The Whiz Kids: The Founding Fathers of American Business - and the Legacy they Left Us

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9780385248044: The Whiz Kids: The Founding Fathers of American Business - and the Legacy they Left Us

Analyzes America's postwar rise to economic power, and sudden decline, in terms of the ambitions and tragic errors of ten influential businessmen

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From Kirkus Reviews:

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. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Christened the Whiz Kids by the press, 10 young Army Air Force statistical experts in 1945 were hired as a unit by Henry Ford II to impose order on the company he had just taken over from his senile grandfather. Byrne, a Business Week writer and author of The Headhunters , admits that the Kids' formula for increasing profits through monitoring the numbers saved costs, but only, he claims, at the expense of quality and innovation--thinking that ultimately led to the loss of America's automotive hegemony. The group's charismatic leader, Tex Thornton, later created--and lost--super-conglomerate Litton Industries; Jack Reith masterminded the wildly over-designed 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, which flopped, and the doomed Edsel before committing suicide; Robert McNamara became Ford's president and then JFK and LBJ's Secretary of Defense. Others of the group ascended to top Ford jobs or drifted into disgruntled retirement. The book is that publishing rarity, a page-turner about business and finance people, but a more discriminating approach might have given the Whiz Kids' story greater cohesion.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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