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

Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060527167
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/12/2002
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 5.96 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Lou Gerstner, Jr., served as chairman and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 until 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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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    More about history than management

    While this is a good book of an historic turnaround, there is little one can take away and apply. Between Gerstner's excessive modesty and the way he focuses more on his actions than the reasoning behind them, there is not much to learn here. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2003

    Lots of Business Wisdom!

    I enjoyed this book. Lou has invaluable wisdom to share with all of us. I highly recommend it for managers at all levels! Dr. Michael Beitler, Author of 'Strategic Organizational Change'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2003

    a good title

    this book is NOT very exciting because Gerstner wrote it himself, but there are many lessons to be learned from what he did at IBM. I liked more the new book Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan. It was detailed and interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2003

    Lou could teach Stachybotrys to dance & grow like Pachyderm (elephant) at IBM

    This book can be used as a HR playbook. It's clearly written and provides useful employment lessons. IBMers, unlike their foreign counterparts, clearly were too comfortable with entitlements. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act, the ADEA, and the Americans With Disabilities Act are remnants from a past era, when white collar Americans felt it was okay to be sick while a company looked after you. Lou taught IBM management that promised company & government entitlements could be eliminated through HR Quality initiatives like CAN-MAN and Just-in-Time Employment (modeled after KAN-BAN and JIT Delivery, respectively) Existing programs like Just-in-Time Contracting were also incrementally improved over time to take advantage of favorable tax, labor, and H-1B laws. Overall, this book is an excellent guide for modern HR policies. Lou provides the definitive playbook for the millenium. Especially recommended for the HR professional.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2003

    Fascinating & Interesting reading

    I left IBM a year before Lou entered. I certainly can understand the problems he describes...he communicates so clearly and fairly what he found and how it was fixed or at least improved! Should be required reading for every business school graduate!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    Simply inspiring

    This remarkable story about IBM is truely a indepth and interesting perspective on corporate America. It shows the inside story of how a mouse became an Elephant in only a few decades. Anyone looking for inspiration and a remarkable story look no further. This book and a book called Dreams: Gateway to the True Self are going to be my holiday gifts of choice. Having read this book Dreams:... I have been moved to find out the goals I've been waiting and waiting to complete my whole life. I've always told myself I was going to write a novel and this book showed me that there was no reason to wait any longer. Try it out you and your family will love Dreams: Gateway to the True Self.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2002

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

    I received my copy and have read the first 50 pages. Outstanding, insightful book. Can't wait to finish it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2002

    Read it!

    I joined IBM two months before Gerstner and it needed a swift kick in the pants. I had a unique perspective coming out of graduate school because my dad work for Pan Am and we all know they went belly up. I was never going to depend on a company for my well being. Go to work do a great job and most of all save on your own and keep your skills current. I sensed a tremendous amount of entitlement amongst the employee ranks. I would have left in under a year if gerstner hadn't planted his foot in the rear end of this company. He made some decisions that many employees feel were unfair and unjust but if you look at our benefits package and perk system compared to many of our peers in industry it is still one of the best. We have more employees at IBM now then when he joined. Even after the big layoff. He was good for IBM. Is he a god of business? No... but all in all he was good for IBM.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    Validation

    This great book validates the value of the free enterprise system ¿ as if it needed. (Now if someone can do the same for Worldcom)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2002

    Quick, easy, insightful read.

    I read this book in five days. Loved it! Being an IBMer since August 2000, I have benefitted from Lou's - and his team's - perseverance without having to experience the painful years B.L. (Before Lou). Interestingly, I can still see the "old" IBM through the "new" facelift - we are still quite a bit internally process-oriented, but no longer do we sacrifice the view from the customer's side for the sake of it. We still value the "individual first" ideal that Lou speaks about, but countless successful teaming efforts are publicly acclaimed every quarter. We remain foremost an R&D company, but we have peppered the IBM landscape with business-focused solutions. As an IBMer, I can attest to Lou's lasting mark on the company. Phrases and words like "e-business" and "Win, Execute, Team" are firm parts of my corporate speech patterns, believe it or not. One of my long-time-IBMer colleagues put it quite well when he described what customers get with IBM today: "It may not be easy, things may not work like they're supposed to, and we may have rough roads throughout the project, but we will eventually get everything working and make the customer happy. That's what people get when they buy IBM." I couldn't agree more. Thanks, Lou.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2002

    Don Imus Is Reading It

    I haven't read the book. I'm going on what Don Imus says. This sounds like, almost, an exciting read. Imus says that anyone in any kind of business, say a pizza joint, can learn from Gerstner. And if one can learn something practical from this book, I want to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2002

    Live and In Person

    I haven't read the book but I just caught Mr. Grestner on Charlie Rose (11/12/2002) If his words in print are anything like his words on Rose's show. He was Excellent!!! That's the kind of guy that just on his words alone can make gold and make you look at yourself before you look at others. He knows HIS area of expertise - LEADERSHIP and what people need to be productive when things stuck in a rut. Excellent chat with Rose, I can't say enough about that. This is a must read for every Human Resources Department and every company executive management team with a high turnover rate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

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

    Just finished the book....outstanding. All IBMers should read this book and realize how close it came to bankruptcy and appreciate all the cost cutting activities that occured to save many of their jobs. All stockholders should be grateful to Lou Gerstner.

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