Well they just got worse.
This is according to my many friends at Big Blue, who believe they are about to undergo the biggest restructuring of IBM since the Gerstner days, only this time for all the wrong reasons.
The IBM project I am writing about is called LEAN and the first manifestation of LEAN was this week's 1,300 layoffs at Global Services, which generated almost no press. Thirteen hundred layoffs from a company with more than 350,000 workers is nothing, so the yawning press reaction is not unexpected. But this week's "job action," as they refer to it inside IBM management, was as much as anything a rehearsal for what I understand are another 100,000+ layoffs to follow, each dribbled out until some reporter (that would be me) notices the growing trend, then dumped en masse when the jig is up, but no later than the end of this year.
LEAN began last week with a 10-city planning meeting for Global Services, which wasn't, by the way, to decide who gets the boot: those decisions were apparently made weeks ago, though senior managers have been under orders to keep the news from their affected employees.
If you work at IBM Global Services, ask your boss outright if you are on the list to be fired. It puts the boss in a bind, sure, but might lead to a sort of "Alice's Restaurant" effect in which hypocrisy is confronted and exposed.
LEAN is about offshoring and outsourcing at a rate never seen before at IBM. For two years Big Blue has been ramping up its operations in India and China with what I have been told is the ultimate goal of laying off at least one American worker for every overseas hire. The BIG PLAN is to continue until at least half of Global Services, or about 150,000 workers, have been cut from the U.S. division. Last week's LEAN meetings were quite specifically to find and identify common and repetitive work now being done that could be automated or moved offshore, and to find work Global Services is doing that it should not be doing at all. This latter part is with the idea that once extraneous work is eliminated, it will be easier to move the rest offshore.
All this is supposed to happen by the end of 2007, by the way, at which point IBM will also freeze its U.S. pension plan.
The point of this has nothing to do with the work itself and everything to do with the price of IBM shares. Remove at least 100,000 heads, eliminate the long-term drag of a defined-benefit pension plan, and the price of IBM shares will soar. This is exactly the kind of story Wall Street loves to hear. Palmisano and his lieutenants will retire rich. And not long after that IBM's business will crash for reasons I explain below.
I am told there is a broad expectation at all levels of IBM familiar with the LEAN plan that it will cause huge problems for the company. Even the executives who support this campaign most strongly expect it to go down poorly with employees and customers, alike. But in the end they don't care, which shows that only the reaction of Wall Street matters anymore.
So we can expect round after round of layoffs, muted a bit -- as they were back in the Gerstner days -- by some of those same people being hired back as consultants at 75 percent of their former pay (50 percent of their former cost to the company since they won't be getting benefits). Throw in some overtime and it won't look bad on paper for the people, but it is also very temporary.
Taking a pure business school approach to this news, it probably doesn't look so bad for IBM. What's wrong with a multinational corporation moving work to its own overseas divisions? Squint hard enough and it can even look like good management. Global Services IS overweight and inefficient. Something has to be done and the company has already considered (and apparently rejected) a range of options, right up to putting Global Services on the auction block.
The problem with LEAN is that offshoring on this scale creates huge communications and logistical problems, doesn't generally improve customer relations, and won't save money for years without the parallel gutting of the pension plan.
And it is just plain mean.
This is a policy based on perception. Streamlining and downsizing look good to customers unless it is their project that is being chopped, because implicit in LEAN is that Global Services will be eliminating not just employees but customers, too -- customers whose contracts were underbid and whose projects may never be profitable for IBM. Maybe such axing of customers is necessary, probably it is inevitable, but it hardly has a ring of corporate honesty. Customers to be dropped haven't yet been notified, either.
It is especially disconcerting for an action of this scale to take place at a time when many companies (including IBM) are complaining about a shortage of technical workers to justify a proposed expansion of H1B and other guest worker visa programs. What's wrong with all those U.S. IBM engineers that they can't fill the local technical labor demand? They can't be ALL bad: after all, they were hired by IBM in the first place and retained for years.
What is unstated in this H1B aspect of the story is not that technical workers are unavailable but that CHEAP technical workers are unavailable. Lopping off half the technical staff, as Global Services is apparently about to do, will eliminate much of the company's traditional wisdom and corporate memory in an act that some people might label as age discrimination.
