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4.0 out of 5 starsDry But Fascinating
Reviewed in the United States on January 11, 2018
Yes, it's little dry as others have commented, but after all this is not supposed to be a 007 spy thriller. From a business and management perspective this is a fascinating look behind the scenes at a huge corporation producing an expensive and very complex product. while under intense competitive pressure that mandates a makeover of the entire product line every year.The book starts with a history of the automobile that as a car buff I found very interesting. It describes the development of automotive technology that we now take for granted - independent suspension, automatic transmissions, power accessories, etc. If you are interested in business, management, or just cars you will enjoy this book. It's not necessary to read every word or page - the parts that I found boring I skimmed over. It's not like you'll miss important plot elements. There's plenty of material that is interesting.
This is a true business classic. In this book Alfred Sloan shares his years of wisdom - while heading General Motors - in a variety of areas including planning, strategy, finance, leadership, innovation and management. Alfred was a true pioneer of his time in building the discipline of management and his approach is just as applicable now as it was in the early 1900s.
Below are key lessons in the form of excerpts that I found particularly insightful from this must read classic.
1- "I feel that a proper balance can and must necessarily be established in the course of time between the activities of any particular Operation and that of all our Operations together and as I see the picture at the moment no better way or even as good a way has yet been advanced as to ask those members of each organization who have the same functional relationship to get together and decide for themselves what should be done where coordination is necessary, giving such a group the power to deal with the problem where it is felt that the power can be constructively applied. I believe that such a plan properly developed gives the necessary balance between each Operation and the Corporation itself and will result in all the advantages of co-ordinated action where such action is of benefit in a broader way without in any sense limiting the initiative of independence of action of any component part of the group."
2- "I am not going to say that rate of return is a magic want for every occasion in business. There are times when you have to spend money just to stay in business, regardless of the visible rate of return...Nevertheless, no other financial principle with which I am acquainted serves better than rate of return as an objective aid to business judgment."
3- "The growth in the capital employed in General Motors reflects the progress of the corporation. In an economy based on competition, we have operated as rational businessmen, a fact I have tried to demonstrate with close description of the development of our approach to management. The result has been an efficient enterprise. It should be noted that a rising successful economy like that of the United States is not only an opportunity, it is also very demanding on those whose ambition is to excel in it. "
4- "I believe that the franchise system (dealerships), which has long prevailed in the automobile industry, is the best one for manufacturers, dealers, and consumers."
5- "The potential rewards of the Bonus Plan to ego satisfaction generate a tremendous driving force within the Corporation...To the recipient it is also an evaluation of his personal contribution to the success of the business. It is a means of conveying to the executive a form of recognition which he prizes independently of his monetary compensation."
6- "It has been a thesis of this book that good management rests on a reconciliation of centralization and decentralization, or "decentralization with coordinated control." Each of the conflicting elements brought together in this concept has its unique results in the operation of a business. From decentralization we get initiative, responsibility, development of personnel, decisions close to the facts, flexibility - in short, all the qualities necessary for an organization to adapt to new conditions. From coordination we get efficiencies and economies It must be apparent that c-oordinated decentralization is not an easy concept to apply."
7- "...To meet the challenge of the market place, we must recognize changes in customer needs and desires far enough ahead to have the right products in the rights places at the right time and in the right quantity. We must balance trends in preference against the many compromises that are necessary volume. We must design, not just the cars we would like to build, but more importantly, the cars that our customers want to buy."
8- "I also hope I have not left an impression that the organization runs itself automatically. An organization does not make decisions; its function is to provide a framework, based upon established criteria, within which decisions can be fashioned in an orderly manner. Individuals make decisions and take the responsibility for them."
5.0 out of 5 starsNot a how to book. It is a "how we did it book"
Reviewed in the United States on August 28, 2013
The book My Years with General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan Jr. is highly recommended as the one business book every aspiring business student should read. Management guru Peter Drucker speaks of it several times throughout his writings. Bill Gates told Fortune, "My Years with General Motors is probably the best book to read if you want to read only one book about business."
This book really is not a "how to book". It is more a book about what Sloan and his contemporaries at General Motors did and why they did it. Sloan tells a little about the concept of centralized decentralization. This can be a hard to understand concept, but Sloan explains in detail how the concept came to be invented and why. He also explains when and how General Motors moved away from decentralization and when and how they moved towards decentralization. Somehow, he makes it all make sense.
When General Motors first started out, the whole concept of a corporation that size was fairly new. Sloan and the executives working with him literally wrote the book on how a corporation works. They did not coin the phrase "Social Responsibility" but they did help to invent the concept. National Cash Register was developing the concept at the same time.
I would not suggest that this be the only book you read on business. However, I agree with Gates that if you could only read one business book that this would be a great choice. Sloan does not use complicated terms to explain the concepts. In fact, many of the terms used today were not invented yet when Sloan began writing this book. Sloan had to treat his readers as if they were unfamiliar with management concepts. This is because so few people were familiar with these concepts at the time.
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The Genesis of the professional manager is traced in this book. Sloan categorically states that the manager should not be bogged down by metrics. He should not miss the forest for the trees... You also get a n insight into Emergent strategy