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In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the computer industry had changed so rapidly the company was on its way to losing $16 billion and IBM was on a watch list for extinction -- victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent. Then Lou Gerstner was brought in to run IBM. Almost everyone watch In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the computer industry had changed so rapidly the company was on its way to losing $16 billion and IBM was on a watch list for extinction -- victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent. Then Lou Gerstner was brought in to run IBM. Almost everyone watching the rapid demise of this American icon presumed Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units. This strategy, well underway when he arrived, would have effectively eliminated the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies. Instead, Gerstner took hold of the company and demanded the managers work together to re-establish IBM's mission as a customer-focused provider of computing solutions. Moving ahead of his critics, Gerstner made the hold decision to keep the company together, slash prices on his core product to keep the company competitive, and almost defiantly announced, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision." Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? tells the story of IBM's competitive and cultural transformation. In his own words, Gerstner offers a blow-by-blow account of his arrival at the company and his campaign to rebuild the leadership team and give the workforce a renewed sense of purpose. In the process, Gerstner defined a strategy for the computing giant and remade the ossified culture bred by the company's own success. The first-hand story of an extraordinary turnaround, a unique case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry and the principles of leadership, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? sums up Lou Gerstner's historic business achievement. Taking readers deep into the world of IBM's CEO, Gerstner recounts the high-level meetings and explains the pressure-filled, no-turning-back decisions that had to be made. He also offers his hard-won conclusions about the essence of what makes a great company run. In the history of modern business, many companies have gone from being industry leaders to the verge of extinction. Through the heroic efforts of a new management team, some of those companies have even succeeded in resuscitating themselves and living on in the shadow of their former stature. But only one company has been at the pinnacle of an industry, fallen to near collapse, and then, beyond anyone's expectations, returned to set the agenda. That company is IBM. Lou Gerstener, Jr., served as chairman and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 to March 2002, when he retired as CEO. He remained chairman of the board through the end of 2002. Before joining IBM, Mr. Gerstner served for four years as chairman and CEO of RJR Nabisco, Inc. This was preceded by an eleven-year career at the American Express Company, where he was president of the parent company and chairman and CEO of its largest subsidiary. Prior to that, Mr. Gerstner was a director of the management consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., Inc. He received a bachelor's degree in engineering from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.


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In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the computer industry had changed so rapidly the company was on its way to losing $16 billion and IBM was on a watch list for extinction -- victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent. Then Lou Gerstner was brought in to run IBM. Almost everyone watch In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the computer industry had changed so rapidly the company was on its way to losing $16 billion and IBM was on a watch list for extinction -- victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent. Then Lou Gerstner was brought in to run IBM. Almost everyone watching the rapid demise of this American icon presumed Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units. This strategy, well underway when he arrived, would have effectively eliminated the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies. Instead, Gerstner took hold of the company and demanded the managers work together to re-establish IBM's mission as a customer-focused provider of computing solutions. Moving ahead of his critics, Gerstner made the hold decision to keep the company together, slash prices on his core product to keep the company competitive, and almost defiantly announced, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision." Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? tells the story of IBM's competitive and cultural transformation. In his own words, Gerstner offers a blow-by-blow account of his arrival at the company and his campaign to rebuild the leadership team and give the workforce a renewed sense of purpose. In the process, Gerstner defined a strategy for the computing giant and remade the ossified culture bred by the company's own success. The first-hand story of an extraordinary turnaround, a unique case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry and the principles of leadership, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? sums up Lou Gerstner's historic business achievement. Taking readers deep into the world of IBM's CEO, Gerstner recounts the high-level meetings and explains the pressure-filled, no-turning-back decisions that had to be made. He also offers his hard-won conclusions about the essence of what makes a great company run. In the history of modern business, many companies have gone from being industry leaders to the verge of extinction. Through the heroic efforts of a new management team, some of those companies have even succeeded in resuscitating themselves and living on in the shadow of their former stature. But only one company has been at the pinnacle of an industry, fallen to near collapse, and then, beyond anyone's expectations, returned to set the agenda. That company is IBM. Lou Gerstener, Jr., served as chairman and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 to March 2002, when he retired as CEO. He remained chairman of the board through the end of 2002. Before joining IBM, Mr. Gerstner served for four years as chairman and CEO of RJR Nabisco, Inc. This was preceded by an eleven-year career at the American Express Company, where he was president of the parent company and chairman and CEO of its largest subsidiary. Prior to that, Mr. Gerstner was a director of the management consulting firm of McKinsey & Co., Inc. He received a bachelor's degree in engineering from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

30 review for Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?: Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround, Louis V. Gerstner Jr. This is CEO Louis V. Gerstner Jr's memoir about the turnaround of IBM and his transformation of the company into the industry leader of the computer age. When Gerstner became CEO of IBM in 1993, shares were in free fall and the company was on the verge of collapse. Hired for his successful management of RJR Nabisco and American Express, Gerstner had no background in technology, but during his seven-year chair Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround, Louis V. Gerstner Jr. This is CEO Louis V. Gerstner Jr's memoir about the turnaround of IBM and his transformation of the company into the industry leader of the computer age. When Gerstner became CEO of IBM in 1993, shares were in free fall and the company was on the verge of collapse. Hired for his successful management of RJR Nabisco and American Express, Gerstner had no background in technology, but during his seven-year chairmanship, he transformed the company into the leading force of the computer age. عنوانها: چه کسی میگوید فیل ها نمیتوانند برقصند؟؛ رقص فیلها - لویی گشنر و معجزه ی تحول آی.بی.ام.؛ رقص فیلها: سرگذشت تحول آی.بی.ام.؛ نویسنده: لوئیس وی. گرستنر جونیور؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه جولای سال 2003 میلادی عنوان: چه کسی میگوید فیل ها نمیتوانند برقصند؟؛ نویسنده: لوئیس وی. گرستنر جونیور؛ مترجم: امیر توفیقی؛ ویراستار محب الله گل بابایی؛ تهران، انستیتو ایزایران، 1382؛ در 427 ص؛ شابک: 9648068305؛ جدول، نمودار، چاپ دوم 1384؛ در 317 ص؛ شابک: 9648068690؛ موضوع: تاریخ شرکت آی.بی.ام. صنعت کامپیوتر، سده 20 م عنوان: رقص فیلها - لویی گشنر و معجزه ی تحول آی.بی.ام.؛ عنوان روی جلد: رقص فیلها: سرگذشت تحول آی.بی.ام.؛ نویسنده: لویی گشنر؛ مترجم: غلامحسین خانقائی؛ تهران، فرا، 1384؛ در 354 ص؛ شابک: 9647092466؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ چاپ سوم 1388؛ چاپ پنجم 1394؛ شابک: 9780647092463؛ موضوع: تاریخ شرکت آی.بی.ام. - سده 20 م تاریخ صنعت کامپیوتر و تحول شرکت کامپیوتری آی.بی.ام است. ا. شربیانی