The worst part of all is that nobody at IBM I have talked to thinks this can or will help the business. It will probably just speed up the death spiral.
One internal rumor regarding LEAN was that the external consultancy hired to actually perform the analysis was discharged after their principal finding was that IBM is far too top heavy in the executive and management ranks. Not having heard the answer they thought they were paying for, the executives subsequently took ownership of LEAN to pursue the path they had already planned.
Once again, those guilty of plundering and wrecking a formerly great company will retire to a continued life of wealth and ease just about the time the remaining shell implodes.
I can confirm that the consultant (McKinsey) was fired, I can't confirm that telling the execs what they didn't want to hear was the cause of their dismissal.
Nevertheless, I've studied LEAN extensively and have been involved in it eyeballs deep and based on what I know of LEAN, this statement is probably true. Certainly, what is being passed for LEAN inside of IBM is not consistent with either the philosophies or processes of LEAN.
The venture is aimed at the corporate expense account set, which, after being rocked by corporate scandals and chastised for immoderate executive pay, is apparently ready to embrace conspicuous consumption again. (Editor's note: Apparently the "corporate expense account set" discussed here doesn't refer to 'normal' IBM employees who are subject to ridiculously low meal limits.) [...]
Batali's rationale for a six-figure sit-down: "It's the opportunity cost of us having to set aside time to create the environment," Batali added. "And this is geared to a market where $100,000 isn't a lot of money." [...]
The trio is already set to host a gathering for a select group of IBM executives later this week; Abou-Ganim is at work on a signature "big blue" cocktail. So if you're attending the computer giant's confab - or any of Magic, Martinis & Mario's other engagements - please do let me know how the food is.
I know, just ignore them. Sure wish Dice as well as other sites would offer a way to allow ignoring SPAM from such outfits.
I am tired of dealing with larger corporations with an HR department just finding something to do to justify their jobs when their is no position actually open. Rumor is that IBM has a hiring freeze and their HR is just collecting data for positions for when they can hire.
Not sure about proof. They place the ads, thousands of job seekers in the US respond, IBM does nothing with the responses. Proves to me that IBM is a scam. Then again you are probably right and it is just some weak government policy that allows them to get away with such. At least we both agree that it is SPAM.
I personally believe the H1B thesis. IBM will probably hire a lot of people in India, sure, but they won't be closing most of their major US facilities either. So I think they also want to replace a lot of people here in the US with cheaper H1Bs, and by advertising positions and not interviewing anyone they can claim there are no qualified US candidates.
Management is ruthless and clueless beyond belief. They systematically devalue their workforce through absurdly random and highly political evaluations. The managers have no technical background and are unable to understand the technical details or business dynamics of the projects they supposedly oversee.
There is a small exodus of people from our location. I guess the good news is that they are always looking to hire and it looks good on a resume, just don't plan on staying long. It isn't possible for morale to be lower.
They are looking to outsource every job that can be, and a lot that can't be too ("local" phone operators, IT support). They are getting ready to make further cuts this year even as they hire new (young, cheap) people.
The law states specifically that the employee is to have specialized knowledge of the company, but what does that mean? And how is it enforced? The answer is that it is not enforced. a Windows desktop support person could be deemed a specialist in some way -- maybe they have been set up with an account in the company's trouble ticket system. That would probably pass the test for specialized knowledge.
There is no limit or regulation to the number of L-1 visas or the types of positions that are filled in the US. There is no reporting in place, so that the public can obtain the specifics of the visas granted -- employer names, which positions have been filled, job descriptions, locations, compensation, etc. All are deemed unfit for public consumption. Maybe the US government is protecting us from learning any facts that we don't need to know.
What is being preached by our management...
IMHO - this is micro-management at its worst.
To hell with progress, keep adding layers of process to the mix, and lay off a few hundred folks in the meantime...welcome to lean phase 3. Just WAIT until you see phase 4 and 5...you ain't seen nothing yet..oh wait, you won't be able to see it because you'll be too busy filling out the paperwork in the unemployment line.
Later, IBM expanded the group of employees who had a choice to include those who were at least age 40 and had 10 years of service. The people in this second group are the second choicers. One difference between first choicers and second choicers is that the first group got the old medical retiree medical plan, while the second group was forced into the FHA plan.
