Sunday, January 01, 2012

Samuel Palmisano and the Re-Birth of IBM

Great profile of Palmisano from Steve Lohr – How Samuel Palmisano of I.B.M. Stayed a Step Ahead:

behind I.B.M.’s relentless progress over the last decade is a game plan that has been anything but conservative. The company shed multibillion-dollar businesses. It chose higher profit margins over corporate size, and expanded aggressively overseas, seeking sales, low-cost engineering talent and quicker organizational reflexes.

Investors, however, haven’t been bored. The company’s stock price has surged. In November, Warren E. Buffett, who typically shuns technology stocks, announced he had accumulated $10 billion of I.B.M. shares, a stake of more than 5 percent.

All of that didn’t just happen. A large portion of the credit goes to Samuel J. Palmisano, who steps down on Sunday after nearly a decade as chief executive. During his tenure, I.B.M. has been a textbook case of how to drive change in a big company — when so much of the study of business innovation focuses on start-ups and entrepreneurs.

This column is a glimpse of the thinking behind some of the major steps I.B.M. has taken under Mr. Palmisano’s leadership, based on two recent interviews with him.

He says his guiding framework boils down to four questions:

• “Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?”

• “Why would somebody work for you?”

• “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”

• “And why would somebody invest their money with you?”

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