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Who says elephants can't dance? : leading a great enterprise through dramatic change /
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
imprint
New York, NY : HarperBusiness, c2003.
description
xi, 292 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
ISBN
0060523808 (pbk.)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York, NY : HarperBusiness, c2003.
isbn
0060523808 (pbk.)
general note
Includes index.
abstract
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. 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.
catalogue key
5621327
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., served as chairman and chief executive officer of IBM from April 1993 to March 2002, when he retired as CEO
First Chapter
Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?
Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change

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?
Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change
. 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 Can't Dance?: Leading a Great Enterprise Through Dramatic Change 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.
Reviews
Review Quotes
'œA well-rendered self-portrait of a CEO who made spectacular change on the strength of personal leadership.'
"A well-rendered self-portrait of a CEO who made spectacular change on the strength of personal leadership."
'œEffective, to the point...Louis V. Gerstner Jr deserves his place in the management hall of fame.'
"Effective, to the point...Louis V. Gerstner Jr deserves his place in the management hall of fame."
'œ[Gerstner] entertains as he educates.'
"[Gerstner] entertains as he educates."
'œ[Lou Gerstner] has the substance of a genuine and ... interesting story.'
"[Lou Gerstner] has the substance of a genuine and ... interesting story."
'œThe best business book I've ever read.'
"The best business book I've ever read."
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The CEO of IBM, who led the most successful corporate turnaround in American history, reveals how the company went from a teetering giant to one of today's most preeminent worldwide corporations.
Main Description
Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? sums up Lou Gerstner's historic business achievement, bringing IBM back from the brink of insolvency to lead the computer business once again.Offering a unique case study drawn from decades of experience at some of America's top companies -- McKinsey, American Express, RJR Nabisco -- Gerstner's insights into management and leadership are applicable to any business, at any level. Ranging from strategy to public relations, from finance to organization, Gerstner reveals the lessons of a lifetime running highly successful companies.
Table of Contents
Forewordp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Grabbing Hold
The Courtshipp. 9
The Announcementp. 18
Drinking from a Fire Hosep. 29
Out to the Fieldp. 41
Operation Bear Hugp. 49
Stop the Bleeding (and Hold the Vision)p. 56
Creating the Leadership Teamp. 73
Creating a Global Enterprisep. 83
Reviving the Brandp. 88
Resetting the Corporate Compensation Philosophyp. 93
Back on the Beachp. 103
Strategy
A Brief History of IBMp. 113
Making the Big Betsp. 121
Services--the Key to Integrationp. 128
Building the World's Already Biggest Software Businessp. 136
Opening the Company Storep. 146
Unstacking the Stack and Focusing the Portfoliop. 153
The Emergence of e-businessp. 165
Reflections on Strategyp. 176
Culture
On Corporate Culturep. 181
An Inside-Out Worldp. 189
Leading by Principlesp. 200
Lessons Learned
Focus--You Have to Know (and Love) Your Businessp. 219
Execution--Strategy Goes Only So Farp. 229
Leadership Is Personalp. 235
Elephants Can Dancep. 242
IBM--a Farewellp. 253
Appendices
The Future of e-businessp. 261
Financial Overviewp. 277
Indexp. 286
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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