My Years with General Motors by Alfred Sloan
My Years with General Motors, written in the 1950s but withheld from publication until an updated version was finally released in 1964, exemplified Sloan’s vision of the professional manager and the carefully engineered corporate structure in which he worked. It is considered one of the seminal texts in the field of modern management education, although the state of the art in management science has grown greatly in the half century since.
From the book flap: Only a handful of business books have reached the status of a classic, having withstood the test of over thirty years’ time. Even today, Bill Gates praises My Years with General Motors as the best book to read on business, and Business Week has named it the number one choice for its “bookshelf of indispensable reading.” My Years with General Motors became an instant bestseller when it was first published in 1963. It has since been used a a manual for managers, offering personal glimpses into the practice of the “discipline of management” by the man who perfected it. This is the story no other businessman could tell–a distillation of half a century of intimate leadership experience with a giant industry and an inside look at dramatic events and creative business management.
Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was CEO of General Motors from 1923 to 1946. My Years with General Motors was originally published in 1964. Sloan is seen as the first person to have worked out systematic organization in a big company, planning and strategy, measurements, the principle of decentralization – in short, basic concepts of a discipline of management. This is a difficult book to review, since it is more a historic piece on GM’s history and development from Sloan’s perspective than an autobiography. It does not discuss the individual Alfred P. Sloan Jr., it discusses Alfred P. Sloan Jr. as professional manager. The chapters also come across as business school lessons in different subjects, ranging from general management through to accounting, marketing and compensation strategies.
The book consists of two parts. “Part One is an integrated continuous story of the main lines of General Motors’ progress, involving the origin and development of the corporation’s basic management concepts in the areas of organization, finance and product.” It discusses the extreme growth and development of the automobile industry from the early 1900s through to the early 1960s. It also discusses the methods General Motors introduced used to manage the corporation (Sloan all through the book keeps emphasizing the concept of the corporation). He later became known as a committee-man, because he used different types of committees to get/keep various divisions talking and working with each other.
Part Two consists of individually distinct sections dealing in some detail with engineering, distribution, overseas operations, war and defense products, incentive compensation, and other aspects and branches of the enterprise. This part of the book discusses in greater detail the different experiences and events during Sloan’s reign as CEO. It discusses some very interesting subjects, such as the evolution of the automobile, relationships with dealers, World War I and II efforts, and personnel and labor relations. Chapter 23 and 24 are really the conclusion to this book.
Yes, this is a great book. It is a TRUE business classic. It discusses all the subjects involved in business from a CEO’s point of view. I was amazed to see the amount of detail Sloan has gone through while writing this book, there are plenty of quotes from annual reports, memoranda, conversations, etc. However, some readers will be disappointed by the lack of insight into Sloan’s personal life. This particular edition includes an introduction by Peter F. Drucker, who explains why this book is MUST reading for all MBA and business students, but also all people that want to be serious about management. Highly recommended. My Years with General Motors is written in simple business US-English.
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