Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS

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Steve Jones recommended this one to me. It starts at the very beginnings of UPS and goes through pretty much current day. Interesting to see how their culture evolved, and to think about how much the world has changed since they started (it took years for them to get the rights to deliver packages to all US locations due to various laws, restrictions, etc). I liked reading about their emphasis on preventative maintenance, on investing in infrastructure, even the time and motion studies that resulted in the exact technique used by a driver when returning to the truck. An organization as big as they are needs some structure, and while their culture is to be decentralized, the advent of technology seems to be eroding that - which makes sense to me, but must be a hard change.

Did you know that you can't buy a UPS uniform? Both for security (so you don't get fake UPS deliveries..in theory) and for branding they own the uniforms and take care of laundry/repair/replacement.

It seems very much like a company where you pay your dues and few start anywhere except handling packages. I'm a big believer in dues paying, so I liked that part. Yet, something about the book, or the culture, can't quite pin it down - not sure I'd be a good fit there, and I've worked in environments that required a pretty good degree of conformity.

It's the biography of a company and while they touch on a few negatives (kudos for that), it's mainly positive and I guess that's fair given their size and market valuation compared to when they started. If you don't like biographies you probably wouldn't find enough in it to merit reading, probably the best reason to read is to to think the idea of deliberately building a corporate culture and what it should be.

I know that's a so so recommendation. Coin toss.

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