Layoff Report Day 8

The rumors have been flying over the past few days, as various organizations within the company have meetings to discuss the impending doom. The latest facts that I’ve heard, for my organization, is that notifications will take place between November 11th and November 13th, and that people will be allowed to stay until November 14th, though network access will be disabled.

In other news, I have to take issue with one of the arguments put forth in a case on displaying identification to police in Nevada.

The Nevada Supreme Court had said the case had implications for the government’s terrorism fight. “We are at war against enemies who operate with concealed identities and the dangers we face as a nation are unparalleled,” wrote Chief Justice Cliff Young.

Personally, I don’t quite see the connection between having to identify yourself to police and terrorism. Essentially, if someone is engaged in an activity considered illegal, or suspected of enganging in such an activity, then I would suspect grounds for detainment would already exist. On the other hand, simply being uncooperative with police strikes me as rude, certainly, but not criminal. And stating that you’re only targeting “suspicious” people is a low threshold, as many people can be engaged in activities which outsiders may deem as such in an unfamiliar context, will the activities are in truth very innocent.

And finally, in BusinessWeek’s latest issue, the writers of the cover story on Dell, in some ways, miss the point. They argue that Dell also faces an innovation dilemma. Its penny-pinching ways leave little room for investments in product development and future technologies, especially compared with rivals.

Dell’s focus is specifically not to innovate in the traditional sense. The reason that Dell partners so closely with companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Lexmark is to leverage their R&D and their innovation. When you consider that Dell simply buys disparate yet (primarily) standardized parts, assembles them in to a finished product, and ships them to customers, it becomes clear how there is little need for them to invest heavily in R&D. The maker of the parts Dell is purchasing has already done this, and the standards in the technology industry ensure that different parts will function together.

Oh, there is one last thing. I love how a company’s stock price is seen as the final arbiter of a company’s success. Take this line: Qwest stock is down 14% since Notebaert arrived on June 16, 2002, compared with a 5% decline for the Standard & Poor’s Telecom Services Index. Given the rationality of the stock markets (just look at any chart of the Nasdaq that runs from 1997 to 2002), it would be facetious of me to question any statements such as the one above. The stock is underperforming! The company MUST be terrible, and we SHOULD just throw the bum out who’s running it. He’s been there since June, 2002, so that’s sixteen months! Sixteen MONTHS! It should have doubled by now. Tripled. Outperformed by 500%!

The belief in building lasting value in enterprises does not appear to be shared by the writers and editors at BusinessWeek, and on Wall Street as well, and I find that more disappointing than words can convey. Building a strong enterprise is a long-term process, and one that short term fluctuations in stock price should neither affect nor be considered meaningful. And yet the extreme shortsightedness of BusinessWeek and Wall Street, with such an intense focus on short term swings, obscures this truth and emphasizes the short term at the expense of actually having vision. Especially since vision usually has a cost.


BBC’s MI-5

I had the good fortune to finally watch an episode of MI-5, a British spy drama. For the first bit I found myself a bit skeptical, but in the end I was thoroughly engrossed. The story was fairly engaging, and despite entering the series on the 5th episode, I’m looking forward to watching some additional ones in the future. This definitely earns a gold star on my ratings scale.

All quiet on the Merck front. Tomorrow our CIO has a face-to-face meeting, so perhaps some details will be released then.


Layoff Report Day 5

Today some kinda’ details o’ da damn severance package wuz announced.
Employees in Grades 7 through 9 will receive foe weeks pay plus deuce weeks 4
aich yaih’ o’ service, in addishun t’ benefits continuashun. All told, dis
would gimme about 8 weeks pay post da damn terminashun date, dependin’ on how
they count mah current half-yaih’. Wank, wank. O’ course, if I still have
some 9-to-5, den dair be no worries anyway.

In otha’ bullshit, da President o’ M.N. Wank, wank.D. has decided dat he would
likes t’ rudda’ our mission away from havin’ some drinkin’ focus t’ mo’ o’ some
service-oriented focus. I think he be been eitha’ hittin’ da damn bottle too
rock o’ on some kinda’ badass quality candy.

Final-like, Da Washington Post has mo’ on da lies by da Bush Administrashun dat
Iraq wuz even close t’ havin’ no real form o’ some nuclaih’ waiposn rehab.

Translation courtesey of the Jive Translator.


D. Rummie Deconstructed

Rummie’s memo on the progress in the war on terror and Iraq, displays a level of candor typically unassociated with this Administration.

Strike 1: We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

Strike 2: Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Strike 3: Is our current situation such that “the harder we work, the behinder we get”?

Rummie plainly feels, and is willing to discuss internally, the truth that despite any military might the U.S. has, all the spin in the world doesn’t change the fact that we’re not winning the war on terror and we’re not addressing some of the core issues. In fact, his memo argues that the U.S. military, in its current form, isn’t even properly equiped to do this!

Slate takes much the same viewpoint, with the conclusion that Rumsfeld’s memo makes plain that our top officials suffer no illusions about the war. They are trying only to sell illusions to the rest of us. The leaking of Rumsfeld’s memo puts a tailspin on the sales pitch.


