Sunday, September 18, 2005

Microsoft Company Meeting... I'm looking for some dates!

(Whew, I'm worn out and scratched up from a long weekend. As the Mini fifteen-minute clock counts down, the comments are coming in at a much higher rate than usual. Yes, I wish Blogger provided a comments web feed as well. Some of the comments are sprinkled through some of the older posts, too, as folks find something particularly relevant to provide feedback to. If you're just subscribing to the web feed in your RSS reader, you need to actually peek in on the posts to see a lot of the discussion.)

Microsoft's Company Meeting is this Friday at SafeCo Field in Seattle. To some, it's a huge waste of time and money with little benefit. For me, it is a heel-clicking time to re-energize and re-focus on who we are and the great potential we have. I've mentioned that I find the Company Meeting an opportunity to drink the Kool-Aid and submit to the rah-rah brainwashing... and I'm quite sure that there's going to be plenty of opportunity for that.

I printed out Mr. Ballmer's Business Week interview Friday to re-read. By the time I reached the last page, my eyes were swirling hypnotic spirals and, just like that Malkovich plunging into the Malkovich portal scene in Being John Malkovich, the only word I could hear people utter was "innovate." Innovate, innovate innovate innovate innovate. Innovate? In-no-vate?!?

A few good, hard, long shakes of the head back and forth I was back to normal.

I'm sorely disappointed with Ballmer's answers. Not about me - whadjaspect? - but rather that there was a lack of honesty in the answers and a total sense of pure-politician evasiveness and redirection. I guess it usually works. Just answer the freaking simple questions directly! It's like he has three talking points and all he can do is mutex them into some variety that seems like an answer. One commenter refers to Good to Great author Jim Collin's web site, specifically the Confront the Brutal Facts page. I know that Ballmer could do this honest assessment in a series of bullet points admitting that we're late, we're shipping a lot less than we wanted to, and that we've got some big kinks in our process (along with way too much process). Instead he tips the hat to saying Microsofties are highly critical and have high standards.

So right now I'm feeling a bit bummed about the Company Meeting because I think between the recent Ballmer company-wide memo and this interview, I pretty much know the innovative flavor of Kool-Aid we're going to be served. But what would I want? What is one small step that I'd ask for executive leadership to provide this Friday?

Dates.

Give me dates. Okay, 9/22/05 11/22/05 for the XBox 360... I know that one. VS Whidbey: really, really soon now (I haven't checked my email this weekend, maybe the weight-impaired escrow agent has sung). How about all the flavors of Vista? How about Office 12? Give me dates all around for the big chunks in this pipeline of yours. You commit to them and your VPs commit to them. I want us to announce come-Hell or high-water dates so that the accountability clock can start ticking.

You announce those dates, I will stand up and clap.

So I'm glad that the Company Meeting is coming after the Business Week article and that there has been time for people to react to the BW article and the Forbes article. Those folks who have read them I'm sure will be looking for honest answers and will be squinting with skeptical eyes anything that seems too much like an amazing steam of innovative hype pouring out a huge pipeline of great passion.

What are you looking for going forward from our leadership?

I'll put up a Company Meeting post Friday for folks to share their post-meeting assessments.


Commenting on some of the comments and such... some folks didn't expect much more out of Ballmer. But all I can say is that his hype pipeline is so shallow that it doesn't take that much concentration to see through it. Oy! Any bit of criticism can expect to be met with all the great delayed software we've finally managed to scoop up and ship.

Some folks say, "Hey, it's bad all over, stop your gutless anonymous belly-aching!" Or, something like, "I came from IBM, and Microsoft is a much better place than IBM." That, combined with folks complaining about ex-IBMers fu-bar'ing the place up, reaches an interesting critical mass.

Microsoft is better than just about any other company I can think of. Where we're not, it's because we're sinking down to a mismanaged level vs. some of the excellence we used to imbibe and aspire to. Okay, sure, it's not like we had golden past days where Devs, PMs, and Testers held hands as they skipped around the X-buildings, giving each other shoulder rubs as features were designed, implemented, and tested. But it was / is a great place to create great software to change the world.

We're just way off track given our current entangled path, and I don't want to excuse our suckiness based on how bad it might be at HP or IBM or such. We're not that bad off. Yet. Though we might be on-course to see what that's all about.

Mark Lucovsky, world-class Distinguished Engineer and Flying Chair Hurdler, dropped by for a couple of comments, including a snippet of his "goodbye" note. Nice. A small bit:

After Steve's explosion, I discussed the situation with Sergey, Larry, and Eric asking if they still wanted me to join knowing that the war Microsoft is waging on Google will likely intensify as a result. All agreed that we should proceed and allow me to help Google do whats right for our users.

From the Forbes article, I love this small insight from Ray Ozzie:

"No one seems to feel comfortable in their own skin here. It's weird. They still need to succeed." He observes what Ballmer is too proud to say: "The top executives get the potential Microsoft has. But the next tier of employees doesn't because of the stock price."

You know, I think Mr. Ozzie's hanging around with the executives, not the "next tier" and we can get some insight here of what the executives think of that thar tier. And of themselves.

While we're on execs and looking at the Business Week article, the following has been noted in several comments:

Now a new pay scheme, scheduled to go into effect this fall, threatens to make the gulf even wider. If they meet incentive goals, the 120 or so vice-presidents will receive an eye-popping $1 million in salary a year, and general managers, the next level down, will get $350,000 to $550,000, according to a high-ranking source. But the rest of the staff is paid at market rates.

Cri-min-id-ally! I'd certainly like to know if this is true or not. It's a question going to my VP. Given that the article is hot off the presses, I'd pass it by your VP, too. It's a good question to ask as you're trotting around thinking about all the silly cutbacks we endure while our shareholder's money potentially gets misused in this entitlement. I guess our stock just plain isn't good enough for our leadership anymore.

A really great comment takes time to explain old-school BillG Microsoft vs. new-school SteveB Microsoft for folks who don't have the day-to-day exposure to appreciate the differences. I look forward to reading future postings here. A snippet:

Within the last 5 years, almost every manager I had from PUM (2 levels below VP give-or-take) was hired externally. They were hired from companies that move at the speed of wood like Oracle, IBM, HP, etc. They are professional managers, not engineers with reports. And they think like managers. They have no appreciation for what it takes to engineer software. If you explain to them that filling out CheckPoint or spreadsheets for project tracking on *every piece of code you check in* reduces the productivity of engineers, they don't care. They like to see graphs and press buttons. They don't know anything whatsoever about writing code.

Finally, "hey!" to Gretchen and Scoble. To potential hires looking into Microsoft and getting turned off from this blog... well, you know I'm looking for a smaller Microsoft so I'm not exactly selling sweet MSFT lemonade on the sunny side of the street. However, the insights into Microsoft can just as easily be applied as critical questions to any potential employer. So you learn about our scary busted-ass review model. Ask some deep questions of your other offers and see how they compare. And if you do come to Microsoft, you can hit the ground running and start managing up and setting your expectations with your boss.

