Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iz.I.T.4.V.S.P. - follow-up

My last blog entry got a lot of attention and generated quite a few comments. While I won't address all the comments, I do appreciate the differing views and opinions.

I wanted to clarify a few things: Several people made the point that we need to shrink the size of IT. I don't disagree, but it doesn't really matter: if my job is to reduce the size of my team, then that's what I need to do whether or I agree or not. I expressed an opinion that it would be better for the people, and ultimately better for Intel, to offer VSP rather than going through a redeployment exercise. But it wasn't my decision, it was JJ's. He has access to information I do not, he may be trying achieve goals of which I'm not aware, or VSP may not have been an option for him. Or I could just be wrong. It's my opinion - nothing more.

A couple of people sent email asking what I think about JJ's handling of this situation. I think his communication to us internally was honest and came early. I think he told us what he could. He didn't seem any happier about laying off people than am I, or any of you are. It's unpleasant work, and he doesn't have the luxury of bitching about it on a blog. I don't really know JJ, but he seems to be a decent guy and I think he's a good CIO. He's handling the redeployment about as well as it can be handled, imo.

One commenter thinks I'm acting unethically:

Obviously you failed your BPX and Info Security training - this is stupid. You're the guy that ruins it for the rest of us managers (JJ & IT Staff is afraid to share anything with the rest of the organization because they fear seeing it end up on a web site or blog somewhere)

I haven't shared any information that is not public knowledge, with the exception of some personal observations and widely circulated rumors, neither of which are confidential. I didn't blog about this redeployment until Intel issued a press release with some specifics.

As far as IT staff sharing information, I don't see a real problem there. I get a lot of information from my management that I can't share, or choose not to share. Intel people were speaking to InformationWeek, ComputerWorld, the WSJ, the SJ Merc, the Oregonian, and other publications long before I started blogging. I can't imagine that JJ or other execs are having to be any more careful now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Best to get your Aretha version of Respect before reading the lyrics below. Note that VSP refers to Voluntary Separation Package-a severance package Intel has occasionally offered to employees to leave the company.

What we want
JJ you got it
What we need
Do you know that you got it?
All we're askin'
Is for a little voluntary separation (just a little bit)
Hey JJ (just a little bit) separation
(just a little bit) mister JJ (just a little bit)

We can't keep goin' too long, workin' hard
Ain't gonna do you wrong (oo) 'cause we don't wanna (oo)
All we're askin' (oo)
Is for a little voluntary sep when you redeploy (just a little bit)
JJ (just a little bit) when you redeploy (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)

(With apologies to Otis and Aretha.)

Most of you are aware that IT is going through another round of layoffs (called "redeployment" at Intel). This is primarily "skills based" redeployment, which means we are going through a skills assessment process for each employee, scoring them, comparing scores, and then determining which skills we can most afford to lose from our individual groups. It's unpleasant, painful work, and just not going well - at least not for my team. The skills assessment process is (imo) meant to ensure that we're legally defensible and identifying people objectively. And to the best of our ability I think it has been objective. But the results are ugly. No matter how we slice it, we will have to redeploy good people to hit our numbers. We're past the point of trimming the fat - we're now into the muscle of the organization.

Based on the scores it looks like a lot of technical women on my team would be impacted. While nobody has told me that I need to try and balance diversity with redeployments, I hate to see my group become dramatically less diverse as a result of these layoffs. But then I also wouldn't want to target white guys between 30-50 just because they happen to be white guys between 30-50. The bottom line when I look at the skills assessment scores for my team is that there are no good answers.

Another problem with skills based redeployment is that it doesn't address what work stops getting done. Once I decide which 10% (or 8% or 12%, no firm number yet) of my team I need to lose, I then need to determine which work I stop doing. It's rumored that the one lone VP on IT staff had decided not to use skills assessments for redeployment, but instead to pick one group in his org to redeploy. This a much better approach, as it saves his managers from going through this large effort and having to pick which people they fire, and nobody has to determine which work needs to stop being done. The work and the people all get cut at once. It also strikes me as a infinitely more fair and humane way to lay-off people. Rather than saying "Sorry, you weren't skilled enough to stay here" it's a luck of the draw situation. So kudos to Bill for having the balls to make this decision, if this is indeed what he's doing.

Another issue is that we have a lot of people who are hoping to be redeployed. They want to leave, but they want the severance package that comes with redeployment rather than just walking out empty handed. About 10% of my team have asked if they could be considered for redeployment. Unfortunately, they can't be, unless they happen to fall below the line in the skills assessment process. So let's say 10% of my team wants to leave, and I redeploy another 10% that want to stay. What I end up with is a 10% gap now, and another 10% who are very likely to leave Intel soon anyway, or at least leave IT. Either way I have to deal with ~20% turnover.

We need to lose some people. We have motivated people who really want to stay, who work hard, but will nonetheless get redeployed. We have burned-out, bitter, highly skilled people who want to leave and will do the bare minimum until they can find other jobs. Why would we not want to keep those who want to stay, and help those who want to leave by giving them a decent incentive to move on? I know Intel is worried about losing the wrong people if they offer VSP. But we're going to lose them anyway. Better to lose them now and preserve jobs for those who want to be here.

We need to offer VSP before this redeployment happens.