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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Swan Lake or 1812 Overture?

In response to Mike Rogoway's article:
 Intel's CFO: 'We hate layoffs,' but 'we're trying to deal with reality here' 
 in Silicon Forest:

if your choice in Tchaikovsky's work is "Swan Lake", mine is the "1812 Overture", a major musical piece, signifying the disastrous defeat of Napoleon's army during the Russian winter battle of 1812. This defeat, marked the beginning of the end for the French empire under Napoleon and ended up with Napoleon's removal from the thrown and political life.

Painting of Napoleon in 1806
(click on image to enlarge)

Bombastic PR declarations by Swan (newly appointed Intel Corp. CFO) do not bring music to my ears, neither do they bring nirvana or change the reality for Intel Corp. for the coming years. Neither can these statements bring about a significant prospect of business growth to the company following the aftermath of Intel Corp. CEO's Napoleonic style of management, which accelerated the internal crumbling of a once great company.

Ever since BK took over the helm at Intel, the number of vice presidents has increased and the execution failure rate continued to accelerate. I attribute this to the stupid way in which the company laid off older and experienced people from its ranks. This typical organizational crumbling syndrome becomes routine in large companies where members of the "agent class" (of VPs and above),  are  too busy infighting and protecting their annual bonuses while never reading their email, overriding and/or ignoring their own technical/professional staff's advice, and focus their time mostly around PR campaigns.

If the picture is not clear, a well functioning company is built like a brick wall. While each individual brick carries part of the load, all the bricks function together to stabilize the structure and fulfill the utilitarian function of the building. However, bricks are not enough to keep the wall stable over time. A binding agent like mortar, attaches the bricks together and combine the individual properties of all the bricks, forming a large and resilient structure.

Experienced (and therefor older) workers are like the mortar in the wall. They know where things came from and where they should go. They have a better ability to distinguish false positives and chose mitigation actions when less than predictable events are encountered. Through experience they are able to identify problems quickly and improvise, if necessary, adding a large degree of operational resilience to a sometimes too stiff an organization.

By removing such workers from its ranks, Intel Corp. may have saved the occasional buck; however, it clearly lost significant operational capabilities and a critical built-in self-healing potential that relies on human experience.

Damage to the port side is visible as the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain
(click on image to enlarge)

After a number of U.S. Navy destroyers collided with merchant ships in the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Navy fired the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Admiral Joseph Aucoin (https://news.usni.org/2017/08/22/u-s-7th-fleet-head-vice-adm-joseph-aucoin-removed-command-early-following-mccain-collision). This firing is an appropriate action for an organization that is intent on seeking positive ans swift improvement of its ability to function in an uncertain world. With so many operational failures, at Intel Corp. why is it that the Board of Directors does not fire its Napoleon? Are they waiting for the Siberian Winter?

--Dr. Flywheel