And, ah, good luck with that.

Updated: fixed horrible 360 release date mis-type.

102 comments:

Pradeep said...

However, the insights into Microsoft can just as easily be applied as critical questions to any potential employer.

Exactly. And that is priceless! Infact I think it would be a rather interesting discussion if some of these comments are brought in as questions in the final part of an interview stage. And I do think they will actually do a lot of good to the interviewee to think through the potential answers before asking them, especially for a non-tech position.

For it wouldnt take long for the interviewer to give a 2 min kool-aid answer and return with a "Hmmm What do you think, we should do?"

Anonymous said...

I think business week and forbes are berely scratching the surface.

I think I'll pass the company meeting this time ...

Anonymous said...

Rumor: Ballmer will go into semi-retirement (he is a multi multi billionaire).

I ask you one question: what is Kevin Johnson's next job. My guess: CEO. I'd much rather have KJ running the show than SteveB.

If you were at MGB - it was KJ's thing not Ballmer. A lot of people took notice.

Anonymous said...

However, the insights into Microsoft can just as easily be applied as critical questions to any potential employer.

Im new here and not a msftie but would like to offer some comments if I may..

The insights here applies to the SOFTWARE INDUSTRY in general. Im sure everyone here has heard about the alarming 70% failure rates among software projects? Failure are either thru cost overruns, delayed shipment, abandonment etc.

What happened?

A lot of the reasons is mentioned here. For example the flawed organization structures like incompetent non techie middle management. Thats why theres been a push to strengthen the software architect role. Just like in the construction industry, architects are in charge of and drive projects. Not clueless MBAs.

Theres also the question of the technology. Yes there has been innovation but theres really been no quantum leap in the tools we use to make software. It still basically the same old same old. I consult for the gubmint and just like MS, we build massive systems. But the tools are just not up to par regardless of wether youre in the .NET or J2EE world. We are building ever complex systems with what are practically stone age tools and demanding they be perfect.


Then theres the issue of politics. Politics have always been the number one killer or spoiler of ANY project. But politics is a reality. There will always be politics wether you work for MS or Google. We techies are also the least trained to know how to play it to our advantage. As long as there is 2 people in a room there will always be politics.


The industry itself is in a crisis. Hopefully this blog will alert more folks to it. Unless something is done, it will be the same crud regardless of who one works for.

Anonymous said...

I left last year after a long time (>10yrs) in development. Some great discussions here.

When it comes to dates, most product teams don't know how to hit their dates with any accuracy more than a month or two out. This is a critical skill missing at all levels. Apart from some course-grained accountability for missing dates at review time most people receive no training on how to estimate accurately and work to a schedule. This is a failing of leadership and needs to be corrected from the top down, but until it is there's not much point expecting steveb to come up with any meaningful dates. NO ONE underneath him knows the dates for something a year out, so he certainly can't either.

Steve ... I worked directly with him on multiple projects. For certain he's not as out of touch as he appears in bw. He surely reads this blog. He's smart and he cares passionately about his legacy and ensuring that Microsoft is an enduring success beyond the current leadership. He also has more first hand experience with developers (admittedly from years back) than many people several levels below him. He understands people much better than you'd think if all you've ever seen of him is press and the company mtg. My guess is he sees the company currently needing to ride out a painful period of maturing, dramatic changes to comp., no longer able to hire from just the top percent in the field, having to move away from a culture of superstar millionaires.

It would be nice to see the survey results broken down by start date. Put people in three categories. Those who joined early enough to be rich. Those who joined in the late nineties expecting to be rich but were disappointed, and those who joined more recently who presumably aren't under any illusion about making millions (VPs excepted!). Ignore the first category - let's see the mood of those who are the future of the company.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on working at Amazon?

Anonymous said...

"It would be nice to see the survey results broken down by start date. Put people in three categories. Those who joined early enough to be rich. Those who joined in the late nineties expecting to be rich but were disappointed, and those who joined more recently who presumably aren't under any illusion about making millions (VPs excepted!). Ignore the first category - let's see the mood of those who are the future of the company."

This is a brilliant idea, and I second that!

Anonymous said...

My guess is he sees the company currently needing to ride out a painful period of maturing, dramatic changes to comp., no longer able to hire from just the top percent in the field, having to move away from a culture of superstar millionaires

Since cost cutting is so popular, I'm surprised they haven't started hiring little people exclusively ... less money on furniture, soda, cafeteria food, etc.

Steve Ballmer cuts 6.5% of the employees for poor performance every year and replaces them with slightly more employees than are cut.

The net effect is an increase in personnel.

To pay for the growth in personnel, they need to cut older employees they believe can be replaced by younger new hires working at a lower level for a lower salary, stock grants, bonuses, etc.

They need to get rid of older employees before the age they are protected against age discrimination by legislation.

It would be nice to see the survey results broken down by start date.

It would nice to see the survey results broken down by age.


It is easier to change who you work for than changing Steve (I'm a billionaire and you're not) Ballmer's mind.

Anonymous said...

That's just BS, what you said about driving out older employees. "Older" folks make a lot more money than "newer" folks. The entire compensation model is tweaked to retain L63+ and L65+ employees more effectively by giving them higher salary, more bonus and A LOT more stock. You basically make below industry average until you hit level 63, and beyond that you start making more, so there's no financial reason for you to go anywhere else. The workload eases a bit, too. I've seen a lot of high-level SDEs who haven't done anything tangible for months on end and management was willing to not notice. Folks at level 61 and below bear the load of the cost cutting, not the old timers.

Anonymous said...

I worked for large companies in my earier years and experienced the same frustrations - so I moved on. After several changes, I found my niche as a Graduate Business School Professor. I stayed there until I retired at age 73. It was a happy experience. The good far outweighed the bad.

So, here's my comment. Complaining about your employer is ok, but it's risky. Complaining about your employer on the internet is so risky that it raises questions about the wisdom and emotional stability of the complainer.

Anonymous said...

"Complaining about your employer on the internet is so risky ..."

Actually Mini's posting on the internet is a minimal risk compared to giving unauthorized press interviews about the company. That really is a guaranteed way to get fired if you're discovered.

Anonymous said...

Steven Sinofsky has a great p.s. at the bottom of his blog posting today:

BTW, I’ve received some mail about the recent article in Business Week on Microsoft. Right now I will choose not to comment on it until I see if the writers and editors choose to correct or comment on some of the plethora of factual errors.

Thank God! I'm glad that the executive in charge of Office is on top of correcting the bizarre and deceiving content of Ballmer's responses.

Anonymous said...

