Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Jr Loius V.Gerstner’s book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” is not an autobiography of Gestner while it is brief of his seven year stint in IBM as its CEO. The book presents Gestner’s work of turning around the sinking ship “IBM”.  Gestner has scripted his strategies of patching the hole in the hull to resurrecting the elephant to its position of market leadership. Gestner identifies Marketing Myopia and inward looking approach as the centre problem for IBM & also presents his opinion about Merger & Acquisition, leadership and corporate culture of IBM.

As the name suggests, Gestner has repeatedly mentioned “IBM’s massive size” hence the common noun “Elpehant” figures in the book’s title. Gestner is very vocal about the resistance in IBM culture to change. Every chapter of the book talks about internal resistance in form of internal department ego clashes, process driven culture & excessive decentralization which leads to slow decision making leading to an obsolete strategy of IBM. Gestner also talks about excessive love of IBM team with its Operating OS2 which in the marketing parlance can be termed as marketing myopia.

The decline of the IBM in the early 1990s can understood by “S-Curve Theory” also commonly known as “Innovator’s Dilemma”. In IBM’s case, IBM is the innovator of OS2 operating system and was obsessed with its brain child. This combined with the inward looking approach did not allow IBM to adopt greater return offering technologies springing in the technology environment.

Prior to Gestner’s tenure in IBM, IBM’s management team had laid out strategic vision for IBM’s entry into newer technological arenas. However, the internal resistance combined with a vision without details lead to non-execution of the laid out strategy. Gestner is of the view that “Good Strategy is long on details” and hence his ability to execute the strategy is commendable. He dismisses the common phrase ”Small is Beautiful, Big is Bad” and comments “focus combined with good leadership can enable an elephant to be nimble and flexible.”

The book may be misconceived by many as one filled with technical jargons, in reality the book is simple to read and does not bore one with management terms owing to the non-tech background of the author. Book should not be understood as one meant for offering management magical potions to its readers. Readers who have watched & understood the recent print & television advertisements of consulting giant “Accenture” featuring an elephant performing “Surfing Stunts in Ocean’s High Tides” can easily understand the essence of the book.

Accenture Advt featuring Elephant

Accenture Advt featuring Elephant

S Curve for Technology

S Curve for Technology

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