Cover image for Who says elephants can't dance? inside IBM's historic turnaround
Title:
Who says elephants can't dance? inside IBM's historic turnaround
Author:
Gerstner, Louis V.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Harper Audio, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
6 audio discs (approximately 6 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Summary:
In 1990, IBM recorded its largest profit in history. By 1993, when Gerstner was hired, however, the computer industry had swept past IBM and the company seemed headed for extinction, a victim of its own lumbering size and rigid corporate culture. Rather than preside over IBM's dissolution, Gerstner rebuilt the company and turned it from a dinosaur to industry leader.
General Note:
Abridged.
Language:
English
Genre:
Added Corporate Author:
ISBN:
9780060527167
Format :
Audiobook on CD

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HD9696.2.U64 I25452 2002C Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
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Summary

Summary

In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the company 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.

Enter Lou Gerstner. The presumption was that Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units -- effectively eliminating the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies. Instead, Gerstner took hold of the company, making the bold decision to keep it together, defiantly announcing, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision."

Told in Lou Gerstner's own words, this is a story of an extraordinary turn-around, a case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry and the principles of leadership. Summing up his historic business achievement, Gerstner recounts high-level meetings, explains the no-turning-back decisions that had to be made, and offers his hard-won conclusions about the essence of what makes a great company run.

