Take IBM's Samuel J. Palmisano. He's attempting nothing less than a remake of his company's culture to bring back the glory days. Positioning himself as the anti-imperial CEO, Palmisano is asking the board to cut his 2003 bonus and distribute the money to his best-performing top managers based on their ability to work as a team. In a gamble for tomorrow, he's pushing an entirely new business concept -- e-business on demand. Think delivering technology to corporations the way a utility distributes electricity, with grids of computers and self-healing software delivering services to customers when they need it.
Will Palmisano succeed? Maybe. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems are all pushing their own versions of e-biz on demand. In the end, IBM's greatest gain may be the very process by which Palmisano is focusing the company, fusing expertise in software, computers, and consulting to implement a new vision. We haven't seen enough of that kind of grit in recent years. CEOs need to show more of it.