Friday, May 04, 2007

Anatomy Of A Death Spiral (Part 3)

Offshoring (or "global resourcing", if you're an upwardly mobile corporate executive) became a growing interest in my part of the company around 2003. Undaunted by the failure of Canadialand to fatten the corporate coffers, my company decided that paying American wages was just plain silly in a global economy. And so, without any overseas infrastructure or processes or analysis or strategy, we began dumping American jobs. It started in pockets at first... a service here, a department there. Our customers didn't exactly embrace the concept so the focus was aimed on back office work. These were generally lower skilled, lower paying jobs. Embolded by the cost savings achieved on these little ventures, our executives set their sights a little higher. Skilled positions began to move. Will the customer notice? IF "no" then goto India. Eventually even customer objections were discounted and now it's a free fall free-for-all. If it doesn't have an executive title, it will move to India, Brazil, Argentina, or -- I kid you not --Kuala Lumpur. There is a plan and American workers are simply not a part of it.

Even if one were to accept offshoring as an inevitable part of doing business in the global economy, the crazy risks my company is taking with CTO, with only the tiniest pretense of regard for the customer, is entirely unnerving. They haven't just lost their respect for the American worker; they've lost respect for their American customers, too. Like some kind of parasitic organism, it sucked what it could out of America and now it's ready to move on to its next meal. The cuts now have a customer impact that seems almost punitive.

The claim is that the offshoring/CTO activities are necessary to stay competitive, and every company blames its competitors for the trend. "We have to do this to stay in business." It's a downward spiral that our shortsighted business leaders have created for themselves. We need to increase profit, so we cut costs. Cutting costs ruins service so existing customers don't want to buy from us anymore. So we cut more costs to make up for it and customers leave so we cut more costs and service is in the toilet so we don't get new customers. Declare the US market dead and haul ass to India.

On some days, those evil twins - cynicism and contempt - are like knives at the base of my skull. It would be easier to ignore what's going on. I've been good to my company and, for the most part, my company has been good to me. My job isn't gone... yet. I could probably squeak out a few more years here, and maybe I will. Who knows what will happen after that.

The crazy thing is that people don't see this as a problem because it isn't yet a problem for them. They probably see IT jobs going offshore the same way I saw manufacturing jobs going offshore: sad for the people affected but relieved that it isn't them. The reality of it is, if you're not a plumber or a surgeon or a waitress, or perform some other 'hands on' activity, your job could probably be done offshore for a fraction of your current wage. The results from my husband's MRI were shipped to India for a radiologist to read. Accountants, telemarketers, travel agents, researchers, writers... you'd be surprised what can be done offshore for $5 a day. One interesting little note: it takes 1.5 to 2 offshore workers to replace every US worker, at least in my industry (we're apparently a bunch of workaholic freaks). But at $5.00 a day, who cares?

Somewhere along the way our democracy has morphed into a corporocracy. The symbiotic nature of shared success, where workers enabled profits and profits enabled workers, is gone. The healthy check and balance that once existed between labor and business has vanished, as has the relationship between community and industry. What do we have instead? Soulless corporate entities that are consumed with exploiting the enormous divide between the global haves and have nots. Why aren't US workers entitled to some safegards? Why does everyone scream and rant about people receiving "entitlements"? In 200 years we made this country into the kind of success that India hasn't been able to achieve in 2000 years. We are entitled to our entitlements. We are entitled to some labor protections. Maybe the trade genie can't go back into the bottle but neither do we have to let him ravage the countryside. Other countries are faring just fine with their trade and labor protections. Maybe their businesses don't get the full market benefit of unfettered trade but, conversely, their workers haven't entirely gotten the shaft. There is a balance that can be achieved here. Only in a corporocracy does it have to be all or nothing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Simone

I always read your blogs but don't often comment on line - we usually do that in person. I just read your entire Anatomy and have to tell you that I am very impressed with the depth and insight, although saddened that the truth is so obvious and so overlooked by many people who are over-worked and blindly chasing the American Dream, not realzing how fragile their demanding careers might be and how devastating near-sighted corporate decisions can be, both professionally and personally.

Keep bloggin'! I love you! Vronzie

7:53 PM, May 04, 2007  
Blogger Logic101 said...

Thanks, Mom -- I appreciate the encouragement. It's been a rough couple of weeks, can you tell? I'm due for a change.

I love you too! Kirst's senior pics are in... they're amazing, wait til you see. I'll bring them by tomorrow so you can pick out what you want. I narrowed it down to three different poses. I know that's not really 'narrowed' in the strict definition but they were all so beautiful it was the best I could do.


11:03 PM, May 04, 2007  

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