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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—December 26, 2015

  • LinkedIn:

    This Building Won't Save IBM: It Will Take People. By Peter E. Greulich, President, MBI Concepts Corporation. Excerpts: It is rather appropriate that this picture of the IBM Yorktown facility only has one car sitting in the parking lot. IBM's current executive leadership seems to believe that they don't need to retain their best people to be successful. This may be true, actually, but if IBM's board of directors succeeds count them lucky, not smart. And for the time being IBM has enough cash flow to wait a few more years on lady luck rather than buckling down and getting to work: the kind of hard work and school of hard knocks that Watson Sr. experienced during the Recession of 1921; or the kind of hard work that Watson Jr. expected and received in the 1960s, when the IBM team designed, built and sold the technology engine that still drives the lion share of IBM's profits a half century later--the mainframe. To move their corporation forward in the 2oth Century, these two men invested in people, products and processes.

    I have no doubt that the folks in Yorktown are working hard, but an optimized corporation requires an entire community of educated and enthusiastic employees at all levels. It takes strong two-way communication processes to improve teamwork between widely-dispersed and easily divergent international teams. And it takes the right sales and marketing people to keep selling hundreds of mundane products day in and day out to drive the revenue that produces profits to invest in critical, mind-blowing technologies. And it takes a thinking executive suite to invest those profits properly.

    But instead of investing wisely, IBM's 21st Century corner office has spent its profit dollars on paper--stock. Which although the stock buybacks are positioned as being in the shareholders' best interest, that hasn't really worked out so well providing a compound average growth rate of 3% since January 1, 2000. A decent S&P 500 index-based fund would have provided 4.2% with much less risk and volatility. Neither has it worked out well for IBM's customers that wait longer for product updates that are stripped of needed functionality in exchange for an inflating maintenance dollar. Nor has it worked out so well for IBM employees that now view their corporation as a pit stop on the employment highway to somewhere else. ...

    And IBM's acquisition growth model reinforces jettison-now mentalities. IBM rather than grooming turn-around leadership for its executive ranks promotes jettison-now management: if PC's aren't meeting expectations jettison it; if Intel servers aren't meeting expectations jettison it; if an internal product isn't performing just jettison it! No need to buckle down and get to work, just buy something that does work. IBM executives no longer understand that long-term, optimized profits are buried away in deep customer relationships. Long-term optimized profits won't be found in a financially-tuned, profit-driven, product portfolio. Shareholders shouldn't wait until IBM's next cash crunch before asking why IBM can't successfully evolve a "commodity" into the next new thing--like Apple. ...

    Does shareholder-first and -only work? Does me-first and -only, in the long run, work out for the best? Does a corporation's history, its culture and its people--its deep roots--matter more than anything else during difficult times?

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • Thank you Peter E. Greulich, your article is on the spot. I love IBM as visionaries and as a scientific front runner when it comes to innovative IT ideas. However IBM is a bad supplier, bad executer and bad listener when it comes to internal or external customers. If IBM was a start up, they would have gone bust 14 times in the last few years. . IBM’s perception machine is not working anymore and yes, it is all about people. They compare publicly humans to computing machines which does say it all doesn’t it? Think about it. What happened to the wild ducks that we loved?
    • Excellent article! The truth hits everybody one day and I believe this ship has to almost sink again (like in the early nineties) before getting better. Managers speak of integrity, authenticity etc. This is all talk - nothing more. People leave people, and the good ones who THINK go first. IBM is still not the worst employer and offers good training. I believe the lack of real, well educated and trained people managers is the root issue as you said Peter. To have clever accountants is good - to have a great, accountable leadership is better. But this is the sign of the time. Leaders are not accountable anymore.
    • I recently attended an IBM alumni event in my home town in Australia. I was staggered at the amount of talent in the room that was no longer at IBM. The other thing was, how well these people - many of whom left because of lack of opportunity or recognition of their talents and capabilities - have done since leaving IBM. There are some very good people at IBM and I hope for their sake that IBM can turn it around and reward their loyalty and effort.
    • IBM is now synonymous with outsourcing and offshoring. Clearly they don't value their talent.
    • Love it! This is so true! IBM has shed a lot of talent, and continues to. Talent naturally gravitates to where it is valued.
    • IBM's culture must change. It is the leader of an organization who sets that organization's culture. If the current IBM CEO can't bring about that change, then logic says that she must go, for the good of the company. IBM just cannot afford a culture that causes so many of its really good people to leave. IBM board, you need to change the role occupant now: find a new CEO. The ball, so to speak, is in your court.
    • It is amazing how IBM just buys and sheds like it does. Kind of like the 1980's years of the NY Yankees. Don't bother with a farm system to bring people up through the ranks, just go out and buy the talent. Respect for the Individual was something IBM could be proud of and really got lost along the way and employees can really feel it through constant right-sizing.
    • IBM is loosing a lot of talented people, because of outsourcing. Employee expertise and commitment is what previously helped to make IBM successful. Now, they would rather hire people in other countries where they get paid much less. They haven't learned that you get what you pay for. Many of these folks cannot think outside of the box. There is also large turnover in these countries, as people look for better opportunities in other technology companies. No matter how great an employee performs, being a U. S. employee overshadows anything else, resulting in the eventual career demise. They haven't learned that this is also chasing away customers who are no longer getting the same quality of service.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • “Channel Sales Manager”

