The Return of Cisco

This is a good article about how John Chambers repositioned Cisco after the tech bust.

Indeed, Cisco could be a case study of how a sullied highflier can use a slump not only to clean house but also to build a better foundation. While Chambers was late to recognize the worst tech downturn in history, once he realized it was no mere dip, he seized the moment to rethink every aspect of the company — upending its operations, its priorities, even its culture.

Chambers replaced the chaos that went with growth at any cost with the order of a company managed for profits. Under a six-point plan, he imposed operating discipline on entrepreneurial staffers who had been too busy taking orders and cashing stock options to bother with efficiency, cost-cutting, or teamwork. Engineers who had been able to chase any idea willy-nilly suddenly had to work only on technologies approved by a newly appointed engineering czar. Midlevel managers with the authority to invest $10 million in a promising startup saw the open checkbook snapped shut. Execs encouraged to compete with one another found that teamwork would count for as much as 30% of their annual bonuses. And staffers who fueled Cisco's 73-company buying binge from 1993 to 2000 by scooping up any networking outfit with a shot at success were told they would be held personally accountable for a deal's financial results. "Process was a dirty word at Cisco, including for the CEO," admits Chambers.

Lots of other good info in this article. Read the whole thing. I particularly like the part (which I didn't quote above) about how he ran for hours on a treadmill to clear his head. I do the same thing. Once in college after I did poorly on an exam I put on my running shoes and ran until my feet burned. I still run all the time, and I never take an mp3 player, radio, or anything else. People always ask me "don't you get bored?" But I don't. I use it as time to clear my head and plan out my day. It's very therapeutic, and if I go 3-4 days without running, Mrs. Businesspundit will notice because I'll be a big grouch.

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