From Publishers Weekly
In this incisive analysis of what happened to IBM, Quinn, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Friesen, a "knowledge manager" at Arthur Andersen, trace the ups and downs of this "long-term player in a short-term industry" and offer a mixed message concerning IBM's future prospects. Theirs is the story of an icon of American business fighting for survival, not because it failed to keep up with technological advances or lacked organizational flexibility, but because it let down both its customers and its employees. Drawing from several months of on-site research at IBM's headquarters, Quinn and Friesen argue convincingly that errors by recent management dislodged the two foundation stones of IBM's past success: its compact with customers to be the single-source supplier and caretaker of their information-processing needs and its compact with employees to guarantee their job security. The lessons they draw recapitulate contemporary management wisdom-e.g., remember that the customer comes first, understand your business, struggle unceasingly against bureaucracy, pay attention to employees. Unfortunately, the authors fail to delve into some fundamental issues: How might companies resist the short-term mentality that guides the operation of our capital markets? How wise is it to place strategic decision-making in the hands of one or a very few people when the lives of hundreds of thousands of people can be affected? This omission unnecessarily limits their contribution.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A Harvard professor and a management consultant dissect the woes of Big Blue to ascertain what went wrong. Through interviews and secondary research, they identified two issues as the backbone of IBM's strategy and the focus for problems: promises of one-stop service and shopping for customers, and jobs for life for employees. In essence, the abrogation of these promises meant fiscal troubles for IBM; other problems--with stockholders and with Wall Street--quickly followed. The analysis is fairly thorough, including an examination of customer attitudes, marketing miscues, and misalignment of management and reality. Nonetheless, the authors are decidedly upbeat about the corporation's prospects and offer 10 lessons to be learned from IBM's experiences. Barbara Jacobs