This is a fairly good book by an immensely talented CEO. It takes up more or less a few decades after the retirement of one of the greatest businessmen of the 20C (TWatson Jr.), when the business had lost its way and was under attack by extremely nimble rivals. Gerstner took over the failing, almost bankrupt, company and both re-made its startegy and culture, re-focusing it on customer needs and re-engineering it (i.e. laying off an awful lot of people). In this book, he tells the outlines of how he did it, which is indeed extremely interesting. In particular, he stresses that while a strategy is needed, implementation of it is far more important.
Unfortunately, he does not go into enough detail for the reader to fully understand what he faced and how he did it. Neither the technology nor the brutal methods he had to employ were adequately addressed, at least for me. I read it carefully and did not feel I had had quite the full meal I expected. The reader also gets virtually no insight into what makes Gerstner tick, other than that he "wants to win" with passion. THe book was also entirely written by Gerstner; his style is competent, if somewhat like a business memo: good analyses are "actionable" and effective actions are "impactful."
Nonetheless, this is a very good primer on basic strategy and organizational behavior. He has lots of valuable advice to give and pinpoints many important issues. I will keep it and return to it.
THere were some things that I found questionable and surprising, if also unintentionally revealing. FOr example, he made IBM both an honest broker in offering comprehensive technology-based business solutions - for the first time, its employees could recommend the hardware of competitors if they better suited the customers' needs - while another part of the company continued to strive to produce the best hardware. This flatly contradicts both what Porter advises and Gerstner himself argues elsewhere in the book regarding the self-reinforcing compatibility of the elements of a business strategy and makes me question if Gerstner really thought it all thru. In addition, he astonishingly posits that Japanese business reporters are the best in the world, when in fact - and I worked in Japan for Nikkei, a leading business news wire service - they are merely part of the PR apparatus of firms, reporting verbatim what they were told to report by companies! If that is what Gerstner expected of Western reporters, then he was naive. But then, he was a benevolent dictator and is open about his dislike and lack of trust of the press.
REcommended. But if you really want a rivetting account of IBM, I would recommend Watson's autobio, Father Son & Co. There is also an excellent account of the turnaround of Xerox, using TQM, that is far more compelling a read than this book.