Monday, November 13, 2006

Intel's One Percent Solution

No doubt you have all heard the news of Intel's plans to let 1000 managers go from the company. As one of those managers I received the personal news by phone call in July.

If you are expecting a bitter rant about management nearsightedness or the loss of talented folks versus fixing the decision making processes at Intel, you will be disappointed. As I have noted in an earlier post I liked my job and working for Intel. I gave the seven years of my life and fully intended to give it another twenty or so more.

Once news of my impending departure spread, I received some very kind words of encouragement from friends and colleagues:

- Oh man. I’m sorry. You’re one of the good eggs.
- That is terrible news, not only for you and your family, but for those people who’ll remain after all the dust settles. We will miss your insight, vision, and contributions greatly here.
- A lot of my friends got tagged and it is a strange time as I feel they were very talented people as you are.
- I am very sorry to read that you are a victim of the ‘night of the long knives’. Doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to this purge. My immediate manager was discharged yesterday morning and is already gone. This action was executed just as the team he was brought in to lead last year, was finally becoming effective -- having a vision and a focus for the first time since I’ve been on it.
I’ve much appreciated your vision, insight and forbearance (especially) during my working career at Intel. You’ve certainly well role modeled the values of a successful entrepreneur and professional engineer (as well as those claimed by Intel). And we all have appreciated your willingness to mentor, counsel, and blog.
While I have no doubt that you will emerge from this event successful and better off than you have been recently with Intel, Intel has taken an unrealized substantial loss in its decision to do without your services. Certainly, looking back, if management had heeded your and other cellular leaders’ advice, they would not have found it necessary to sell off a money losing operation (because it would have been making money and in charge of its own destiny
- Arrhh, matey – sorry to hear the news. It’s been a pleasure to have plundered witcha’ as a fellow pirate. May your bounty chest remain full ‘o gold pieces and the wind always fill your sails.
- Intel will surely be missing out on a great manager. I’d have to say that in my 10 years, you were up there at the top in terms of being the best manager I had the pleasure working with. Not sure if I ever told you that.
- Sorry to hear about that. Doesn't make sense to me really given your dual role as soldier / captain.
- This is indeed very sad news! It was fun and great learning experience working with you.
- Not sure if I should congratulate you or send my condolences.
- Oh my god, that is really sad to hear. Don’t know what to say. We’ll definitely miss you.
- This is a really screwed up place for letting people like you go. I met one of your previous direct reports here... We both agreed you had a unique management style and vision. OK, you were not the easiest to work for (smile), but both agreed that you were the best Intel manager we ever had.

Kind words indeed, and made the news that I would be leaving Intel even more bittersweet.

Intel's decision to start with managers in its long term plan to get leaner and more agile was a smart move. I think it sends a message to the company's employees and shareholders that Paul Otellini, CEO, is serious about taking the company to the next level. From what I have seen inside the company, there was a great deal of personal anguish and hand-wringing by those that had to made the decisions about who was going to be asked to leave the company.

Despite being on the receiving end of the news, I don't envy the individuals that made these decisions. The majority of managers at Intel were once very successful individual contributors, so the company is losing some serious learning curve experience in the 1000 managers being let go this month. That said, the move opens up opportunities for new blood in the ranks and goes a long way in reducing the decision making bloat that Intel has been wrestling with in the last five years of rapid employee growth.

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