Friday, March 25, 2005

20% There, 20% Here?

Just a quickie: Joe Beda has a post about Google's 20% benefit.

There have been plenty of times I've gazed through the window trying to figure out how this kind of thing could work for Microsoft because I really, really want all these smart people at Microsoft to unleash disruptive innovation. Seeing Joe's context-setting of how it works for Google makes me realize that it would be really, really hard to get this to work at One Microsoft Way.

There are people who serve as jealous guardians to some parts of the source code for their team's product. Woe unto you should you go and randomly check something in, even if it's not breaking anything. They might as well fly into your room in a swirling fit of red robes - " Dost thou knowest what great sin thou hath wrought upon the repository!?! "

It's weird. And the longer you're in the group, the more you naturally accede to these self-appointed feature-priests until the offerings and deference just become business as usual. Whew, some groups really need some heavy people rotation, if only to free the source code from their oversight.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

>I really, really want all these
>smart people at Microsoft to
>unleash disruptive innovation

Ah the good old days, like it was described in many of the stories in Inside/Out. I miss those times. Its almost as if skunkwork projects are frowned upon..

Anonymous said...

Skunkworks were officially killed from the top three plus years ago. Didn't you get the memo?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it the former CFO that banned skunkworks development?

Anonymous said...

Nope it is our current (and recently promoted) Sr. VP of IT. The basic line was "we should spend our times doing our jobs and let the teams whose jobs it is to provide tools and other useful utilities do their jobs." It doesn't matter what the benefit was. I credit these decisions with us hiring too many former IBMers.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiney BS. There are so many skunkworks projects going on it isn't even funny.

Why don't you losers do your bit to reduce the headcount if that's what you want?

Anonymous said...

Clearly you've never had your Skunkworks squashed. If you can keep it below the radar until its widely adopted - you might pull it off.

It does not change the fact that is discouraged if not outright forbidden. Ask my friends who were working on Skunkworks for the company in their off hours using company resources. Their GM found out and made them stop immediately or risk termination.

Anonymous said...

Every group is different within Microsoft. You naysayers may be in a lucky one. Our group was told to halt any small projects, or be terminated. That management tier has moved on, but the damage was done. A lot of our smarter employees, err, "loosers," have done their bit to "reduce headcount."

Simon Cooke said...

"Woe unto you should you go and randomly check something in, even if it's not breaking anything."

Erm... have you never heard of risk management? Change control?

There's a big difference between having a large repository of cool source code, and having a project reaching a milestone and then having some idiot check in a whole bunch of changes which fry everything - especially if the people whose job it is to work on it don't know about the changes.

Source access control is NOT to protect a fiefdom. It's to stop lone well-intentioned idiots from destroying a lot of other peoples' hard work.

*sigh*

Anonymous said...

Simon's right. It's about ownership. If you're not in my group and you have a kick ass feature idea, SWEET, let's talk about getting it done. I don't want you just ramming it in unless we've planned for ownership: who tests, fixes bugs, does usability testing, documentation, maintenance work, etc. I've had teams dump shit in our areas of ownership before and it's usally basically a drive by. Nothing better than discovering something 6 months later that you now own.