IBM: The Value Of Values (B) Harvard Case Solution & Analysis

IMD-4-0321 © 2010
Weeks, John; Barsoux, Jean-Louis

This case is about rebuilding a high performance culture at IBM. The case starts in 2002, soon after Sam Palmisano succeeded Louis V. Gerstner as Chairman and CEO of IBM. By the time Palmisano took over, the business was back on a healthy basis and had gone through a debilitating turn around. The challenge for Palmisano, an IBM lifer, was to persuade fellow IBMers to keep on changing in the lack of a “burning platform”. Succeeding ten years of struggle and sacrifice, there was a real risk of falling back into complacency.

Palmisano took a wager on an online “jam” – a substantial, 72-hour chat room where workers globally could voice thoughts about the values of the firm. It helped breathe new life into IBM’s worth as well as reconnecting IBM with its heritage. Most of all, it provided Palmisano with a collective mandate for ongoing change that, in 2010, pushed IBM’s results to new record highs. Learning objectives: This case investigates what culture is and how it can be altered, focusing on the specific challenge of building on success. For educations looking for a more comprehensive discussion of change challenges and IBM’s important direction since 1993, see case IMD-4-0318.

Subjects: Organizational culture; High performance; Sustaining change; Participation; Innovation; Online forum; Computing; Strategy; Values; Vision; Alignment; Listening to employees; Customer orientation; Systems, Processes
Settings: Global; Computers; 320,000 employees; 1993-2010

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