IBM Tales 1985-1992

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01.  After causing the biggest drop in stock value in IBM's history, CEO John Aker gets a multi-million $$$$$$$ Golden Parachute while 60,000+ hard working, low-level IBM employees get the shaft; some of those people lost their homes and more. George, in his 50's and a diabetic, lost his home, wife, savings, etc., now lives in a commune type apartment with college kids because that is all that he can afford. He spent two years in a government retraining program in order to get a job as a fumigation salesman at 1/3 his former pay.
IBM joke: How much DIRT does it take to bury IBM ?
...... one Aker     (one acre).

02.  Bob Benson, at a department meeting, bragged that four different managers had denied him a promotion to management because he was not qualified, and he just kept changing managers until he found one gullible enough to put him up for promotion. The minute Bob got promoted to management another man in Bobs department, who had a few days more seniority than Bob (but was equally dishonest and unqualified), jumped up and screamed "racism"; three days later he was also a manager.

03.  New manager Robert Benson of IBM FSD Manassas, Virginia tells his new department that they must work 10% overtime (without additional pay, of course) even though the department doesn't yet have any work to do. He said that they taught him this at the IBM managers school that he just attended. At the same time he tells his department that their only function is to get him promoted, dishonesty is ordered. Defect reports which go to upper management are falsified by omitting known major defects; when I made upper management aware of this omission I was transferred to another department and my new manager was ordered to "document my problem" and fire me (which I was not told). Management supports its managers even when they are dishonest.
  The new manager gave me a fair chance, as did his manager, which is called a 'second level' manager in IBM. In a re-organization the second-level manager became the manager of my department, and after a year or so he retired or left to start his own business.   He called everyone into his office individually to say goodbye. When he called me in he told me about the order to fire me, and said neither he nor the previous manager had ever had a problem with me or my work and that I could work for him anytime. He said he couldn't understand why I had been labeled as a troublemaker.

04.  A maintenance man (Manassas, Virginia) who was often impossible to find, was finally found, at another employees house, in bed with that mans wife. His manager fired him, but the site manager gave him his job back; the job that he had not even been doing !

05.  IBM built one of the worlds best chip-manufacturing buildings in Manassas, Virginia. It was earthquake proof, vibration proof, etc. IBM then left it empty for years, even as RAM chip prices went to all-time highs and foreign manufacturers made millions of dollars making simple chips that could easily have been made at this plant.

06.  Why does IBM need to cut costs? (refer to #01) and
Why is IBM management considered the best? IBM spent millions of dollars shipping Manassas people to Vermont to train on an IC-chip fabrication line, then spent millions shipping the machines to Virginia. It took one year to get the line up and running and producing good chips, at which time IBM promptly shut it down and shipped the machines back to Vermont!

07.  Why does IBM have too many employees?
IBM takes highly trained, temporarily un-needed, assembly workers, gives them some "retraining" and moves them into other areas (office work, programmers, etc.). Some adapt, others are not able to adapt, not able to do productive work, and are often extremely miserable and unhappy. When IBM needs skilled workers on the manufacturing floor again, they refuse to "demote" these workers, instead they hire and train new workers. As this cycle repeats, IBM offices become overloaded with unhappy, stressed-out misfits whose fate depends on the kindness of their manager; many are forced out of the company, even though they were great workers on the manufacturing floor and would gladly go back there.

08.  A High-school graduate, re-trained former manufacturing-floor worker, was sharing an office with a college graduate programmer. The high-school graduate was making $45K, the college grad $35K; the high-school grad had been with IBM for more years. The HS grad was complaining about the cut in pay he took when he got moved from the manufacturing floor to the office; with shift differential and overtime he had made between $70K and $100K each year for the previous 3 years and had bought a house, cash. The college grad requested a job on the manufacturing floor and was denied because he was over-qualified.

09.  IBM used trailers to increase their office space in Owego, New York. It was so cold in those trailers the first year that the toilet bowls froze and broke. Even after seven years of upgrades I wore, in the office, long underwear, a hat, and gloves with the fingertips cut off so that I could type.   My boss was not happy but he was a fair man and tolerated me.

10.  IBM had 14 different payroll programs at 14 different sites, supported by 14 different teams of programmers. Someone who learned about this lunacy submitted a suggestion that one payroll program supported by one team of programmers would save the company money. IBM rewarded the person making the suggestion, but noone was ever held responsible for allowing this stupidity to develop and continue for decades;   IBM management is NEVER held accountable for its actions, no matter how stupid.

11.  IBM stated (early 1990's) that its corporate goal was to make the most profit in the industry. Not to do anything well, or be good at anything, only to make the most profit. As an employee I definitely found that insulting, and how would a customer feel about that?

12.  Why, in surveys, is IBM management considered the best? Another IBM management directive at that time was "DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF IT IS WRONG" because management was refusing to make necessary business decisions. This particularly confuses me because why should management fear making a decision when they are not held accountable for their blunders anyway? Not to mention that sometimes doing nothing is the correct course of action.

