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Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226238043
ISBN-10: 0226238040
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

General Motors chairman Alfred P. Sloan was the ultimate organization man: he rose to the top of the auto industry after pioneers like Henry Ford built it, and then he transformed it with innovative management practices that today are studied and copied by business executives everywhere. In Sloan Rules, University of New Mexico historian David Farber describes how Sloan led his company to "economic greatness" between the 1920s and '40s, particularly by developing "a loose economic model in which highly rationalized corporate productivity combined with relentless marketing creates a mass consumer society that, in turn, produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people." Surprisingly little is known about Sloan's personal life--he was an intensely private man--but in this biography Farber provides a good overview of what made Sloan such an outstanding businessman. He also recounts Sloan's contentious relationship with Franklin Delano Roosevelt: "To Sloan, the New Deal was a raw deal." (At one point, the chairman even described the New Dealers as "ancient Asiatic despots.") Farber clearly wishes his subject had concerned himself more with social justice, but he also points out that Sloan's energy and creativity made it possible for a subsequent GM chairman to say, with some if not complete credibility, that what's good for GM is good for America. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Early in the auto industry's history, Alfred P. Sloan trounced the monolith that was Henry Ford, turning the ambitious but messily sprawling empire of General Motors into a smoothly humming money-making machine. His 1964 book on management, My Years with General Motors, is a business classic, and his methods placed GM at the top of the automobile world, yet he remains unknown. Farber, a University of New Mexico history professor, admits that studying this invisible man Sloan left behind no private papers or correspondence of any kind, and GM destroyed all of his corporate papers was a quixotic task, but one worth attempting, because beneath Sloan's icy, patrician demeanor beat the heart of a pure businessman who was so committed to the pursuit of his profession that he took almost no pleasure in it. Although he proved a master at realigning GM's divisions in the 1920s after the chaotic rule of the company's previous leader, William Durant, it wasn't the cars Sloan really loved, it was the numbers: "The manufacture of correct assessments, not physical products, is what most gratified Alfred Sloan." Farber's efforts to bring Sloan to life ultimately fail, however, and there are times when Farber's tale seems more about the trials and tribulations of General Motors than any one man, who in some passages seems to pop up only as an afterthought. This outcome would no doubt have made Sloan happy, leaving him forever safe and hidden, a true ghost in the machine. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 299 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226238040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226238043
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,637,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The frustrating thing for biographers writing about Alfred P. Sloan is the paucity of information about what made the man tick. Sloan was meticulously careful not to leave material which would provide insight into his personal life, his thoughts, or his motivations. Instead, Sloan was careful to manage information in such a way that his persona as the supremely rational corporate leader was maintained. David Farber understands that people are more complex, and he offers tantalizing hints into Sloan's motivations. Farber focuses on two important chapters in Sloan's career--his crucial role in the stabilizing of General Motors, the creation of the quixotic Billy Durant, and the impact of the New Deal on corporate America, specifically GM. As for the first, Farber details Sloan's career development after his graduation from MIT and after his father secured a position for him with Hyatt Roller Bearing Company. Hyatt's relationship with GM led Sloan to that company at a crucial point, when the DuPont family had secured their investment by forcing out Billy Durant. Sloan seemed the opposite of Durant, making decisions in a supremely rational way and focusing on the bottom line. Symbolic of this is Sloan's decision to place each car in the GM line to appeal to particular income levels. So is his development of a master plan for GM, which ultimately led the corporation to unprecedented profitability, even during the Depression.
It was the Depression and the New Deal that brought Sloan's attitude into fairly direct conflict with the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, and labor leader John L. Lewis. Farber is clearly disappointed in the almost total lack of social consciousness exhibited by Sloan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Faber has done a great job of puting together Alfred Sloan story, in a way that Mr. Sloan, himself, would accept as a balanced biography (although I think he wouldn't like to be so exposed in public!!!)

Many concepts that today are taken for granted as part of the tools available to the professional manager, were actually part of the ideas used by Mr. Sloan to guide GM into leadership of the Automobile Market. Mr. Faber has done a superb job of presenting these concepts in the context of history and the people with whom Mr.Sloan built GM. The story is so good that may inspire today's managers into action.

Faber does a very interesting analysis trying to understand the mind of Mr. Sloan, specially in his relations with the Roosevelt Administration during the New Deal and Second World War. Today it would be more difficult for people in general to accept some of the positions Mr. Sloan had taken in this period.

One point to be remembered is that today the record of successful mergers is dismal. Mr Sloan major contribution was taking General Motors,in the early 1920s, an amalgam of deals put together by Durant, which were in a state of disarray and puting together a rational and effective organization. To do this Mr. Sloan was brilliant by using concepts like market segmentation, descentralization, corporate control, productivity/efficiency control...he was a true strategist. Due to the lack of records, it would be impossible for the author to describe the details of the implementation of this great task done by Mr Sloan.

Great read, essential reading for anyone that wants to understand the ways of Big Business...
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Mr. Sloan was truly an innovator before his time! Mr. Sloan's actions may be construed as selfish and "robber baronish", but he excelled at auto making and captilism. A must read for any business or economics class.
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