There are LOTS and LOTS of rumors surrounding Kevin Johnson. He's a great guy, really smart, and quite demanding and I think many of us would be supportive of anything he does.

One note: His career trajectory is virtually identical to SteveB's.

In any event, the rumor mill is flying. I'm hearing everything from him replacing JimAll to him becoming the next President of Microsoft.

Who knows? Maybe he's going to open a popcorn stand in 34?

I miss the good ol' days of re-orgs every month and office moves every other month... (kidding, kidding)

Anonymous said...

Complaining about your employer on the internet is so risky that it raises questions about the wisdom and emotional stability of the complainer.

Yes.

It also speaks to the degree to which the treatment of the employee by the company affects their emotional stability.

If you have to pay to use a site, it depends on the policy of the company that collects the information on how easy it is for authorities to get identifying information (e.g. eBay just hands it over).

Or, they could accuse you of a crime and use the Patriot Act.

Don't think so - read it.

Constitution? Nope. Due process? Nope.

It is a real mess that everyone is ignoring because they don't believe they can be affected by it.

http://www.eff.org/Censorship/Terrorism_militias/patriot-act-II-analysis.php

Online. All of your activities on the web are generally recorded, from the Google search where you locate information, to the various websites you visit while shopping, researching, or discussing, to your purchases, downloads and printing of information. Nearly all websites keep both a record of what you do while visiting them and your IP address, which can easily be used to identify and locate you. This information can be (and sometimes is) aggregated over time and various web locations creating a mini-dossier of your activities available to law enforcement with a simple subpoena under USAPA II (or in the case of websites such as e-Bay.com, simply handed over to law enforcement upon request).7

http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/PatriotAct.htm

Amendment: Amendments to section 2703(c) update and expand the narrow list of records that law enforcement authorities may obtain with a subpoena. The new subsection 2703(c)(2) includes "records of session times and durations," as well as "any temporarily assigned network address." In the Internet context, such records include the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned by the provider to the customer or subscriber for a particular session, as well as the remote IP address from which a customer connects to the provider. Obtaining such records will make the process of identifying computer criminals and tracing their Internet communications faster and easier.

Amendment: Section 211 of the Act amends title 47, section 551(c)(2)(D), to clarify that ECPA, the wiretap statute, and the trap and trace statute govern disclosures by cable companies that relate to the provision of communication services – such as telephone and Internet services. The amendment preserves, however, the Cable Act’s primacy with respect to records revealing what ordinary cable television programing a customer chooses to purchase, such as particular premium channels or "pay per view" shows. Thus, in a case where a customer receives both Internet access and conventional cable television service from a single cable provider, a government entity can use legal process under ECPA to compel the provider to disclose only those customer records relating to Internet service. (This section is not subject to the sunset provision in Section 224 of the Act).


http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/patriot01.html

The PATRIOT Act's "identity verification" provisions grant data brokers even more power to hoard your information and use it for whatever purpose they wish -- or worse, mismanage it and let it fall into the hands of identity thieves.

Anonymous said...

That Sinofsky blog entry is actually pretty good.

When you're on the fast track (particularly as a low-mid level manager), it's hard to step back and think about "patience". But, he's absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

That's just BS, what you said about driving out older employees. "Older" folks make a lot more money than "newer" folks. The entire compensation model is tweaked to retain L63+ and L65+ employees more effectively by giving them higher salary, more bonus and A LOT more stock. You basically make below industry average until you hit level 63, and beyond that you start making more, so there's no financial reason for you to go anywhere else. The workload eases a bit, too. I've seen a lot of high-level SDEs who haven't done anything tangible for months on end and management was willing to not notice. Folks at level 61 and below bear the load of the cost cutting, not the old timers.

If they *believe* they can cut you, they *are* going to replace you with one or more people working for less whether they are in the U.S., India, or China.

If they do not want the competition to hire you, sure, they will look the other way if you do next to nothing.

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.msdn.com/techtalk/archive/2005/09/18/471121.aspx

The recruiting season is getting underway and shortly we’ll be “at a college near you” looking to connect. I will be at Harvard Business School the first week of October, where I’ll visit some classes and also participate in a career fair. I hope to see some readers there!

He's going to hire more MBA's. Awesome.

Here is where trusting your manager (and management chain) is super important.

So if you’re looking to move to general management, showing how you can walk in the other’s shoes is super important.

At the same time, experience in other product lines is super valuable.

The next area of experience is often the first one thrown at you by managers when you ask about the path to GM, which is to go and get experience on a broad set of product lines.

In software that could be 5 years on one team, which might seem like an eternity, especially as a person anxious to be a GM, but I believe it makes you a much stronger leader and manger down the road.

5 years * (1 (Dev) + 1 (PM) + 1 (Test) = 15 years Really? Super!

Anonymous said...

Rumor: Ballmer will go into semi-retirement (he is a multi multi billionaire).

I ask you one question: what is Kevin Johnson's next job. My guess: CEO. I'd much rather have KJ running the show than SteveB.


Being patient is super important!

Who's going to make Steve Ballmer retire?

I heard a rumor that monkeys are going to fly out of my ass before Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates let anyone else run the company.

Anonymous said...

http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2005/09/16.html#a11172

This year alone I've turned down other jobs for more money (lots more money, actually). Why did I do that? Well, I work with the folks who do stuff like this.

Company Troll to Cult Leader! Company Troll to Cult Leader! I've dropped the ol' impact versus income chestnut! Returning to the mother ship!

Anonymous said...

"Actually Mini's posting on the internet is a minimal risk compared to giving unauthorized press interviews about the company. That really is a guaranteed way to get fired if you're discovered."

He's being interviewed on his own time and for his own personal perspective - not on company time or representing the company per se.
Big difference. More importantly, the critical issue is the message -not the messenger.

Anonymous said...

"Rumor: Ballmer will go into semi-retirement"

About as likely as people lining up at midnight for Vista.

Ballmer isn't going to retire or step down. KJ may end up taking on a broader role (look at how many options he just got granted for your first clue) but he'll be reporting to Ballmer. Too bad, on news of Ballmer stepping down, the stock would likely rally 10%.

Anonymous said...

"Rumor: Ballmer will go into semi-retirement"

Only a rumor...pure BS...

Tomorrow is the day of the big announcement: "What's KJ going to do next?"

Strong rumors are saying

Alchim retires
KJ takes over a new BG containing Server (Simonwi), Client (BrianV) and MSN (Yussef)

Eric Ruder takes a new job working with Billg

JeffR takes over a new BG
Office, MBS & MED

Will Poole keeps Consumer & HED

New agressive comp plan for Techs only

Anonymous said...

More MSFT then-and-now (by the same guy).

Why stupid perks matter, and the towel fiasco.

