Case Study

IBM: The value of values (A)

9 pages
May 2010
Reference: IMD-4-0320

This case is about rebuilding a high performance culture at IBM. The case starts in 2002, shortly after Sam Palmisano succeeded Louis V. Gerstner as Chairman and CEO of IBM. By the time Palmisano took over, the company had gone through a painful turnaround and was back on a healthy footing. The challenge for Palmisano, an IBM lifer, was how to persuade fellow IBMers to keep on changing in the absence of a “burning platform”. After ten years of sacrifice and effort, there was a real danger of slipping back into complacency. Palmisano took a bet on an online “jam” – a massive, 72-hour chat room where employees worldwide could voice ideas about the values of the company. The exercise served to showcase IBM’s technology and its willingness to tap into the ideas of its employees. It helped breathe new life into IBM’s values as well as reconnecting IBM with its heritage. Most importantly, it provided Palmisano with a collective mandate for ongoing change that, in 2010, pushed IBM’s results to new record highs.

Learning Objective

This case explores what culture is and how it can be changed, focusing on the particular challenge of building on success. For instructions looking for a broader discussion of IBM’s major leadership and change challenges since 1993, see case IMD-4-0318.

Organizational Culture, High Performance, Sustaining Change, Participation, Online Forum, Vision, Alignment, Listening to Employees, Customer Orientation, Culture Change
Published Sources
© 2010
Available Languages
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