Jeff Cox, Unsung Hero of "The Goal"

by Nico Scopelliti

I don't own a first-edition copy of "The Goal," but I do have both a second-edition and the 25th Anniversary Edition. I also own "It's Not Luck," the sequel to "The Goal." While working on my Herbie's Revenge series, I've delved deeper and deeper into the study of these seminal works. The more time I spend reading and writing, the more ensconced I feel in the fictional world of Alex, Jonah, and Herbie.

So when I picked up "It's Not Luck," I was surprised to find that the tone and style of the writing felt "off;" it was just not quite what I was used to after having read "The Goal." At first, I tried to ignore the feeling—the books were written 10 years apart, and authors evolve in their art like everyone else. But the crispness of the first novel seemed to be absent from the second, and it's a bit awkward. Then I noticed something missing on the cover. See if you can spot it.  

Eliyahu M. Goldratt's name is featured prominently on the cover along, with his photo. But there's a name missing. Where's Jeff Cox?

You won't find Jeff Cox's name anywhere on or in the book. He evidently had nothing to do with it. That struck me as odd. Given the huge success of "The Goal," wouldn't you bring in your co-author to write its sequel?

My first thought was that Jeff Cox might have passed away, but a quick Internet search revealed that he is very much alive and writing. Since "The Goal," Cox has gone on to co-author seven other business novels and author two completely on his own. He's a pioneer of the art of turning business and management lessons into entertaining and highly readable stories. While I'd not heard of his other books, they've been very successful and received rave reviews. So if Cox was alive, still writing, and absolutely successful, why on earth wouldn't Goldratt tap him to collaborate on the sequel?

It seems things didn't work out so well between them. In 1996, Goldratt published an autobiographical article he called, "My Saga to Improve Production," detailing the successes and failures of the various businesses and ventures he'd participated in. Publishing "The Goal" was the turning point in his career, and he discusses at length the resistance he encountered from his colleagues at Creative Output, a software company that developed production scheduling products.  He stated:

"Nobody liked it. Not even Jeff Cox, the writer I hired. He hated it to the extent that he refused to share in the royalties and demanded to be paid cash, in full (as far as I know he didn’t repeat this enormous mistake with 'Zapp!,' the excellent book he co-authored later)."

That's a pretty explosive statement. Goldratt's revelation raises a lot of questions. Jeff Cox hated the book he co-authored? Did he believe so little in the project that he didn't want royalties? As an author, you can go anywhere after participating in a project as wildly successful as "The Goal."  Did Cox change his mind about hating it after he was successful in future work?

Goldratt passed away in 2011, but Jeff Cox, as I mentioned, is still alive and at it—and he has a very interesting response to Goldratt's claims. Cox paints a very different picture about what occurred before and after he and Goldratt gave birth to "The Goal." Not only does Cox say that he was proud of his work, he claims that Goldratt took credit for a great deal of Cox's contributions, and that he was never even offered royalties as part of his compensation package. He was offered a bonus, but it was never paid:

"In the article, Goldratt claims that I hated 'The Goal,' and that I hated it so much that I 'refused to share in the royalties and demanded to be paid in cash, in full.' He goes on to imply that I made an 'enormous mistake' in turning down royalties. None of this was the case. What he describes in 'My Saga to Improve Production' is a gross distortion of what actually took place back in 1983–1984. In fact, it is utterly ridiculous and does not even make sense."

Further down, Cox makes a pretty compelling point:

"Did I hate 'The Goal' to the extent that I would refuse to share in the royalties and demand to be paid in cash? Wait a minute. The terms were negotiated at the beginning of the project. How could I hate something that did not yet exist?"

Here's the full text of Cox's response:  "The Truth about 'The Goal.'"

It's Goldratt's word against Cox's, so I'll leave you to decide whose story you believe. Cox has the benefit of the last word, but Goldratt did throw the first stone. As I continue with Herbie's Revenge, I'll end up reaching out to Jeff Cox and seeing what he thinks. And maybe I'll even get more of the story.

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