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

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