THE WHIZ KIDS by John A. Byrne


Ten Men Who Shaped the American Century
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 An unsparing post-mortem on a group of organization men who played an influential, if not always constructive, role in the postwar history of US business and government. There were ten so-called ``Whiz Kids''--youngish veterans of the Army Air Force's Statistical Control Command who in 1946 sold Henry Ford II on hiring them as a unit to revivify his troubled empire. While Business Week writer Byrne (coauthor of Odyssey, 1987, John Sculley's autobiography) tracks all parties to the original package deal, he focuses on those who flew highest or fell by the wayside--including Charles (Tex) Thornton (founder of Litton Industries, corporate America's first major conglomerate) and Robert McNamara (who left the Ford Motor presidency to become secretary of defense and a subsequently remorseful architect of US policy in Vietnam). Covered as well are Arjay Miller (an admired dean of Stanford's B-school and, like McNamara, an ex-president of Ford) and Jack Reith (a shooting star who flamed out early, dying by his own hand at 47). With the postwar era's best and brightest now gone to varying rewards, Byrne offers a harsh appraisal of their legacy. In particular, he takes the Whiz Kids and their disciples to task for putting near-blind faith in the decisive power of numbers and arrogantly imposing severe financial constraints on enterprises whose bottom-line results could almost certainly have been improved by allowing fallible human beings to exercise their intuition and creativity. An impressive and instructive look at a generation that apparently cast a long dark shadow on the domestic landscape.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-24804-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993


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