  2. 4 out of 5

    Omar Halabieh

    Below are key excerpts that I found particularly insightful in this book, detailing the turnaround that Louis Gerstner engineered at IBM in the 1990s: 1- "Thus began a lifelong process of trying to build organizations that allows for hierarchy but at he same time bring people together for problem solving, regardless of where they are positioned within the organization." 2- "I went on to summarize my management philosophy and practice: I manage by principle, not procedure. The marketplace dictates Below are key excerpts that I found particularly insightful in this book, detailing the turnaround that Louis Gerstner engineered at IBM in the 1990s: 1- "Thus began a lifelong process of trying to build organizations that allows for hierarchy but at he same time bring people together for problem solving, regardless of where they are positioned within the organization." 2- "I went on to summarize my management philosophy and practice: I manage by principle, not procedure. The marketplace dictates everything we should do. I'm a big believer in quality, strong competitive strategies and plans, teamwork, payoff for performance, and ethical responsibility. I look for people who work to solve problems and help colleagues. I sack politicians. I am heavily involved in strategy; the rest is yours to implement. Just keep me informed in an informal way. Don't hide bad information—1 hate surprises. Don't try to blow things by me. Solve problems laterally; don't keep bringing them up the line. Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast rather than too slow. Hierarchy means very little to me. Let's put together in meetings the people who can help solve a problem, regardless of position. Reduce committees and meetings to a minimum. No committee decision making. Let's have lots of candid, straightforward communications. I don't completely understand the technology. I'll need to learn it. but don't expect me to master it. The unit leaders must be the translators into business terms for me." 3- "After all the customer and employee and industry meetings, as well as weekend and air travel reflection, I was indeed ready to make four critical decisions: Keep the company together. Change our fundamental economic model. Reengineer how we did business. Sell underproductive assets in order to raise cash." 4- "I've had a lot of experience turning around troubled companies, and one of the first things I learned was that whatever hard or painful things you have to do, do them quickly and make sure everyone knows what you are doing and why." 5- "The sine qua non of any successful corporate transformation is public acknowledgment of the existence of a crisis. If e So there must be a crisis, and it is the job of the CEO to define and communicate that crisis, its magnitude, its severity, and its impact. Just as important, the CEO must also be able to communicate how to end the crisis—the new strategy, the new company model, the new culture. All of this takes enormous commitment from the CEO to communicate, communicate, and communicate some more." 6- "What drives IBM's unique complexity is twofold. First, every institution and almost every individual is an actual or potential customer of IBM. In The second complexity factor is the rate and pace of the underlying technology." 7- "All of our efforts to save IBM—through right-sizing i and reengineering and creating strategy and boosting morale and all the rest—would have been for naught if, while we were hard at work on the other things, the IBM brand fell apart. I have always believed a successful company must have a customer/market•lace orientation and a strong marketing organization. That's why my second step in creating a global enterprise had to be to fix and focus IBM's marketing efforts." 8- "We made four major changes to our compensation system...This was all about pay for performance, not loyalty or tenure. It was all about differentiation: Differentiate our overall pay based on the marketplace; differentiate our increases based on individual performance and pay in the marketplace; differentiate our bonuses based business performance and individual contributions; and differentiate our stock-option awards based on the critical skills of the individual and our risk of loss to competition." 9- "I wanted IBMers to think and act like long-term shareholders to feel the pressure from the marketplace to deploy assets and forge strategies that create competitive advantage. The market, over time, represents a brutally honest evaluator of relative performance, and what I needed was a strong incentive for IBMers to look at their company from the outside in." 10- "The skills required in managing services processes are very different from those that drive successful product companies. We had no experience building a labor-based business inside an asset-intensive company. We were expert at managing factories and developing technologies. We understood cost of goods and inventory turns and manufacturing. But a human-intensive services business is entirely different. In services you don't make a product and then sell it. You sell a capability. You sell knowledge. You create it at the same time you deliver it. The business model is different. The economics are entirely different." 11- "My point is that all of the assets that the company needed to succeed were in place. But in every case—hardware, technology, software, even services—all of these capabilities were part of a business model that had fallen wildly out of step with marketplace realities...The implications of this kind of leap to a company's economic model can be devastating. In IBM's case it meant the collapse of gross profit margins and the attendant changes we had to engineer to lower our cost structure without compromising our effectiveness. Yet the hardest part of these decisions was neither the technological nor economic transformations required. It was changing the culture—the mindset and instincts of hundreds of thousands of people who had grown up in an undeniably successful company, but one that had tor decades been immune to normal competitive and economic forces. The challenge was making that workforce live, compete, and win in the real world. It was like taking a lion raised for all of its life in captivity and suddenly teaching it to survive in the jungle." 12- "You've probably found, as I have, that most companies say their cultures are about the same things—outstanding customer service. excellence, teamwork, shareholder value, responsible corporate behavior, and integrity. But, of course, these kinds of values don't necessarily translate into the same kind of behavior in all companies—how people actually go about their work, how they interact with one another, what motivates them. That's because, as with national cultures. most of the really important rules aren't written down anywhere." 13- "In comparison, changing the attitude and behavior of hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard to accomplish. Business schools don't teach you how to do it. You can't lead the revolution from the splendid isolation of corporate headquarters. You can't simply give a couple of speeches or write a new credo for the company and declare that the new culture has taken hold. You can't mandate it, :an't engineer it. What you can do is create the conditions for transformation. You can provide incentives. You can define the marketplace realities and goals. But then you have to trust. In fact, in the end, management doesn't change culture. Management invites the workforce itself to change the culture." 14- "Thee work-a-day world of business isn't about fads or miracles. There are fundamentals that characterize successful enterprises anc successful executives. They are focused. They are superb at execution. They abound with personal leadership." 15- "At the end of the day a successful, focused enterprise is one that has developed a deep understanding of its customers' needs, its competitive environment, and its economic realities. This comprehensive analysis must then form the basis for specific strategies :hat are translated into day-to-day execution." 16- "Earlier in this section I mentioned that in every industry it is possible to identify the five or six key success factors that drive leadership performance. The best companies in an industry build processes that allow them to outperform their competitors vis-a-vis these success factors." 17- "This next generation of leaders—in both the public and private sectors—will have to expand its thinking around a set of economic, political, and social considerations. These leaders will be: Much more able to deal with the relentless, discontinuous change that this technology is creating. Much more global in outlook and practice. Much more able to strike an appropriate balance between the instinct for cultural preservation and the promise of regional or global cooperation. Much more able to embrace the fact that the world is moving to a model in which the "default" in every endeavor will be openness and integration, not isolation."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Prajakta Shikarkhane

