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IBM Redux: Lou Gerstner and the Business Turnaround of the Decade Paperback – September 19, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Revised edition (September 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887309445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887309441
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,369,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lou Gerstner, the man who flipped IBM's fortunes, has what a former colleague calls "a vertical vision of reality." That is, if things aren't moving upward, he's very unhappy. When he took over at IBM in 1993, they were moving downward at a frightening speed, and what he did to turn the company around will probably be studied in business schools in future generations. Until then, we have IBM Redux, by Doug Carr, a very entertaining and instructive look at Gerstner and the company he revived.

Carr, a former IBM speechwriter, possesses an insider's knowledge about the Gerstner years at IBM: the despair of watching the company sink into the tar pits of ever-deeper red ink; the ruthlessness of the early firings and other cost controls (one woman was downsized--"excessed" is the actual IBM euphemism--when she was eight and a half months pregnant and coming off a stellar performance review; another was given his termination papers while in a coma); the business decisions that led to the turnaround; and finally the elation of seeing the company reinvented as a nimble information-services provider.

This is far from a hagiography of Gerstner, however. Because Carr didn't have access to him, he relies on anecdotes from those who know Gerstner and have worked with him, and the result is a fascinating portrait of the CEO as a young man (one former high school football teammate recalls an errant pass from quarterback Gerstner that led to the teammate's career-ending knee injury); as a man in a hurry (the chapters on Gerstner's years at American Express and RJR Nabisco foreshadow his accomplishments at IBM); and finally as a seasoned businessman who succeeded in overhauling a company that few thought would survive intact. --Lou Schuler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The joy of this book doesn't come from ground-breaking reporting. Rather, its appeal comes in the details: how Gerstner decided to forgo splashy graphics at a major computer show, as a way to stand out from all the hype; how desperately the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide needed to win the IBM account, once Gerstner and his new team were in place; and what it was like negotiating the purchase of Lotus. This is no small feat in writing about IBM, a company that is renowned for limiting access to reporters, and Garr's accomplishment is even more remarkable since Gerstner himself is known to keep an even closer eye on his public image than the IBM spin doctors do. Even so, Garr managed to talk to numerous present and former IBM employees, who give first-hand recollections and impressions of Gerstner in actionAmany of which are riveting. Garr is a former IBM speechwriterAa fact that cuts both ways, as he convincingly explainsAbut his reporting is evenhanded, and his eye for detail extraordinary. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It's a good read for drama, a good intro to IBM if you know little or nothing about the company, a very detailed, balanced, and probably accurate profile of Gerstner. Writing a business bio about a tech company no doubt forces an author into some tough choices as to how much detail about the technology to leave in or leave out, but Garr does a good job at providing a non-techies view of the industry.
From a business-acumen point of view, however, it lacks. Some of the questions, such as "Why doesn't IBM sell off its unprofitable PC division?" are handled in a rather simplistic manner. A good MBA will tell you there are plenty of reasons to keep "unprofitable" business units around for cash-flow reasons; and that it can be dangerous to sell these off.
This is a good quick read for anyone in the high tech backbone business. Big blue remains the world's largest high tech company, but acts more like any other blue chip. Regardless of your opinion on the company, it's presence deserves attention.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The book follows Gerstner from his McKinsey & Co. days through 1998 IBM. It seemed as much a story about Gerstner as it was about IBM's recovery. My own opinion is that the book tends to leave material unfinished. For example, there is a lot of drama and personality play in a large section devoted to the Lotus acquisition. However, the writer doesn't explain how the acquisition benefited IBM in terms of its turn-around.
In summary, it's an entertaining read but I was left with the feeling that it's a Gerstner book more than it is the story of "the turn-around of the decade."
In comparison, I thought "From Worst to First" by Continental Airlines' CEO Bethune was far more focused on what has to be done to reverse a company's fortunes than was this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on December 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's a lot of fascinating stuff here, but you almost have to read between the lines to get there. I agree with the other reviewer who says that it's more like a Gerstner biography than properly a look at the turnaround itself-- more interesting to me would have been less personality and more a look at how a pure business methodology approach (a la McKinsey) replaced the former technical focus and how that impacted the company. While it was amusing to get a feel of the personalities, it was often distracting when trying to read for a real case study.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By B.Sudhakar Shenoy on September 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
My interest in this book was generated by "Father, Son & Co: My Life at IBM and Beyond " - Thomas Watson Jr.
Despite the rapid growth and technological strengths, IBM loses customer focus and arrogance becomes a common trait among its employees. A customer in a Far Eastern country needs to wait for over 2 months to receive a quotation for an AS/400. Not hard to guess what follows.
One of America's most admired companies, IBM starts slipping, losing over $ 16 billion in just 4 consecutive years by 1993. There was no problem about revenues. IBM was making $ 64 billion attracting most of the money spent on Information Technology. But it was spending $ 69 billion to earn it. At $ 26 billion in debt, a figure that is more than what most developing countries owed the rest of the world, it needed a miracle. It needed Lou.
A man, who was inducted from an industry that had no relevance to computing, rescues big Blue from near bankruptcy. The only thing in common between biscuits and computers is that they almost have the same shelf life. The success of both businesses requires the understanding of customer needs, speed of product introduction, inventory management and cost control. Lou Gerstner from RJR Nabisco steps in to clean up the mess at IBM- and he does this with passion and not with compassion.
Harvard educated, with extensive experience at McKinsey, American Express and RJR Nabisco, Lou brings in his own team, who again have no exposure to the computer industry. The "Cookie man hires chicken man" - Lou hires Bruce Herreld from Boston Chicken to fill in the position of Chief strategist for example. Key to the surgical operation in cost control is Jerome York from the automobile industry. And this list grows on similar lines.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By An IBM Employee on January 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I know many of the players described in the book and even some of the events. It is loaded with IBM jargon, and I'm surprised that people outside the company find it readable. Some of his throwaways are dead wrong -- for example, that the advantage that CMOS mainframes have over bi-polar is that they are program compatible with Unix machines. No wonder he was let go as a speechwriter for the Server Group!
My recommendation is borrow this book from the library.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I'm a confirmed Mac-azoid, but Garr's IBM take fascinates me. As an editor of an entertainment world journal, I'm more interested in the movie business than the computer business, even business in general. Garr's work, however, is an attempt to get inside the mind of a mogul -- the same kind of driven individual who can move big things ... corporations, aircraft carriers, movie studios. How do their accomplishments track in their bowels and bellies, and how will they show up in the entrails of history. Garr is an able paleontologist who took me on a trip.
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