close this bookVolume 1: No. 36
View the documentNews -- NSF
View the documentNews -- government
View the documentNews -- computer industry
View the documentNews -- Turing test
View the documentNews -- new bboards; journal calls
View the documentNews -- student/postdoc opportunities
View the documentNews -- job opportunities
View the documentDiscussion -- mail-order grants; job-seeking skills
View the documentDiscussion -- management; initiative
View the documentDiscussion -- teamwork; status; sex; marriage

As baby-boomers surge toward middle-management positions, Tom Peters and others advocate eliminating the positions. Percy Barnevik, CEO of Asea Brown Boveri, says that 2/3 of big European corporations will soon fail if they don't restructure. He personally pruned Asea's 2,000-person headquarters to 200 (in 100 days), then cut a merged Asea Brown Bovari from 4,000 to 100. He also cut ABB Stromberg from 880 to 25. Many of the managers joined subordinate business units and independent service centers, but Barnevik advocates immediate 30% cuts and an equal reduction over the next four years. Peters suggests that managers who want to survive get a head start on the restructuring. They can either find "clients" to serve (and later join, if necessary) in the lower ranks, develop outstanding expertise that they can sell their services as consultants, or start reshaping their units as for-profit businesses. [SJM, 11/18.]

How bad could a bureaucracy be? Consider the federal agency that insures your pension (the same way FSLIC insures your savings deposits). A Congressional report on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. says that the records are so bad they can't be audited. When the agency tried to program new types of premium payments, their computer crashed. That was in 1988, and they didn't get the computer up again until 1990. The agency has no record of variable rate premium data for the last three years, and the statute of limitations is about to expire on delinquent 1988 premiums. The agency cashes checks that come in -- usually, although seven uncashed checks from 1988 were recently found -- but has no way to know if it is collecting all that is due from employers. Current funds fall $1.8B short of current obligations, and even with full collections the deficit could reach $11.4B by 2000. [Washington Post. SJM, 11/8.]

Are you ready for a world of autonomous, multifunction project teams? Here are some hints: Have you ever saved for college, bought a house, or selected quality goods? (Long-term view.) Ever decided what to buy with limited funds? (Complex tradeoffs; budgeting.) Managed a hectic family schedule? (Self-management; survival without job descriptions and manuals.) Dealt with service people? (Vendor/customer relationships.) Ever had to choose between family and social commitments? (Relationship management.) Raised funds for an organization? (Network management.) Tackled a home-improvement job? (Project management.) Improved your own lifestyle? (Constant improvement, the latest wisdom from Japan.) Maybe you do have what it takes. Maybe you're closer to real life than your CEO is. [Tom Peters, SJM, 11/11.]

When a firm is reorganizing, you can sometimes start a new activity without anyone questioning your authority. You could start an email discussion list or a brown-bag lunch series, for instance, and earn a reputation as the in-house guru for your favorite subject. You could organize a small library of materials, and use its existence to publicize your interests. You could start an internal PR campaign (buttons, posters, etc.) to publicize your project or your department's work. Or you could conduct a survey that would identify internal customers for your services. [Lance B. Eliot, AI Expert, 2/91.] Don't just sell a technology, sell it's application to real problems. And ask to sprout your own project or lab, if given the chance.