Layoff Watch Day 3

No report.

In other news, the police made an arrest in the murder of the young woman that was discovered down the street.


Layoff Watch Day 2

Layoff Watch Day 2
The cynical jokes continued apace as everyone waits in anticipation of whether they’ll still have a job come the end of November. These ranged from misinterpretations of “If I see you next week…” to others darker in nature. Truthfully the whole experience is something akin to a Survivor episode, except upper management is the one to vote you out. It’s precisely that unknown quality that makes this so difficult. While I would like to believe I have nothing to worry about, but like the New York lotto, “Hey, you ever know.”

I had an opportunity to talk to my manager for the first time since the announcement Wednesday, and though he had little to add, it was reassuring. While he has no idea what’s going on, he’s taking a more optimistic stance on the outcome of the layoffs. Hopefully he’ll be proven right.

The most interesting rumor of the day was that the IS organization is attempting to perform all their separations in one batch, rather than dragging out the process and the uncertainity longer than necessary. While I will commend them for this, at least, the potentially three week time lag has slowed any work to a crawl. Next week is, according to some timelines I have heard, the major decision week where most of the specifics will be determined, so the rumor mill should be spinning in overtime. Certainly, I hope so, as it provides a distraction from the actual work we’re supposed to be doing.


Layoff Watch Day 1

Today I thought I would innaugurate the Layoff Watch, as a space where I can chronicle the rumors, the facts, the morale and the odd ways people react to the uncertainity surrounding the question “Will my access card and network login still work tomorrow morning?”

Today brought official word that the IS organization would be cutting approximately 150 positions, as was known yesterday, out of approximately 2500 worldwide. The odds were basically right around what was expected. It also brought official word that some middle management, not unexpectedly, might be on the chopping block as well, and also demonstrated that my immediate management team is now looking a bit on the haggard side. My director, usually someone very much on top of the goings-on, had to silently repeat a few questions to himself at our staff meeting this morning, when he’s usually quite on the ball. Not the most positive sign, and in fact, everyone I talked to in the meeting felt less confident after it was over.

Among the many items stated at many of these meetings is that the precise numbers and people targeted for “elimination” is not really known and will be determined over the next two weeks. Granted, everyone seems to insist that such a list is already in existence, and that they’re certainly on it. If this is true, I really do have nothing to worry about, as that would easily take care of the 150 people being targeted worldwide. I wouldn’t want to have to pick up the slack alone, though.

Morale is low, but sarcasm is high. Sometimes during the day the office has taken on a kind of “Survivor”-esque theme, with everyone whispering who they hope management votes off the premises in their place.

Oh, and of course, almost nothing productive happened. As if that’s a surprise.


A Bad Day for Merck

Today was not a good day to be a Merck employee. The company announced less than expected earnings for the most recent quarter and layoffs of 4,400 positions worldwide, including 1200 temporary and 3200 permanent. This is a company that prefers not to take these kinds of measures, so it is disappointing to see them reach such a situation. Morale, to be honest, was extremely low today as more people spent their day trying to come up with some likelihood of being in one of those 4,400 positions. The one positive I’ve noticed is that management has indicated this means positions, of which some are vacant as employees have moved on but the position has remained available. This actually reduces the number of people being removed, such as in one organization, where about 25% of the positions were actually vacant. The IS organization itself is budgeted for around 150 positions, which appears to be in line with many of the other organizations.

Coincidentally, tonight as also the night of an RAA dorm storm, where alumni return to speak to students in their residence halls about life after Rutgers, careers, and any other topics students express a curiosity about. So as I wonder about my own immediate future, I also had the pleasure of discussing the future with current Rutgers students. All in all, it was a successful program and while the students were more shy than in the other dorm storm I’ve attended, we were relatively pleased.


Ho Hum

Yesterday was hectic, with work, followed by a really dynamic RAA Memership Growth committee meeting and, as always, Monday Night Drinking. MND was a good time, where I had the opportunity to suck at darts and then redeem myself on the pool table. The bar was a busy, smallish place filled with smoke and, as the minutes reflect, had bars on the window. The nicest aspect was that people were still coming and going as late as midnight when we left.

Today at work paranoia over layoffs reached new heights, with more than one person expressing the opinion that there would be an announcement tomorrow morning during the earnings conference call. All I can say is we shall see what we see tomorrow. Given the choice, I’d rather still be employed, but how much control do I have anyway?


Homecoming Weekend

Saturday was homecoming at Rutgers, so I watched Rutgers lose badly to Pittsburgh in the first half, followed by a respectable recovery in the second half of the game to only lose by a little. This was followed by dinner with Austin and Mark in New Brunswick and preceded by wandering amongst the tailgaters meeting with a few friends.

Some progress was made on the site redesign this weekend, as I actually put together an interface that I liked and look forward to using. I was too busy reading a book I really wanted to finish before the onslaught of new magazines arrived (FOUR in the past three days!) to do much more than that, and this week with RAA events and potentially a quick FOP Java project to throw together for a few hundred bucks, I’ll likely not have much time to work on it.