Back in the day, MSFT used to be the master of Bread and Circuses. If you don't know what that is, in ancient Rome, the gov't gave out free bread and held free circuses to keep the impoverished public occupied so they didn't riot.

Well, it was more like the corn dole and the gladiator fights, but it's called Bread and Circuses.

MSFT used to make the individual employee feel respected and important with these little perks. A free T-shirt, a basket of candy and crap on your birthday, a big Halloween party for all the kids, etc.

In other words, these perks did two things: 1) make you feel appreciated, and, 2) make it easier to do your job.

We went from free dinners group-wide in the cafeteria to begging your manager for a $6 cafe coupon. Well, you can't get much for $6 dinner-wise, and all they offer in the cafe that late is burgers and pizza anyhow.

Before, the whole org could go - you just signed a sheet - and the cafe was full service.

So what do people do now? At 5 pm, they say screw it. Why eat a crappy burger in the cafe when you can go out to eat. Or, better yet, just go home.

Having dinner for the group in the cafe was saying "We appreciate you staying late, so we're buying you a decent dinner." Handing someone a $6 meal coupon begrudgingly for junk food is like giving a handout to a bum.

Halloween used to be a big festivity. It varied by group, but generally it went like this:

All the employee's kids went trick or treating in the halls. Most people had candy at their office doors, and in the cafe they had things for kids like face painting, or a haunted house, or halloween pictures, etc.

That was like, "We appreciate your hard work, here is a chance for your family to come and us to say thank you to them."

Now, half the people don't put out candy and there are almost zero group events.

Believe it or not, in many ways the old MSFT used to be more family-centric. You worked long hours, but they showed appreciation for it.

A few times in the past, managers bought flowers for guys' (I work with 99% guys) wifes when they were working a lot to say thank you to them for their understanding. That doesn't happen anymore.

But let's talk about the towels and why people get upset about that.

Here you have a company sitting on billions of dollars made by the output of its employees. There is no manufacturing, etc. that really generates income. It's employee output.

The CEO kills free towels in the shower areas to save a few hundred thousand a year.

That just smacks of being cheap. It may be shallow to think this way, but that's how people think.

"You have bazillions of dollars and you won't pop for towels so I can take a shower and dry myself off?!? Why am I working 60 hours a week?"

MSFT always paid pretty crappy if you didn't count the options (and they and the awards pretty much don't count now). But people put up with it because 1) they were working on something cool, and, 2)they felt valued. They felt part of a family and something special.

The problem here is that the cost of these stupid perks is a pittance compared to the amount of extra work and employee loyalty MSFT is losing by taking them away.

Those stupid perks said a lot to people even (especially) when they didn't get the raise they hoped for, etc.

When the offices go, and there are good signs they will be going, what will be left that indicates MSFT values each employee and his (or her) contributions?

Employees no longer look at MSFT and say "I'm a Microsoftie." They look at MSFT and say "That's where I work."

Go into any parking lot at 5:05pm, and see the tumbleweeds. A few years ago, it would still be filled with cars. MSFT is no longer a way of life, but a job like any other. And that's because the company has moved from treating us like part of a family to hired help.

Family stays until the stuff is done. Hired help leaves at 5.

Anonymous said...

From a comment above:

http://minimsft.blogspot.com/2005/09/microsoft-company-meeting-im-looking.html#c112710778961792072

"Steve ... I worked directly with him on multiple projects. For certain he's not as out of touch as he appears in bw. He surely reads this blog. He's smart and he cares passionately about his legacy and ensuring that Microsoft is an enduring success beyond the current leadership. He also has more first hand experience with developers (admittedly from years back) than many people several levels below him. He understands people much better than you'd think if all you've ever seen of him is press and the company mtg."

Umm ... If the above is accurate, why would he lie to BW and come off (in general, not just this interview) like an integrity-free talking head. He's worse than Scott McClellan.

There are lots of great comments here about the evolution of the industry, of MSFT, etc. All very interesting, very intellectually stimulating. But they miss the point. No one seems to be able to address directly Ballmer's lack of leadership ability. A CEO really needs this!

While Ballmer may be all of the things the comment above states (highly debatable), the fact is he is not CEO material. He just doesn't have the ability to do the job. The only real reason he has it is because of his closeness to Gates. That is not a qualification.

MSFT's problems start there. There is no easy fix to ALL of MSFT's problems, but step one should be real leadership. This boat goes nowhere fast without that.

Mini's goal of a leaner, meaner Microsoft should start by trimming the fat at the top.

Anonymous said...

"While Ballmer may be all of the things the comment above states (highly debatable), the fact is he is not CEO material. He just doesn't have the ability to do the job. The only real reason he has it is because of his closeness to Gates. That is not a qualification."

Well, the facts at least are that the company hasn't been more successful with him in that role. Growth is down to single-digits, real earnings (not bullshit profit before charges) have barely budged since 00, ship timelines on core products are now measured in half-decades, emerging businesses haven't borne fruit despite years of trying and $Billions invested, and the stock has imploded and now flat-lined for over 3 years. He also received the lowest score ever recorded in one of the main bus pubs CEO survey. Not exactly the way to build confidence externally.

Anonymous said...

"Strong rumors are saying

Alchim retires"

Yeah! Way overdue. Maybe he can join Ernst and Jullio Gallo - they won't ship anything before its time either.

"KJ takes over a new BG containing Server (Simonwi), Client (BrianV) and MSN (Yussef)"

Hope that doesn't refer to Simon Witts? He's a moron. As regards the rest, sounds like a plus.

"Eric Ruder takes a new job working with Billg"

Smart if it's replacing him. Stupid otherwise.

"JeffR takes over a new BG
Office, MBS & MED"

Why? So he can turn the collective growth of all three into negative numbers vs simply flat? Huge Mistake. Raikes should be put out to pasture so that he can better focus on whatever it is that he's been liquidating all his MSFT for. Then we can get someone in there who'll actually focus on implementing the changes required to grow these businesses vs making grandiose statements with no substance behind them like "Bus Sol will be a $10B division by the end of the decade".

"Will Poole keeps Consumer & HED"

Marginal.

"New agressive comp plan for Techs only"

GOOG options? MST puts?

Anonymous said...

MSFT is no longer a way of life, but a job like any other. And that's because the company has moved from treating us like part of a family to hired help.

That is true.

I visited Google a couple of months ago, and was especially struck by the esprit de corps there (more so in Mountain View than Kirkland). This is a shallow metric, but every other person was wearing some clever Google-themed t-shirt. On a deeper level, many people's 20% projects were aimed internally (the spinning globe with a query map in the lobby, for instance).

That seems largely missing from Microsoft now. There used to be a huge sense of pride associated with being a 'softie; it came off as arrogance sometimes but it built great bonds within teams. That is completely gone now.