    I don't usually read business books. If I do, I never read them on a Sunday! "Who says Elephants Can't dance?" is unpretentious, witty and honest all at once. The fact that Lou does not consider himself a technologist helps. He explains the underpinnings of the IT industry and IBM lucidly. This razor sharp focus on competition, execution & change management are compelling. However, the most important leadership trait that exudes is his ability to understand "what drives people". He says, "People I don't usually read business books. If I do, I never read them on a Sunday! "Who says Elephants Can't dance?" is unpretentious, witty and honest all at once. The fact that Lou does not consider himself a technologist helps. He explains the underpinnings of the IT industry and IBM lucidly. This razor sharp focus on competition, execution & change management are compelling. However, the most important leadership trait that exudes is his ability to understand "what drives people". He says, "People don't do what you expect but what you inspect." Revamping the compensation philosophy and overhauling culture change of a company as big as IBM is no mean feat. The Appendix elucidating the many letters he wrote to IBMers drives the importance for communication in times of change and otherwise. Excerpt: "Employees in any institution frequently complain and rightly so: " Why do I have to hear news about my company on TV or the radio before I hear it from the company?"..required to break news first to the shareholders through the media. However I have always made it a point to make sure our employees hear the news literally seconds later. " No doubt he was able to build credibility with stakeholders both internal and external. This book taught me "small things make a big difference!".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Eng

    It is nice to think a person can come into a failing giant such as IBM and turn it around with common sense and a gamble or two. However, I found Gerstner overly self-indulgent. He takes credit for everything! Even though he notes Dennie's importance in the recovery, he phrases it as "I got lucky in meeting Dennie" rather than "Dennie saved the company." Also, I thought it petty of him to publish some of the emails his employees had written him--to point out their lack of tact. Let's remember th It is nice to think a person can come into a failing giant such as IBM and turn it around with common sense and a gamble or two. However, I found Gerstner overly self-indulgent. He takes credit for everything! Even though he notes Dennie's importance in the recovery, he phrases it as "I got lucky in meeting Dennie" rather than "Dennie saved the company." Also, I thought it petty of him to publish some of the emails his employees had written him--to point out their lack of tact. Let's remember they were going through a difficult, emotional time, and that they were not necessarily skilled in communications. There are a few lessons to be learned, and I think Gerstner's leadership strength is admirable. For those reasons, this book might be of interest to some. Otherwise, I put this in the category of airport books that promise you the keys to success... And consider this: how many CEOs have said "I owe everything I know to a book I picked up at the airport"?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anusha Sridharan

    I don't fancy business books as much. This book wasn't even my pick, it was a friend's. I don't know what force made me pick it. I couldn't keep the book down after I read the first page. It was a book that I needed, wanted to read, experience through someone as senior to tell me what it takes to make a historic turnaround. The turmoils and tornadoes that seek you on your journey to make things happen are nothing but bricks of the pillars of a brilliant change. This book inspired me, kept me grou I don't fancy business books as much. This book wasn't even my pick, it was a friend's. I don't know what force made me pick it. I couldn't keep the book down after I read the first page. It was a book that I needed, wanted to read, experience through someone as senior to tell me what it takes to make a historic turnaround. The turmoils and tornadoes that seek you on your journey to make things happen are nothing but bricks of the pillars of a brilliant change. This book inspired me, kept me grounded, filled me with gratitude and lot more emotions that were completely new to me. Thank you Louis for this book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Bykov

