27/03/2013

Cheaper by the dozen (book review)

Cheaper by the Dozen
Frank B. Gilbreth jr. & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Harpertorch, 1948

Recently I reviewed Mind performance hacks and suggested how to learn Morse code. In that post, I mentioned Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth which I'll review now.

This book is about Frank Gilbreth sr. and his family. He and his wife Lillian were blessed with twelve children. Gilbreth was an early scientific management advocate and efficiency expert. He started his career as a bricklayer. Within a year, he designed a rack which made him the fastest of his colleaguaes. Later on, he became a building contractor. He was always looking for opportunities to turn down unnecessary movements. His personnel worked so efficient that after building a factory, many companies hired him to optimise their business processes.

Gilbreth often took along his children to his office and even to his customers. He applied his efficiency principles also at home turning his family life in sort of a laboratory. He filmed his descendants washing the dishes to optimise this activity. He also taught the kids to wash themselves in one (!) move and to tighten the buttons of their clothes from below to the top which is quicker then the other way around. Every child had to do some odd tasks which should be administered on labour cards. There were committees for services, purchasing and utilisation in which the children were responsible for some aspects of the household.

When working for Remington, Gilbreth brought home a white type writer. He coloured the fingers of the eldest kids and let them exercise on a dummy keyboard. After some practise, he allowed them to the machine. As the keys were plain, the kids were on their own. On every mistake, he 'hit' the young ones with a pencil on their head. He organised an inhouse competition and would have taken the winner to a national contest if mother hadn't objected. However, he filmed the kids - conscientiously avoiding the pencil - and soon they appeared  in cinema journals.

Cheaper by the Dozen contains many examples like these mentioned above. It's humorous and easy to read. It's also a business book with a wink, containing nice insights.

Later on Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth - two of the children - wrote also Belles on Their Toes in which they describe their family live after their father had passed away. There are also several movies about this family. I like the eldest.

Happy reading!

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