In 2002, incoming CEO Sam Palmisano decided that the Internet really did change everything, and Big Blue’s leadership model would have to change to reflect the new “on-demand” marketplace.
By summer 2003, IBM had identified 33 executives as outstanding leaders in the new on-demand era. Next, it put these leaders under a microscope to find out how they saw their jobs and the company, how they interacted with people, and how they set and met goals. Here’s what it found:
The 33 leaders were adept at “collaborative influence,” in which several units might collaborate on fixing a client’s problem. That requires successfully organizing and directing people who don’t report to you.
Example: Frank Squillante is in charge of the company’s intranet strategy, which provides applications for 325,000 employees and 100,000 business partners. If he tried to pull the old command-and-control routine and order somebody to do something, “the whole thing would break down.”
Today, if you’re a leader at IBM, here’s what you’re graded on: innovation that produces results, dedication to every client’s success, trust and personal responsibility.
Some early results: Cross-functional IBM teams helped Mobil Travel Guides evolve from a travel content provider to a custom travel-planning service, and three Big Blue units joined forces to help Nextel improve its customer service.
— Adapted from “IBM’s Makeover,” Linda Tischler, Fast Company.