IBM is a company I discuss in my "Implementing the Big Picture" seminar – the Lou Gerstner-led turnaround of IBM in the 1990's is one of the business world's great success stories. IBM reclaimed much of its former glory by returning to its roots as a customer-focused technology company, making it easier for customers to get the full value from their investments in IBM hardware and software, while also quickly moving ideas from the lab to the marketplace.
Today, I wonder ... has IBM once again lost its way? The focus of the current CEO, Virginia Rometty, seems to be more about stock price and shareholder value than customer value or secret sauce. Hardware has taken a back seat to Services and Software, because Hardware – while still very profitable – is not as profitable as the other two lines of business. Hopefully, this strategy also delivers on a competitive theme – Operational Excellence, Customer or Client Intimate, or Product Leader or Innovator. If not, then IBM may be ripe for another turnaround in a few years.
Here's another current example. Tthe amount of government spending at all levels – federal, state, and local – is being questioned. While it's good to ask questions, I think it's better to ask the right questions, determine the answers, and then act accordingly. I have not heard the following questions either asked or answered – "What's the secret sauce of our nation, state, county, and city? Given this, how can we collectively pool our resources to enhance this? What's an appropriate mix of government at all levels to support and enhance our secret sauce?" I believe these are the right questions to ask, and I hope to hear them asked – and answered – sooner rather than later.
As these two examples show, the concepts in Don't Change the Secret Sauce will always be relevant – and that's why I believe it's a "greatest hit."
Todd L. Herman