If Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) workers being tossed overboard by John Chambers can find solace in the pain felt by the boss – well, just remember this:

What Chambers said Thursday in Chicago about the latest cuts is nearly identical to what he said when layoffs were made last year.

Deja vu all over again.

Crocodile tears?

You decide.

Seeing CEOs getting all choked up about firing people makes for good theater and sympathetic headlines. And John Chambers by just about every account I’ve ever read is a nice guy. Compassionate. Brilliant. Giving. Caring.

But p-l-e-a-s-e, John. Enough with the “hardest decision of my life” talk.

Why not say this:

“We are throwing 6,500 people out of work because I and the management team I put in place failed to position us for growth, for a pivot to the Internet of things.

“If anyone should be laid off, it’s me because my own failure to act, to drive hard, has put the company at risk.”

The Cisco board must believe Chambers and management is to blame. Their compensation for last year was wacked with Chambers taking a 22 percent hit.

But John, Gary Moore and others kept their jobs.

Some 250 people in RTP – 5 percent of the work force there – has been handed walking papers.

Big difference between taking a pay cut and getting no pay, right?

Let’s revisit what Chambers said in August 2013 in Raleigh:

“The most painful decision I ever made was three to four weeks ago … I made the decision to lay off 4,000 people.”

So said Chambers at the CEO Forum.

Cisco announced the 5 percent job cut the previous week despite a strong earnings report.

“It was purely that we had to transition from this inconsistent market,” said Chambers of the layoffs, “and if I did that in the old world way, our company would miss opportunities and we would be become roadkill.”

OK, so let’s fast-forward to Thursday in Chicago where Chambers delivered the keynote at an Internet of Things World Forum put on by Cisco.

“Forty percent of the Fortune 500 that exist today probably won’t exist in a meaningful way in a decade. [It was] the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Chambers said, according to ZDnet.

“We had our best year ever … we did a very good job with record earnings. And yet … we realigned 6,500 people.”


How about fired?




Come on, John. Sure, the decision was hard. You’re not heartless.

“No CEO likes change, but in this market, if we don’t change, we will be left behind,” he told the crowd. “I saw that at IBM and it took them two decades to recover.”

IBM is an easy target. Big Blue has been turning itself inside-out for 20 years, as Chambers said, but Cisco is supposed to be better than that.

Why is it that Cisco waited so long to retool, to implement a reorganization that hit thousands of people?

Who’s the blame for that?

Who is paying the price?

In his remarks, Chambers predicted the next big wave will be analytics.

“Because when you’re predictive, you’re ahead of the game,” he said. “Then it moves into where you become really hyper-aware. It requires fast IT in a way we haven’t gotten before.”

So do you want to predict what Chambers will say the next time Cisco cuts jobs?