    Absolutely brilliant story and insight from a non-tech executive turning around the world's biggest tech company - despite all odds. Absolutely brilliant story and insight from a non-tech executive turning around the world's biggest tech company - despite all odds.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Truth be told, I don't have much use for C-level executives. Most of what I see about them involves obscene levels of compensation, on an annual basis, personal secretaries and use of expensive corporate assets, like company planes. The company can be laying off middle-class people like me, but the executives pocket obscene amounts of money, vacation at their beach houses and generally live a very disconnected life from the rest of us. They're the counter-example to the notion that the USA has a Truth be told, I don't have much use for C-level executives. Most of what I see about them involves obscene levels of compensation, on an annual basis, personal secretaries and use of expensive corporate assets, like company planes. The company can be laying off middle-class people like me, but the executives pocket obscene amounts of money, vacation at their beach houses and generally live a very disconnected life from the rest of us. They're the counter-example to the notion that the USA has a classless society. Fine. Maybe reading a book about an arguably-successful CEO will change my opinion. A ship, even a good one with a fine crew, needs a captain. Someone who can look the situation over and make a binding decision. Anyone familiar with Star Trek knows that Spock and Scotty and Riker are all capable people. But imagine how situations would've been different without the "barge in and take command" behavior of James Kirk or the wise, patient leadership of Jean-Luc Picard. These captains take charge and, for better or worse, suffer the consequences of the choices THEY make. So maybe IBM needed a Kirk after too many years of having a Picard in charge. Honestly, I don't think either of those fictional leaders would've known what to do with IBM of the early 90s. Are we SURE this is Planet Earth? Because it sounds a LOT like some kind of alien world. Here's an organization so completely hamstrung with bureaucracy and obsession with titles you'd think it was an 18th Century royal court in some obscure European nation. People who've been promoted to a certain level refusing to do certain roles because it was beneath their title. People taking titles with them to new roles where, arguably, they "outranked" the people they were reporting to. People who don't delegate their responsibilities (because doing so would diminish their prestige) and have armies of assistants who actually do all the work while the leader just "presides," usually not even needing to give their official "yea" or "nay." Where, if someone attempts to champion some new initiative, it requires sign-off from multiple tiers of leaders, frequently in multiple different fiefdoms. And failure, by any one of them, to provide approval in a timely manner can stop the whole thing in its tracks. This organization is having their a** handed to them by the market, but these people worked long and hard to achieve this position, so they're going to hang onto it. Until someone else gets put in charge and proceeds to shake up the kingdom. And, to his credit, Lou Gerstner did exactly that. He saw the rise of e-business. Indeed, they were the main organization championing that concept. He also saw the dot-com bubble. At its core, too many people seemed to think the "e-" stood for "easy." We put up a website and people send us money, even though we don't really do any work. We have an IPO and give ourselves massive numbers of shares. Other people bid up the value of those shares, we cash out and go on a permanent vacation. Easy. At its core, e-business is just business over a different medium. And real business is hard work. He correctly calls out investment bankers as the people who "organized the the party and supplied the booze" for the fiasco that was the dot-com bubble. The investors supplied (and promptly lost) the money and the tech entrepreneurs supplied the talent and the reputations. The investment banks ended up with all the money. Everyone else lost pretty much everything. Sound familiar? Apparently, where C-level executives are concerned, a great leader is someone who recognizes BS and has the ability to put a stop to it. They get people and an organization to stop wasting time and money and do what they need to do. The path he put IBM on has served it rather well: services are where the money is. His successors have continued down that path to the present day. Probably the biggest single mistake he made was handing out large quantities of corporate shares to top-level management, making that a significant fraction of their compensation. He wanted to "align the interests" of management with those of the shareholders. The result is that management has been doing whatever they can to keep boosting the values of the shares, even if what they're doing is unsustainable. They're laying off their experienced people and offshoring so much of the work that it's nearly impossible to find anyone to talk to about getting your contracted services fixed and working properly. These are the people where the "rubber meets the road." They're spinning yarns about how unproven fields will be profitable. Their cloud offerings, in which they've invested HEAVILY, simply ain't gettin' it done but they keep indicating that will be their savior. Maybe next quarter. Or the one after that. Or .... Yes, he made some necessary changes. Improvements needed to become the default course, rather than resistance to same. Complacency needed to be stomped. Expenses needed to be trimmed. But he needed to remember that capital (shareholders) is not the friend of labor (the people who actually do the work). Putting management on the side of the former (and against the latter) means they will have fewer and and fewer people to manage. While it is possible to have too many employees, it's possible to have too few, as well. When there's not enough rubber hitting the road, you lose traction and either stop or go off the road. Modern-day IBM is doing a combination of both. Sounds like they need another guy like this to come along and seriously alter their course again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Akshith Rao

    Lou does a great job of explaining how age old incumbents can take some tips from the IBM turnaround. An interesting and gripping read that shall be highly relatable to anyone working in slow moving elephants

  9. 4 out of 5

    Viktorija Ratomske

    While there are great ideas as well as an amazing example how to turn business around and adapt to the new market rules with such a huge operation, today I find some of the ideas outdated and not too relevant in the fast changing online world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tiklu Ganguly

    Just read this book. You must read this to understand what a truly visionary person Lou is. Also, this is a great read for any managers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matias Alanko

    A very un-business book-like business book. Gerstner just simply gives the facts and the honest story of IBM's transformation. There is no jargon, no grandeur, and no big words. I highly recommend reading this book. In addition, it was funny to think while reading the book that today, IBM is again in need of a radical transformation. A very un-business book-like business book. Gerstner just simply gives the facts and the honest story of IBM's transformation. There is no jargon, no grandeur, and no big words. I highly recommend reading this book. In addition, it was funny to think while reading the book that today, IBM is again in need of a radical transformation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vidisha Negi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Basically it is a book, that shows how IBM revived itself from a loss making comping and to a profitable one. The book talks about how Louis Gerstner (the author himself) changed the way of doing business for IBM by partnering with its competitors, building strategies that talks about cutting down costs of its products in a tactful manner, winning as a global team and not restricting success to a particular geography, the new marketing plan that came up with "IBM for smarter planet" ad campaign, Basically it is a book, that shows how IBM revived itself from a loss making comping and to a profitable one. The book talks about how Louis Gerstner (the author himself) changed the way of doing business for IBM by partnering with its competitors, building strategies that talks about cutting down costs of its products in a tactful manner, winning as a global team and not restricting success to a particular geography, the new marketing plan that came up with "IBM for smarter planet" ad campaign, etc that worked in the favor of the company. Its a treat!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joel Gascoigne

