The Goal – Eli Goldratt’s Classic on Theory of Constraints

B. Aravind had recommended this book to me during our Thanksgiving 1998 get-together. I bought the book subsequently and read about 30 pages and gave up on it after that. I was not expecting to read the Theory of Constraints in the form of a novel, I guess.

Last week, I picked it up again and this time, as I crossed 30 pages mark, the book impressed me so much that it became un-put-down-able. I finished it in a 48 hour window during one of my business trips.

The book is written so well that at times, you feel like jumping into the hero Alex Rogo’s life and fixing his problems. Of course, he does fix the problems later applying the Theory of Constraints. The theory produces counter-intuitive solutions and many experts think that it is similar to systems dynamics (read Peter Senge’s classic The Fifth Discipline for more on that).  As I read the book, I could not help thinking about  the famous Ayn Rand heroes Howard Roark and Hank Rearden.

If you develop starting trouble reading the book, I recommend you read the postword “My Saga” by Eli Goldratt and then start again.

Although, people say this is a must-read if you are in manufacturing, I think, anyone in management will find this book very useful.

In B. Aravind’s words, the book is “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful”.





  1. Anonymous said June 3, 2005, 1:54 pm:

    Good summary of ‘The Goal’. I would recommend as a light reading ‘Necessary But Not Sufficient’. This is also about Theory of Constraints and how an ERP software company applies that to turn around its sales.

    Would like to add that I enjoyed success after reading this book when I was back in India ‘ selling a home grown ERP product to a small scale manufacturing company in Kerala.

    I was actually amazed at the operations and efficiency with which they operate ‘ they don’t have a factory in India, and they don’t have any factory workers. (Note that this is an important factor in the marxist communist world of Kerala) All the parts are manufactured mainly in China and some in Thailand/Malaysia. The assembly is done by individuals/families (mostly women) at their homes. Every week they come to the Office, pick up their supplies of parts and take it home. End of the week, finished product is bought back to the office where it is inspected by a handful of employees and they get paid immediately. This is in a large scale where thousands of such individuals work at their homes and is scheduled so well so that every day there is delivery of the finished product. It is a consumer product and each individual is also incented if they come up with new designs or new product ideas.

    I am not sure whether SAP or Oracle can handle such a manufacturing model, we had to custom develop one.

    Anyway, I had to sell the ERP product and having read the book, Theory of Constraints was my key talking point with the customer. (I did gift the book to him post sale: )

  2. Anonymous said June 3, 2005, 3:02 pm:


    The manufacturing model you describe is very interesting. You may want to write a separate post on that. In the US, when manufacturing started a system called “putting out” was used similar to what you describe. You may want to look up Alfred Chandler’s classic the “The Visible Hand” which describes this method. This book is a counter to Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand of the market. It is an excellent book.