Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Author: Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

Publisher: HarperCollinsPublishers

Published: 2003

Paperback

Books Review:

who says elephants can't dance

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? is an account of IBM’s historic turnaround as told by Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., the chairman and CEO of IBM from April 1993 until March 2002. Lou Gerstner led IBM from the brink of bankruptcy and mainframe obscurity back into the forefront of the technology business. After a brief foreword and introduction in which Gerstner provides his pre-IBM background, he jumps right into the story of his IBM experience. The book is divided into five parts: “Grabbing Hold,” “Strategy,” “Culture,” “Lessons Learned,” and “Observations.”

Part I, “Grabbing Hold,” is the story of how Gerstner wrestled with the idea of taking the IBM job (he turned it down at first), followed by highlights from his first year on the job. It provides an interesting insider’s view of the CEO recruiting process for a Fortune 50 company and describes how Gerstner addressed IBM’s severe financial crisis in the early ’90s and managed to keep the company solvent. It also reveals just how precarious IBM’s financial position was during that time, which many readers (including myself) might not have known. Still, although Part I is quite interesting, the real meat of the book is in the subsequent parts.

After stepping back to provide a brief history of IBM, Part II (“Strategy”) dives more deeply into how Gerstner repositioned IBM’s corporate strategy to keep the company together and pull off a successful turnaround. When Gerstner came on board, the conventional wisdom, from both industry pundits as well as many IBM insiders, was that the only way to save IBM from eventual disaster was to break it apart. But Gerstner looked beyond this advice and opted to preserve the real strength he believed IBM brought to customers. His decision to keep the company together and “teach the elephant to dance” was “the first strategic decision, and, I believe, the most important decision I ever made — not just at IBM, but in my entire business career,” Gerstner writes.

Source for Book Review: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/rational/library/2071.html

Available with: Arun Sharma

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