In Peach’s meeting, Alex sniffs the cigar and wonders if Jonah isn’t right: perhaps nobody in that room actually knows what they are doing. Peach and Frost are showing complex charts and using big words, and Hilton Smyth enthusiastically applauds anything Peach says, but Alex senses that it’s all meaningless chatter. He needs to leave, to get some time alone and think about what productivity actually means. When the meeting adjourns for a short break, Alex slips out and leaves the building, though not before Smyth spots him leaving. Alex doesn’t mind. If Peach fires him for leaving the meeting, it won’t be much different than losing his job in three months anyway.
Alex’s sense that even his corporate superiors do not know what they are doing suggests that poor goals and erroneous beliefs about business practice are widespread throughout corporate America. This indicates that Goldratt is trying to reform corporate culture and beliefs about productivity on a broad scale. Meanwhile, Smyth’s enthusiastic applause for Peach’s words indicates that he is vying for favor by sucking up to his boss.
Alex drives back toward the plant but decides not to return to the office just yet. Instead, he buys some pizza and beer and drives up an adjacent hill overlooking the plant so that he can spend a few hours alone, eating and thinking. He thinks of what possible goals could be: buying materials, providing jobs, making quality products, keeping costs down, investing in new technology. None of those ideas seem right.
Alex’s need to simply be alone and think about what Jonah said implies that as a manager, he finds very little time to be alone and reflect. Notably, all of Alex’s proposed goals involve single tasks within the greater manufacturing system, suggesting that he gets preoccupied with minor details rather than the big picture.
Alex looks at their warehouses of unsold merchandise and thinks that perhaps sales are their primary goal. However, making sales only matter if the company makes money, so Alex decides that the primary goal of his manufacturing plant is to make money for UniCo. Everything else only supports that goal. Alex decides that any action that helps the company make money is a productive action, and any action that doesn’t is counterproductive. With this insight, he feels newly awakened. He finishes his beer and decides to go back to work.
Although making money is a very simple, even obvious goal, it takes Alex several hours of thinking to realize it. This again suggests that proper goals are often counterintuitive, especially when a manager becomes preoccupied with minor functions as Alex does. Alex’s realization that he can measure any action’s productivity directly by his goal demonstrates the utility of clear and proper goals.