Who says elephants can’t dance?

By | May 31, 2007

The following is an excerpt from a 60-page artifact titled “On Being the Administrative Assistant to W.E. Burdick, Vice President, Personnel, Plans, and Programs”:

  • Keep a supply of dimes with you. They are helpful when WEB has to make a call when away from the building.
  • Surprise birthday parties for WEB staff should be scheduled under the heading “Miscellaneous” for fifteen minutes & AA takes seat closest to the door to answer phones.
  • WEB enjoys Carefree Spearmint sugarless gum. When empty box appears in out-basket, reserve box should be put in his desk and new reserve box purchased.


Astonishing, right? Believe it or not, the above is actually an authentic document of IBM, written in 1975 and cited by former CEO Lou Gerstner in his 2002 book, “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”.

Moral of the story: The bigger an organisation grows, the higher its tendency to become fixated in its own internal processes.

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