    Great insights into a huge turnaround of one of the largest companies in the world. A fascinating read if you're in the mood for it. Personally, there are some market changes that have been going on in the past few years within Buffer's market, and so I found it very interesting to read about some much larger scale market changes and necessary action to turn a company around from a clear decline. I particularly enjoyed reading about the strategy decisions, the approach convert that into execution Great insights into a huge turnaround of one of the largest companies in the world. A fascinating read if you're in the mood for it. Personally, there are some market changes that have been going on in the past few years within Buffer's market, and so I found it very interesting to read about some much larger scale market changes and necessary action to turn a company around from a clear decline. I particularly enjoyed reading about the strategy decisions, the approach convert that into execution, and the cultural adjustments needed to make it all successful. Some of the history of IBM was interesting, though some of it felt a bit dense to get through. Similarly, I wasn't as interested in the author's personal history, though some of it is context for his approach to leading IBM. One thing that bugged me a little, is that there's a lot of military jargon used in the context of business throughout the book, and a lot of zero sum mentality, of winning by others losing. Some of the highlights for me, in the form of quotes I highlighted: "Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast rather than too slow." "I’ve had a lot of experience turning around troubled companies, and one of the first things I learned was that whatever hard or painful things you have to do, do them quickly and make sure everyone knows what you are doing and why." "Fixing IBM was all about execution. We had to stop looking for people to blame, stop tweaking the internal structure and systems. I wanted no excuses. I wanted no long-term projects that people could wait for that would somehow produce a magic turnaround. I wanted—IBM needed—an enormous sense of urgency." "So the truly unique challenge of my first few months at IBM was to reject the knee-jerk responses that would have destroyed the company, and to focus on day-to-day execution, stabilizing the company while we sought growth strategies that would build on our unique position in the industry." "In the past, IBM was both the employer and the scorekeeper in the game. I needed my new colleagues to accept the fact that external forces—the stock market, competition, the changing demands of customers—had to drive our agenda, not the wishes and whims of our team." "For the first time in my career, I was in a position to make a different kind of mark, to help something truly important live and thrive. I wasn’t going to walk away from that." "This is about the bone-jarringly difficult task of forcing the organization to limit its ambition and focus on markets that made strategic and economic sense." "For investors as well as customers, the lesson was: no shortcuts. I think for a lot of people, the “e” in e-business came to stand for “easy.” Easy money. Easy success. Easy life. When you strip it down to bare metal, e-business is just business. And real business is serious work." "I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game—it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value. Vision, strategy, marketing, financial management—any management system, in fact—can set you on the right path and can carry you for a while. But no enterprise—whether in business, government, education, health care, or any area of human endeavor—will succeed over the long haul if those elements aren’t part of its DNA." "you can quickly figure out, sometimes within hours of being in a place, what the culture encourages and discourages, rewards and punishes. Is it a culture that rewards individual achievement or team play? Does it value risk taking or consensus building?" "What you can do is create the conditions for transformation. You can provide incentives. You can define the marketplace realities and goals. But then you have to trust. In fact, in the end, management doesn’t change culture. Management invites the workforce itself to change the culture." "To someone arriving at IBM from the outside, there was a kind of hothouse quality to the place. It was like an isolated tropical ecosystem that had been cut off from the world for too long. As a result, it had spawned some fairly exotic life-forms that were to be found nowhere else. And because IBM was so deeply inbred and ingrown, so preoccupied with its own rules and conflicts, it had lost its robustness. It had become extremely vulnerable to attack from the outside." "The fact is, in most cases a company has a set of competitive advantages in its base business. It may be hard—very hard—to redirect or reenergize an existing enterprise. Believe me, it’s a lot easier than throwing that enterprise over the fence into a totally new environment and succeeding. Age-old common sense: Stick to your knitting; dance with the partner who brought you. History shows that truly great and successful companies go through constant and sometimes difficult self-renewal of the base business. They don’t jump into new pools where they have no sense of the depth or temperature of the water." "acquisitions that fit within an existing strategy have the most likely probability of success. Those that represent attempts to buy new positions in new marketplaces or that involve smashing together two very similar companies are fraught with risk." "Vision statements can create a sense of confidence—a sense of comfort—that is truly dangerous. Vision statements are for the most part aspirational, and they play a role in creating commitment and excitement among an institution’s employees. But in and of themselves they are useless in terms of pointing out how the institution is going to turn an aspirational goal into a reality." "good strategies are long on detail and short on vision." "too often the executive does not understand that people do what you inspect, not what you expect" "Execution is the tough, difficult, daily grind of making sure the machine moves forward meter by meter, kilometer by kilometer, milestone by milestone. Accountability must be demanded, and when it is not met, changes must be made quickly. Managers must be asked to report on their performance and explain their successes and failures. Most important, no credit can be given for predicting rain—only for building arks."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tirath

    Always thought this would be a bore, but it's so enriching. Intg experiences of a guy who was heading Amex's business and then RJR Nabisco - who then comes to a bumbling behemoth called IBM. And it's interesting to note that IBM had lost so much of its soul and purpose, and this guy put the ship together. No doubt that the IT boom would have aided it, but it was strongly losing out to new players when it shouldnt have been Great stuff about organisation structure, proxy taking over agility, a cultu Always thought this would be a bore, but it's so enriching. Intg experiences of a guy who was heading Amex's business and then RJR Nabisco - who then comes to a bumbling behemoth called IBM. And it's interesting to note that IBM had lost so much of its soul and purpose, and this guy put the ship together. No doubt that the IT boom would have aided it, but it was strongly losing out to new players when it shouldnt have been Great stuff about organisation structure, proxy taking over agility, a cultural rot, a leadership vacuum, about focusing on a few pieces and missing the boat on a few others. About centralisation as a powerful tool against decentralisaton. Compensation, incentives, accountability - there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed ; and its great to read how he led this turnaround. And the title is perfect, because IBM was then and is still quite an elephant; and everybody believed that its too big to move gracefully. :) A well deserved classic on turning around an organisation.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Maguire

