February 28, 2010

Who says Elephants can't Dance: Louis V Gerstner, Jr.

I would have laughed at myself a few quarters back if someone told me to read this book. I have never shown any interest to books on consulting, change management, culture etc etc. So books like Blue Ocean Strategy are a strict "no-no" to me. It is difficult to understand and we complicate these issues so easily with charts and theories (for god sake) and importantly have intellectual discussions surrounding the same. I am not in for it and the testimony to it would be me ranked one of the lowest in my class in HR subjects (not that I was a topper in other subjects).

So when I was sitting in the airport having reached few hours earlier than required and having a book which is interesting but long and time consuming, I saught for a change wondered around the three book-stores (next to each other in this airport having near similar books!) and saw this book. Not particularly keen as I knew this book had great reviews but was a stratrgy kind book. Quite recently, I had laughed at my colleagues who reads such book (including this one specially) but can implement very little in his own work sphere. However, the other choices at this book shop was equally poor so I landed up buying it. Not expensive but definitely worth a try.

Two hours into the flight and one hour at the lounge I completed half of this book, totally hooked: damn impressive writing. The late evening nearly full flight was dark inside as there was probably less than 10 lights switched on: one was mine. As I completed my relieving formalities in my old job, I could not complete this for the next few days though I was yearning to have it completed. I completed today and man, was I not impressed.

Honestly, one cant really believe that a company like IBM could be in such a mess. Having worked in three places, one really understands that negative bueracracy exists: it is painful but it is created across time and coming out it is difficult. However, this is IBM and when I came to understand the true value of this company it was in the early 2000, when everything was all right, everything had changed for the better.

The problems that he had faced, the changes he tried to bring (market share and customer focus, defocus the organisation existing internal issues and bring in a totally new culture, and finally the importance of cash flows) is all the book emphasises. Importantly, there are no HR theories or consultancy jargons/flow charts/ diagrams. The focus has been on simpler issues and he addresses them in even simpler language.

I would want everyone to read this book and I have to definitely read this book again probably in a years time from now. I have not written anything serious in this blog as I am still yet to understand the importance of them in full and would want to give sometime before I throw some more light.

I would end this blog with one of his paragraphs asked in his job placement interview from campus when he was deciding between two companies (McKinsey and P&G).

The following question was from P&G:
"Lou (the author), let's suppose it's Friday night and you are about to leave the office when you get the latest Nelson report (market-share data for consumer packaged-goods companies). It indicates that you have lost two-tenths of a point of share in the last month in Kentucky. Would you cancel all of your activities for the next day, Saturday, and come to the office to work the problem?".

What is your answer?


Nirupam said...

Interesting Mahesh, I also completed this book yesterday night,
& surely the book is great and in very simple language.
I do not abhor other strategy books, such as blue ocean strategy and have worked on it's frameworks as well.(but is is quite a fraction) in term of breadth and depth of Lou's book

M B Mahesh said...

I am on the opposite like to work more with numbers and stuff. Too much globe is what I have seen from those endless presentations that consultants end up with. Importantly, there hardly seems to be any accountability of their ideas.

Manan said...

Da, the books that you write about have titles like who says elephants can't dance,indecent exposure, a demon of our design, the house of morgan. Are you sure these books are about finance and stocks?

Saravanan said...

phew! this book is good entertained me..hmm...

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