For those that are complaining about the size of the settlement amount, there are several things you should realize.
The bulk of the changes to the pension plan were legal which meant that the reductions in the pensions that they caused could not be challenged in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit could only challenge what was illegal and that's where the age discrimination issues in the lawsuit came from.
The PCF plan was found to contain age discrimination and the $350 million settlement attempts to address the damages. For most people, the damages are rather small, resulting in the small settlement amounts.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court went against the employees on the larger part of the lawsuit, the $1.4 billion that had to do with the Cash Balance plan.
Kathi and the others deserve a lot of credit for taking on IBM. Although they could not restore our pensions to their original levels, the publicity generated by the lawsuit prevented (or delayed) many other corporations from jumping on the Cash Balance bandwagon and doing to their employees what IBM did to us. So the biggest beneficiaries of the IBM lawsuit may be the lucky employees of those other companies who did not end up in a C-B plan.
In my opinion, the one to blame in all this is IBM for giving the employees a screw job, albeit a mostly legal one.
I wish I could take it in a lump sum so I could go out and get really drunk one night and puke in a plastic bag and FedX it to Sam ! But at least this way I won't have to worry about the hang-over. Cheers!
I talked with my Financial Advisor to figure out, just how much money my "award" represents.
Here are the numbers: Joint 50% survivor is $7.22 a month or about $1250 placed as a single lump sum annuity for my benefit. Upon my death, my spouse will get 50% or $3.61 a month for the remainder of her life.
Had the Supreme Court appeal been successful on returning the $10 Billion that was stolen from the IBM DB Pension fund, figuring I was one of the 150,000, my share would have been $66,667 and if that amount had been placed in a lump sum joint life annuity with Joint 50% survivor, the amount would have been $386.57 a month and upon my death my spouse would receive $193.28 a month.
Well, I would have liked to have received $386.57 instead of $7.22 but until the American People take back their country from the Corporations, Corporate Congress, and Corporate President, I am happy to get the $7.22.
I am sure Randy McDonald and the band of thieves recognize that having to return $7.22 in lieu of paying $386.57 a month is worth the risk and cost of doing business plus all the political influence costs.
I also looked at the IBM Proxy of 2007 where most of the pages were devoted to Sam's pay. The formula is not easy to compute but the average IBMer with good math skills should be able to do it. If Sam's final "pay" is $24 Million according to the proxy his monthly retirement will be $1,200,000 a month or $39,452 a day. I think I know where the $10 Billion went.
I do not think I can add much to the accolades I have seen others post on this board already, so let me just say with some levity that I will remember you fondly, as I am now able to afford a few extra cocktails each month because of your efforts. I will drink a toast to you (often), and to all the other IBMers I have grown to respect over the years.
Thanks again, Dennis
Beware of annuals with lots of glossy four-color photos. They're produced by public relations advisers and meant to obfuscate or gloss over operating issues that led to mediocre results. Mega-cap operators like Microsoft deliver a chief executive's essay and then tack on the annual 10K, their report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Bill Gates doesn't have the time or patience to stroke shareholders. [...]
Google earned $3 billion last year on its way to maybe a $6 billion earnings rate a year out. IBM, which has functioned for almost a hundred years, earned $9.4 billion in 2006. Revenues, at $91 billion, stagnated year-over-year.
Google's revenues in 2006 shot up 75%. Its 10K was so fact-filled that it was used by the Goldman Sachs research team as the backbone of a very bullish report suggesting a $620-a-share valuation by year's end. I'll settle for $550, assuming some contraction in Google's price-earnings multiple below 30 times my 2008 earnings projection of $19 a share. [...]
I take exception to how IBM is employing its free cash flow. Cash dividends amounted to just $1.7 billion, with over $8 billion going for share buybacks. This is the old Exxon Mobil trick. Share buybacks favor management by enhancing the value of their options.
But Lee Conrad, national organizer for the employee group, the Alliance@IBM, a union group, said members had sent in paperwork issued by IBM internally showing a major downsizing nationally. Conrad said 1,315 people lost their jobs today.
