Book Review: The Goal – A Business Graphic Novel by Eliyahu Goldratt

I don’t usually read books about improving business processes. I’m boring, but I’m not that boring.

I don’t usually read graphic novels. I’m hip, but I’m not that hip.

I’m not sure where I acquired the graphic novel The Goal: A Business Graphic Novelby Eliyahu Goldratt. I think it came in the mail sometime in the last year. Books sometimes do, sent by publicists in the hopes that I’ll review them on my blog or in the newspaper.

The Goalis (apparently, I learned) a business process improvement story used in business schools and praised by business leaders. Goldratt published the original back in XX year. The graphic novel was released in 2017.

One of the main challenges of writing about business and finance is figuring out ways to reach people who would not ordinarily care to pick up a business or finance book. I kept that question in my mind with every paragraph of my book The Financial Rules.

I’m pretty sure the majority of people who pick up a new business or new personal finance book are ones who have already read a bunch of business or personal finance books. It’s their form of entertainment and maybe confirmation of what they already know. Normal people, the ones who don’t read these types of books, aren’t the most likely readers of new business or personal finance books. But how do you reach the people who actually need the information, for whom the wisdom would actually be new and needed? My own attempt was to integrate a bit of humor and a conversational style into the text. But that method only has a chance of grabbing people after they actually picked the book off the shelf and been willing to read a few pages.

So could a graphic novel about business processes actually teach a new audience about business processes?

Maybe yes. I read it through, happily, in about an hour on an airplane. I can still retain the main point of the story a week later.

The main point, if you want to know, is that every business process will have a constraint, or choke point, in the system. The key to success is to clearly identify this constraint, and then adjust the process to optimize around this constraint. It makes no sense, according to The Goal, to create efficiencies in other areas of your business, as this will only lead to backups in inventory, or delays. The entire throughput of a business process is only as productive as its slowest element. Like hikers walking through the woods 1 the group doesn’t arrive any faster than the slowest hiker.

The_Goal_graphic_novelBusinesses tend to optimize all sorts of things, but fail to recognize where the chokepoint of the entire operation is holding everything back.

One other condition, writes Goldblatt, must be satisfied: The only measurement of whether the business is on the right track is profitability. Inventory count, worker productivity, tax efficiency, automation – none of these matter if the entire process doesn’t ensure that revenues exceed costs.

This is all pretty obvious stuff, except that Goldblatt knows, and middle-management folks know, that businesses often prioritize other things that can be measured other than profitability. I can imagine this graphic novel being read by non-specialists, which means it’s got a chance of having an effect outside of business schools.


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  1. A metaphor actually used in the book

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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