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In Shift, Carlos Ghosn, the brilliant, audacious, and widely admired CEO of Nissan, recounts how he took the reins of the nearly bankrupt Japanese automotive company and achieved one of the most remarkable turnarounds in automotive—and corporate—history.
When Carlos Ghosn (pronounced like “phone”) was named COO of Nissan in 1999, the company was running out of gas and careening toward bankruptcy. Eighteen short months later, Nissan was back in the black, and within several more years it had become the most profitable large automobile company in the world. In SHIFT, Ghosn describes how he went about accomplishing the seemingly impossible, transforming Nissan once again into a powerful global automotive manufacturer.
The Brazilian-born, French-educated son of Lebanese parents, Ghosn first learned the management principles and practices that would shape his decisions at Nissan while rising through the ranks at Michelin and Renault. Upon his arrival at Nissan, Ghosn began his new position by embarking on a three-month intensive examination of every aspect of the business. By October 1999 he was ready to announce his strategy to turn the company around with the Nissan Revival Plan. In the plan, he consistently challenged the tradition-bound thinking and practices of Japanese business when they inhibited Nissan’s effectiveness. Ghosn closed plants, laid off workers, broke up long-standing supply networks, and sold off marginal assets to focus on the company’s core business. But slashing costs was just the first step in Nissan’s recovery. In fact, Ghosn introduced changes in every corner of the company, from manufacturing and engineering to marketing and sales. He updated Nissan’s car and truck lineup, took risks on dynamic new designs, and demanded improvements in quality—strategies that quickly burnished Nissan’s image in the marketplace, and re-established the company in the minds of consumers as a leader in innovation and engineering. Like the best-selling memoirs of Jack Welch, Lou Gerstner, and Larry Bossidy, SHIFT is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to transform and re-create a world-class company. Written by one of the world’s most successful and acclaimed CEOs, SHIFT is an invaluable guide for business readers everywhere.
When French auto manufacturer Renault acquired Nissan, they sent Ghosn to engineer the failing company's turnaround, and in short order, interviews and pictures of him were everywhere. The story behind his success is familiar to any reader of business publications, but he gives it here again, along with an extensive recitation of the business strategy that put the failing company back in black. Those who haven't heard the continent-hopping tale of Ghosn's family will be fascinated by the first few chapters, in which he talks about his Lebanese grandfather, who went to Brazil to make his fortune, and reminisces about his own childhood in Brazil and Lebanon. Though some readers may yearn for more details about Ghosn's childhood and his days attending university in Paris, Ghosn is all business. Indeed, his background information seems to have been included largely to establish him as a creature of globalization. The bulk of the book follows his progress at Nissan in dry terms, with short, declarative sentences moving the story efficiently but mechanically. Ghosn sprinkles in occasional passages about his business philosophy, briefly analyzing why Nissan went downhill under the traditional Japanese system and expounding on the necessity of communication, dedication and never hesitating. Nissan's resurgence was doubtless a relief for its shareholders and employees (at least the ones who survived Ghosn's downsizing), but there isn't likely to be a large readership for what, by the end, feels less like a book and more like a company's annual report, complete with history, statistics and vision for the future.