Cheaper by the Dozen

Cheaper By The Dozen - Frank B. Gilbreth Jr, and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

A few weeks ago someone asked me about the book that had most changed my life. A big question. One I couldn’t answer.

Until a cupla daCheaper by The Dozen - The Bookys ago.

I was pottering around my kitchen organising breakfast and thought when I went back to the same cupboard the second time - that this was not how Frank would have done it. Not very efficient at all. Certainly not a good use of time and motion. Then it hit me. A book I had read when I was a kid (probably 8 or 9), was still affecting me some 60 years later.

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr, and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1948) is the unforgettable (based on a)  true story of the Gilbreth clan as told by two of its members.

Efficiency Experts

Mother and Dad are world-renowned, helping factories fine-tune their assembly lines for maximum output at minimum cost. At home, the Gilbreths themselves have cranked out twelve kids, and Dad is out to prove that efficiency principles can apply to family as well as the workplace.

I obtained a copy and read it again. I can see why it entranced a nine-year-old. It has all the elements of rebellion, science, food, cars, gadgets, toys etc and except for the girls, bit was an absolute must for a young bloke.

Saving Time and Unnecessary Repetitive Movements

But it was the making life more efficient by saving time and unnecessary repetitive movements that still has a hold on me today. I thought, while making my breakfast, that I should get the bread in the toaster before anything else as it takes the longest unless I overfill the jug for hot-water to make my coffee then that will take longer. And before that, when I go to the fridge to get the bread, I should get the coffee out at the same time. And on it went.

There is an efficient path for the whole process that, if followed, will result in a quicker and easier, more effective breakfast making procedure. That is unless you want eggs. Whole ‘nother ball of wax that.


Find the therbligs (Gilbreth backwards with a twist) units of motion or thought, eliminate them. You have a better mousetrap.

I can now answer the question, “What book has changed your life?”

I have read many books by self-help and motivational authors – the likes of Anthony Robbins, Dr Wayne Dyer, Jim Rohn, Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peel even Rhonda Byrne, and MANY more

Not to mention Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson and other captains of industry as they give their take on success.


Then there are what I would call the “spin-offs”, the process management books, the ‘How To Do It Better Books’ and the more effective management styles - including TQM, Six Sigma, Scrum, Lean and Kanban. The Toyota Way and many more.Cheaper By The Dozen

But the beginning of all this for me, was “Cheaper By The Dozen” and Frank & Lillian Gilbreth’s time and motion studies.

I wrote about this before in the 'Our Jillian' series.


By Colin on November 7, 2018 · Posted in Book Summaries / Reviews, Musings and Ideas for Discussion, Writing

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