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Publisher's Summary

In 1990, IBM had its most profitable year ever. By 1993, the company was on a watch list for extinction, victimized by its own lumbering size, an insular corporate culture, and the PC era IBM had itself helped invent.

Enter Lou Gerstner. The presumption was that Gerstner had joined IBM to preside over its continued dissolution into a confederation of autonomous business units, effectively eliminating the corporation that had invented many of the industry's most important technologies. Instead, Gerstner took hold of the company, making the bold decision to keep it together, defiantly announcing, "The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision."

Told in Lou Gerstner's own words, this is a story of an extraordinary turnaround, a case study in managing a crisis, and a thoughtful reflection on the computer industry and the principles of leadership. Summing up his historic business achievement, Gerstner recounts high-level meetings, explains the no-turning-back decisions that had to be made, and offers his hard-won conclusions about the essence of what makes a great company run.

©2002 Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (P)2002 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A well-rendered self-portrait of a CEO who made spectacular change on the strength of personal leadership." (Publishers Weekly)
"Edward Herrmann's pacing and understated connection with the material in this memoir makes the audio seem compact and relaxed. The writing is also outstanding, lacking excessive pride or self-congratulation....An essential volume for anyone interested in technology, large organizations, or IBM's miraculous rebirth under Gerstner's leadership." (AudioFile)

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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Arthur Held
  • Arthur Held
  • 08-02-2005

Moderate Start, Picks up FAST!

Upon starting this book, I felt like I was listening to a rather large ego telling me how great he was. But it rapidly became a great listen. I found his discussion of the evolution of the computer industry, and how IBM had to re-invent itself to fit the new paradigm, clear and true to what I've watched happening in the IT world.

Disk 5 was outstanding in his discussion of how he expected managers to be part of the solution, not spectators and supervisors of it. And his views on where the internet is going are extremely insightful.

A Must-Listen that finishes strong. A sure winner for anyone with an interest in IT, IT Companies, or our Business world and its IT components.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Steven
  • Steven
  • 27-12-2005

Deflated

I was unexpectedly disappointed by this book. After reading the glowing reviews from others, I expected an inspiring, insightful review of the amazing things done at IBM in one of the most remarkable turn-arounds ever -- my hopes were deflated. What I got out of this was a combination of kind words for those long time IBMers who helped, and advertising for IBM's positioning for future stock growth. Mr. York's role in achieving the turn around was grossly under-promoted, as few of the structural cost improvements would have been achieved without him, and there was little insight shared on how Mr. Gerstner came to determine the specific changes that were made. Further, the last third of the book is spent delivering Mr. Gerstner's political perspective on everything from schools to charitable contributions. Not a recommended read.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Chad Small
  • Chad Small
  • 26-05-2005

Great Book, But I'm Biased

I loved this book. I have been a huge fan of IBM since my younger years and was aware of the possible breakup of "Big Blue" in the early 90's. I didn't even have a clue as to how bad it was though. Amazing to see how some of the old guard behemoths get bogged down with the "that's the way we've always done it" attitude and slowly sink into the dinosaur tar pits. Gerstner did a miracle if you ask me after having listened to his accounts of internal processes and procedures gone mad. I recommend the unabridged for those that like to hear it all, and I am not a business book person. I especially liked the narrator selection.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Joseph
  • 10-04-2005

Engrossing

As someone who was working at IBM up to just prior to the time covered in this book, I found it engrossing as well as very indicative of the situation at the time. This book is an excellent discourse on corporate culture and how change has to occur from the top to be effective. Having lived through some failed attempts at other companies, this is a good blueprint with anecdotal history of how a company goes about properly re-inventing itself.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr. M Metwally
  • 22-01-2005

Quite stimulating

An intellectually stimulating book. Well written and well narrated. An excellent one to listen to for leaders and employees of large institutions.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Hal White
  • 20-04-2022

Excellent narration!

Excellent story. Well written. Hard to put down. Learned a lot about large corporations and how difficult change can be.

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  • Mel
  • 02-03-2022

Compelling

Just to start off, I enjoyed the narration. It felt like it gave the book the right feeling.

As for the content itself, I found this to be compelling and engrossing. I didn’t think I could view management in so many ways. Yet, all these principles, values, and beliefs made complete sense to me. I felt empowered to find passion in my work and to continue improving myself in order to help solve problems. I strongly recommend it.

