The past week had a good flow of comments (for this tiny nook in the blogosphere). A good meaty comment disagreeing that mediocrity is our woe at Microsoft but rather several other issues:
In my opinion, the problem is a combination of the following:
1) Too many cooks. You can't get anything done without buy-in from 183 people, including the 6 layers of execs above you and the 12 teams scattered across the company that you have dependencies on. Getting everyone aligned requires rigid process, countless meetings, and "consensus", none of which fosters creativity, initiative, or accountability.
2) The money is gone. People will happily put in 80 hours a week if it means becoming a millionaire in 5 years. What's the motivation now - so that you can get promoted into the ranks of middle management?
3) Creativity is not a part of its corporate culture, and it never has been. Microsoft made its money doing a better job of executing other people's good ideas. I can't think of anything revolutionary that Microsoft has produced. The next big thing and every other big thing after that will not come out of Redmond.
4) Microsoft leadership lacks vision. Bill Gates is where he is because he is a tenacious and fierce competitor. Neither he nor any of his henchmen have the imagination or social instincts to catch or generate the next big wave. We missed the incredibly high margin business that Google and Yahoo created around search. We missed the music business Apple created around ITunes and IPod. We missed the [freaking] Internet!
Greatness is all about potential, and you need the right environment to bring it out. Most of the "mediocrity" you see at Microsoft these days is the result of systemic paralysis.
Next up: I better type with caution if I appear to impugn Any Rand's Atlas Shrugged:
Why would you say that we should forgot about the literary worth of Atlas Shrugged? I like your blog, and enjoyed seeing the reference to John Galt, but this dismissal of the literary worth of one of the greatest novels ever written really rubs me the wrong way.
I just wanted to focus more on the story here. From my point-of-view (at this point, perhaps I should be visualized as aiming my foot for my mouth), Ayn could have done with a good dose of editing for the tome she wrote. She had a vast bit of ideology to share with the world via her story and did so with such verbosity that even Fidel Castro would be prone to say, "Whoa, could be shorter!" I enjoyed it, it made a lasting change within my psyche, I just wish I could get some of those days back from the summer when I was sixteen and should have been doing far more foolish things. I guess that's a grudge I'll always hold.
When are you going to quit Mini? Your entries are getting more and more strident and "reckless". Are you hoping to get fired and save yourself from making the decision to move on? Are you hoping to use the news that MS fired a blogger to get your next job? If so, it's a dishonest thing to do to yourself and your colleagues.
No, I truly love Microsoft and the people I work with and all their damn potential to create great software to change the world (while, um, making a boatload of new money from new markets). I'm in for the long-haul and that's why I'm putting down as many different angles as possible to pull the rug out from underneath inefficient and bloated leadership and systems. Yes, it might blow up in my face. I can't imagine that being something that ends up in my favor.
Lastly, one of the comments was more or less: "Stop yer bitchin' and play yer guitar!" or such. Point taken. Another comment, though,:
Some of my friends told me they are even ashamed to say they work at MS when mingling at some party.
I bitch because I work my ass off to help customers when they are in trouble but at the end of the day - the ONLY thing that my management cares about is how accurately I track my time spent at the office, so a beancounter somewhere can be happy.
The last point is pretty important and something I'll try to pull together once I'm done reading Bob Herbold's book. But in the meantime: folks are smart and they realize what it is they are going to be rewarded for. They will gravitate to the work that achieves recognition and compensation. If you're being rewarded for process excellence and it doesn't matter whether your product ships or that your customers are delighted, you're going to Six Sigma your butt up and achieve process excellence. We need to hold people accountable for shipping great software that our customers want to use and delight in using. We don't get paid for shipping status reports to our customers (but if we did, I'm pretty sure our bottom line would double overnight right now).
Oh, and administrivia: some comments have been deleted. These are pretty much blog spam (plus one duplicate post) which I can't get around to cleaning up as often as I'd like. Only a few to delete, thankfully (and I got to exercise my ability to blush when I decided to look-up what the heck "milf" meant).