Saturday, September 13, 2003

"What's going on"

Since my last entry a few days ago, there's not much new. I did a first coat of paint on the wood trim (white), and it looks pretty good. I have to do a little more touch-up when I have a chance. Between Murphy's Oil Soap and a razor blade, most of the spilled paint is now off the floor. David's picked up a couple more words (cracker, baby, bug), and is walking a little more often. But he still prefers to crawl because it's faster and he's more maneuverable that way. Four wheels on the ground rather than two, and all that.

The Super Top Secret meeting went off as rescheduled this week, and went very well. I think most of my recommendations will be implemented by the Super Top Secret client. That'll be a big boon for their customer base, and it helps my professional reputation as well.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Holyoke's annual golf league outing. It was a nice time, particularly because my team won. But it was also nice for a different reason, and a melancholy one. Next year's league will most likely be mainly an alumni league - as most of the players are either gone now, or working with the Sword of Damocles over their heads. Most of the people there found out over the last week wheter they were "go forward" people or not, and when their service would be ending. If I averaged out all the departure dates I heard from people, it would come out to sometime late this winter.

I had five years of service there, plus plenty of unused vacation - so I got a decent amount of "get lost money". A lot of people who have been kicked to the curb got still more - my five years was lower than the average tenure there. But I'm still ambivalent about the whole process.

Here's why. I think I've said before that the business model my company was using wasn't working. We'd been losing money for years. It's not a secret - it's public record. I'm obviously not an insurance expert, but I think that the business was probably fix-able. In recent years, our results were on an improving trend, though not where we needed to be long-term.

The plan that went forward, though, blew up essentially everything and pulled out of most markets, with a goal of reinventing the company as a specialty insurer. In the process, more than half the people will go away. Some of them were talented, hard-working people. Some were slugs. But still, that's an awful high human fallout in a place that is supposed to serve policyholders first and employees second, before worrying about the rest.

What sealed things, though, for a lot of people was Ward. These folks "benchmark" the performance of companies in various industries, of which insurance is one. They take what they consider to be the top performing companies, and rate them after assigning costs to the areas they feel they belong in and so forth. If you pay them, they'll come in and rate you.

In insurance, the biggest company to worry about is AM Best. They actually rate you based on your underwriting practices, surplus management, combined ratio, outlook, and employee-to-policy ratio among others. The "A+" is coveted by them, and leads people to send business your way if you can sustain that rating.

Ward deals with back-office practices for the most part. Some companies believe that Ward is pretty much the gospel of how to run your operations.

Ward apparently didn't think highly of the way some strategies were being executed. So now a lot of folks in various places are on the job market. It doesn't matter necessarily what they did, or how much the business needed them to function. If they don't match a place where they're expected to be, adios.

That's not why I'm gone per se - I went away because the guy who was my boss was told, more or less, that "they don't need a manager on-premises. After all, the other guys in Connecticut don't have one". Since I wasn't going to either get his job or go to Illinois to have the life sucked out of me, I had to go. It didn't matter that I was performing well (I have the reviews to prove it), or that I was working on the implementation of a whole mess of inter-company projects. The guy in charge of the company I was working at told corporate IT that my org-chart position was gone, so I was gone. End of story.

I'm probably coming off here as really bitter - believe it or not, that's not my intent. As I've said before, something had to be done to fix the company. There was collateral damage as a result. This happens all the time in modern-day America.

What I am a little bitter about is something I talked about a few months ago. The decisions that affect people's lives get made by folks who just have no understanding of the human element. The day I was tossed overboard, I had forgotten my Palm that morning. I rely on it to keep notes and myschedule, so I called home and had Jane swing by on her way out to do errands. I went down to the street to meet her, and while I was waiting the fellow in charge of Holyoke (he's the Connecticut guy) drove out past me. I waved, he waved back. Jane arrived a couple of minutes later, passed me my Palm, and left. I went back up to my office.

And about fifteen minutes later, I got called down to HR and got dumped. I'm guessing that the gentleman I waved to went back home to Connecticut, had a nice dinner, played with his kid (or kids - I'm not even sure if and how many), and slept well, thinking "Good - I started saving them money today".

He darn well wasn't thinking "I just put a man out of work today". CEO's in general don't care about that anymore. Right after I vanished, so did the systems department later that day. They're being outsourced. Yippee! More money saved!

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