Monday, April 16, 2007

In the news II

Earnings come out tomorrow, and assuming I'm not still working on my taxes, I'll get a summary posted. Someone commented on the previous post about an article about focal in the Oregonian. (I've been trying to comment on the blog discussion about the post for the past two weeks but I can't get logged in, so I'll do it here.) Overall a good article. It's difficult to explain what focal is and how it works to people who haven't gone through it. I think it tends to sound a little more Draconian than it really is. But there is a mandate to identify the bottom of the pack (relative to the rest) and give them a strong message every year.

One correction I would make to the article is the statement that "the bottom ratings ensure that a certain number of employees are pushed out." That's not quite accurate. The goal is to ensure that the bottom employees get a strong performance message and know they have to step it up. If managers are doing their jobs (which is not always the case) an employee should know they have a performance problem before their focal review.

In preparation for earnings, a couple of more things to ponder. Tom's Hardware, a site that has not been historically Intel friendly, published an article about Intel gaining back market share from AMD.

...AMD has seen a dramatic drop in its U.S. market share for desktop retail sales.

We'll have to see how Intel positions this in the earnings announcement, but regardless this is good news for Intel. And it doesn't seem unexpected given the performance and popularity of Intel's new processors. Last week AMD also announced their second waring for earnings this quarter. I'm not happy that AMD is having problems, but I am happy that the market is embracing Intel's products. The competition between Intel and AMD is great for consumers.


Anonymous said...

I joined Intel 4 years ago after working for other companies which gave much higher salaries for engineers. Because my, and others who joined Intel recently, salaries are higher than my Intel-veteran peers with similar experience levels, the best Focal ratings we have been able to receive is "Successful", regardless of our performance. Intel IT Guy, you are definately right about working your butt off to get near the top will often result in frustration. So, I'm pretty sure the Focal Rankings are affected by your current compensation in comparison with your peers as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree that focal is not as bad as that article made it sound.

Talking to some friends, though, I think this year might have been a bit more difficult for some people because of the reorganization during the last year. Some people got transferred to a new group at the end of the summer and ended up with a new manager, new co-workers etc. To add insult to injury, one of my friend's former managers and his co-worker in the old group go fired as well and his new manager went on sabbatical, so that he basically couldn't get any 360 from them and then ended up under-performing in a new group that didn't work on anything even closely related to what he was doing before. You can guess the surprise when he received his focal.

In some groups, too, focal is a good moment to stab a co-worker you don't like or who you see as competition in the back. Intel's culture might foster competition, but sometimes to the extend where it drives good people to look for more humane company to work for.

Anonymous said...

After more years at Intel than I care to admit. I must say that focal is much worse than the article says. Focal pushes employees to do what will look good at focal, not what's good for the company. It erodes team work and frankly, it doesn't measure performance, it measures your political worth and network. Focal measurements are at best subjective and at the worst purely political. As proof I offer the many comments about, "well if you have a good manager..." If focal worked, it would measure real things and not just opinons or your manager's ability to work the system. Face it, Dr. Deming was right decades ago about the practice. You do not get what's best for the company, you get what's best for the person's focal. And finally, the focal process plays into the hands of manipulators who are good at beating the system, but not at actually producing anything. Oh, and I got a "typical" review this year, so don't bother with the sour grapes comments.

Anonymous said...

I think focal is probably one of the most counter productive aspects of Intel culture. I still recall my thoughts on first joining the company, wondering how this system could possibly foster trust and teamwork in a dynamic hi-tech company. Many years later, I know it just can't deliver those things and creates a very fundamental motivation to care only about yourself. Scrambling to take credit isn't really the point when something great was achieved. Success is almost never an individual achievement, but managers are forced to think about who was most responsible for a success or failure. Enforcing distributions is just a further erosion of trust, more specifically on managers who should be trusted to do appropriate performance managament irrespective of any perceived natural distribution.