Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?

This book was recommended to my by a colleague during a merger period at Adobe and the one key lesson I took from this book was the role culture plays within an organisation. Prior to this book and the merger at Adobe, my view on culture was that it was a 'soft' and 'fluffy' issue. Afterwards I came to appreciate it is possible the #1 issue managers need to be focused on. Without a high-performing, coherent and accountable team, good results are almost impossible to achieve.

Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? is Louis V. Gerstner Jr's memoir about his time as CEO during the turnaround of IBM - including the recruitment process which is quite insightful. When Gerstner became CEO of IBM in 1993, shares were in freefall and the company was on the verge of collapse. During this period, IBM underwent a dramatic transformation back into an industry leader.

In his frank, direct voice, Gerstner recalls the obstacles he faced: the plans to fragment the company; the inconsistent global policies; the stodgy white-shirt hierarchy and inter-departmental competitiveness; and the rapidly declining sales. Gerstner drops in a number of emails to & from employees during the time to provide colour to the situations he takes the reader through.

I also found Gerstner's views on compensation (and it's role as a lever to influence culture) to have been quite interesting. Again, I previously viewed 'team' compensation plans to be places for non-performers to hide but I've since come to appreciate a combination of team and individual targets to be instrumental in driving a combination of individual and team achievement. As Gerstner writes: "...people respect what you inspect".

This book sits somewhere between Jack Welch's Winning, a 'guide' and Jack: Straight from the Gut, a memoir - and reiterates many of Jack's key points (for example, one of Gerstner's first principles is winning).

If you don't believe culture plays THE pivotal part of an organisations success, I'd recommend reading this.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:09 AM,


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