Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iacocca: An Autobiography -- Book Review

Expectations are bad for mental & physical well-being. I am not even talking about misplaced expectations with other people. I am talking purely in terms of reading books & watching movies with expectations. The book "Iacocca -- Autobiography" had so much hype surrounding it that I was forced to believe that it would be highly inspirational. For the uninformed, Iacocca is the chief architect responsible for the revival of the Chrysler company. When a person who has brought a company from the jaws of bankruptcy writes an autobiography, I believe it is natural to expect some highly motivating stuff and an interesting narration of how things worked out. I was totally wrong on this count.

The story starts at an intermediate point in his career when he was fired from the post of the president of the Ford Motor Company and how humiliated he felt at that time. This start definitely promised a lot for it made me look forward for the reason of Iacocca being fired from his post and also raised my expectations on how stoked up he would be to seek sweet revenge by taking the mantle at Chrysler.

The story (The first part) then traces back his childhood days with his father coming & settling in US as an immigrant from Italy. The lead up from here to Iacocca getting hired at Ford is pretty fluid and retains my undivided attention. His honest admission (after completing a Master’s degree in Engineering) that he was not cut out for engineering and his switching to sales talks a great deal about the kind of person Iacocca is. His initial years at Ford are explained in great detail to the extent of explaining the kind of training that is given at Ford. The conception of the Ford Mustang and the associated marketing frenzy that his team created for selling the car is a lesson on successful management of ideas and forceful action. What follows after this is a dull & one-sided narration of the events that led to his fight with Henry Ford Jr. The reasons & justifications that Iacocca provide for him to stick with Ford even after learning at close quarters the type of person that Henry Ford Jr. is unconvincing and stinks of a selfish attitude. His bad-mouthing of Henry Ford Jr. is the worst part of this autobiography and it greatly brought down the respect I had for Iacocca. Even though Iacocca tries to convince us that he has forgotten about the humiliation of being fired from Ford, it is highly apparent that it is not the case.

The second part of the autobiography where he describes about taking up the challenge of reviving Chrysler is where the book goes horribly wrong. Loaded with legal jargons and details that fail to make sense for most part, it appears at best to be an effort to fill a particular agreed amount of pages for the book. This is the part of the story that should have taken the reader on a magical ride & sadly all that it does is to take us through a tragical ride with no timeline details that left me wondering about how long it actually took Iacocca to get Chrysler out of its losses. The last two chapters (About the need for seatbelt & yanking up the competition to the Japanese) seemed a total waste of time for it is readily apparent at this point that Iacocca has run out of things to write and that he is writing all this to fill up the space.

Bottom Line: Read it only if you are a BIG fan of Iacocca. You will be better of reading some of the other self-help and management books if you are looking for motivators.

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