Excerpt from Who Says Elephants Can't Dance by Louis Gerstner, the CEO who saved IBM.
Read Watson, insert Muhammad. Read dress code, think hijab (in terms of hijab being a tool for modesty). Read codify, think Quran and its derivatives.
'The Basic Beliefs
The defining ethos of [Thomas] Watson Sr [IBM's founder] [ . . . ] became part of the company's DNA - from the paternalism to the [ . . . ] no-drinking [ . . . ] to the preference that employees be married.
Watson's experience as a self-made man engendered a culture of respect, hard work, and ethical behavior, IBM was the leader in diversity for decades, well before governments ever spoke of the need to seek equality in employment, advancement, and compensation. A sense of integrity, of responsibility, flows through the veins of IBM in a way I've never seen in any other company. [ . . . ]
And then there were the [ . . . ] symbols - [ . . . ] the dress code. IBM virtually invented the notion of the company as an all-encompassing context for its employees' lives. [ . . . ]
Of course, enlightened companies and leaders know that an institution must outlive any one person or any one group of leaders. Watson realized this and he deliberately and systematically institutionalized the values that had made IBM under his tenure a very successful company.
He summarized them in what he termed the Basic Beliefs:
- Excellence in everything we do
- Superior customer service
- Respect for the individual
[ . . . ] The Beliefs [. . . became] the doctrine of the company [ . . . ]
For a long time it worked. The more successful an enterprise becomes, the more it wants to codify what makes it great - and that can be a good thing. It creates institutional learning, effective transfer of knowledge, and a clear sense of "how we do things." Inevitably, though, as the world changes, the rules, guidelines and customs lose their connection to what the enterprise is all about. A perfect example is the IBM dress code.
It was well known throughout business circles that IBM salespeople [ . . . ] wore very formal business attire. Tom Watson established this rule when IBM was calling on corporate executives who - guess what - wore dark suits and white shirts! In other words, Watson's eminently sensible direction was: Respect your customer, and dress accordingly.
However, as the years went by, customers changed how they dressed at work, and few of the technical buyers in corporations showed up in white and blue. However, Watson's sensible connection to the customer was forgotten, and the dress code marched on. When I abolished IBM's dress code in 1995, it got an extraordinary amount of attention in the press. [ . . . ] I simply returned to the wisdom of Mr Watson and decided: Dress according to the circumstances of your day and recognize who you will be with (customers, government leaders, or just your colleagues in the labs).
This codification, this rigor mortis that sets in around values and behaviors, is a problem unique to - and often devastating for - successful enterprises. [ . . . ]
Take the Basic Beliefs. There is no arguing with these. [ . . . ] But what the Beliefs had come to mean - or, at least, the way they were being used - was very different in 1993 than in 1992, when Tom Watson had introduced them.
[ . . . ] "Customer service" came to mean, essentially, "servicing our machines on the customers' premises," instead of paying real attention to their changing businesses [ . . . ] We basically acted as if what customers needed had been settled long ago, and our job was to shop them our next system, whenever it came out. [ etc. . . . ] '