IBM REDUX by Doug Garr


Lou Gerstner and the Business Turnaround of the Decade
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The detailed story of a strong-minded business leader and his battle to reverse the failing fortunes of a major international corporation. This story would probably have been intriguing even if it were a puff piece, generated as an IBM public-relations ploy. But the author, a former IBM-speechwriter-turned-journalist, crafted this work without the support or approval of the giant computer company. From this independent perspective, it succeeds in capturing both the former culture of IBM, established and set in its ways after decades of affluence, and the unsettling conditions created by the new boss, Lou Gerstner. The profile of Gerstner reveals a complex, not always likable character, yet someone uniquely capable of identifying problems and finding appropriate people to work with him. Although focused on Gerstner, the book also covers the carefully chosen executives he selects to turn his directives into action and those who fail to make the grade. Since 1993, when Gerstner was wooed away from RJR Nabisco to manage the blundering IBM, he has not always made the right decisions or backed the right products. But from a management perspective, he produced a textbook example of instrumenting change between old and new business models. Although the main narrative is how the new leader forged his turnaround, readers not already aware of how and why IBM fell from power will be fascinated, if not disgusted, by the details included here. And Gerstner’s background will also prove informative and insightful, an example of achievement founded in a working-class environment. Although Gerstner was ambitious and hungry for control, his tale stresses the value of going to the right schools (for him it was Dartmouth and Harvard Business School), working harder than those around you, and having superior intelligence to begin with. A dramatic and well-told adventure story, with the high seas and pirates replaced by carpeted office corridors and MBAs.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-88730-943-7
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999