A union representative called the cuts part of an ongoing shift of jobs overseas. Across the country, 1,315 workers were cut, according to Lee Conrad, national coordinator for the Alliance@IBM. [...]
All workers were part of the company's Integrated Technology Delivery organization, which is part of the Global Services division and provides services and support to IBM's outsourcing business operations such as data centers, Couture said.
Conrad said the move, which was expected, comes as IBM continues to shift work overseas. "IBM has been very clear they will be eliminating jobs in the United States and shifting jobs to India and China and other low-cost countries," Conrad said.
Reports of the layoffs initially came from Alliance@IBM, a union group with offices in Endicott. The union's information was based on comments received from members of the Alliance, generally IBM employees or contractors. Layoffs -- totaling 1,315 nationally -- also occurred in Southbury, Conn.; Boulder, Colo.; Lexington, Ky.; and a number of employees around the country who work from their homes.
IBM typically doesn’t announce layoff news, but a spokesperson for Big Blue told The Wall Street Journal and another New York newspaper that the reductions should not come as a surprise. In its last quarterly earnings report, he noted that IBM would be “putting in place a series of actions to address our U.S. cost base.” [...]
The layoffs at IBM come soon after Lenovo announced another big reduction of 300 or so of former IBMers from its ranks. Those folks transitioned to Lenovo when IBM sold off its PC division two years ago.
"Almost definitely" there will be more cuts, Conrad said. "Our sources have been pretty much right on." Offshoring, he said, appears to be the driver of the job losses.
Five workers were laid off at IBM's Hartford facility, which employs about 500 people, McWhorter said. Lee Conrad, national organizer for the Alliance@IBM, said data submitted by alliance members suggests more layoffs are coming and Southbury is likely to be among the sites "hit the hardest." [...]
Conrad said he expects IBM to shed between 8,000 and 10,000 jobs in the United States between now and midsummer. He said the Southbury facility could lose as much as 30 percent of its work force. [...]
"Basically, we've been seeing more and more of our work go to India," said Jim Mangi, a support technician for IBM and the alliance's national secretary. Mangi said he had no knowledge of the number of job cuts the company plans, either in Southbury or nationally, but that his communications with other alliance members indicate that Conrad's estimates are "a good bet."
In a Form 4 filed with the SEC Wednesday, Nicholas M. Donofrio reported he exercised the shares Tuesday for $51.16 apiece and then sold 98,046 of them the same day for $102.06 to $102.58 apiece
Industry sources added that IBM’s employee headcount at the new centre could well touch 1,700 to 2,000 employees by the middle of calendar 2009. IBM has been keen to scale up its existing application delivery capabilities out of Chennai through a fourth centre. The new application delivery facility will have the capacity to house 3,000 employees. IBM as well as long-term business partner TCS are presently undertaking fitout activity at the DLF IT Park premises where their new leased facilities will come up.
In other words, ask not for whom the closing bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Unfortunately, these days none of what Mr. Lazear said seems to be true. In the Bush years high profits haven’t led to high investment, and rising productivity hasn’t led to rising wages.
The second of those two disconnects has gotten a lot of attention because of its political consequences. The administration and its allies whine that they aren’t getting credit for a great economy, but because wages have been stagnant — the median worker’s earnings, adjusted for inflation, haven’t gone up at all since the current economic expansion began in 2001 — the economy feels anything but great to most Americans. [...]
Since President Bush took office, the combination of rising productivity and stagnant wages — workers are producing more, but they aren’t getting paid more — has led to a veritable profit gusher, with corporate profits more than doubling since 2000. Last year, profits as a share of national income were at the highest level ever recorded. [...]
Instead of investing in physical capital, many companies are using profits to buy back their own stock. And cynics suggest that the purpose of these buybacks is to produce a temporary rise in stock prices that increases the value of executives’ stock options, even if it’s against the long-term interests of investors.
It’s not a far-fetched idea. Researchers at the Federal Reserve have found evidence that company decisions about stock buybacks are strongly influenced by “agency conflicts,” a genteel term for self-dealing by corporate insiders. In the 1990s that kind of self-dealing often led to excessive investment, which at least left a tangible legacy behind. But today the self-interest of management may be standing in the way of productive investment. [...]