    I have worked hands-on daily with IBM hardware, software and services for well over a decade, some of which overlapping with Lou Gerstner's period as CEO of the company, so I picked this up expecting not to learn much I hadn't already known about IBM. I was entirely wrong. This is a really engaging and honest account of the turnaround of a company that was literally falling apart as it failed to adapt to the changing world in which it was operating. The clarity of purpose which Gerstner, as a 'n I have worked hands-on daily with IBM hardware, software and services for well over a decade, some of which overlapping with Lou Gerstner's period as CEO of the company, so I picked this up expecting not to learn much I hadn't already known about IBM. I was entirely wrong. This is a really engaging and honest account of the turnaround of a company that was literally falling apart as it failed to adapt to the changing world in which it was operating. The clarity of purpose which Gerstner, as a 'non IT person', brought to the company and it's strategic direction shines throughout. The book could be accused of being one-sided, but the performance of IBM during Gerstner's time at the helm is so remarkable that some element of victors writing the history is understandable. The insight into 'bet the company' decisions and simple management strategies applied to the giant organisation that is IBM is really fascinating. Great read, highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Egan

    When a leader has a vision, knows how to communicate it and surround themselves with a great time to bring into life then great things happen like this case. Great practical advice for every CEO.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Greg Githens

    Probably the greatest corporate turnaround of all time. Has an appropriate blend of depth and breadth. I sourced much excellent material from this book in my writing of How to Think Strategically.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Some random notes for myself, not an actual review: Very interesting book, will be looking to read some similar ones in the future as well. To summarize it, Gerstner discusses his history at IBM and how he managed to turn IBM around. I like how he provides enough detail about the issues at IBM and the stratetic initiaves formed to tackle them. Gerstner saw that there were two main things to tackle: strategy and culture. The book progresses with a mixture of chronocial and topical approach. First G Some random notes for myself, not an actual review: Very interesting book, will be looking to read some similar ones in the future as well. To summarize it, Gerstner discusses his history at IBM and how he managed to turn IBM around. I like how he provides enough detail about the issues at IBM and the stratetic initiaves formed to tackle them. Gerstner saw that there were two main things to tackle: strategy and culture. The book progresses with a mixture of chronocial and topical approach. First Gersner talks about his own history, then going into IBM and after which he discusses strategy, culture, lessons learned and other observations. Gerstner saw that IBM had many good things going on, but had eventually fallen into complacence due their previous success. Firstly he needed to cut costs to keep the company alive. He also needed to fix the company structure and how it's managed, moving away from independent geographical areas to oganizing world wide around the customer. Customer focus was the main thing the emphasized. Gersner saw that the employees and technology was at IBM's core, but that they needed to be better aligned. It's something very many companies do nowadays, selling technology instead of solutions. IBM also decided open their proprietary ways of working, which was necessary considering where the market was heading. With IBM's size they would be in a unique situation by offering a full range of services to customers. After fixing the near future IBM also needed to make some bets for the future, in which they succeeded well with their e-business focus. Gerstner's leadership philosophy focuses on execution. He thinks it is one, if not the most, important aspect of relationships. He also emphazised the need of principles instead of strict rules. - change economic model - reengineer how business is done - sell underproductive assets - invest in future - market-driven -create team

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julian Dunn

    It's hard not to look at the IBM of 2018 and the disastrous tenures of Gerstner's successors as CEO -- Sam Palmisano and Ginni Rometty -- to wish for the halcyon days of the 1990's when Lou turned around the great ship known as IBM. Naturally, Gerstner's self-examination of his tenure as CEO is bound to gloss over any missteps he made, but the results do speak for themselves, as evidenced by the company's financial performance after he took over. And, the fact that IBM continued delivering solid It's hard not to look at the IBM of 2018 and the disastrous tenures of Gerstner's successors as CEO -- Sam Palmisano and Ginni Rometty -- to wish for the halcyon days of the 1990's when Lou turned around the great ship known as IBM. Naturally, Gerstner's self-examination of his tenure as CEO is bound to gloss over any missteps he made, but the results do speak for themselves, as evidenced by the company's financial performance after he took over. And, the fact that IBM continued delivering solid results well past its initial recovery can also be credited to Gerstner's cultural turnaround at the firm. Sadly, these results have apparently been undone in the roughly 20 years since. It's fascinating to read Appendix A, wherein Gerstner is remarkably prescient about the rise of distributed cloud computing and automation, yet clear-eyed about how IBM could win. IBM has spent the last two decades, however, completely missing the boat on this and now, in desperation, buying Red Hat. (That said, one of the areas Gerstner glosses over is his lack of response to the rise of the Apples and Googles of the world even during his tenure.) I've long said that IBM continues to have a go-to-market problem, and that problem lands directly at the feet of the CEO. Magic acquisitions won't fix it; the only choice is to replace Rometty. Yet if presiding over 18 straight quarters of declining revenue hasn't compelled the IBM Board of Directors to act, I'm not sure what will, so IBM is doomed, with or without Red Hat. Sure, it will continue to be a going concern for many years as it slowly shrinks into irrelevance much as the IBM under Akers was about to be broken up and the constituent parts sold to the highest bidder. The glory days of IBM under great CEOs like Gerstner are in its past, not its future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Prasanna

