How Samuel Palmisano of I.B.M. Stayed a Step Ahead - Unboxed
BECAUSE it has become so consistently successful, I.B.M. is almost boring. This is a company so predictable that its financial forecast is packaged as a “five-year road map,” as if it were some sort of state planning exercise.
Yet 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.