Why it's gone is a bigger and much more difficult question. The culture as a whole has shifted dramatically. I think it's a combination of general industry trends, the bloating of the company, shitty stock performance, downward trends in hiring talent, and on and on. Fixing it may be impossible and at best will require massive changes.

A great start would be for upper management to admit there's a problem.

Anonymous said...

http://www.seobook.com/archives/001130.shtml

Be extra careful Mini.

Anonymous said...

Here's the key issue the company has today:

- The salary and compensation plans are way lower than the market

- In order to fill-up the open positions, the hiring managers are beefing up 2-3levels, signing bonus and other benefits so they can become competitive and hire externalls

- As the externals get into the company, they get 2-3 levels higher than the same internal person with the same skill set

It is a time bomb....

Daniel Kwiat said...

As an outsider, I want to suggest an obvious way for Microsoft to alter dramatically tilt the internet playing field: in addition to taking a piece of AOL, buy Ebay.

Ebay is a natural fit with the new MSN search and its rivalry with Google/Froogle. MSN could then become the defacto site for shoppers' searches--and subtract Evay ads from Google & Yahoo. (I would go further and rebrand the search engine and portal an Ebay search & portal, because MSN sounds so unappealingly corporate, and the website is graphically dull.)

In time, then I would spin out the new complete network/portal/search engine as a separate company and allow it to become a MSFT competitor, by offering certain applications online that are now downloads.

Well, that's my two cents, as an outsider. I can see that you don't want to become bigger, but MSN has no character or distinguishing quality; it always seems behind the curve. Perhaps as a rebranded separate company it can get some kind of sparkle. As an Ebay portal, perhaps it can develop special appeal to women.

Anonymous said...

"- As the externals get into the company, they get 2-3 levels higher than the same internal person with the same skill set"

This is so true and it's not just a recent problem. For years hiring an external candidate into an L65 position was *way* easier than getting an existing employee promoted to L65. The former typically just required a nod from a hiring manager, the latter VP or in some cases senior VP approval.

Anonymous said...

This completely applies to SteveB: http://www.jimcollins.com/lab/brutalFacts/p2.html

"...less charismatic leaders often produce better long-term results than their more charismatic counterparts."

We love watching him get up there a screaming at the top of his lungs about innovation and how things are "super exciting," but maybe that's not what we need. BillG's tenor was more appropriate for a great company.

Anonymous said...

I was recently interviewed at Microtsoft. The interview went fine but I have to say some of the interviewers(were Indians & I am an Indian too) were really didn't come across really smart. There was one guy who I really think was smart(Indian again). But rest were not so great. I still haven't accepted the position.Someone from MS told me to see this site. I really think that majority of you guys hate Indians - probably because we are not white-programmers- or maybe you somehow believe that Indians are not asked hard problems during interview. But how can some Indian join your company when you have so much hate for indians. I used to think that since you are all intellegent and bright people,you will be color blind too. But that is not the case. I may or may not join MSFT but I will keep checking out this blog. Looks like I made a right decision by looking at this site and *saved* you people from one more "towel-head" Indian
-an indian programmer

Mark said...

From your description, it sounds like "Office Space" would be a more apt analogy than Dilbert--TPS reports and all that.

I agree. I wouldn't want to work at a place that didn't understand how development projects work, though I've worked at places where the managers were not engineers in a previous life, but they "went to bat for me". If I told them I needed more time to get something done, due to an unforseen circumstance, or I needed some resource outside the company to complete what I was doing, they'd take it on, try to work it out, so all I had to worry about was coding. That's the ideal environment. Just saying they don't have to be former engineers to understand that.

The managerial hiring story is interesting. I remember seeing an interview with Marc Andreeson in Wired a few years ago where he talked about this, that any tech company has to keep tight controls on who they hire, in the sense that you not only want the competence and experience, but that their managerial style meshes with the company's cultural goals. You start hiring bad people, especially at the top, and the company starts to rot from the head down! He said that's what happened at Netscape, and was a significant factor in their downfall.

In terms of slipping ship dates, I don't see that as a new phenomenon at Microsoft. I can remember when it was looking like Windows 95 was going to be shipped in 1996, and that was after some projected ship dates for it had already been changed. I don't know if "the good 'ole days" were as good as Mini thinks.

Anonymous said...

Great blog. Came to know about it from SteveB's Businessweek interview. I worked for Microsoft for a year and half in late 90s. I was sensing a lot of these problems even back then. However, I had assumed that I felt that way because I ended up joining the wrong team. Also I attributed at least a part of it to the ongoing anti-trust trial and thought things would improve once the trial was over. Apparently it has not.

The environment was definitely not what I had expected when I was hired straight out of campus. I was the only dev that got hired from our campus. I still remember feeling a sense of accomplishment and super-stardom after surviving those gruelling interviews. However, I was brought down to earth very soon. I joined the Windows team. My manager came from an acquired company. He was new to Microsoft and had very little influece during stack ranking. I had the first welcome-here-is-your-3.0 review a few months after joining. I worked really hard for a year and got you-are-doing-great-but-everyone-else-had-worked-so-hard-for-so-long 3.5 (with negligible raise/bonus/stocks) a year after that. It was not worth it and it was time to move on to bay area which has been good to me. At times I did regret that move and wished I had given other groups in Microsoft a try. But when I look at the 5 year stock chart and read blogs like this, I feel I probably made the right move.

Anonymous said...

"in the sense that you not only want the competence and experience, but that their managerial style meshes with the company's cultural goals"

Sorry, not buying it. Successful companies have strong and effective cultures that guide existing and new recruits be they mgt or emps. Also, it wasn't new mgt that selected the various struggling new businesses to invest in, who broke the law resulting in massive credibility and financial loss, who've spent billions on innovation with very little to show for it, who've failed completely to get Vista or SQL out the door in a timely fashion, who have provided so many marginal upgrades of Office that the entire division is showing flat to negative growth, or who won't give up a long outdated development process of put out any old crap and then improve it from there vs blow people away from day one. All that - and the hiring of all these new outside mgrs - was done by none other than ol time "great" MSFT mgrs. Bottom line, the main problem is the culture itself. If MSFT's was less about ruthless competiton/zero-sum gain/self-interest/internal politics and more about innovation/customer-focused excellence/win/win partnerships/ humility/competing on merit vs clout or legacy, the company would be in much better shape and mgrs who were arrogant, non-emp or customer focused, backstabbing, political, etc, etc. wouldn't last long. As it is, they thrive...

Anonymous said...

"...less charismatic leaders often produce better long-term results than their more charismatic counterparts."

