The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Reviewed on , book by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

This is to Systems Thinking what The Five Dysfunctions is to management: A peachy piece of fiction, packed with applicable lessons in the most enjoyable format you can imagine. While other systems thinking books are somewhat dry, this one is filled with life, even romance, and well-grounded in reality. While five stars normally for me would mean ‘life-changing,’ in this case I can’t resist because of a rare and wonderful balance between enjoyment, levity, and insight. This type of book, to me, is way better than crime fiction or fantasy. I wish business fiction was a genre with endless options.

In The Goal, a dysfunctional manufacturing plant is transformed after the protagonist has a chance encounter with his physics professor in an airport lounge. Through an unlikely rekindling of the relationship, the professor shows him simple systems thinking principles that are gradually incorporated at the plant. These principles completely transform the site. Through continued improvement, it turns traditional accounting and productivity practices upside down and soon outperforms all other plants in its industry.

If you’re bought into the whole idea of learning to think in mental models, as Dalio describes in Principles or Munger in his Almanack, you’ll love this book to see how it’s applied in action. If not, perhaps this story will show you the usefulness of it in an entertaining, light-hearted fashion. The book will give you some hope that a hopeless situation can be turned around with a little ingenuity.