13.  Owego, NY and Manassas, VA were both part of Federal Systems Division (FSD). They both wanted a defect tracking system, but Owego worked more at the component level and Manassas worked more at the system level and Manassas was in more of a hurry than Owego.   Management refused to make a decision, so a panel of unqualified low-level nobodys was assembled to make the big decision; they decided that each facility would individually expend time and effort to develop their own defect tracking systems. (Think Cost-Effectiveness). Each site assembled a huge team of programmers and spent years developing, modifying and supporting their own systems. The Owego system did include a site flag and other fields requested by Manassas because they expected both sites to use the same system. Management did not care.

14.  Owego, NY had a near-genius engineer, to whom they assigned various boring tasks. This guy was arrogant, he would tell other engineers how stupid they were. IBM transferred him to another department where the manager documented everything, such as how long he took lunch, how late he was coming in, breaks, etc. and eventually he was fired. This guy was a major asset who could have done a lot of good work for IBM, but IBM management was simply too incompetent to manage him properly.

15.  How to get into IBM management:
A. Make up a project,
B. Convince some gullible manager that this project will benefit him,
C. Work 80 hours a week for six months on the project,
D. The completed project only has to work for one hour or so, just long enough to demonstrate it. Results: you get promoted to management and get a huge pay raise. Should you "fail" in management you become a "technical lead" in some department but you *** KEEP *** that big pay raise. Upon promotion to management your project was assigned to someone else for maintenance; this person did not wish to work 80 hours a week to hold a house of cards together for a manager who actually had no real interest in it anyway, so the guy who inherited the project looks incompetent, and the guy who did the bad work gets a big raise and no stigma of failure. What a system, huh?

16.  Series-1 manufacturing floor computer: The Series-1 computer resides on the manufacturing floor, collects data from the manufacturing process, and feeds that data to the mainframe. It was under control of a local (non I.S.) department with the usual bad management and high turnover. When the database structure changed on the mainframe and the Series-1 program needed to be updated it was discovered that not only had all the source code been lost but also the object code, and any backups ever made; only the compiled code remained. So the Series-1 was left as-is, dumping numeric data into fields which were now character on the mainframe, and the record lengths no longer matched. Imagine writing programs to extract information from this database!

17.  The internal IBM propaganda machine spends millions of $$$ brainwashing its own employees.
If Russia had hired IBM's propaganda machine, it would still be the communist U.S.S.R.

18.  It was a security violation to leave your desk unlocked at night; security would check to see if your desk was locked and leave a security violation on your desk and one for your manager if your desk was not locked; three of these and you got fired. One lady locked her desk and got a security violation anyway: security pulled on her drawer so hard that they broke the lock mechanism beyond repair and she had to get a new desk. IBM would NOT rescind the security violation despite the evidence.

19.  Old-timers would save all their vacation for retirement. My boss had over 200 days of vacation saved, he retired on 1 Jan, got several months of full pay and extended his work-history an additional year which further increased his retirement pay. Management was too incompetent to do anything about this, indeed, they were taking full advantage of it also. So eventually they made new rules which smashed down on the new employees, the old guys who caused the problem got 'grandfathered'. New employees could save only 2 weeks of vacation, after that it was use it or lose it. But we were so understaffed and overworked that I had to work Saturday and Sunday in order to take Monday off as a vacation day. That is worse than getting no vacation at all! Also, if you wanted to save up more than two weeks of vacation for some major trip, you could not.

20.  Around 1990-1991, IBM FSD lost a huge contract bid; internal memos later cited "IBM arrogance" as the decisive factor in the loss.

21.  Secretaries are a line item in the budget; by cutting secretaries you can show a cost savings, so IBM layed-off secretaires because IBM decided that the managers could use the word processing software on their computers. IBM cannot capture the lost time, work, productivity, or quality of work of managers trying to do (badly) the work of their secretary in addition to their own work; so therefore IBM "SAVED" money. Managers make four or five times as much as secretaries, which means it cost IBM more than five times as much to type each letter, but again, if you don't track the cost, it doesn't exist.

22.  IBM employees had been led to believe that they had employment for life; when the big layoff hit the Federal Systems Division in Owego, NY, small riots were reported with people throwing furniture out of windows. IBM is the only business in that rural area, getting laid off means losing your home as there are no other jobs in that area. And when so many people get laid off at once housing values plummet, real-estate becomes worth-less and people lost all their savings in addition to losing their homes and their jobs.

 IBM - I've Been Moved
 IBM - I'm Badly Managed
 IBM - Itty Bitty Minds
 IBM - Infernal Bureaucratic Mayhem
 IBM - Imbeciles Become Managers
 (and about 99 others that I can't remember, but George can (where are you George?)).

And this is just the stuff that one guy, with a bad memory and no interest in this stuff anyway, experienced or heard about.

IBM FSD was later sold, more than once maybe, I did not keep track.
I have been told that FSD did not reflect the management of other IBM divisions.

Did you read the Dilbert comic strips ?
I was certain that the author had worked at IBM.
He did not.   Seems that other big corporations operate the same way.
How sad.

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