My Years with General Motors
by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.
Central Theme: Systematic management: planning, strategy, measurements, and decentralization
Alfred P. Sloan Jr. was CEO of General Motors from 1923 to 1946. This book 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. The book is written in simple business US-English.