      Former Employee — Channel Sales Manager in Boston, MA. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 5 years).

      Pros: Best end-to-end technology capabilities and long-term solutions strategy.

      Cons: Excellent sales training does not replace experience. Cross-functional promotions of marketing people to sales management, of direct sales to channel sales is an antiquated skills growth.

      Advice to Management: Value the experience of existing employees. Devote time to sales execution rather than daily sales cadence calls. Stop promoting mid-level sales management across disciplines. (Direct sales managers don't have a clue about channel sales strategy, yet they are continuously selected to manage far more experienced channel sales reps simply because of their cadence and spreadsheet skills).

    • “Management Bloated/Desperate”

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee in New York, NY. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Loved traveling as a F/T consultant, working in different places, meeting new people, and each assignment is never the same. Loved the constant change.

      Cons: When I started in 1999, there were only 6 levels between myself and the CEO. Today, there are 10 levels. You can imagine each level is more costly then the other.

      In the last 4 years, no raises, barely any bonuses, went to 44 hours/week; required to spend 40 hours of our own time training ourselves. (Class training denied unless for a specific client.) 401k match is only given at EOY, assuming you are still employed with them.

      High utilization (billing to the client) is required, without regard to your earned vacation. (Told "well you can just work more hours".) Last few years, often management was not able to provide two weeks if you were being rolled off a project earlier then estimated. Hard to keep up your utilization when you can't control when you'll be at a project.

      You have multiple managers to please (your personal manager and multiple client staff/managers). I never minded this part, but when IBM replaced a manager knowledgeable in HR issues with a manager who isn't experienced with HR issues, I felt cheated.

      Used to feel part of something good. Expectations became too unrealistic. From 1999 until approximately 2010, I was proud to be an IBMer. Since then, IBM seems to cater to the stockholders, then the product. Seems that successful companies put their product first, then project. If done correctly, people are rewarded.

      Advice to Management: 1) Stop with the at-a-boy club and reward what little loyal staff you have left. 2) Stop rewarding the CEO, who never made her numbers for 4.5 years, yet still received bonuses. 3) Focus on priorities: product, client, people.

    • “Delivery Project Executive”

      Current Employee — IBM Delivery Project Executive in Saskatoon, SK (Canada). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 3 years). Pros: Great benefits and very high autonomy. Flexible schedules and ability to work from home. Most peers are results driven so teams work very well together and are often high functioning. Cons: Extremely results-driven environment. Yes, you may not have to come into work most days but if you miss a deliverable or expectation there are stiff consequences. Not recommended for people who need structure or job security.
    • “Cool People”

      Current Employee — Marketing Manager in Moscow (Russia). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years). Pros: Nice work-life balance. Option to work from home office a couple of days per week. The most important are the clever people you work with. System of management is built the way that you never depends on decisions of one manager, responsibility is spread over. Cons: Salary is slightly below average. Everything is happening in USA; all other countries value sellers only. It's difficult to make career if you are not in sales. The only option is to move to completely different job role what gives you wide experience, but doesn't make you a deep specialist.
    • Good for building experience on CV”