    I picked this book on an impulse from the Library, and just out of curiosity on what exactly went on during IBM's turnaround in the 90s. Lou provides an honest and oft candid insight into the process with nuggets of insights from his 35 years of experience. What was most curious to me was -- here was this guy with no tech experience put at helm of the biggest technology company for most of the century to turn it around. And he does it! That's a really hard feat, and we can all learn something fr I picked this book on an impulse from the Library, and just out of curiosity on what exactly went on during IBM's turnaround in the 90s. Lou provides an honest and oft candid insight into the process with nuggets of insights from his 35 years of experience. What was most curious to me was -- here was this guy with no tech experience put at helm of the biggest technology company for most of the century to turn it around. And he does it! That's a really hard feat, and we can all learn something from it. Some core insights were -- laying out vision, principles very early. Lou's approach seems very data and incentive driven to get managers, executives to strive for common goal. Instead of going after the fashionable thing, he mentions his experience as a consultant for McKinsey and then sitting in boards of AT&T and executive at American Express and Nabisco. Those years helped him gain the intuition to read people, understand what kind of wares investment bankers were peddling and what takes to align the culture. At the end of the book, he's very self-reflective in that what he's laid out can also get old and etched in stone like the executive teams he restructured, the mantra of e-business that he rallied the company around. And that if IBM were to sustain further, it ought to keep re-evaluating and changing itself. It's not a single adage, story or chapter but the whole mindset and reading the thought process that makes this book so worth it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Sue

    I enjoyed reading about Mr. Gerstner's time as CEO at IBM. The book was written in 2002/3, and is a bit outdated in terms of IT, however, the leadership principles still hold. Gerstner was brought in to turn the company around and be a change agent. It appears he got the job done. Now 16 years later, I'm not sure where IBM is at, and frankly, you don't hear much about them. Many of the companies he mentioned are long gone too. If you're part of large organization that's successful, you will be fa I enjoyed reading about Mr. Gerstner's time as CEO at IBM. The book was written in 2002/3, and is a bit outdated in terms of IT, however, the leadership principles still hold. Gerstner was brought in to turn the company around and be a change agent. It appears he got the job done. Now 16 years later, I'm not sure where IBM is at, and frankly, you don't hear much about them. Many of the companies he mentioned are long gone too. If you're part of large organization that's successful, you will be familiar with many of the concepts in the book. Chapter 22 talks bout 8 business principles that I found helpful: 1. the marketplace is a driving force, 2. IBM is a tech company committed to quality, 3. customer satisfaction and shareholder value are primary measures of success, 4. IBM is an entrepreneurial organization, 5. never lose sight of your strategic vision, 6. think and act with a sense of urgency, 7. work together as a team, and 8. be sensitive to the employees and your community. Other key points: Companies must Focus, Execute, and have Personal Leadership. The Appendix was interesting too and is the author's sort of crystal ball on where tech is headed. I can't recall if Jim Collins mentions IMB in his classic books, but I thought about Collins quite a bit as I was reading this one. Collins is the guru and sets the bar high in this area.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vivek Gupta

    Yesterday, I felt like I needed a pick me up read for the weekend. I am pretty sure, you have that feeling some days :) I landed on a re-read of the classic by Louis Gerstner on IBM’s transformation. And YES, it’s possible to effect change in large organizations. It can be painful, hard and may require lot of perseverance. But have a good intent, keep your head down, ignore the politics and keep working. An apt case study & since IBM is huge so this is an exaggerated example of that. Here are my Yesterday, I felt like I needed a pick me up read for the weekend. I am pretty sure, you have that feeling some days :) I landed on a re-read of the classic by Louis Gerstner on IBM’s transformation. And YES, it’s possible to effect change in large organizations. It can be painful, hard and may require lot of perseverance. But have a good intent, keep your head down, ignore the politics and keep working. An apt case study & since IBM is huge so this is an exaggerated example of that. Here are my favorite excerpts from the book that resonated: In a section titled , he describes “...a culture in which no one would say yes, but everyone could say no. This led to unconscionable delay in reaching decisions, duplicate effort....” “What I discovered was that senior executives often presided. They organized work, then waited to review it when it was done. You were a worker early in your career, but once you climbed to the top, your role was to preside over a process. Well, my kind of executives dig into the details, work the problems day to day, and lead by example, not title. They take personal ownership of and responsibility for the end result. They see themselves as drivers rather than as a box high on the organization chart.”

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mehernosh Tata

    Lou Gertner has written a beautiful book about the turnaround of IBM in a simple and lucid manner. From his initial reluctance to head a $80bn technology company without a deep tech background to the way he used his management Principles to turn around the company is quite amazing to read. He has deftly explained the issues surrounding the downfall of IBM and how he slowly but steadily changed the strategy and culture to make it a more profitable entity. Leading by principle not process and allow Lou Gertner has written a beautiful book about the turnaround of IBM in a simple and lucid manner. From his initial reluctance to head a $80bn technology company without a deep tech background to the way he used his management Principles to turn around the company is quite amazing to read. He has deftly explained the issues surrounding the downfall of IBM and how he slowly but steadily changed the strategy and culture to make it a more profitable entity. Leading by principle not process and allowing the market place to dictate their strategies are an important part of this book. Focus on customers and operation bear hug where he expected his top executives to meet 5 customers and send him a report are interesting points. Lou has also shared what he believes are key competencies needed to lead IBM and frankly any large organisation. Lou’s mantra was ‘ Win, execute and team. ‘Win in the marketplace. Execute with speed and discipline so that successful people would commit to getting things done fast and efficiently. Team: commitment to acting as 1 IBM plain and simple. Easily 1 of the best Corporate turnaround book in the market .

