BY THE NUMBERS
Copyright 2002, Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
282 pages, plus appendices
$27.95 U.S. cover price
Somehow we all knew it was true, and that eventually the truth would come out. On page 162, Mr. Gerstner states that OS/2 is superior to Windows. On page 139, he states that IBM still supports OS/2. These statements alone make this book an admirably more open statement of IBM's position on OS/2 than anything we see in the typical PC-industry rag. Mr. Gerstner keeps returning to the issue of OS/2, time and again, with the wistful air of a master angler who just won a major fishing championship, but can't help reminding everyone about the really, really big one that got away.
But there is far more to this book than just the history of IBM's bruising encounter with the corrupt Microsoft monopoly and their stooges and lackeys throughout the high-tech world. This is a work that stands tall as a case study in business re-engineering done right, despite the occasional wrong decision. (And Lou isn't afraid to admit to those, either.)
Business books come in all flavors and variations. Some are dry, technical texts suitable only for boring economics classes taught by fully-tenured academics. Others are bold, dynamic odes to change and excellence. "Sweet Lou" has definitely written the latter sort. An eminently readable and enjoyable book, this volume shows a breezy, straightforward manner that no doubt mimics the direct, unpretentious nature of Mr. Gerstner's own personality.
This book is divided into five major sections consisting of various sub-chapters. These sections comprise the several stages of Mr. Gerstner's term at IBM as well as his own views on the job just finished. He includes several brief incidents that show his stormy relationship with the press -- a press that never quite got it right, and that always seemed to have a knack for turning a phrase the wrong way. He shows the elements of sportsmanship and respect for his team by singling out numerous brilliant, hard-working individuals who helped make IBM's turnaround a great American success story.
As the story rolls to its conclusion, "Sweet Lou" takes greedy investment bankers, manipulative media reporters, and software-industry loudmouths behind the woodshed, and gives them all a savage beating with a size-47 ClueBat<tm>. Priceless!!
"As a former customer, I was always offended and indignant that information technology companies talked about controlling customers. I had this quaint view that it was the job of a supplier to serve customers, not control them!" - page 163
"I think for a lot of people, the "e" in e-business came to stand for "easy." Easy money. Easy success. Easy life. When you strip it down to bare metal, e-business is just business. And real business is hard work." - page 175
"I have learned that lack of focus is the most common cause of corporate mediocrity." - page 219
"Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Scott McNealy. These guys were hungry, and they stayed hungry no matter how much wealth they accumulated." - page 105
Browse quickly over to Amazon.com or your favorite online retailer, and buy this book. Unlike most books I read, which I discard once I have absorbed the key points, this one is a keeper.