In any case, next time someone tells you that any action that might reduce corporate profits a bit — like actually enforcing health and safety regulations or making it easier for workers to organize — will reduce business investment, bear in mind that today’s record profits aren’t being invested. Instead, they’re being used to enrich executives and a few lucky stock owners.
The site and others like it are examples of an IT certification exam piracy market that is operating in plain sight. People looking to cheat on exams can obtain copies of them or simply offshore the work to so-called gunmen, who operate mostly in Asia and will take tests for clients at a cost of up to several thousand dollars.
Yes, the Dow did reach a record high last week. But the Commerce Department also reported that economic growth slowed to its weakest pace in four years. How can investors do so well while the real economy is doing so poorly? My supply-side friends don't have an answer, but I do.
It's because of two great decouplings that have occurred in recent years. First, the rest of the worlds' major economies have decoupled from the United States economy. China, India, Japan, and Europe are now such large markets they can grow briskly even as America slows.
Second, America's largest corporations have decoupled from the United States. Their overseas subsidiaries are booming even as their American operations stagnate. General Electric expects more than half its revenue this year to come from outside the United States for the first time. More than half of Boeing's new orders are from overseas. Ford is struggling in America but doing well in Europe.
In other words, the president's supply-side tax cuts are great for America's global investors, who have been investing their extra money around the world -- either in foreign companies or in global American-based ones.
But little or nothing is trickling down to average working Americans. Half of U.S. households do own some shares of stock, usually through their IRAs or 401-Ks. But the vast majority own less than $5,000 worth. Their equity is in their homes, whose values have slumped. They're paying far more for health insurance and fuel. And their wages haven't kept up.
Bottom line: The Bush tax cuts have delivered for Wall Street but done zilch for America's Main Streets.
Take United Airlines, for example. In July 1994, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the International Association of Machinists (IAM), and non-union employees at United “purchased” 55 percent of the company in the largest ESOP in history. They gave the company concessions valued at $5 billion over six years, including wage cuts of 12 to 15 percent. The stock itself could not be sold, and workers who quit prior to retirement paid heavy penalties and taxes.
And what did United’s “employee-owners” receive for these concessions? In the late 1990s, some workers received a few dividend payouts, ranging from a few pennies to a few hundred dollars. But what’s worse, the workers did not gain a majority voice in the company decision-making for their so-called majority ownership from 1994 to 2000
“Offshoring” or “Globalization” is “short term” cheap labor profit chasing. [...]
In the last five years, the USA employee headcount has remained flat at 127,000 while IBM India has grown to 55,000 with 100 Thousand employees projected in India by 2010 Sam, last year you announced $6 Billion would be spent to expand in India , the same as the total IBM research and Development in the US annually. [...]
Where is IBM going and what are the Long term effects on the USA of Offshoring? In 1981, a McKinsey sponsored book (Gerstner was a McKinsey employee) written by Tom Peters entitled Excellence that complimented IBM as being the most profitable and most admired Company. Shortly thereafter, IBM fell on hard times and Gerstner came to IBM to save it.
Recently, Fortune magazine ranked Companies as America’s most admired in eight categories that included Innovation, People Management, Social Responsibility, Use of Corporate Assets, Quality of Management, Financial Soundness, Long Term Investment, and Quality of products and service. They listed the Ten Best and Ten worst in each category.
If IBM’s success is hinging on Innovation for the last four years, where is the measured success? Why is it IBM did not make the Top Ten Most Admired in any Fortune magazine’s categories?
Some of the questions I have is “With the explosion of hiring in India, China, Brazil , Russia and others internationally” when is the payoff coming to the Shareholders?
I reviewed IBM’s stock performance at CBS Market Watch dot com and on page 119 of the Annual Report, and compared to the last four years of 65% growth of the S&P 500 and 55% growth of the Dow, IBM stock performance during the same period was only 12% growth.
The profits of “Offshoring” have not translated into shareholder value. [...]
Robert Gomory – Retired IBM Senior VP and President of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, said in an article in The Nation that “The US approach to Globalization must be transformed to defend the national interest. If nothing changes in how Globalization works – Americans will be increasingly exposed to downward pressures on incomes and living standards.
