Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance: Louis Gerstner, Jr

 The book about IBM’s turnaround written by the person who made it happen, Louis Gerstner. Unlike other business memoirs, this book is written not from a perspective of ‘what should be‘ but ‘what has been‘ to ‘what is now‘.   IBM is one of the iconic technology companies of our times. There’s been others too that reached the height of its success but declined and few now out of business. Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics,  Borland, Rational software and many more.

Early 90s were the time of great change in the technology industry. That’s the time when PC became the dominant force, the internet started showing its presence and the rise in Open systems, aka Unix.

When I started my career, it was all Unix. Client Server systems ruled the enterprise, windows was making is early presence felt. Object Oriented programming was also a new boy of the town. This was the time when IBM mainframe was on the decline. Frankly I never knew IBM was in this deep trouble during those days.

The book is remarkable in the sense, Louis gives first person account of  what he saw when he joined the company early 90’s and describes the remarkable turnaround he was able to accomplish within a decade. The computer industry was at cross roads at the time Louis was brought in to turnaround IBM.  Industry pundits were all ‘gaga’ around the PC revolution and had written off IBM as a company making expensive mainframes that didn’t have a future.

Many had advised Louis to break up IBM into smaller companies. In spite of the fact that Louis had little background of high tech industry, Louis stuck to his plan to revive IBM and invested in new areas of growth. Now after more than 2 decades, IBM has retained its commanding positions.