      Current Employee — GTS ANZ in Sydney (Australia). Pros: Good place to gain experience in positions that are hard to come by where experience is necessary. A lot of smart and good people (those that are left onshore). Cons: Pay rises or band increases are a very rare thing in GTS ANZ right now. If you get an opportunity to gain experience in a higher up position, be aware that it's most likely that you're seen as a cheap resource and the position has probably come up due to a redundancy to cut costs...so don't expect more pay for working a higher position for a while. Too much red tape/bureaucracy. Not a lot of support. Advice to Management: How many more people can you cut? The onshore resources are left with an unsustainable work load. IBM no longer delivers quality. It's quantity over quality now. Your best talent is moving to competitors. This needs to be addressed in GTS.
    • “Data center technician”

      Current Employee — Data Center Technician in Chantilly, VA. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year). Pros: Hard to come by any pros. I like the people I work with but that's about it. Cons: Where to start? Well, the pay is well below average. The upper management sucks; they cancelled our Christmas party. Won't hire any help; employees are quitting left and right cause we are treated like crap. I could go on, but I don't want to look like the angry guy behind a computer. Advice to Management: We are people too.
    • “My experience”

      Current Employee — IAM Automation in Fridley, MN. I have been working at IBM (more than 10 years). Pros: Flexible work arrangements, lots of freedom to do and/or work the way I want. Good access to fellow employees for help/assistance when needed. Cons: Not a lot of direction from managers. Many managers are unaware of what their reports are responsible for. Lots of time re-engineering things that work and ignoring things that don't. Advice to Management: Need to have people in place that can look at and understand the big picture. Too many people just towing the line prevents this company from being nimble.
    • “My View Of IBM” Current Employee — Anonymous Employee. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: If you are willing to work hard, have the skills that are desired by IBM and you are not marked for a resource action, I have always found that there is many opportunities available at this large company.

      Cons: In my position, the biggest con is IBM's lack of work and life balance. I am expected to be on call 24x7 each and every day of the year as well as I must be reachable while on vacation. This is not an easy situation to live with, but is what I have chosen to do in order to remain employed.

      Advice to Management: Take a moment to pause and remember the original, core values that IBM was built on: excellence, customer service, and respect for the individual. As a US employee, I no longer see any respect for the individual as a core, company value and that is a shame.

    • “Incident Manager”

      Current Employee — Incident Manager in Hyderābād (India). I have been working at IBM (less than a year). Pros: Many opportunities in different verticals, but no release happens at the time of opportunity opens. Cons: Management is worst; policies on only papers, but new policies will be defined by manager. Career progression will happen only to the resource who is pet to manager.
    • “Stay Away — Unless You're Desperate”

      Former Employee — Financial Analyst in Winston-Salem, NC. I worked at IBM full-time (less than a year).

      Pros: You have the option of coming in between 7am-9am so it's impossible to be late to work, hopefully. You can skip your lunch and leave an hour early but I heard that may depend on if your manager likes you or not.

      Cons: IBM is contracted by Pepsi, so you are required to enter in all of your work that you completed at the end of the day and they act as if the world is coming to an end if you don't. It's pretty much a tracking device to see how productive you are. There is completely no organization. There have been so many re-orgs that everything is such a mess.

      Account officers seem to work against you but your relationship with them determines how successful you are in the position. Managers act like they're always in a bad mood and not very helpful and they are will LIE to your face like it's nothing.

      The morale is low and the employees there are disgruntled. Everyone is now hired as a contract worker. You get no vacation time and no benefits. Don't believe the story that you'll get hired on full-time after a full year. LIES!!! They'll just renew your contract. You're better off applying directly to Pepsi. Better culture and pay!

      Advice to Management: IBM, I have no words. I'm purely disappointed to have worked for a company with such a prestigious name, only to find out it's not worth the hype and definitely not worth a mention on my resume. This taught me the lesson of "the grass is not always greener on the other side"...the grass here was dead with no hope of coming back to life.

    • “Review”

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee in Bratislava (Slovakia). I worked at IBM full-time (more than 5 years). Pros: Multi-cultural environment, good networking, learned a lot at job, great opportunity for graduates to learn real life, possibility to grow. Cons: Hard to get anything approved, poor management decisions.
    • “IBM — Don't Do It — Unless you have nothing else; don't quit a good job to go to IBM unless there is no other option”

      Former Employee — Cloud Lab Services Manager in Remote, OR. I worked at IBM full-time (less than a year).

