So, Scoble not only got permission to post Mr. Ballmer's Friday Memo on the HB 1515 broohaha but almost posted a fine bit of blistering commentary (Sco-Balls, indeed). Again, I'm trying not to step in the red/blue state splattered opinion on the anti-discrimination bill and affixed agendas. Rather, just at the associated screw-up.
- Ballmer came out and said something within a reasonably quick amount of time of things blowing up in Microsoft's face. Quick damage control is smart and this will no doubt help quell what could have blown up even more (a divisive story like this, ignoring the players, is always great for filling up the spaces during slow news days).
- That this public controversy ever happened. This is just poor forward thinking and poor leadership that leads to d oubt and suspicion. We don't lavish rich compensation like this on the executive leadership decision makers just so that they can embarrass our company. It shows a total lack of savvy, a degree of clumsiness, and a growing doubt in their ability to make good decisions.
- A demonstration that executive leadership doesn't think they are accountable to the key shareholders in Microsoft.
The second point above is where I'm going to have to momentarily dial the foul-language meter up to "R" (fair warning - I do usually endeavor to keep the language clean here to not obscure any vestiges of a meaningful message). A bit of the memo that was innocuous at first later had my teeth-grinding as I did yard-work all day Saturday:
It's appropriate to invoke the company's name on issues of public policy that directly affect our business and our shareholders, but it's much less clear when it's appropriate to invoke the company's name on broader issues that go far beyond the software industry -- and on which our employees and shareholders hold widely divergent opinions. We are a public corporation with a duty first and foremost to a broad group of shareholders.
Mr. Ballmer, who the fuck do you think is on the other side of this god-damn email? The most fucking important shareholders that the company has! Don't lecture me about doing what's best for shareholders when I and just about everyone in the company are just that. You're doing what's best for me. You're accountable to me.
So as I swept and snipped and scrubbed, my little brain started connecting the dots over the past realizing that executive leadership doesn't think that employees are engaged shareholders let alone shareholders interested in the direct impact of executive leadership's decision making. Last year, describing the changes in compensation, Mr. Ballmer said that most employee's just flip their stock as soon as possible vs. holding on to it. And Mr. Ballmer has said multiple times how important things are guided by our responsibility to the shareholders. And to Mr. Ballmer, it seems, the intersection between the set of shareholders and the set of Microsoft employees is the null set.
So I could watch The Corporation again and meditate on Microsoft doing what it thinks is best for the shareholders, but I could flip that around and wonder if the shareholders are actually speaking up and demanding Microsoft actually perform and be held accountable for doing the best job possible. I don't see that currently happening. And until the shareholders (especially the most important shareholders) start making their voice increasingly heard about what they expect, the less likely the leadership is going to feel accountable for more results than well-spoken lip-service.