back to article IBM memo to staff: Our CEO Ginni is visiting so please 'act normally!'

Marketing folk in IBM's offices in Austin, Texas, were treated to a visit by CEO Ginni Rometty this week – but not before they were handed a list of things not to do in her presence, including taking selfies or using the loo at the same time. Rometty, also Big Blue's president and chairman as well as chief exec, dropped by the …


    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What a difference a few generations makes

      "Hands on management" is something that actually works. Lately, for the last 20 years or so, management wants not get near the workers much less look at them. This seems to be spreading yet a number of successful companies still do the owner/president walk about. Disconnect from the workers is usually fatal to the company.

      I worked for company run by the owner (two in fact). They were great places to work until the owner died and "junior" took over. Both went down the toilet pretty fast because "junior" couldn't be bothered to talk to the troops and find out what was really going on. Morale quickly died and talented people left to find a place where they were appreciated and listened to.

      1. billdehaan

        Re: What a difference a few generations makes

        "Hands on management" is something that actually works.

        Indeed. There's something to be said for seeing, rather than hearing what's actually going on.

        I worked at a company where the technical disconnect was fairly massive. Engineers were equipped with Core Duo PCs with 2GB of memory (and this was in 2015), which were additionally clogged with IT mandated firewall/antivirus/antipiracy/encryption, all running at maximum priority, while execs had i7 laptops bursting with 32GB of memory and ultrafast SSDs, with all processes exquisitely tuned.

        In other words, the people who needed fast computers for their work had machines that were running at a tenth the speed of the executive's machines, which were basically there to read emails and see Powerpoints.

        It was always amusing seeing executives watching a presentation, and asking "is there something wrong with your computer? It seems so... slow", only to be told that this was perfectly normal, and people had been screaming about the productivity impact of using garbage equipment for development for years, only to fall on deaf ears.

        If any of the management team are hands on, while these sorts of things can still happen, they don't stay for decades without being noticed.

  1. Scott Marshall

    All hands on deck and bums on seats

    "... and will not be here due to vacation or work travel, please inform [the relevant manager]... so we can fill your seat while the guests are in town."

    I envisage a new service: BoSaaS (Bums on Seats as a Service).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Marketing wankers

    This is a prime reason why companies (like IBM) have issues - idiots hiding the truth regarding what the company is actually like from the CEO and other execs.

    I hope somebody forward the email to the CEO so she could evaluate it.

  3. vistisen

    This I why I love working where I do, We may only be a small company with about 300 employees and three offices, but when the director comes to our office. He finds an empty desk if there is one and then gets teased as to whether he is younger/older, small/ larger then the person who normally works there and about the fact that he could in no way do their job.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I guess they are dressing up hobos or something?

    "If you sit in Building 906, 5th floor and will not be here due to vacation or work travel, please inform [the relevant manager]... so we can fill your seat while the guests are in town."

    (/sarcasm) Yeah, I wouldn't expect many people to be on vay-cay during the last week of June, which is after school ends and your kids are free to travel and your extended family can gather, and when the weather is nice. (/sarcasm off)

    And who the hell are they finding to fill your seat if you are out of town? Droids from the basement, who normally don't even get to clean a window, much less look out of one?

    I can understand not wanting to see a half-empty workspace, but does IBM's marketing vision involve LITERALLY swapping deckchairs on the Titanic??

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: I guess they are dressing up hobos or something?

      No need for living persons - just order a job lot of mannequins of all shapes, sizes and colors/colours and dress them up in appropriate/varied attire - Ginny probably won't notice/won't be allowed to notice as she is shepherded around the place by her praetorian guard.

      icon: I presume these marketing wonks know that IBM are in the IT business, right?

  6. Robin Saunter

    Ginny is coming. Look busy.

    "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that."

  7. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Full seats..

    After all the layoffs at IBM, maybe the CEO doesn't want to see every seat full. Perhaps it will just lead to another round of layoffs.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good boss.

    A long time ago, my top boss managed many sites and would drop in unannounced so no-one knew where or when she might turn up. We were having a tea break and we jumped up to start looking busy, her comment was to sit down if everything is running correctly and to take as long as we like having our tea. We didn't get to finish our tea as we all found something that needed doing. She didn't need to say any more.

  9. Nick London

    Gosh Takes me back.

    As a young structural engineer in late 70s I spent three or four weeks at IBM Cosham preparing the adjacent site so it looked clean and neat for a visit of the IBM board due to hold a meeting at Cosham.

    Aggregate was laid for forthcoming construction, but brought forward to make the site neat and tidy. IBM being a single status company coffee was free on the day of the visit, as the board who ate lunch in the canteen might not have British coins, and if it was free for them.....

    A particular confusion was that the head of IBM was due to meet the artist whose large painting was on display in the office and both were called R Nixon. No not that one.

