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Operations Management Scenario

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Sloan and GM Intro

William Crapo Durant, snake oil salesman, charlatan extraordinaire and boy genius. Billy Durant is a fascinating study in the transition from entrepreneur to professional management and how difficult (or impossible) that transition can be. As your read Sloan's book you'll hear of Durant and the founding of GM, how he almost bankrupted the company, how he was forced out and then bought his way back in. Ultimately Durant was removed from GM entirely. In the late 1930's he was managing a bowling alley in Detroit with plans to open a nationwide chain of lanes. He had a stroke in 1942 and died in 1947 without launching this last dream. I have to admit, the guy did have a finger on the pulse of American society but he was an "idea" guy with no follow through, rather like Tucker.

I have always enjoyed the Sloan book for the way it reminds us that there's little new under the sun. As you peruse his wisdom keep reminding yourself that this is the 1920's and 30's about which he is writing and observe how many of his innovations were lost (or forgotten) and then reintroduced as a new way of doing business during the 1990's.

Sloan's vision of decentralization, managing by the numbers, product placement, and quality as a precursor to market success all are familiar to us but were we aware that these were first elaborated in the 1920's? I can and will argue that General Motors today is a shambles because it lost sight of what made it great in the first place - Alfred P. Sloan and his contemporaries.

Enjoy the read and be prepared over the coming week to analyze TQM. JIT, and Reengineering in relation to Sloan's prescription for organizational success.

1. Are there any direct comparisons between Sloan's approach and what others in our readings have advocated (tqm , reengineering)?
2. How Sloan handled the downstream supply chain and how he viewed GM's relationship with customers.
3. Is there anything that surprised you reading Sloan's autobiography.

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Solution Preview

1. There are many direct comparisons between Sloan's approach and what others in our readings have advocated, in respect to total quality management, as well as reengineering, primarily due to the fact that Sloan advocated the need for a steady and continuous methodology by which to improve the processes that take place within an organization, in order to make the organization much more efficient and effective in providing high-quality products. In addition, Sloan advocated the need for decentralizing the management of organizational processes and procedures, so that hands on lower-level managers could have more control in directing the processes and procedures within their departments based on their expert knowledge of those departments and their staff, which results in greater overall efficiency. In addition, Sloan's emphasis on managing by the numbers, efficient and effective product placement ...