Dear Shareholders,

Some of you have complained that you're effectively flat since '98. Others have even indicated that they're down 50% since 00. Still others have suggested that a $1 invested in Apple 10 years ago would be worth more than the same $1 invested in MSFT. To all those who have taken the time to write me, let me first say thank you -it's only by being constantly challenged that we improve. However, after careful review, we feel comfortable that we do not have a problem with our stock. Indeed, many of my senior mgt team report that they've found no shortage of buyers on the numerous occasions where they've unloaded millions of shares worth billions of dollars. Therefore, we've concluded that the real problem is that you're simply not taking a long enough timeframe.

Sincerely,

Steve "Chair-chucker" Ballmer.

p.s. thx for okaying that one-time. I know that it appears to have been a resounding lose/lose for shareholders. However, as one of the largest, I can tell you that it was much easier and more lucrative for me personally than trying to liquidate an equivalent amount of my shares.

Anonymous said...

So this is my first post to the site.

I'll start by caveating that this is my 14th year at the company and I'm generally a pretty big fan. I've always enjoyed working here, have had the opportunity to ship lots of software that I thought was cool, that made people's lives better and that made some nice cha-ching for the company. I've also had the pleasure of working on teams of people who I really liked and respected. And I'd say the same thing about my job today as any I've had in the past - it's fun and I'm excited to get up in the morning.

I've read through the last 6 months of mini's postings and hundreds of comments. Lots of interesting ideas and lots of passion for how to make MSFT a better company - that is cool.

Let me start off by saying that I was here and the "glory" days of MSFT are greatly mythologized and usually overated. Yes, we worked hard and yes, we beat Netscape, IBM and Novell. But everyone has always felt underpaid (even when the stock was going up), everyone has always complained that we were too big/stuffy (even when I arrived and the company was only ~5000 people), everyone has always felt that working across teams was too hard, everyone has always felt that the VP's are somewhat disconnected from the real world. And yes, BillG has a history of being unpleasant to people in person and over email. Kai Fu was just the latest example.

So my take is as follows - many of the issues people raise ring true - but most are overstated.

-> Yes in some cases it takes too many meetings to get things done. Cross division work is especially hard. But let's be honest, it's always been hard! Since I arrived in '92, we've always sucked at working with each other across teams! We're all focused on the success of our products and are perfectly happy to ignore the needs of other products.

However any GPM worth their salt understands how to make this work - pick a small number of big impact cross-team collaborations, get the right exec commitment on both sides (a must have) and then do whatever it takes to make them work - If your team isn't doing that successfully - go ask your GPM why!! And if your team is trying to work with everyone - go ask your GPM why!! That's no formal for success!


-> Yes, there are some new processes that seem un-needed, but big companies need processes (to keep all of us from stepping all over each other). And some of the new processes seem pretty effective to me. I think the SDL is a big win for our customers (and our image with the press/analysts). I've seen some really cool work in using story-boarding to improve product design and speccing lately. And the new, much smaller BPR's and Strat Reviews (which have gotten much less taxing and much shorter)are a huge improvement over the "good old days" when literally 100 or more people would spend all day in them.


-> Yes, the curve is unpleasant, but it is effective in that it forces us to heavily reward our best performers and minimally reward our lowest performers. I believe that if it weren't for the discipline enforced by the curve, what we would see is everybody getting about the same because it's just so much easier for managers to deliver middle of the road messages than "you aren't cutting the mustard" messages.

> Leadership challenges? Some, but not the ones people seem to be heated about. I've had the chance to interact with Steve hundreds of times over the years - he's unbelievably smart, insightful, and he has an uncanny ability to look at complex/hard problems and break them down into simple to understand patterns and issues. Every time I've walked out of a discussion with Steve, I've been a bit smarter and understood what I had to do to win with greater clarity. He's got my vote 100%.

And contrary to others on the board - I actually believe that our challenge in leadership is not having too few people who understand technology - in fact I believe we have too many people who have never had to run a business or figure out a P&L or find a new profitable business venture - JimAl? He probably can't even tell if a P&L is upside down! BrianV? I think the world of him in terms of being an engineer, but understanding how to run a business and make money doing it? He's out of his league. KJ, Raikes, Robbie Bach, Orlando, BillG & SteveB are really our only broadly effective business leaders - I believe we need more of these kinds of guys not less. You'll recall, that as much as BillG is technically smart, he is even more "business smart". He invented an entirely new business model (independantly purchased software) and built a huge partner ecosystem to make that model succeed. Steve knows this and that's why we have a new COO from Walmart and why tomorrow's reorg is going to put business leaders running our businesses rather then techies. We need more business savvy people like Bill and Steve, not less.

So what's my take about what is going on at MSFT?

-> Longhorn hangover: Let's be honest, for anyone who's worked on Longhorn, it's been a long, brutal, discouraging ship cycle. So many cool ideas, so many missed opportunities. Once it finally ships, I think the world will in fact say "hey, this is pretty cool" - because the boxes won't have the "features we had to cut to get this out the door" list on it. However in our minds, it will always be underwhelming because we worked so hard on it, had such big dreams and the end result doesn't seem grand enough. I see this as one of the primary causes of "malaise" in the company today - but luckily, one that will pass once Longhorn ships.


-> No "exciting" vision: I believe this is the single biggest morale problem in the company right now - We don't have a solid, exciting vision that we are all passionate about and bought into - Integrated innovation is definitely what our customers are asking for - but it's not something that get's our PM's/Dev's/Testers blood heated - This may be the one thing I miss about having BillG as the CEO - he did a pretty good job of getting us all lined up and excited about a single vision (usually a specific competitor we were going to put out of business). However I've recently read some pretty exciting, pretty visionary stuff that Ray Ozzie is supposedly driving - and I think we'll all feel a lot more excited over the next 12 months when it finally starts to become clear to the world where we are going.

-> Code Quality: What's the number one thing holding developers back from writing code for the next big breakthrough? Is it meetings? Is it filling in tracking spreadsheets? No, these are minor annoyances. Our #1 biggest problem far and away is that for every day a developer spends coding, they spend 1.25 - 2 days (in our best teams, worse in others) fixing the bugs in their code! Want to make a giant leap in the amount of time you can spend on creating new/cool stuff? Slow down on the spec/design/code that you are working on now and get it right the first time! You have the opportunity to improve your own productivity as much as 100%!!

One of my personal theories - If we called them "Personal Failures" (which is what they really are when you think about it. People are failing when they put faults in their spec/design/code) rather than "Bugs" we'd actually put in a lot less of them - Can you imagine how different you'd feel if you had 25 "Personal Failures" assigned to you in RAID that you had to fix? You'd be damn sure you had less next time!! No one at MSFT would willingly accept a personal failure - but a bug? well, that's not so bad - everyone has bugs in their code.

