Monthly Archives: June 2013

Re-re-re-re-replanning Alcatel-Lucent

Last week, Michel Combes, the new CEO at ALU announced his plan (of all things “The Shift Plan”) for saving the company and returning it to positive cashflow in the next 2.5 years. Now, where did I hear this before? Oh, that’s right every prior CEO since the Alcatel and Lucent merger/acquisition (and a few of those more than once). What’s different about this plan? From the outside, it’s hard to know… But I can identify some of the things that are similar to all the prior plans:

  • Focus the portfolio and R&D spending on ‘next-gen’ stuff
  • Get out of certain non-profitable markets
  • Reduce SG&A via layoffs
  • Sell (or license) some things
  • Swap certain managers and re-structure
  • Leverage innovation for the future
  • Leave a long runway before results are expected

So what makes Michel et al believe this time will have different results? (Remember this mis-attributed definition of insanity?)  Of course, other than this time, I’m no longer an employee and have a lot less riding on it (though, I’m still a shareholder and a participant in their retiree medical plan). I’m not so self-absorbed to believe that my leaving will make any(!) difference… but, still, I have one piece of advice!

Certainly, the challenges faced by the company are huge. But decision-making and then sticking with those decisions are what’s required, if your title includes “manager” (or any form thereof). In my view, it’s the latter part (specifically ‘sticking with the consequences’) that’s been the critically missing part. All prior plans required actions that were painful, often quite painful, whether to embedded internal interests, to important customers, to certain governmental bodies, or just to the self-image of the company (and its employees). But that’s where the (re-)plan would die: the inability to withstand pain for long enough. It requires much more than a quarter, or even a year. To me, it seemed, just when some positive things were likely and soon, we’d fall back on poor behaviors and try to re-live ‘the good times’ again. Then a quarter or two later, there’d be another missed set of numbers, and yet another re-plan to be announced. My advice to Michel, and especially to all my friends and ex-co-workers (whether ‘manager’ or not): please, have some “stick-to-itiveness” this time!

The pains of change (maybe more than you personally can withstand, yes) will be worth it afterwards! I’ve changed to become more sustainable, so can you! – Jack

When Building with Straw, Beware of Pigs with Strong Lungs

Sorry to have been off-line for so long, but AT&T has no service where Mary Anne and I attended a week-long workshop on straw bale building techniques. Blue Rock Station is Jay and Annie Warmke’s home and farm (llamas, goats, chickens, fruits and veggies, but no longer any pigs!) in rural eastern Ohio. They, plus instructor Aaron and summer interns Michelle and Jina, had us working on multiple phases of three current building projects. We learned very hands-on about rammed earth foundations using old tires, framing with straw bales, sealing with cob and lime plaster finish coats, plus the nice artistic touches of glass bottle widows, built-in shelving, and using broken ceramics to create mosaics. We got very dirty and very tired, but had a great time! We learned a lot, and met many wonderful people (staff and fellow attendees) who are likely to become long-time friends!


Perhaps, not so surprisingly, Jay and I share a passion for solar energy. He’s the current vice-president of Green Energy Ohio, who I had just learned about last month at the ASES conference. More surprisingly, it turns out Jay was previously the executive director of BICSI, so we had good time reminiscing on the heydays of the telecom industry. Then about 13 years ago Jay and Annie decided to “chuck the whole corporate way-of-life” and moved to Europe for 3 years. They then decided to return to their roots in rural Ohio, where they had previously purchased their dream property: a 38 acre abandoned farm and ex-logging camp on a south facing ridge overlooking a beautiful aspen-oak-maple forest valley. They built their earthship home themselves, and have been farming, writing books and teaching to spread the word to others ever since. Their message is much more than about straw bales or green building techniques. It’s about living sustainably while living richly (and without much money). A great life lesson, especially for me, with my recent exit from nearly 30 years of corporate life and currently searching for my best path forward — Argh! That’s definitely corporate-speak, so I guess I’m not fully weaned as yet!

Thanks to all! – Jack