      Pros: They are paying crazy money for people to come back or start: band 9, $160K+. They may put Manager or Senior something or other in your "title".

      Cons: They have gotten rid of and still are getting rid of employees with complete disregard of skill, education, or contribution to the business. Promotions are not based on tangible metric, or contribution to the business. Bonuses are not based on tangible metric, or contribution to the business. There are hardly any bonuses in comparison to other companies. Someone in your org has to be a 3 (low rating)) even if you have only one person (and they are a wizard) under you.

      There are so many once "managers" now in place of technical staff and workers all they have are "IDEAS" and there is nobody left to do the work. Hiring, it is so hard to find the individuals that are needed to do the work because candidates have either worked there before and won't come back, or have heard the horror stories and won't come in. What you are hired to do likely won't be what you are doing when you get there.

      IBM is still trying to "DECIMATE" its own ranks to boost falling stock prices. If you go into IBM now you may be caught up in the reorg.

      Management has no idea what is going on and there has been no business planning done. If you invent something that has nothing to do with IBM in your off time, say highway road divots, It becomes IBM property because you work for IBM the other eight hours, five days a week and you will get nothing other than a $50 Best Buy card.

      Advice to Management: I have been back to IBM a few times as a "regular employee" and I can't tell you the disarray I have seen. I was hired to come in as a "manager" to start and build an organization based on my experience as a consultant. When I started work the folks in charge told me the work has changed; you are now to do administrative work and make marketing movies and there will be no consulting. When I told them that is not why I was hired I was told "well, it still says manager in your title in the company directory".

      Also the organizations have little or no business planning. And, the programs advertised are largely vaporware. My advice to management:

      • Plan each org as if it were a real business.
      • If you make a deal with a candidate, customer or colleague follow through.
      • You need to take into consideration that every good employee you steal a pension from, do a force reduction on, lay off, or fire is going to be a worker, admin. manager, CFO, CTO, CEO, someplace else so you need to rethink how IBM treats people because IBM is largely just a services business, and the former employees left with a foul blue taste in their mouth are likely not going to be IBM supporters.
      • Read and follow the IBM Business Conduct Guidelines (IBM ethics BS which most management seems to shelve).
      • Management enough with the IDEAS do some work!
      • Take inventory of what you have; there are multiple silos all cloned doing the same work or same type of work they need to be consolidated to prevent rework, bureaucracy, and overlap.
      • If you want employees to be inventive, make new things, and build efficiency you need to reward them properly, because not everyone will drink your "Koolaid" and, to get someone to step outside their regular job and do more work for you it's just human nature.
      • As I did, unless you have no other skill, jump ship now because the Titanic is going down. I could go on.
    • “Consultant”

      Former Employee — Consultant in New York, NY. Pros: Job good for resume building. Cons: Long hours/travel, bad review system. Advice to Management: Better rating system.
    • “Want to have a better manager? Get a dog!”

      Former Employee — SIEM Administrator in San Francisco, Heredia (Costa Rica). Pros: Great people!, Working from home, self development, career path. Cons: SIEM Costa Rican Managers are the worst of all the world. A lot of bureaucracy with "employees" that practically clean their shoes with their tongue. No recognition to employees for the excessive workload keeping business alive. The ones doing nothing are just gossiping all day long, women mainly. Advice to Management: Stop bureaucracy, hire people who have knowledge and not pretty women or friends. Get a complete training of management processes and warn on those who are not working. Use common sense to keep the best employees happy.
    • "Program Manager”

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee in Glendale, CA. Pros: Worked at IBM for 19 years in various positions. Learned structure and processes very well. It's like going to the military boot camp. Cons: Low pay, long hours and possibilities of advancement are extinct! People are laid off and not replaced. More work added to those left behind. No base pay increases or bonuses. Very demoralized staff. Advice to Management: All executives should stop taking bonuses and reward the people who are actually doing the work. There is a big disconnect between executive level management and the 1st-line employees.
    • “Software engineer/architect”

