The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 8, No. 1 Spring 1981
Dale A. Buckmaster, Editor UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE
Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., Editor, Managerial Innovation at General Motors (New York: Arno Press, 1979, $14.00).
Reviewed by Daniel A. Wren University of Oklahoma
The title would suggest that we will find some managerial inno-vations by General Motors—yet the editor leaves it to the reader to determine what these might be. The editor offers no explanation of why these eight items (six reprinted articles and two reprinted speeches from the period 1923-1927) were selected, how they might fit a theme, or just what the "innovation" might have been. For those who are familiar with Professor Chandler's writings, the ra-tionale can be found fairly readily—but if Chandler has not been on your reading list, do not start with this collection. Chandler's work has emphasized the growth of enterprise and how managerial responses are made to this growth. In this collection, his selection is the writings of top G.M. executives (all Vice-Presidents with two exceptions) to show how this enterprise responded to growth.
Under William C. Durant, General Motors had been an unwieldly union of motor car and parts producers. As G.M. faced bankruptcy, it was Du Pont money and Pierre S. du Pont as Chief Executive who saved the Durant creation in 1920. The Du Pont Company, under Pierre S. du Pont, had already pioneered some of the organizational and managerial techniques which would be used at G.M. Du Pont's Treasurer, Donaldson Brown (who contributed four of the eight arti-cles in this book) came to G.M., and together with Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., helped create the G.M. organization with centralized policy and control and decentralized administration and operations.
The managerial innovations at G.M. were those steps taken to bring a rational system of policies, plans, structure, and controls to the organization, something it lacked under previous management.