Saturday, August 18, 2007

C U When U Get There

IT has announced the work-from-home policy and site strategy we've been hearing about for the last year or so. There we no real surprises, and most of the rumors were accurate. There are preferred locations for IT work around the world, and everybody is expected to be in the office at least 4 days/week, with one day as a work-from-home day (with your manager's approval). Having higher numbers of IT people at specific sites makes a lot of sense. You get more density of people at a single location, likely working on similar projects.

The idea that everybody needs to be in office 4 days/week is raising a lot of questions. We haven't gotten a good explanation why someone who doesn't have any peers or internal customers in their office can't work from home most of the time. If you have a job where you're working by yourself or are always on the phone, how can it possibly make any difference where you sit? These situations are rare, but the new policy comes across as "because we said so" rather than something based on logic or reason. I get that allowing someone to work from home sets an expectation that they may always be able to do so. And it puts managers in the position of having to answer questions of "why her and not me?" and "what will it take for me to get a work-from-home job?" So from the perspective of consistency, this makes sense, but needs to be better communicated.

It's also kind of funny. Years ago when IT and eBG starting moving our jobs offshore, they told us that it didn't matter where people sat, and that since we were all connected we could work from anywhere. "This is the future" they said. Many of us were not convinced, and complained that by breaking up in-tact teams it would be more difficult to get work done. That not being able to solve problems with small, co-located work groups would slow us down. That the kind of brainstorming breakthroughs we take for granted when face-to-face would not occur on the phone. We were convinced that efficiency, team affinity, quality, and results would all suffer.

"Nonsense!" they said. "You guys are stuck in your old office-bound mentality. If you can't make this work, then you don't want this to work! In the Internet age people will be working from home, or on the road, or anywhere else they can get connected." But now the reasons they're giving for wanting everyone back in the office are exactly the reasons we gave for not waiting to send work offshore: lack of efficiency, poor teamwork, and bad results.

As we watch the slowly moving pendulum of irony swing back the other direction, you have to wonder if JJ and those on IT staff have any sense of how absurd this all seems.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

> As we watch the slowly moving pendulum of irony
> swing back the other direction, you have to
> wonder if JJ and those on IT have any sense of
> how absurd this all seems.

Be serious now. Every IT company dabbles
with this nonsense, and ping-pongs with each
replacement executive.

Intel IT Guy said...

Perhaps I was too poetically dramatic. No question that policies will change with a new CIO. I often tell people to just wait 2-3 years of don't like where IT is headed. But it still seems like backward movement to be pulling back on working from home policies in 2007. What's next, desktops rather than laptops for all non-managers?

Anonymous said...

Intel IT Guy's observation, poetic though it may be, is still spot on: It is absurd. And I think moving a large percentage of jobs offshore was more than dabbling. Another absurd rationale, was the "If we don't provide jobs there (other countries) then how can we sell there?" Well, I don't see too many Chinese-owned factories providing jobs in the States.
I see an unspoken purpose here. Make a new policy that applies to the US only and achieve significant reductions without declaring any layoffs. I offer the lack of a plan ensuring that projects are not being co-located across multiple geographies as evidence there may be something other than the stated rationale behind this plan.

former Intel Engineer said...

I see these comments a lot about forcing a work environment such that people just volunteerly leave. What is the logic behind this? If Intel needed to layoff more people to improve its bottom line, they would do it. Anyone that works there should know by now that no organization or person is unexpendable (just remember the 1000 managers that were let go about 1 year ago).

I know this is an IT blog, but what I find interesting is how little press there has been in regards to the Fab 11 shutdown and layoff in New Mexico.

Gordon said...

I can only assume the author was very agitated when posting, because the article desperately needs proofreading.

Intel IT Guy said...

FIE, good question about why Intel would want people to leave. But there's no question that IT wants people to leave. I can't say if one of the reasons for this action is to encourage people to leave, but high attrition has certainly been desirable in IT this year. Firing people is hard, painful work, and watching people leave is far easier than firing them.

Agree with you on the lack of press about the Fab 11 layoffs, both internal and external. Except for knowing some people in NM (who know people that were let go), I never would have heard about it.

Gordon, I just re-read my post and it was full of typos. I've corrected the ones I noticed - no doubt some are still there. I wasn't agitated when posting, just rushed. Could I interest you in doing some editing for me?

Anonymous said...

If the intent of reducing headcount is through attrition instead of firing people, why not just reduce the Focal budget for next year and make the distribution of raises be 0-3%? That way, only people who truly enjoy working at Intel ,and who are not motivated by money, will remain.

Anonymous said...