-> Stock price woes: None of us likes the fact that the stock has been flat for so long - it sucks and yes, it was definitely more exciting to work for the company when everyday the stock was a little higher than the previous day - That being said, my take is that we are nearing the end of the dry season - MSFT was VASTLY over-valued on a PE basis even in late '98 - Now we are finally valued fairly and look like a relatively good buy - right at the time we have some of our biggest releases coming and when we are about to tell the world about an exciting new vision - one that should help the analysts and investors see just how big the growth opportunity for the company and the stock is going forward.

My net net - MSFT, just like all human systems, has foibles and can definitely work on them - And yes, it's a big company which has pros (getting your software in front of millions of people and having giant marketing campaigns, etc.) and cons. But many of the big issues are getting actively addressed, and maybe the biggest opportunity for improvement is something we can all own - end-to-end quality.

And after 14 years, I still think it's the best place in the world develope great software and work with cool and motivated people.

Anonymous said...

Those are all great points.
Mr. @ 14 Years.

But, I don't want the business preached to me. I want to feel good about my job, that I'm cared about, and feel motivated to do my best because it matters. I expect my group at the least, my gpm, and my VP even at some level to push that message.

I don't expect a cheerleader in my office (not that I've got an office) but I don't want to hear every day outside how much we suck, and then everyone agree on the inside. Business isn't what I work for, why did that become the overriding message in everything I hear, what about excellence and making the right choices because we're big enough and have enough cash to do so.

I work for pride when it comes right down to it.

I'm loosing it.

Who da'Punk said...

Re: the 14-year Microsoftie posting: thanks for sharing that and taking time to write up such a well thought out point-of-view. I may not agree, but I'm glad to have your comments here.

Anonymous said...

I think the current hiring process is a disaster, especially when it relates to GMs and VPs.

I've been in close contact with many of them over the last 4 or 5 years, and 90% of those Senior Executives externally hired are incredbly under-skilled and do not have the minimun conditions to become a VP or GM.

I have witnessed some embarassing moments with customers telling us "What the hell this person is doing?" He does not understand a single word of technology but holds a big title. I have been asked by one VP in particular, leading a highly important and visible unit of MS "what's that little red line underneat the words when I write sentences, using Outlook or Word?".

Some other VPs use cuecards when presenting to customers. That is so sad...

It's really embarassing when customers ask us not to talk to our senior executives as they don't see any value on them.

Again, that is the result of our lousy compensation strategy and even worse hiring strategy.

Think about it and answer honestly? Do you think we have a first class HR team? Do you think we have a decent (not even good) professional development options? We all know that all those Leadership programs only benefit the same group of people that belong to the "High Management" circle, not by merit but by "friednship". When was the last time you told yourself after a review "Yeap. That makes sense. I am feeling good."

I am very sad to feel like this becasue I know after 13 years, I still love this company but I getting more and more disappointed every day.

I am sure the Company Meeting will be another bla-bla-bla and nothing will change, except the Executives compensation while our benefits get stiffer and stiffer.

Sad, sad times we are living!

Anonymous said...

"Re: the 14-year Microsoftie posting: thanks for sharing that and taking time to write up such a well thought out point-of-view. I may not agree, but I'm glad to have your comments here."

Second that. I agreed with a lot of it and disagree with a lot of it. But it was a interesting and thoughtful read overall. Kudos to the writer and to you Mini for creating a forum where this [high] level of debate/discussion occurs.

Anonymous said...

Hello, two comments here refer to a re-org coming, perhaps Tuesday? What's up with that? Is it going to be a big massive re-org or more of a tweak?

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine how different you'd feel if you had 25 "Personal Failures" assigned to you in RAID that you had to fix? You'd be damn sure you had less next time!!

Typical MBA bullshit. Thinking you can rename something and it becomes something else. A good dev doesn't give a shit what you call it, they know when they've screwed up and they want to fix it.

Anonymous said...

"I have witnessed some embarassing moments with customers telling us "What the hell this person is doing?" He does not understand a single word of technology but holds a big title."

Valid concern but I've also seen numerous MSFT snr managers who knew MSFT technology but similarly embarassed themselves by knowing nothing about business or enterprise computing. Bottom line, good account teams make sure that they're matching the right resources to the right customer situations. Also, by the time you get to most VP/GM positions especially those outside of development, general business savvy is probably a lot more important skill set than general technical savvy. That said, it's hard to imagine any MSFT VP not understanding the red lines in Office - esp when the product provides about 40% of the profit that underwrites his/her paycheck.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Schofield has a good posting called "Enough" at http://radio.weblogs.com/0133184/2005/09/19.html#a376 - good read.

However, it kind of goes into a "This has all happened before. This will all happen again" explaing away any problems we have. Yes, everyone hates the review model. Everyone has always hated the review model. So, the review model will always be... status quo mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine how different you'd feel if you had 25 "Personal Failures" assigned to you in RAID that you had to fix? You'd be damn sure you had less next time!!

Typical MBA bullshit. Thinking you can rename something and it becomes something else. A good dev doesn't give a shit what you call it, they know when they've screwed up and they want to fix it.

Yeah, a GOOD one would. However, every day I have to argue with certain developers that they have to fix certain bugs that customers give a shit about. It's not about the rename, it's about personal agendas.

Anonymous said...

Whoever said "As the externals get into the company, they get 2-3 levels higher than the same internal person with the same skill set" above I think hit the gist of the complaints here on the head. I don't think anybody feels that someone like Steven Sinofsky has not "earned" his title -- he started at the bottom and worked his way up. It's the (allegedly) over-levelled external hires that seem to annoy people.

Anonymous said...

Typical MBA bullshit. Thinking you can rename something and it becomes something else. A good dev doesn't give a shit what you call it, they know when they've screwed up and they want to fix it.

That's exactly right. Call it whatever you want, it doesn't change a thing.

I may or may not join MSFT but I will keep checking out this blog. Looks like I made a right decision by looking at this site and *saved* you people from one more "towel-head" Indian
- Indian programmer


And to the "Indian programmer" reply earlier, MS has been the most diversified place I've ever seen. Don't let some *disrespect* reply discourage you.

JCBIELEFELD said...

My answer to the pay/reward quandry @ MS (which seems to be at the heart of this blog) might lie in a concept I read about where an airline captain is paid a bonus by the financial profit performance of his specific assigned aircraft whether he is flying it or not. No profit-no extra reward. Teams at MS should be rewarded a bonus for the financial success of their own assigned "aircraft," or specific software/hardware project...or NOT.
Joseph Bielefeld
bielefeld@ekit.com

Anonymous said...

"Can you imagine how different you'd feel if you had 25 "Personal Failures" assigned to you in RAID that you had to fix? You'd be damn sure you had less next time!!"

Well, out of the 102 bugs I resolved in this month, exactly 0 were caused by code that I edited. Just think about that for a moment. 0/102. A lot were not repro or duplicates, but the rest were changes by other people that affected my feature and bugs I got because other people were overloaded and I was ahead of the curve. What a way to motivate people: 'Oh, you have just 60 bugs. Let me give you 40 more that have nothing to do with your work.' Why not let me get to 0 first and then refill the plate?

