Theory of Constraints identifies the bottleneck or the factor that limits a system’s ability to achieve its goal. In a scientific approach, this is the identification of a research problem. It is one of the basic steps in scientific research but becomes one of the most effective principles in business management.
Goldratt’s “The Goal” combined storytelling and business principles to create a compelling piece of literature that would entertain and educate readers. The novel can act as both a leisure read or a business principle guide, further illustrating Goldratt’s unique approach to different matters. “The Goal” teaches many business principles that managers can utilize to improve their company’s productivity. Goldratt directly discussed concepts, such as the Theory of Constraints and the process of ongoing improvement, while also showcasing ideas between lines, such as teamwork and systematic thinking.
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Filev, Andrew. “After 35 Years, The Goal is Still an Essential Read for Entrepreneurs and Executives.” Forbes. 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewfilev/2019/05/07/after-35-years-the-goal-is-still-an-essential-read-for-entrepreneurs-and-executives/?sh=68b77d226227.
Goldratt, Eliyahu. “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.” Great Barrington, MA: North River Press, 2004.
Lagier, Antoine. “Theory of Constraints Dice Game Simulator.” Medium. 2020. https://medium.com/timspirit/theory-of-constraints-dice-game-simulator-872e45f08e4c.
“The Goal Summary & Book Review.” Theory of Constraints Institute. n.d. https://www.tocinstitute.org/the-goal-summary.html.
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