      Former Employee — Software Architect in Littleton, MA. Pros: Good benefits, if you've been there a long time. Cons: Soul-sucking lack of respect for employees. Advice to Management: Don't give yourselves bloated bonuses as a reward for the profits you made due to your cost-cutting measures, you greedy pigs. Understand that engineers are people and not cogs in your giant machine, and find a place for "productivity" on your spreadsheet. While your cost-cutting measures saved you 10% in salary, bonuses, and benefits to your engineers, it cost you 30-50% in productivity. Of course, because they are engineers, that lost productivity doesn't show up until one or two quarters later, when products are late or key features are dropped because some horribly demotivated engineer didn't make his deadlines.
    • “Senior Field Engineer on Main Frame Computers”

      Former Employee — Senior Field Engineer in Phila, PA. I worked at IBM (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Good pay and plenty of exposure to training and opportunity to use training and good pay for overtime effort.

      Cons: When mainframes were being replaced by PCs and PC networks IBM wanted to decrease my salary by $10 from $25 per hour to $15 per hour and little or not opportunity for overtime and I had an obligation for child support for 3 children to my ex-wife, so I had to leave IBM and get a job with a medical company as a field engineer on a medical CAT scanning equipment.

      Advice to Management: In fairness you should consider assisting an employee in finding a different job with IBM rather than just abruptly telling him his salary was being cut by $10 per hour.

    • “Senior consultant”

      Current Employee — Anonymous Employee in Bangalore (India).

      Pros: Work-life balance really depends on the project. Mostly good. Lot of avenues to learn. Plenty of artifacts to read and build cool things. Mostly learn independently with no restrictions. Excellent support is received, from peers across units.

      Cons: Heavily dependent on how your relationships are with immediate manager. A good relation translates to rating, bonus, band change, etc. Merit is often sidelined. Pretty easy to feel left out, since it is vast. Very political environment. Often the senior management is trying to score brownie points with their line ups, ignoring the ground reality of their team. Don't get carried away because of brand value. At the end of day it is just like any other company.

      Advice to Management: None. I can tell you from personal experience, management barely needs any advice from bottom up. All the changes, are always top down!

    • “Sales marketing”

      Former Employee — Marketing Manager in Austin, TX. Pros: Great company, best ever, love it. Cons: Love this place, no problems for me.
    • “Frustrating. IBM Ireland is by far the cheapest and meanest company I have had the misfortune to work for. Avoid.”

      Former Employee — Software Engineer. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 8 years).

      Pros: Good technical experience, a bit behind the curve but in general they catch up with the competition. I have had some nice workmates too.

      Cons: The promotion system is based on self promotion. This has, over time, meant any decent management will just leave, leaving a complete set of people who are completely out of their depth and only skilled at self promotion. I have had a string of managers whom I either never dealt with, or were completely incapable ongoing anything. I had one incompetent manager repeatedly defend a bullying team lead, as he had no confidence in getting anything done on his own back. Of course this system leaves you no other routes open. They are tied to this outdated ridiculous bell curve system. Which means each team has to carry a dead beat.

      And, promotions are rare and not based on ability. To get promote people morph into...well incompetent self promoters.

      Canteen is probably the worse in the developed world. Office space converted factory, no natural daylight at all. Depressing space. I only work from home 2 days a week to get out of that grim office. In short, a dreadful culture, no career track, and some not so great people to work with. Managed by threats. I'm extremely happy not to be working there anymore.

      Advice to Management: Get some back bone. Right is right and wrong is wrong. Weather it's small or big.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert (PDF). Stories this week include:
    • Alliance to House Ways and Means Committee Democrats: TPP will keep Drug Prices High
    • Iowa Medicaid Privatization Shaping up to be a Disaster – Washington Post
    • Defined Benefit Pensions Outperformed Defined Contribution Plans and IRAs
    • Tom Buffenbarger Retiring from IAM after Distinguished Career as President
    • Come to the Alliance’s 2016 Southern Regional Conference
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http://www.endicottalliance.org/thedisintegrationofemploymentinIBM.htm To all Alliance supporters, send and share the above link to the article "The disintegration of employment in IBM" far and wide. Put it on your FaceBook page; send it to newspapers; send it with comments to your political reps and send it to your co-workers. Help break the secrecy of IBM job cuts. Put some pressure on IBM. -Alliance-

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If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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