JOHN AKERS: A NICE GUY WHO LOST HIS COMPASS

IBM Chairman John Akers

 

THE LAST OF THE “GREAT BIG BLUE MOHICANS” (“WATSONIANS”) CHECKS OUT OF THE PLANET

Early this morning, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked for a comment for his John Akers’ obituary. That was the first I had heard about the passing of the former IBM CEO.

When he was in power, Akers and I often did not see eye-to-eye. We had often locked horns (ideologically) at various analyst conferences.  I would have preferred to have done it in private. But public events were the only chances an outsider got back then to Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.34.30 PMtalk to the “untouchables” who occupied the Armonk throne in the Watsons’ Era.  Now, I feel saddened by Akers’ departure.  And for his RIP Requiem, I offer him this rendition of “Amazing Grace” which I played on my shaman’s flute when I retired atop Haleakala Volcano on June 30 (click here or on the photo-right to play it).

And now, here’s my reply to the Wall Street Journal reporter. Consider it my Akers Obit…

Hm… he was an (philosophical) adversary 30 years ago. But I feel sadness now. Like when experiencing the passing of an era. Or finishing a book.

Akers was the last of the “Great Big Blue Mohicans” – the “Watsonians” – products of the two Watsons Era. What followed Akers’ ouster in 1993 was a dismantling of everything the Watsons stood for. The core value at IBM became Greed, not “respect for an individual” (and his family) that the Watsons nurtured.

When Akers was sacked, I wrote what then and now may sound like an obituary (see below). Two years earlier, when we was still the emperor, I wrote a piece that basically said the emperor had no clothes.

Akers: A Nice Guy Who Lost His Compass (Jan 1993)

If they merely try to replace John Akers with another executive whom they feel is more competent to do the same job which Akers had held, our advice to the …
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Akers: The Last Emperor (June 1991

John Akers‘ “public flogging” of his senior management certainly brought about a myriad of reactions — both within, and outside IBM. Some were quite favorable; …
Akers took it in stride. He was a gentleman. He understood that it was nothing personal. I was just doing my job to uncover the things IBM was trying to cover up. By contrast, some of his lieutenants, like the then heir apparent George Conrades, were upset with me. But not Akers. Unlike Gerstner whom I also took down a notch in 1996 (see Louis XIX”). I was told there is still a hole in the ceiling of the Old Armonk corner office where he blew up after reading it. 🙂
RIP, John Akers!

And now, I can return to my creative “non-retirement.” How creative? Check out this post I put out yesterday… 🙂

“BOLERO” BY ALTZAR IN HAWAII (AUGUST 23, 2014)

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