  24. 4 out of 5

    Saju

    Good read, interesting insights on how Louis introduced strategic moves to turn around IBM out of its downward spiral. I like his tough minded business decisions and how he sticks to the principles that he thinks are good for the company. He mentions how he was apprehensive about joining a technology company, goes to show that it is always important to have the big picture in mind. No necessary that you have to be an expert in any particular domain. Also, a recent podcast I heard where Satya Nadel Good read, interesting insights on how Louis introduced strategic moves to turn around IBM out of its downward spiral. I like his tough minded business decisions and how he sticks to the principles that he thinks are good for the company. He mentions how he was apprehensive about joining a technology company, goes to show that it is always important to have the big picture in mind. No necessary that you have to be an expert in any particular domain. Also, a recent podcast I heard where Satya Nadella was speaking, he emphasised the point that as a CEO it is his job to harmonize the various functions in a company to achieve the end goal. Definitely recommended for people who are looking to the next phase of their career, such as lead a Business Unit or company or being a people manager.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amyth Banerjee

    One of the finest books on leadership. It was interesting to read how Gerstner boldly summarizes each activity & its emphasis on shaping the IBM culture. Being a turnaround leader is never an easy job, there are some tough decisions to be made. Most important is to make everyone in the organization feel the sense of purpose & understand what truly motivates them. Gerstner was able to make this happen without having much knowledge about the technology of IBM but he trusted & believed the IBMers h One of the finest books on leadership. It was interesting to read how Gerstner boldly summarizes each activity & its emphasis on shaping the IBM culture. Being a turnaround leader is never an easy job, there are some tough decisions to be made. Most important is to make everyone in the organization feel the sense of purpose & understand what truly motivates them. Gerstner was able to make this happen without having much knowledge about the technology of IBM but he trusted & believed the IBMers had the potential to make the impossible happen. Recommend this book as a must read to gain insights on the idea of shaping a company culture that inspires people. The book is less about being the leader and more about being a part of your team, which is more important.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Varun Sharma

    I picked up this book as I was very interested in understanding what caused IBM to miss the desktop revolution, and become kind of irrelevant (much like what has happened to Microsoft by missing the smartphone revolution). Not disappointed, got my answer. Simply put: they did not see desktop becoming a consumer device(exactly what happened with Microsoft too). All the usual culprits that affect large successful organizations were there too: complacency, arrogance, lack of market awareness, intern I picked up this book as I was very interested in understanding what caused IBM to miss the desktop revolution, and become kind of irrelevant (much like what has happened to Microsoft by missing the smartphone revolution). Not disappointed, got my answer. Simply put: they did not see desktop becoming a consumer device(exactly what happened with Microsoft too). All the usual culprits that affect large successful organizations were there too: complacency, arrogance, lack of market awareness, internal politics. Good account of how Gerstner drove the organizational change. Liked his direct, simple, no-nonsense, non-corporate-y writing style too. Recommend if you are working in tech industry or are generally into management/business books.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Fisher

    A story about Lou Gerstner's turnaround of IBM, told from the man himself. Lou didn't want the job, but his willingness to take on a steep challenge is the first lesson for readers to take away. Like many business books, there are broad lessons that lack detail, and Lou admits this. What is unique is the stories he tells about the turnaround, which makes it an interesting read, especially for employees. Should be required reading for IBMers, especially as Ginni Rommetty attempts to reinvent the A story about Lou Gerstner's turnaround of IBM, told from the man himself. Lou didn't want the job, but his willingness to take on a steep challenge is the first lesson for readers to take away. Like many business books, there are broad lessons that lack detail, and Lou admits this. What is unique is the stories he tells about the turnaround, which makes it an interesting read, especially for employees. Should be required reading for IBMers, especially as Ginni Rommetty attempts to reinvent the company again, optional reading for business school students, and not on the bookshelf for too many others.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Edu Muniz Costa

    This a must read book to every business man in the world! The experience of Louis G at IBM shows the importance of a culture to take a company to the next level. It’s amazing how he identified the way that the company should go and changed the “status quo” of that huge elephant in the right direction. It’s also a lesson of leadership and power. As a leader you have to have people that you trust above you. If you have a new team, try to identify the good one and bring to your side. If they are not i This a must read book to every business man in the world! The experience of Louis G at IBM shows the importance of a culture to take a company to the next level. It’s amazing how he identified the way that the company should go and changed the “status quo” of that huge elephant in the right direction. It’s also a lesson of leadership and power. As a leader you have to have people that you trust above you. If you have a new team, try to identify the good one and bring to your side. If they are not in your side, don’t promote what you want, just change it. You have a long journey to run and need good people in your side to support you.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Serrano

    Louis Gerstner's Who Says Elephants Can't Dance made me realise how hard it is to be a father of a multinational company trying to learn how to stand up and walk again after stumbling down from it's own weight - that a CEO's job is more than what his CV can compile. It reminds the reader that, coming from a company that moves the world through technological advances, moving a company - big or small - takes you back to the fundamentals. No shortcuts. And no technology can automate culture, human Louis Gerstner's Who Says Elephants Can't Dance made me realise how hard it is to be a father of a multinational company trying to learn how to stand up and walk again after stumbling down from it's own weight - that a CEO's job is more than what his CV can compile. It reminds the reader that, coming from a company that moves the world through technological advances, moving a company - big or small - takes you back to the fundamentals. No shortcuts. And no technology can automate culture, human behavior and discipline. This book is not just for aspiring leaders - anybody would pick up so much realisations from the words of a man who managed to make an elephant dance.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Oki

    As a young IBMer (intern in France), I felt so lucky to found and read this book, capturing many details of the IBM's transformation during Louis' tenure from 1993 to 2002, including the strategy setting, the execution, the relationships with board members, shareholders/investors, managers, employees and with clients. The real inside story reminds me of Ginni's many initiatives, such as Think Academy and Ask Ginni, etc.(Not mentioning the strategic imperatives: Cloud Platform, a cognitive soluti As a young IBMer (intern in France), I felt so lucky to found and read this book, capturing many details of the IBM's transformation during Louis' tenure from 1993 to 2002, including the strategy setting, the execution, the relationships with board members, shareholders/investors, managers, employees and with clients. The real inside story reminds me of Ginni's many initiatives, such as Think Academy and Ask Ginni, etc.(Not mentioning the strategic imperatives: Cloud Platform, a cognitive solution such as AI, Watson) I saw real leadership in the book and in real life. I truly hope IBM can thrive with the leadership of Ginni!

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