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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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Steven
  • Stevenson Ranch, CA, USA
  • 12-27-05

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Spectacular

Inspiring, must read, full of significant thoughts. A real truly executive experience. You will finish this book wanting to continue.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • J. Cho
  • Portland, OR
  • 08-30-05

simply inspiring

i don't know if everything mr. gerstner wrote is 100% true. it hardly matters, as many lessons on how to view your company and how to make the best out of it were taken from the book. the book taught me practical ways to look at a dismal situation and turn it around for the better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Some good stuff but it’s beginning to show it’s age

I particularly liked chapters 10 and 11.

Lou teaches: get the strategy right and then be relentless in its execution.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Essential work of business art - Truly Brilliant.

I was worried that the book would be a bit dated and the material no longer relevant. I could not have been more wrong. As a prolific reader of business books, I put this book in the top five.

The summary chapter towards the end in which Gerstner spells out his overall business philosophy in detail is true gold. This is required reading for all business people, large and small.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Interesting one

Narrator made it interesting to listen, though this was my first audio book I thought I will never finish it, but being ex IBMer I finished it.

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  • Overall
  • Jacob
  • 03-22-13

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • 02-06-11

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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-17

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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  • Performance
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  • mp
  • 02-06-16

A marvelous book.

If you could sum up Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? in three words, what would they be?

Action, implementation and courage.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Mr. Gerstner. I admire him so much. He has changed my view about IBM and showed me how this huge first class company works.

What about Edward Herrmann’s performance did you like?

Top one.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Absolutely. All the process of this phenomenal turnaround kept me on my toes.

Any additional comments?

A phenomenal performance we cannot see every day.

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  • Performance
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  • Joshua
  • 02-19-14

20 YRS LATER & THE PRINCIPLES COULD STILL APPLY

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
Having an interest in software companies and seeing how they evolve is fascinating to me, and seeing how a "non - Software" executive dealt with the sinking ship with a business strategy was very interesting to me since we are always told how great Gates and Jobs are...

  • Overall
  • Craig Forster
  • 04-14-13

Great insight to major corporate change

My company is going through a major transformation and I found this a really interesting insight to similar major changes at IBM and how one leader dealt with this. It covers the highs and lows/challenges and successes. IBM is clearly a massive complex entity and I was fascinated how such complexity still in the end has to be able to be summarised and netted out to understandable language and concepts. One gets the impression from the book that Gerstner brought this executive ability to take a helicopter view of things. He also was prepared to take tough decisions.

  • Overall
  • Joe
  • 04-07-13

Great read

I have worked hands-on daily with IBM hardware, software and services for well over a decade, some of which overlapping with Lou Gerstner's period as CEO of the company, so I picked this up expecting not to learn much I hadn't already known about IBM. I was entirely wrong. This is a really engaging and honest account of the turnaround of a company that was literally falling apart as it failed to adapt to the changing world in which it was operating. The clarity of purpose which Gerstner, as a 'non IT person', brought to the company and it's strategic direction shines throughout. The book could be accused of being one-sided, but the performance of IBM during Gerstner's time at the helm is so remarkable that some element of victors writing the history is understandable. The insight into 'bet the company' decisions and simple management strategies applied to the giant organisation that is IBM is really fascinating. Great read, highly recommended.

  • Overall
  • bhak
  • 12-23-12

A nice little job

Gerstner repaired IBM because he didn't belong there. Funny that, but it worked! Fascinating. Keep in mind that he had been in the same ring with this elephant before with other companies. See ourselves as others see us.