Read by Edward Herrman
With an introduction Read by the Author


Summary

It was the greatest turnaround in business history. Big Blue had lost its way, unable to compete with the nimbler, tech-savvy companies scrambling around its thick ankles. But the CEO of IBM tells how he took the failing giant and turned it into a highly profitable enterprise, rebuilding it for the 21st century.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gerstner quarterbacked one of history's most dramatic corporate turnarounds. For those who follow business stories like football games, his tale of the rise, fall and rise of IBM might be the ultimate slow-motion replay. He became IBM's CEO in 1993, when the gargantuan company was near collapse. The book's opening section snappily reports Gerstner's decisions in his first 18 months on the job-the critical "sprint" that moved IBM away from the brink of destruction. The following sections describe the marathon fight to make IBM once again "a company that mattered." Gerstner writes most vividly about the company's culture. On his arrival, "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." One of Gerstner's first tasks was to redirect the company's attention to the outside world, where a marketplace was quickly changing and customers felt largely ignored. He succeeded mightily. Upon his retirement this year, IBM was undeniably "a company that mattered." Gerstner's writing occasionally is myopic. For example, he makes much of his own openness to input from all levels of the company, only to mock an earnest (and overlong) employee e-mail (reprinted in its entirety) that was critical of his performance. Also, he includes a bafflingly long and dull appendix of his collected communications to IBM employees. Still, the book is a well-rendered self-portrait of a CEO who made spectacular change on the strength of personal leadership. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Gerstner (Reinventing Education) tells the inside story of his nine-year reign as CEO of IBM during the company's unprecedented time of crisis and his successful effort to turn around the pending demise. From his four-year stint as CEO of an equally intriguing corporation, RJR Nabisco, the author moved into the hot seat at IBM in April 1993, the most troublesome time in the company's history. Gerstner finds a pondering, insular culture, mostly unchanged since its beginning, and he briskly reviews his initial major decision to halt the breakup of IBM, refocuses energies on its historic mainframe business, streamlines repetitive processes, focuses employee attention on the needs of its customers and the quickly changing market, and significantly reduces the work force throughout IBM's worldwide locations. This is an important contribution to the business genre, and Edward Herrmann's basso, richly told tale maintains listener interest. An insider's take on IBM that provides a nice update to the solid historical analysis of the downfall and near death of the company revealed in Paul Carroll and Jim Wade's super business history, Big Blues. Highly recommended for all public libraries and university libraries supporting a business curriculum.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround Chapter One The Courtship On December 14, 1992, I had just returned from one of those always well-intentioned but rarely stimulating charity dinners that are part of a New York City CEO's life, including mine as CEO of RJR Nabisco. I had not been in my Fifth Avenue apartment more than five minutes when my phone rang with a call from the concierge desk downstairs. It was nearly 10 p.m. The concierge said, "Mr. Burke wants to see you as soon as possible this evening." Startled at such a request so late at night in a building in which neighbors don't call neighbors, I asked which Mr. Burke, where is he now, and does he really want to see me face to face this evening? The answers were: "Jim Burke. He lives upstairs in the building. And, yes, he wants very much to speak to you tonight." I didn't know Jim Burke well, but I greatly admired his leadership at Johnson & Johnson, as well as at Partnership for a Drug-Free America. His handling of the Tylenol poisoning crisis years earlier had made him a business legend. I had no idea why he wanted to see me so urgently. When I called, he said he would come right down. When he arrived he got straight to the point: "I've heard that you may go back to American Express as CEO, and I don't want you to do that because I may have a much bigger challenge for you." The reference to American Express was probably prompted by rumors that I was going to return to the company where I had worked for eleven years. In fact, in mid-November 1992, three members of the American Express board had met secretly with me at the Sky Club in New York City to ask that I come back. It's hard to say if I was surprised--Wall Street and the media were humming with speculation that then CEO Jim Robinson was under board pressure to step down. However, I told the three directors politely that I had no interest in returning to American Express. I had loved my tenure there, but I was not going back to fix mistakes I had fought so hard to avoid. (Robinson left two months later.) I told Burke I wasn't returning to American Express. He told me that the top position at ibm might soon be open and he wanted me to consider taking the job. Needless to say, I was very surprised. While it was widely known and reported in the media that ibm was having serious problems, there had been no public signs of an impending change in CEOs. I told Burke that, given my lack of technical background, I couldn't conceive of running ibm. He said, "I'm glad you're not going back to American Express. And please, keep an open mind on IBM." That was it. He went back upstairs, and I went to bed thinking about our conversation. The media drumbeat intensified in the following weeks. Business Week ran a story titled "IBM's Board Should Clean Out the Corner Office." Fortune published a story, "King John [Akers, the chairman and ceo] Wears an Uneasy Crown." It seemed that everyone had advice about what to do at ibm, and reading it, I was glad I wasn't there. The media, at least, appeared convinced that ibm's time had long passed. The Search On January 26, 1993, ibm announced that John Akers had decided to retire and that a search committee had been formed to consider outside and internal candidates. The committee was headed by Jim Burke. It didn't take long for him to call. I gave Jim the same answer in January as I had in December: I wasn't qualified and I wasn't interested. He urged me, again: "Keep an open mind." He and his committee then embarked on a rather public sweep of the top CEOs in America. Names like Jack Welch of General Electric, Larry Bossidy of Allied Signal, George Fisher of Motorola, and even Bill Gates of Microsoft surfaced fairly quickly in the press. So did the names of several IBM executives. The search committee also conducted a series of meetings with the heads of many technology companies, presumably seeking advice on who should lead their number one competitor! (Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, candidly told one reporter that IBM should hire "someone lousy.") In what was believed to be a first-of-its-kind transaction, the search committee hired two recruiting firms in order to get the services of the two leading recruiters--Tom Neff of Spencer Stuart Management Consultants N.V., and Gerry Roche of Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. In February I met with Burke and his fellow search committee member, Tom Murphy, then CEO of Cap Cities/abc. Jim made an emphatic, even passionate pitch that the board was not looking for a technologist, but rather a broad-based leader and change agent. In fact, Burke's message was consistent throughout the whole process. At the time the search committee was established, he said, "The committee members and I are totally open-minded about who the new person will be and where he or she will come from. What is critically important is the person must be a proven, effective leader--one who is skilled at generating and managing change." Once again, I told Burke and Murphy that I really did not feel qualified for the position and that I did not want to proceed any further with the process. The discussion ended amicably and they went off, I presumed, to continue the wide sweep they were carrying out, simultaneously, with multiple candidates. What the Experts Had to Say I read what the press, Wall Street, and the Silicon Valley computer visionaries and pundits were saying about ibm at that time. All of it certainly fueled my skepticism and, I believe, that of many of the other candidates. Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround . Copyright © by Louis Gerstner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Who Says Elephants Cant Dance: Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround by Louis V. Gerstner All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.