Mid-year, 2002: The merger is over and so am I: my company, whose name you can easily guess, but which now must be nameless [because they're afraid that something I might say here could affect their relationships with their customers... see "Item 9", below] has offered a retirement bonus package, and I have accepted it, and per the following....
"Item 9. Employee agrees that he/she will not make or publish, either orally or in writing, any disparaging statements regarding [company], or any of its affiliates, or in any way impede or interfere with the customer relationships of [company]"
Everything I've ever written about the merger is, to the best of my knowledge and experience, still true. Good luck to all.
If you desire any further commentary, anonymously and in all other ways off the record, so as to not jeopardize my standing with regard to the contract statement above, please email me at plusaf @ plusaf.com
Essentially no one outside the company still has any clue as to what the real problems were that hindered the company's success in the past, and I do not believe that the problems have been addressed since the merger.
Basically, there are some people at the company that you, if you're smart, you should never hire. Your career and/or your company's future can be at risk if you do not know who they are and you end up hiring them.
Feel free to make a deposit to my PayPal account using "plusaf @ plusaf.com" and I will be glad to provide any details under the conditions of anonymity and nondisclosure agreement. This is one of your only ways to find out who they are. Make a deposit. Donations are not deductable under any conditions I know of. Life's like that. But, like the commercials say, the benefits to you or your company or your career, in the long run, may be "priceless."
A few relevant short stories.
Back when the internet market bubble was peaking, raises couldn't keep up with salaries and options that the dot-coms were offering; people were leaving and morale was dropping.
A coffee-talk meeting was called by Manager "BR" to discuss the situation in the computer part of our business. At the meeting, he spoke encouragingly about our future, and how in times like this, "money wasn't everything", and we needed to focus on making our company a fun, rewarding, place to be, even if we couldn't match the titles and raises that some employees were being offered on the outside.
"DB," sitting next to me, asked me if she should stand up and ask "BR" whether the million-dollar-plus stock grant he'd recently received did, in any part, go towards the purchase of his shiny, new, Porsche convertible?
Just a few years later, newspapers, and message boards would discuss the "retention bonuses" and "pay for performance levels" for upper management....
déjà vu, all over again?
Another friend, "MD," and I had been having the proverbial argument about "to merge or not to merge." He was anti-merger, and I was pro-merger.
Then, one night, we asked each other how we reached our conclusions, and why. An interesting thing happened. [see [ref], below]. MD argued against merger, saying that if the merger did not go through, there would be a bright light focused on what he'd called the ongoing failures of upper management at [the company], and that he'd hoped that shining that light would have created a sweeping reorganization, eliminating the poor managers.
I was speechless.
"M, I'd exclaimed," "that's exactly the same reason that I'm pro-merger: the hope that layers and layers of poor managers which, I believe caused our lack of success over the past several decades (!) would be swept away by the same spotlight beam!
What's a "PermaFrost"?
In a few words, "someone more interested in their position and power than in the good of the Company."
Who are they? Are they just the upper management? Not at all.
PermaFrosts, as we'd come to call them, seemed to exist at every level of the company.
How do you recognize them?
One idea from me: a spreadsheet could replace a complex, expensive solution which a "hardware mentality" organization had implemented by creating a special firmware chip.
I guessed at $50-100k/year savings. The finance manager estimated the yearly savings at upwards of $20-40 Million !
I proposed the change to the Division-With-The-Hardware-Solution. They refused. "Can't be done any other way [than theirs]."
Current status: new product, summer of 2003, done using my model, reversing a 4-5-year history of pricing and product structure.
Thanks? No. Reward? Inside only: I was right. You're welcome for the idea.
Second idea: why should [that same PermaFrost Hardware Division] be responsible for all aspects of a product's life cycle? Wouldn't it make more sense for a separate organization to handle just end-of life pricing and availability decisions; decisions which directly affected the other division more than the PermaFrost Division ?
Many people agreed with my approach, but the "other division" refused to confront the PermaFrost Division, saying "it would be politically improper to try to take over their turf", "They'd never agree," etc., etc.
Wimps? Can you say "meow"?
Many years ago, Milton Friedman had the opportunity to discuss goals and economics with the Prime Minister of Israel. One was the lab-standard for Free-Market Capitalism; the other represented a seriously socialistic economic system. After several hours of discussion, Dr. Friedman turned to the Prime Minister, and remarked, "you know, we both have exactly the same goals for your people: economic self-sufficiency, personal safety and well-being, and so on.... it's just the directions to go to achieve it are exactly opposite."
From Strategic Investment by Dr. Kurt Richebächer
Stupid Capitalism Strikes Again [excerpt]:
"What we are really witnessing [is] not just an economic downturn. It is the bankruptcy of America's new capitalism that elevated creating shareholder value to the key ... measure of managerial performance. Eager to please the markets with spectacular actions and quick profit increases, corporate managers vigorously pursued two strategies --- cost cutting, and mergers and acquisitions. ...
As the poor profit figures since 1997 show, profits deteriorated even in the short run. Actually, there never was any chance that this capitalism would work as expected because mergers, acquisitions and cost cutting lack the key essential for increasing profits: They don't increase business revenues. To the extent that they curb new investment, which they do, they reduce profits. It is stupid capitalism."
IT is as much a cost center as is Finance. But each can work with business management to do all they can to solve problems that will help the business increase revenue and decrease costs. To focus solely on decreasing costs is to doom the future of the company. The two forces must be balanced, and every employee must work to balance both sides of the equation.