Businesses’ bottleneck bane

“The Goal” is a notable business book for two reasons. The first is its unusual genre. First published in 1984, it is a management tome dressed up in the clothes of a thriller. The book, written by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox, tells the story of Alex Rogo, a plant manager who has to overhaul his factory within three months or face closure.

To the objection that this is not thrilling at all, consider that it could have been a lot worse (“Alan Key must format a slide deck by midnight or he won’t get enough sleep to function properly the next day”). And Rogo’s efforts to reduce excess inventory and win over Bill Peach, his hard-driving boss, are weirdly entertaining. In any case readers lapped it up. “The Goal” sold millions. It has been reprinted several times. It even got turned into a graphic novel.

Its second contribution was to popularise thinking about bottlenecks. The novel was written to get across Goldratt’s “theory of constraints”, a method for…

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