According to MarketWatch Chuck Robbins minces no words in describing how he took the baton from Silicon Valley legend John Chambers and began to radically remake Cisco Systems Inc.
“The last quarter before I took over was a record for revenue, but I said we were going to change everything,” Robbins told MarketWatch in a one-hour, one-on-one interview at the company’s San Jose, Calif., headquarters this month. “The fear was if you change seven things at once and something breaks, the question is, What did we break?”
The unassuming Robbins essentially reshaped a multibillion-dollar legacy company, top to bottom, from one built almost entirely on selling hardware for networking to one focused on hybrid cloud and recurring software subscriptions. The tricky transformation is the stuff that Harvard Business School case studies are made of — in this case, an August 2016 paper that deemed the corporate handoff “a smooth transition.”
Cisco’s metamorphosis was not entirely smooth though, says the market observer: It required a change in operations, products and personnel that took more than a year and led to layoffs, wholesale executive changes and some rough quarters. During the transition, Robbins had to dip into a well of salesmanship to convince longtime customers to change along with Cisco.