Tag Archives: ibm

Why IBM Should Stop Buying Its Stock – WSJ.com

For the past 20 years, IBM has been an avid, methodical buyer of its own stock. In 1993, it had 2.3 billion shares outstanding. Today it has 1.1 billion, shrinking at more than 1% per quarter over the past few years. At that pace, there will be no more publicly traded IBM shares left by 2034.

via Why IBM Should Stop Buying Its Stock – WSJ.com.

This was a key reason that I decided to leave IBM. The current focus on earnings / share at the expense of all else isn’t becoming of a company with a 100 year tradition of innovation. In the quest of this it also looks like there will be another massive layoff in the next couple of months.

Still makes me sad, as there are tons of great people doing great work at IBM. But it’s more in spite of the executive leadership than because of it.

A Day of Service

When I got to the Poughkeepsie Farm Project at 6:40am on Wednesday, there were already two IBMers there ahead of me, eager to start the day. It was a crisp day, barely 55 degrees yet, but with few clouds in the sky we knew it would get hot by the time we were going to break for lunch at 11:30. It took me a few minutes to setup checkin station for the IBM crew, then I joined Ray and Duane just to chat about the day.

“That’s a lot of roof…”

They had both gone down and looked at the Roof of the Coop, 100′ long, 15′ wide, which we were going to tear off and replace today. While the Roof was only one of 3 projects for the day, it was the only one that would cause problems if it wasn’t done. The carpenters and gardeners had plenty of smaller logical stopping points, but a roof is a roof. And based on the experience the PFP had with taking off another section, the tear off might take a long time.

With some last minute drops and additions our volunteer count was going to be 12 on the roof, 12 in the gardens and fields, and 7 on carpentry projects. The crews were showing up at 7, 7:30, and 8 respectively. I had decided earlier in the week that we were going to just send all the carpenters up on the roof until Dave, our roofing foreman volunteer, felt like they had the tear off under control.

About 7:10 we had our roofers largely assembled, oriented, and sent on there way. As we checked in the gardeners and got them dispatched, it was an inspiring to see all those people up on the roof in the distance. 8am rolled around, and Ray, our carpentry lead, showed back up in the checkin area. I was seriously confused, and told Ray I was going to send any remaining carpenters up onto the roof.

“Oh, the roof is already off. It came up quick. Something like 12 minutes.”  We were going to do it. We’d get the roof done today.

Ray peeled off a few folks on carpentry work, and I hung out up front until I got the last of the stragglers checked in at 9am. Given that my day was going to continue to get interrupted by organizational tasks, I found the carpenters in the field working on the hoop house. As those projects were probably the ones I could most easily come and go on without disrupting their flow. We replaced the rotting wood braces on one side with metal ones, strapping together metal braces in sections of 3, then putting them up on the hoop house.

At 10:30 we were winding to completion on that project, and started moving tools to where the wood working tasks would take place. As it neared 11 I realized I needed to make the lunch area something we could actually get 35 volunteers in and seated. Susan Grove, PFP Executive Director, helped me with that.

Even though the lunch arrived a little late, everyone seemed to enjoy it. I’m sure most IBMers were fed pizza or Sam’s Club sandwiches, but not our crew. We had hummus, pita, greek salad, and sea salt fries from Kavos (a local greek restaurant), and tomales from Mole Mole (a local mexican restaurant). Lunch was the time for Susan to be able to introduce everyone there to what the PFP does, and what it means to create and just and sustainable food system. Eating great food from local restaurants help reinforce that, and help connect us to the food system that we were a part of. For the garden and farm crew, they were having a direct experience in that food system. For those of us on construction, we were doing things that had been on task lists for years, because there aren’t a lot of days off when it comes to running a 10 acre farm. We were helping by taking those tasks of that list so the farm team could focus on farming.

Once the volunteers were all back on task, I had about an hour breaking down the lunch area. Organizing a good event is about making everything look invisible, spaces being ready for volunteers when they get there, and being returned to their original form. It makes all the difference. And then, at 2, all my organizational tasks were done, and I could spend the rest of the day getting my hands dirty.

Dave felt like he had plenty of roofers, so I joined Ray, Warren, and Yukiko in building a locking cabinet for storing sprayers and other items in the building that was being re-roofed. Ray brought furniture grade skills to this project, and I got to pick up plenty of tips from him along the way. As the cabinet came together over the next two hours, I could see the excitement in Angela’s (head farm intern, and staff lead for the carpentry projects) eyes. She’s been with the farm a couple years now, and these had been on her wish list to get the coop organized.

The gardeners got to their logical stopping point around 3:30, and Wendy (co-farm manager) sent them home with words of thanks from the fields. Around 4 our cabinet was done, as were the hoop racks on casters, being built in parallel by other carpentry volunteers. And as we looked up to the roof, they were putting down the final row of shingles before the capping shingles. There were only about 6 people up on the roof now, as you were now at the time when things had to happen in series. I watched in awe, the orchestration that occurred with 4 volunteers on the roof with the capping shingles as they cruised to completion with the last nail leaving the gun at around 4:30.

