At the monthly plant managers’ meeting with Bill Peach, Ethan Frost reports that Alex’s plant has had its first profitable month in years, better than any of the other plants, but it’s still is not financially stable. Hilton Smyth resents Alex’s success, and Peach seems only mildly impressed. Alex gives his own report of their efforts: inventory is down, throughput is up now that they can ship products much faster, and even their efficiencies have stayed acceptable due to the higher shipping rates. Alex is disappointed that Peach isn’t more congratulatory but knows that he’ll have to wait to explain the full extent of their new ideas. Peach doesn’t trust new ideas anymore and still hasn’t decided whether or not to close the plant. Plus, Hilton Smyth seems to be influencing Peach a great deal.
Peach’s reticence to congratulate Alex or recognize his early success suggests that he is entrenched in traditional ideas about business, implying that adherence to tradition often discourages leadership from considering new processes and methods. Hilton Smyth’s personal resentment toward Alex and apparent influence over Peach further suggests that interpersonal politics and posturing also can impede new ideas, since one’s competitors may not want to see them succeed.
Alex meets with Peach after the meeting, and Peach tells him that despite their good month, he wants to see a 15-percent improvement in the next month before he’ll commit to keeping the plant open. Alex says that his plant can achieve that, which stuns Peach, and leaves. On the way home, Alex considers what he’s just promised—a 15-percent increase would be a phenomenal month and may demand more sales than they can actually make.
Peach’s demand for 15-percent growth appears unreasonable, suggesting that, for whatever reason, he wants to see Alex fail. Because Hilton Smyth resents Alex and seems to influence Peach, it seems probable that Smyth is angling Peach against Alex due to personal vendetta, demonstrating the pettiness of corporate politics.
Rather than go straight back to the plant, Alex decides to stop at Julie’s parents’ house. Alex and Julie go for a walk in a nearby park. At first, they talk about how nice it is to spend time together again. However, Julie asks if Alex is going to act differently from now on, or if his work will still always come first. They argue about what the purpose of their marriage is: Julie thinks there is no purpose because the marriage is just two committed people who love each other. They realize that Julie expects a life where Alex comes home at a reasonable hour, whereas Alex expects a life where he puts his business first, like his own father did. They fight for a time and walk back silently. Alex is about to drive home when Julie apologizes and they briefly make up.
Alex and Julie’s argument reveals that they clearly have different goals for what their marriage should look like. Once again, Alex’s marital problems parallel his problems at the plant. Just as his lack of a clear goal for the plant led to disorganization and chaos, so do his and Julie’s lack of a clear goal for their marriage results in differing—and thus, unmet—expectations about how the other should behave, leading to anger, disappointment, and more fights.