    The design team played a cricket match against IBM's property department during the time I was on site, but that was in effect the IBM team with a few ringers so we were thrashed. I went in 11 th man was, I think, third highest scorer, 2 runs, and carried my bat.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Gosh Takes me back.

      @Nick London

      IBM Cosham - I presume North Harbour? Or there was also Northern Road.

      IBM Northern Road building is now occupied by HMRC

      And whilst IBM have a small presence in North Harbour, the site is now a business park...

      IBM North Harbour/Lakeside North Harbour

      1. spold Bronze badge

        Re: Gosh Takes me back.

        There were various really small IBM locations in the area - IBM Eastleigh (1) - small education facility, IBM Eastleigh (2) - a lock up location hosting old desks and stuff but also the boat and equipment of the IBM Diving Club, IBM Winchester (Customer demo and some research types) - not Hursley - this one was downtown. IBM Southampton (Operations and Hosting Centre) - and of course North Harbour (UK HQ) and Hursley Park (Software Development Lab - which sustained 3 village pubs and the the IBM Club bar, the butcher who would hang rabbits out on a rack until you determined they were appropriately hung, and the baker who did wonderful Lardy Cakes (look it up and make one).

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    "The leadership had lost connection with the real world"

    Coincidence? This article was published yesterday...

    In August 2008 Gary Hoffman walked into the offices of Northern Rock in Newcastle.

    He had been appointed chief executive of the mortgage lender which had been taken over by the government earlier in the year after almost collapsing.

    One of his first impressions was the "palatial" offices and the even more luxurious headquarters that were under construction.

    "The leadership had lost connection with the real world," Mr Hoffman says.

    "They were in large offices, separate from their colleagues. It was physically difficult for their colleagues to speak to them."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The leadership had lost connection with the real world"

      Someone said that before looking at a company he would look at the car park, expensive cars meant someone was being overpaid.

  11. Twanky

    Parko: 'No ...elevator pitches...'

    Drone: 'I'm sorry to say sir that despite your warning a number of staff have been trying to talk to Ms Rometty in the elevator'.

    Parko: 'How dare they? I want their names and badge numbers. I'll fire the bastards.'

    Drone: 'Er. There's rather a lot of them...'

    Parko: 'OK. Gimme a list of who didn't defy the order. I'll give them an extra bonus.'

    Drone: 'That probably won't cost a lot sir'

    Parko: 'Ah... OK. Gimme a list of everyone who didn't try to pitch to her in the elevator. They're fired.'

  12. Twanky

    I get the impression that Mr Parko is very concerned about the hierarchy within the company.

    So why did he reach down through multiple layers of management to micro-manage the 'team' at Austin? In strongly hierarchical organisations the obvious approach is to say the the next layer down 'see to it that <whatever you want> is done.'. They then hand on the instruction in their own way to their minions. By committing the instruction to a semi-permanent medium like e-mail he can't even repudiate it later.


  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Completely Misrepresents....

    I'm a proud IBMer in a role that intersects with the C-Suite. I've been around our leaders with some frequency across multiple occasions. I've seen Ginni personally meet and greet thousands of our IBM colleagues at lab events, town halls and recognition events. On one memorable occasion I watched her stand for four hours meeting and thanking award winning IBMers and their guests. She is by far one of the most authentic and engaging senior leaders I've ever seen. This seems to be simply an unfortunate event whereby a manager made an error in judgement in an attempt to show their community space in the best possible light.

    1. bemused obsever

      Re: Completely Misrepresents....

      Clearly written by someone going somewhere in a company that isn't going anywhere...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Completely Misrepresents....

      When so many workers are getting "resource actioned", no wonder the manager is paranoid. The trend has been If you aren't young and/or live in a third world country, IBM may not be the place for you.

      Many mobsters were family centered too, but you know, it's a business.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Presumably don't offer her a free bank account with TSB either.

  15. EJ

    Any CEO who prefers this fantasy to the reality of the workplace is doomed to failure. Think she's aware of this special handling?

  16. Dallasite

    Can you people at least *act* like you're normal for a while?

  17. Florida1920 Silver badge

    So we can fill your seat

    What are they going to do, shanghai people off the street?

  18. CPU

    When I worked for M$, BillG came to visit (waaaay back), and guess what? He stopped for chats, photos and joshing. Good to see BigBlue still has a bug up its derrière- some things never change.

  19. HMcG

    Mushroom CEO's

    I worked for a few years for an electronics manufacturer. The CEO was coming for an official visit, and we got much the same BS from the muddle management ahead of the visit: there was to be a big effort to present a management image of efficiency. Cleared desks, ongoing repairs to be hidden, everybody in smart dress etc etc.

    CEO turned up in casual dress 2 days before the official date. Had the receptionist let him in unannounced. He wandered thought to the production floor and just started chatting to the techs. It was a couple of hours before the management even found out he was in the building.

    Most effective way of really assessing what the local managers were trying to conceal from the big cheeses. He knew that any 'surprise' visit would leak out, so he his surprise visit with an official visit announcement.


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