And we were done. We’d accomplished most of the clean up as the projects were closing up, extra scraps stored in the coop, tools sorted and back to volunteers. The last of the roofers cleaned up their tools and ladders and I headed up to the PFP office to bask in the day, and check in with the staff up there about how it went for them. Leaving the farm at 5:30 I was pumped (I still am). I’d been there for 11 hours, but didn’t feel tired at all. I managed not to really get sun burned, and the soreness I’d feel the next day would feel really good.

It was a good day.

I feel a little sorry for the folks that didn’t participate in service projects the day before the centennial. Today is going to bring a town hall, and an on site BBQ in Poughkeepsie. But for speeches people may not attend, and a free lunch, it’s not much to walk away with. The experience we all had yesterday, showing what amazing people work at the company, that for me is our real centennial celebration. Our celebration of service.

IBM’s Day of Service at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project

Thursday is the IBM Centennial, when IBM as a company turns 100 years old. It’s a pretty amazing thing. I’ve got my own set of reflections on that which will come later, because my brain is currently entirely focussed on what comes first: the IBM Day of Service.

This year all IBMers were asked to pledge at least 8 hours of service to their communities, and if possible, to do that service on June 15th, the last day of the first century of IBM. Through a series of fortuitous happenings I got involved as a service leader for this day, organizing 3 projects at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. On Wednesday we’ll have 30 volunteers at the farm starting at 7am. I’ve already interacted quite a bit with some amazing volunteers who are helping in the planning to make this possible, and it just puts me in awe at how many truly talented and giving people work at the company. We are seriously going to kick ass and take names on Wednesday, and do a lot of great work for a great organization.

I’m also really happy to be introducing so many new IBMers to the PFP. When I signed up for leading these projects I assumed I’d largely be picking up IBMers already associated with the farm. But, much to my surprise, the ranks are filled with people not associated with the farm at all. Many have never been to the location, and didn’t even know it existed. The folks that have gotten involved early have really gotten invested in the organization already, and it’s my hope that at least a few of them will become long term volunteers as part of the organization once they see the work the PFP does in the community.

We’re going to kick off this great day of service on Wednesday with a Walkway event on Tuesday afternoon, so starting about 2:30 tomorrow, I’m full time service volunteer until Thursday rolls around, and we celebrate 100 years on site in Poughkeepsie.

Pictures will be forthcoming, as well as more reflections once my brain can switch gears again. Now just a few last minute things to take care of in preparation of the day…

Agile Resistance

One of the things that’s most inspired me at IBM over the last couple of years has been a division wide initiative to adopt Agile development methodology among the teams. There remains a lot of resistance to such a change, but for those of us that really think this is a better way, it’s opened up a new freedom to demonstrate how much more effective we can be. We can actually point out that multitasking is bad, and completely wasteful, and not sound like lunatics any more, as it’s part of the standard training. We can plan with 1 to N priority lists, instead of time estimating tasks 18 months in advance, and have a leg to stand on. And for those of us that have really embraced Agile approaches, and surprised ourself on the effectiveness, it adds new focus and drive to the tasks at hand.

Yesterday, in a “scrum of scrums” (quotes because it’s really just a status meeting, as many of my peers aren’t really getting what Agile is) I shared with my peers some of the recent successes we had because we had stopped splitting up our 3 person team on various independent tasks, and instead got in the mindset that we, as a team, are tackling one thing at a time until it’s done. Every time we focus in this way, we get much more done. It does take vigilance to keep this focussed. Inevitably in the past we’ve backslid into slicing, and dicing, and multitasking our way into a spinning ball of busy that doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. I’m hoping this time the habit will finally stick.

I was just interested in sharing my experience at the end of our recent break through on a problem (which had happened only 10 minutes prior to the meeting). I got unsolicited comments from two of my peers effectively saying the old ways were just as good. It caused a good chuckle in a back channel.

Culture changes are hard, I know that. And with a ship as big as a division of IBM, turning it is something that’s going to take many years. But at least we’re starting.

(Disclaimer: my words are my own, represent my own perspective based on what I can see and who I interact with, and don’t represent the views of my employer.)

IBM Watson on NOVA

NOVA just aired their special on Watson, the computer that is going to compete on the IBM Jeopardy challenge, and it’s really good. Even my wife, who often waves that kind of thing off as “boring” was sucked in and glued to her seat for the entire program. They do a really good job of explaining some of the basics of how Watson works, and why this is incredibly hard to do.

NOVA is current streaming this episode online, so you can watch it on your computer if you missed it when it aired.

I’m really looking forward to the 3 nights of matches (Feb 14 – 16). Match 1 will span nights 1 & 2, presumably to explain some of what’s going on to the audience, and night 3 will be the second match in it’s entirety. I know of events at SUNY New Paltz (where I’ll be headed), and Bard College, and I assume many other locations around here, given that Watson itself lives about 50 minutes south of here at the Yorktown Heights Research Facility.