Gomory wants to re-create an understanding of the corporation’s obligations to society, the social perspective that flourished for a time in the last century but is now nearly extinct. The old idea was that the corporation was a trust, not only for shareholders but for the benefit of the country, the employees and the people who use the product.
“The attitude was the attitude I grew up on in IBM,” Gomory explains. “That the way we thought—good for the country, good for the people, good for the shareholders—and I hope we will get back to it…. We should measure corporations by their impact on all their constituencies.” [...]
I will conclude with comments by a fellow named Bob McDonald entitled “Crime of the Century”. He points out that treating employees poorly and taking pension dollars from them is a violation of long term commitments. Congratulations on the recent win in the Cooper case where the employees saw their pensions shrink by 50% and $10 Billion removed from the Pension fund
“There is a firm belief that employees are the critical factor in a company’s success or failure. When employees have the ability to add value to an organization they will be encouraged to do so when they are allowed to share in the value created."
The promise of a secure retirement is one way for a company to share the value of success created by an employee’s loyalty and hard work. Promises made to employees but reneged on for short-term benefit shows disrespect for those who are critical to a company’s success. When you reduce or eliminate the employee’s incentive to see the company succeed, the seeds for long-term failure have been planted.
As a descendent of one of the original co-founders of the CWA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Workers_of_America, back in the 1940's, I can only say, it's too little too late, not even the largest Union can help us now.....sorry wish this story had a different ending, but the truth of the matter is no one is safe. Help the next 'huge company' that lays off their workers, write to your lawmakers, President, Senators, etc.....(or better yet Oprah).......God bless us all -Union Brat-
Seems like the only way a profit can be made is sell something off at the end of the year or ship more jobs overseas. That is really inventive! I wonder just where IBM stands on the list of companies to work for? You sure don't hear anything about that anymore.
If you are notified that your job is to be cut and you have to train your replacement, walk out. 6 months pay and a little benefit isn't worth it. Be looking for a different and better job now, not later. Nobody needs IBM. As far as all of these jobs going overseas, what goes around, comes around. Those people will not work for peanuts either. Hasn't IBM already moved operations from countries because of increased wage demands (China)? I sincerely wish the remaining employees good luck. Remember, the only ones that can change IBM is you. -Roch_Retrd-
Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. A few sample posts follow:
I don’t blame the offshore workers – they are acting quite rationally – taking advantage of a short term arbitrage opportunity. That being said, there is a much more pervasive tendency for them to inflate and exaggerate their skills, and they still have a hard time feigning humility – I think someone needs to revisit the curriculum of those E-mail and Phone-manner etiquette courses. The turnover is also extraordinarily high. When you factor in the skill gaps, turnover, and client perception, this model doesn’t provide any lasting benefit.
The fault is with management, who continue to pour resources into a model that has outlived its long term value. You don't need to look any farther than the trend in the IBM market cap to see how effective our current strategy has been.
Question 1b: The customer screams at you for the lack of follow-through and inability to resolve the issue. Your response is:
If your reaction to d. is “why would I want to do that - it is not in the script”, then you are definitely at the head of your class.
Question 2: You have received a functional spec from a client in the U.S. You don’t understand what it is they need. What is the proper course of action?
Question 3: You are trying to debug some code, but you can not achieve the expected results. What do you do?
Hint: If you choose option C, then you will flunk immediately, since the entire Ponzi scheme rests on maintaining the mystique that engineers in your country are actually capable of doing anything but question 1 above.
You have obviously missed the entire point on where the value gap is. Passing a trumped up, heavily coached “national level competitive test” doesn’t mean anything when it comes to client service. You can teach a monkey to regurgitate on demand. I have yet to see a standardized test that can assess resourcefulness, ability to improvise, and an understanding of the context for what you are doing, let alone an intuitive understanding of relevance and the business value of what you are doing.
That is where the gap is, and the empirical evidence is in – the gap is huge.
The rest of IBM sells offshore labor, because they don't connect the resource mix to the contract. The backlash comes after the fact, and that is why renewal rates are down, as is the market cap of IBM, while we have been pursuing this suicidal race to the bottom of the labor pool. So the question is not about "why they aren't beating down MY door to save them from ruin", they are running away because IBM is beating down your door to stock up on product that clients will not accept.
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