DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation
Digital Equipment Corporation achieved sales of over $14 billion, reached the Fortune 50, and was second only to IBM as a computer manufacturer. Though responsible for the invention of speech recognition, the minicomputer, and local area networking, DEC ultimately failed as a business and was sold to Compaq Corporation in 1998. This fascinating modern Greek tragedy by Ed Schein, a high-level consultant to DEC for 40 years, shows how DEC's unique corporate culture contributed both to its early successes and later to an organizational rigidity that caused its ultimate downfall.
The lasting lesson of DEC
By Stephen Buckley - November 25, 2003
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Edgar Schein does a marvelous job telling the story of the rise and fall of Digital Equipment Corporation, the former #2 computer maker in the world behind IBM. The business reasons behind DEC's economic failure have been widely reported (missing the advent of the PC, having too many projects going at once, failure to market products effectively, etc.) However, the big question to be answered is why did these failures occur? To quote one passage, "Why did an organization that was wildly successful for thirty-five years, filled with intelligent, articulate powerful engineers and managers, fail to act effectively to deal with problems that were highly visible to everyone, both inside and outside the organization?"Schein looks at DEC's failure through the lens of its corporate culture, and how it prohibited their executives from making the decisions, and taking the actions necessary to survive. Fans of Ed Schein will know his famous "Three... read more
A provacative read
By J. Mcnamara - March 28, 2004
Many discussions and articles that chronicle the rise and fall of Digital simplify the failure to either "The president [Ken Olsen] blew it," or "They missed the PC revolution," or some combination of both. This book shows how the culture that so successfully nourished creativity and genius in the company's nascent days brought chaos, confusion, and internecine warfare in later days when the larger company faced a host of competitors and needed to efficiently produce commodity items. I think that the authors go a little too lightly on the role of (mis)management in Digital's failure, but they do a good job of bringing to light many other aspects of Digital's problematic history. The authors seem a bit full of themselves at times, but they have a compelling and sobering story to tell.
Needed to be written, needs to be read
By Bryan MacKinnon - January 30, 2005
I recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with DEC or wishes to understand its enduring legacies. It is also a useful case study on who a company that was doing so well could ultimately fail; are Microsoft and IBM really immune from this fate?
I used DEC equipment during its heyday from the late 1970's throughout the 1980s. What I value most is how the technical experiences I recall from that time were given depth. The author's narrative binds together a collection of internal memos and personal recollections of many of those who were working at DEC when many of its fateful decisions were made. In general, responsibility for the ultimate failure of DEC to survive as a company is laid with the senior management, in particular with CEO Ken Olsen. The same attributes that made DEC great and innovative were the ones that lead to its downfall. Alas, DEC is not dead but lives on in all the innovations it introduced.
I would like liked to have seen some more... read more
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