With 442 ratings
By: Henry Ford, Samuel Crowther, et al.
Purchased At: $4
The book that has inspired entrepreneurs for generations, not only is My Life and Work by Henry Ford a memoir of an American icon but it also shows the spirit that built America. Written in 1922, this work provides a unique insight into the observations, ideas, and problem-solving skills of this remarkable man.
"The title of this book, My Life and Work, would be better titled, My Work and Ideals. There is very little in this book about Ford himself. If you’re looking for a book about events in Henry Ford’s life, look somewhere else. He spends most of the book discussing the best way to run a business, and how these methods were put to use in the Ford Motor Company.
In addition, I found this book very redundant in some ways. Ford spends a chapter on each of the aspects of running a business, and how it was done at the Ford Motor Company. The ideals used in each of the chapters are really all the same, just applied in different scenarios. You could just read the first chapter of this book and save yourself the time of reading the whole thing; you’d get almost as much out of it.
Also I have to say that the font in this book is horrible! I don’t know about the hard cover, but the paper back’s font is super squished and hard to read. If you want to read this book I recommend that you get a different copy with normal print so you can read it more easily.
If you want a look inside Henry Ford’s head get this book! However, if you’re looking for a book about his life and the events therein, there’s a better book for you!"
Henry Ford begins by laying out his background (which he'll keep smattering here & there).
Then he gets into the meat of the book which is plotting his journey from the kernel of an idea to execution and ultimate growth.
The majority of the book is him sharing his worldview on manufacturing & business best practices. If you're an entrepreneur then I assure you that you'll be taken to dizzying heights at this point.
The thrust of the book is that you get to see patterns of timeless business principles that still apply today.
Henry Fore of course also shares his philosophy on society, governance & capitalism. I honestly skipped some of these segments that kept droning on.
The one big takeaway that has altered my entrepreneurial mind is this: Business doesn't exist for profit first. It exists to serve mankind & by doing so makes more than it ever could while focused solely on profitability.
He gives illustration after illustration of how the Ford motor company would continually work to lower price each year to make the car accessible & in doing so grow to great heights. A total contradiction to today's greedy company cultures.
This book shout be on your shelf or read list. Definitely taking another run at it.
Reading the early history of the auto industry with Ford's assessments should be required reading before going after "Lean Certification" as they now call the logistics optimization part of the "Toyota Production System" in my opinion. The entire industry globally was about making racing vehicles. Ford saw the opportunity to go after the mass market but in careful steps to avoid need for financing. Each factory created the cash for the next much larger factory near Detroit. But he did not do that by making "cheap" cars, he did it by engineering the lighter and stronger vanadium steels he found from parts lying around the race tracks from a French racer. Then making just ONE model at a time with continuous improvements. 2, 4 and 6 cylinder models eventually..only in black but serviceable as evidenced by long life of Model A's for example.
A lot of the moves Ford made from the start at the turn of last century to the meteoric rise and peak in the early 1920's, when the book was written are described in the book, with the logic behind it laid out. You will be able to read about the $5 workday, the constant quest for production efficiency improvement, the practical (and not from forged results, like with Taylor) results of scientific management, the production line, the constant lowering of prices for the product, following efficiency gains, the mechanisation of agriculture, etc. Some, such as the introduction of the production line and the $5 a day salary are relatively well known, the rest perhaps less so and what the book does relatively well is show how the system works well holistically and what is needed in order to implement it.
On top of describing production, quite some attention is being devoted to other aspects of business, which Ford considered peripheral, misused and generally badly run - such as financing, hedging, transport, law, etc. In his view the finance aspects and departments even in his day were overemphasised and one can easily see how the efficiency based system he was striving for would be hard to implement in a company where the owner / CEO does not have the ultimate control - stock markets as well as shareholders would be fairly unlikely to support the low dividend and low article profitability (compensated by a meteoric rise in sales leading to an extremely solid profitability overall) back then as well as now. His basic message being that more money will not prevent bad management, rather it will perpetuate it, removing the urgency and need for more fundamental operative changes. He also warns agains hedging (raw materials, currency etc.) - in his view, when a business makes a killing in those areas a couple of times, the temptation is great to focus the effort here rather than on production or the delivery of goods and services, something likely to lead to decline in the longer term (he did not believe it is consistently possible to beat the market).
The book is also surprising if one looks at when it was written - many later authors seem to have borrowed extremely heavily from it. Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged (Penguin Modern Classics),The Fountainhead (Penguin Modern Classics)) appears to have taken on many ideas - although her disdain for the common man is not shared by Ford (he is much more egalitarian in this respect - i.e. people have different capabilities but it is also the responsibility of the management and the people with abilities to make sure the rest fulfill their potential). The stock and flow framework of Jay Forrester's System Dynamics (as introduced by the author in his book Industrial Dynamics) is described here (decades earlier), too. He also seems to have predated Colin Chapman's (of Lotus fame) obsession of adding lightness to everything by about 5 decades.
As for the style, Ford does not necessarily write for readability - it will be much closer to works of his time in this respect, more of a Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World's Classics) than the work of a late 20th century management guru. Still, it is not a real chore to read, it just requires a bit more concentration.
Finally, it is interesting to see how the system he devised and operated so effectively for about two decades was replaced and enriched by Sloan's version of mass customisation, something Ford was forced to adapt but a few brief years after the book was written. If you are interested in how some of Ford's ideas evolved (and degenerated) later on, I can also warmly recommend Sloan's My Years with General Motors for the next stage of development, Dewar's A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry's Self-Destruction for the complete brakdown of relations between labour and management (also at Ford), and either DeLorean's On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors: John Z. De Lorean's Look Inside the Automotive Giant or Yates' The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry for the final stages of cancerous development / subversion of Ford's and Sloan's earlier ideas.
Ford gives his opinion on just about every subject from manufacturing, industrial relations, to economics, politics and warfare. If you like to hear one of America's greatest giving his opinions then this is for you. I found it compelling reading. Henry would have approved that the book is available at a low price; read the book to find out why.
If he were around today he would not recognise the greedy and envious world in which we live!
I expected this book to be more focused on Henry Ford and the development of the automobile and although it did cover this aspect nicely, what was so good about this book was the general outlook towards business and society.
The subjects covered were wide and could apply to many modern business and the role of work as a whole.
A very encouraging business read.
Glad I've read it, but it was more of a chore than a pleasure.