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  • Danielle Litchford
  • 20-12-2021

The First Two Thirds Are Excellent

I really enjoyed this book most of the way through. Gerstner’s story of IBM’s turnaround and the history that led them into trouble in the first place are very compelling. I find the final part—his “observations”—less interesting. He even says he’s going to try to avoid sounding like a complainer, but he doesn’t quite manage it. The best parts are the tidbits of wisdom on leadership and corporate culture.

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  • Ying Kuang
  • 13-12-2021

Love the book because it's so down-to-earth

I feel like this book is especially worth reading/listening now because it's talking about crisis and how to tackle the crisis and make the best out of it. How to be strategic, decisive, methodical, humble, empathetic, nimble, fearless and eventually channel through all the obstacles along the way. Right now, we're still in the middle of Covid era, with Omicron came from nowhere, it's a time for us to really understand how to start from a very terrible place. How to change and alter the whole situation, from a downward spiral. Everything can be changed, upgraded, and transformed. There is a will, there is a way.

I especially love the post Louis mentioned at the end part of the book:
"There are four kinds of people:
* Those who make things happen;
* Those to whom things happen;
* Those who watch things happen;
* Those who don't even know things are happening."

It's a great book. Even in 2021, still worth listening/reading. Recommend it to everyone.

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  • Marco Túlio Melo
  • 14-11-2021

A must read for all IBMers

Good book, very insightful about IBM, its business and its culture.
Every IBM newcomer must read and every IBM employee should read.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jacob
  • 22-03-2013

Really enjoyed it.

Nice easy listen and a fascinating story. I usually opt for books narrated by the author as they have more emotion. However Edward Herrmann really brings the story to life, and boy what a story!

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • D. W. Chandler
  • 06-02-2011

Very Good

Excellent listen - how someone with little IT skills transformed IBM - one of, if not , the most important companies in the world. Rare business book thats worth more than one listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Fred
  • 23-04-2022

Useful insights

The book is really in 2 halves. I found the 1st most interesting as it was more narrative.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 28-01-2021

fine

The book is great but the story is sooo long and a bit boring. if you're not into business and especially the story behind this book, I don't think you'll finish it ( I hardly did ).
if I can go back in time I'd listen to a summary or I'd read an article about the subject. the performance though is magnificent.

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  • Trupster
  • 03-01-2021

Great insight into the 1990s Big Blue turnaround

Lou tells a compelling story of the fall and rise of a monolith company. He changed the culture and made it competitive again. Many large corporations could learn a lesson from this journey even today, more than 20 years later. A recommended read.

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  • Juan Fandino
  • 12-12-2019

Brilliant book

We all take different thjngs from books due to our own biases and personalities, none the less I believe this book has something for everybody and the story is captivating to say the least, combining technicalities with narrative.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-04-2019

interesting but a difficult listen

struggled at times. often had to re-listen to parts. narrator not the best. otherwise good.

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  • N A
  • 29-10-2018

brilliant history fantastic insight into technolog

great story and mixture between a biography of IBM and at the end there is a few chapters on current technology and the potential future. Definitely worth a listen. there are quite a few insights into the culture of IBM such as the personal assistants of the executives. It will be quite interesting to hear what actually happened with some of these changes, there are a lot of comments on how IBM was but not necessarily what he did practically to do it. But the philosophy behind it is timeless and worth Reading if you are at all interested in IBM, technology leadership or just business in general. Despite being a 20-year-old book it is highly relevant now still

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  • Jennifers Daddy
  • 19-03-2018

Great

This was just the right length and did not repeat itself. It's the perfect business case study. Ultimately it comes down to culture and people. Why don't more CEOs understand that?

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 11-05-2017

awesome

It depends if this type of book is your bag but for me it got better and better as you got deeper into the story. Chapters must be different between the audio and the book but in the audio chapters 9 and 10 will be regular repeats for me. You cannot fail to be struck by the enormity of IBM. the figures and quantities are staggering. During the last chapter it struck home that this book was written in 2002 showing there is no age to good business or this book. The same problems have been and will continue to be the same forever. Timeless common sense from someone skilled enough to turnaround a company bigger than many economies from near bankruptcy to success in 7 years. Awesome.

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