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Dancing Elephants

Thursday, June 21, 2007
I just finished reading an excellent book called "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance" by Louis Gerstner, Jr. (), former CEO of IBM. It was his account of being CEO from 1993 to 2002 - from assuming the reins of command during IBM's darkest hours to turning the company around to be not only competitive, but again an industry leader.

The book takes a deep look at what made IBM great, and how some of forces for greatness took on a life of their own and paralyzed IBM during the mid-to-late 80s - and then what was needed to fix them. He looks at the culture within IBM and describes the decay; a global business full of some of the world's most brilliant minds that had grown so out of touch with the market that - when times changes - IBM as a company almost stopped existing.

Lou Gerstner is an excellent writer; the book is clear, well-organized, and communicates simply and effectively. Is there a tone of self-congratulation in the book? Of course there is. He led the recovery of IBM and, given the success of his job, he deserves to say "I was right."

I contrast this book against my other favorite management book: "On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors", John Z. Delorean's account of the decay at GM back in the late 70's. The difference is that IBM once again became a leader; GM's faults were identified over 25 years ago and they still haven't come back. Both are great books, and I recommend them highly to anyone interested in management!


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