Trying to reduce headcount through attrition instead of firing low performing individuals is like a guy acting like a jerk with the hope that his girlfriend leaves him instead of breaking up with her. Counting on people to leave or break up with you is the easier thing to do but definitely not the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

A discussion forum for 'affected non IT-core-site ' workers:
http://intelincompetence.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to set my clock by the annual cull of IT employees and follow up reorgs needed to keep the IT business running. Looking from the outside in, IT is so self absorbed by internal organization mechanics its hard to see how any real IT work is actually getting done. Looking from the inside, IT could save 10-20% of resources by halting the endless cost cutting and reorganization efforts that have become the staple of so many project teams and think tanks. How ironic.

Intel IT Guy said...

That's a good point - it's quite costly to be in perpetual cutting, reorg, and cost saving mode. 10-20% seems like a fair estimate, but I guess it was higher last year when people were waiting for the cuts to come. This time the gap between the announcement of the cuts and the date for cuts is relatively short.

If IT needs to be competitive with some other companies, a lot more cutting needs to take place in the future.

Anonymous said...

"a lot more cutting needs to take place in the future". I think JJ agrees with you but I have no clue what the end goal actually is (I hope someone does). What is the optimal Intel IT org model? Based on last years cuts and follow up attrition we should already be in the range of best known IT businesses. Right now we seem to have action without vision. I'm sure this appeases Intel execs but it's a tiring cycle being in IT.

Anonymous said...

Feels like we're trying to become IBM circa 1985. I'm very comfortable telecommuting. Whenever I am in the office (currently about 50% of the time)most of the personal interactions are discussions around sports, current affairs and what we did last weekend. Sorry but I don't have time for all that social interaction. I have evening meetings lasting until 10pm, several nights a week. I often need to have confidential discussions and my direct work associates are spread globally. At times I'll drive to the office, spend the day on the phone and drive home without so much as a hello from anyone there. This may sound like venting (it is!) but I sense our top execs have no clue about the working schedules and demands on their workforce. WFH is one of the few benefits that helps maintain a work life balance in the face of 24x7 work related demands. I would happily spend 5 days a week in the office if I could leave work behind between 6pm and 8am the following day and never have to travel on weekends.

Anonymous said...

It's much easier to sneak up on someone and redeploy them if you know they are going to be in the office on any given day versus asking them to be there for some out of the ordinary face to face meeting. Good enough reason to get the workforce back in the rabbit hutches?

Anonymous said...

No offense to those who work remotely, but how do we know how many hours these folks really put in for work? I understand the saying "as long as you complete your work", but how much more productive could these people be if they were actually in the office (eg helping out others, critical issues coming up which require visual explanations, etc). My feeling about remote employees is that they probably put in less than the 8-10 hours most of us put in at the office, not to mention the intangible contributions that can only be accomplished face-to-face.

Anonymous said...

Working remotely entails a level of explicit trust between employee and manager and if it weren't there these people would be in the office, don't you think? And if people were not so productive, then why leave the option of being out of the office even one day a week? Seems to me that you are saying that Intel has to have "eyes on" every employee the entire time they are working to be productive. I disagree. Especially with things like IM and NetMeeting, you can do virtually anything, anywhere, anytime.

Anonymous said...

"how do we know how many hours these folks really put in for work". I think you are missing the point of how employees are managed at Intel. If employees were measured based on "hours worked" we would have a very different company. Some jobs require higher levels of physical interaction than others but the world trend is moving away from a traditional working environment and traditional 9-5 working days. There are undoubtedly challenges with performance management and it demands a goal driven management style, but when it works it can result in a much more flexible and dynamic corporation. As a result of technology advances todays workers are working many more hours than they were 20 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever realized how unproductive Netmeeting and IM are? Seriously, Netmeeting eats a good 10-15 minutes of every damn meeting I attend, "uh who just joined, the ip address is. . . "

Why they want people in the office is simple; Only the paranoid survive!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the good, like the cream, again, will continue to rise to the top. This is just one more little shuffle of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Intel does this so often, why is anyone really surprised? This won't be the answer, then there will be the next knee jerk over-reaction.

Anonymous said...

For those of you not having been Intel employees for more than 5-6 years let an old hand pass along that the current reorg topics have been around since at least the early 80's.

Management continues to believe there is a magic bullet out there which will replace competent leadership but it isn't so.

The steady procession of senior IT managers who don't have a clue continues unabated.

Intel senior management has always treated IT as a necessary evil and staffed it accordingly. No big surprise it continues to be mired in the same old bog year after miserable year.

Andrew said...
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