That evening, Julie is angry at Alex for going on an unannounced trip. Alex tells her it’s completely necessary but realizes that she doesn’t trust him anymore. Julie accuses him of always putting work first and family second. Alex tries to hug her, but she pushes him away, and when he tells her that he’ll call her from New York, she warns him that she might not be around. Alex yells at her for being unfair, to which Julie counters that he is the one being unfair. Alex leaves with his bag.
Julie’s feeling that Alex always puts work first and family second indicates that she expects him to do the opposite and prioritize his family. Meanwhile, Alex accusing Julie of being unfair for being angry at him indicates that he believes he must put work before family. Their contrasting views suggests that they fundamentally disagree about what the goal of their marriage should be.
The next morning, Alex meets Jonah for breakfast in his New York hotel. He already tried calling Julie and the kids, but no one picked up the phone. Over coffee, Alex explains Peach’s three-month ultimatum and asks if Jonah can be his consultant, but Jonah insists he does not have the time. However, he will give advice, and after three months, Alex can pay him whatever he thinks his advice was worth. Alex agrees to the terms.
Julie’s refusal to answer the phone foreshadows future fights and even a potential separation. Meanwhile, Jonah’s willingness to simply let Alex pay him what he feels his advice is worth suggests that Jonah is extremely confident that he can make Alex’s plant profitable again.
Jonah smokes a cigar and asks Alex what he thinks when he sees one of his workers standing idle at the plant when there is no work to do. Alex states that idle workers are obviously inefficient, because the company still must pay them for their idle time. Jonah counters that, actually, “a plant in which everyone is working all the time is very inefficient.” The fact that Alex’s plant has so much excess inventory proves this. Jonah states that like most managers, Alex focuses too much on trying to balance his plant’s capacity with the market demand (the rate at which they can sell the products they make). However, Jonah says that the closer a plant comes to being perfectly balanced, the closer it is to going bankrupt, which stuns and confuses Alex.
Notably, Jonah distinguishes between individual efficiency (an idle worker is inefficient when measured on their own, since they could produce more) and the overall efficiency of the system, or how well optimized it is to produce. Jonah’s belief that idleness does not necessarily mean wasted money and that a balanced plant is at risk of bankruptcy both defy conventional business wisdom, indicating that many of Jonah’s beliefs are counterintuitive and break with tradition.
Jonah explains that while a balanced plant might be appealing in theory, since expenses are kept to a minimum, “dependent events” (stages of a process that can’t begin before the stage before it completes) and “statistical fluctuations” (unexpected variations in how long a task takes to complete) mean that any system needs some flexibility to accommodate unpredictable events. On their own, dependent events or statistical fluctuations are easy to account for. Together, however, they cause serious delays, especially when a manufacturing system is too well-balanced and too lean to accommodate error. Jonah tells Alex that he must go, but he invites Alex to consider what these two factors mean for his plant. Jonah rushes away and climbs into a limo with some sort of chairman.
Jonah’s insistence that a balanced plant is very dangerous attacks the assumption that a lean plant without excess capacity is the ideal profit-making system. Once again, Jonah presents counterintuitive advice on how to manage a business system, indicating that he intends to revolutionize the way that Alex and others do business. Jonah’s meeting with some type of chairman in a limo suggests that despite his easy demeanor, he has become an important, respected figure.