Tag Archives: goodbye

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

To all my friends and co-workers at Alcatel-Lucent

My last working day at ALU was Thursday, February 7th. And, yes, this is my “good bye” letter… I’ve read my share of these before too, so I’ll try not to ramble!

I am proud and humbled to have been a part of Bell Labs, AT&T, Lucent, Octel, and Alcatel-Lucent for nearly 29 years! I’ve worked in large variety of roles and organizations over that time, and I have grown and learned so much. I enjoyed nearly all of it, and entirely because of all the interesting and intelligent people here. Though I have had the opportunity to know only a few of you well, ALL of you, collectively and individually, have made this place a wonderful and most difficult place to leave! [Yes, I know, LOL, given the huge numbers of people who have already left and are continuing to do so…]. Nevertheless, this is the right time for me to move on; officially my ‘retirement’. But I eventually hope to take yet a new role, in some new organization. At this time I have no concrete idea where (or when) that will be, but I’m excited about taking such a risk and the new possibilities that will come. Thank you all!

One brief story, that I can’t resist telling of my earliest times in the company:
I had my job interview with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey on January 2nd and 3rd, 1984 (yes, the first couple of days after the huge Bell System divestiture took effect). I had just turned 21 years old, and was a college senior from the small southern university town of Clemson SC, and NJ was a different kind of a place! I was fortunate that when I was still a toddler, my father had worked part time at Bell Labs in Holmdel NJ, while attending Rutgers for his MSEE, prior to serving fulltime in the US Army for his ROTC scholarship commitment, (and later also a four year stint at Bell Labs in Greensboro NC) and that he had kept up some of those connections. Those connections (and I hope perhaps my good grades and some already applicable work experience) meant that Bell Labs was willing to interview me, whereas otherwise they would not normally been recruiting from Clemson.

My first set of interviews were in Whippany NJ (where later I would start my employment in May’84), but for the second day I was driven via limo down to the Holmdel building (an hour trip). I don’t remember much about the trip nor the driver, except for two things… First, the huge six lanes of road in EACH direction!, called the ‘Garden State Parkway’ [lots and lots of times spend there! – yes, that’s humor!]. This was definitely new and different from mostly rural SC. And second as we entered the Holmdel property, just past the huge transistor-shaped water tower (really more like a War of the Worlds Martian war-machine) and approaching the 6 story black-glass building that is nearly a quarter mile from end to end… the limo driver said of the building, with its five vertical rows of concrete balconies stretching the whole length of the building interior overlooking the long atrium, that it reminded him of a penitentiary. Well, I had never been in a prison, but yes I saw the resemblance to movie versions as soon as I walked in the front door that day. And that image has stuck with me ever since, including when my office was on the fifth floor there for 4+ years in the 1990s. Yet, I have to say working there and elsewhere in this company has never, ever, felt like a prison. Just the opposite! I always felt empowered by (most of) my bosses to work on things that were exciting and dynamic, to take risks, and to be free-minded about the how my work would be performed and the results it would derive. And fortunately we never had to fight a war with a Martian water tower!