A tough-talking Texan offers business truisms.
Whitacre is a turnaround specialist who took AT&T from a $9 billion “Baby Bell” to a global giant with annual revenues of more than $120 billion; he later took the reins of General Motors and saw it through the tough process of federally mandated reorganization. “None of this is magic,” he faux modestly avers. It does, however, have everything to do with good management, and by his account, good management is in exceedingly short supply. The truisms begin to mount as he proceeds: “People are the number one asset of any business”; “Good managers know that change is the only constant in business, so they actively manage their businesses—smartly, aggressively, and as humanely as possible”; “Life, when you really think about it, is basically just a series of key moments or turning points.” Such things might seem self-evident and obvious, but when Whitacre serves up horror stories of corporate culture run amok, including places where ordinary employees weren’t allowed to ride in the same elevators as top management and where those same ordinary employees were made to feel as if they were scarcely worth being seen, let alone being heard, then it becomes more obvious that common-sensical approaches have to be beaten into the heads of some of the privileged corporate elite. There’s no sense of privilege in the author’s pages, though it’s obvious that he’s made a vast amount of money. Instead, Whitacre provides a refreshing amount of sunshine and fresh air, with guardedness surrounding only the question of why he left GM, an event that still seems a touch mysterious.
A keeper in a field of undercooked, underwritten books by CEOs.