Would I have felt more strongly about them if they were called 'personal failures'? No, I don't think I could feel any more strongly.

And, as far as test goes... in my 9 years at MSFT, I've never gotten worse bugs than in the last two. Duplicates of a bug that repros in different parts of the product in exactly the same way; bugs that are too specific with extra unnecessary repro steps; and bugs that don't mention that they only happen on japanese 2003 server under terminal server. I know you are measured just by the number of bugs filed, but I see the quality of description trending more and more towards 'Ugh, something broken somewhere in product'. Show some pride, dammit!

Anonymous said...

Teams at MS should be rewarded a bonus for the financial success of their own assigned "aircraft," or specific software/hardware project...or NOT.

Wow, Wouldn't you hate to be part of a cost center. Like IT.

Anonymous said...

I am not so sure on the date thing, Mini. What does that really get you? In my mind it gets you a date driven release instead of a quality driven release. "We should ship no software before its time." Yes shipping is a feature but so it quality. Until you have a good idea of a date what is wrong with Qx of 2006 for a date? If you miss your date due to a quality issue then you get the press and customers grumpy because you did not hit your declaired date. I would rather hear six month delta before or six months before a fiscal year starts when a product is going to ship if I was a customer. Knowing the date for Vista or Office 12 right now does not help and as long as the beta come out then history would tell you just how much longer Microsoft will take before a product ships.

Anonymous said...

"I'm looking for some dates!"

Didn't the Businessweek article say you were married?

Anonymous said...

"Can you imagine how different you'd feel if you had 25 "Personal Failures" assigned to you in RAID that you had to fix? You'd be damn sure you had less next time!!"

Well, out of the 102 bugs I resolved in this month, exactly 0 were caused by code that I edited. Just think about that for a moment. 0/102. A lot were not repro or duplicates, but the rest were changes by other people that affected my feature and bugs I got because other people were overloaded and I was ahead of the curve. What a way to motivate people: 'Oh, you have just 60 bugs. Let me give you 40 more that have nothing to do with your work.' Why not let me get to 0 first and then refill the plate?


If they repeatedly load you up with other developers' bugs to consume your working day so you do not get to write new code, wake up and smell the constructive discharge.

If it is just occasional load levelling, calling bugs "personal failures" is naive.

After a release, the original developer, in many cases, has long since skipped off to another group to sprinkle some more personal failures over there.

The PM and the tester who also worked on the feature with the bug have also, in many cases, moved on to some other group or project.

"Hit and run" product development is a path some take. It doesn't allow anyone to build up any strong resentment against you that comes from working with people day after day after day year after year after year ...

If you are a software developer (not on a quick fix engineering team) and all you are doing all day is fixing other people's bugs, find another team to work with fast.

Anonymous said...

We should just hire more PMs and everything will be great. we should hire them at high levels so that they won't have to bother doing a lot of BS to get to higher levels.

my second suggestion is to put labels on everyone's forehead which tells whether they are dev/test or pm. that will be a good cure for dev/test racism.

Anonymous said...

I don't really agree with the Ballmer bashing.

Steve is not an idiot. Neither is Bill, nor JimAll, nor BrianV. These are the same people that have shipped tons of successful and competitive products in the past.

But, having said that, I have to ask, WTF happened to them? It's like Lars from Metallica. One day they're kicking ass, the next they're whining about Napster and dressing like a Hawaiian pimp.

BrianV is a great example. He and Iain dragged W2K out of the mud and shipped it with great leadership and by understanding the engineering process - and by understanding engineers. Same with XP.

But this is the same guy in charge of LH - can you believe it?

As far as businessmen vs. engineers in management go, there is a point there.

But people who manage engineers directly need to be engineers (or have been for a long time). They don't need to understand business concerns - that's what execs are for. They receive the business plan and help their engineers execute on it.

They don't do that with powerpoint slides, or checkpoint, or any of this bullcrap. They do it by providing an engineering environment.

If you want to see a proper engineering environment, put a webcam in some Linux hacker's room. You'll see hardware all over the place, crap from ThinkGeek strewn about, music blarning, etc.

Software engineers are geeks, not lawyers. We're the ones that broke the formal dress rule because we operate best when we're left alone with the computer so we can make it squeal like a stuck pig.

I think those old-time upper management guys like Bill and Steve just need a wake-up bitchslap.

How to do it? The first thing I would do is give Bill a project in LH and let him try to complete it with all the bullshit and nonsense. If he hasn't physically injured at least 10 people, and mentally injured at least 30 by the end of a week, I'll be surprised.

They need to feel our pain, and they don't. That's why they've become the way they are.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the occasional racist comments on this site:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118798/plotsummary

There is a line in the movie Bulworth about what the character thinks America should do about its racial problems which goes something like: "let's all fuck each other until we're all the came color".

Good advice. Get to it and shut the fuck up.

http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring98/india.htm

Brahman - priest

Bill and Steve

Kshatriya - ruler, warrior, landowner

The board and VPs

Vaishya - merchants

Marketing and Sales

Shudra - artisans, agriculturalists

Development, test and PM

Harijan - untouchables

Whoever comes up with Microsoft's TV commercials

Kevin Schofield said...

To the anaonymous poster who linked to my "Enough already" blog entry. Thanks for the nice commens. As I said, I wasn't trying to explain away everything as "seen that before, will see it again." Yes, there are problems. They do tend to precipitate crises. And that's what brings out the best in MS and its people. That's why I'm philosophical about this and optimistic that we'll make it through this.

Anonymous said...

"If they repeatedly load you up with other developers' bugs to consume your working day so you do not get to write new code, wake up and smell the constructive discharge."

While I stopped thinking much of the company as a whole, I don't believe my manager would stoop so low. I don't really believe in the tale of constructive discharges - this is at will employment, so there's nothing Microsoft would lose by politely ending the agreement and offering a small lump sum for a signed legal document saying all is as it should be.

Anonymous said...

To Mr. 14 year re:

"We've always sucked at working with each other across teams"

Right, this is nothing new, and it's not specific to MSFT. Cross team rivalry/friction is human nature. That's why Steve's focus on "integration" seems so naive. This strategy is doomed unless you figure out how to get people to stop acting like people.

Also, I worked at MSFT in the mid 90's and there were far fewer such dependencies then than there are now.

Anonymous said...

One thing to note: if you worked at MSFT before 1996, or if you were hired later from outside MSFT, you benefited from quick promotion to high levels and the financial upside of stock options.

Be aware that you do not experience life any way like the 30,000 or so employees who came later. It will be difficult for you to understand the frame of mind that comes with being paid too little and being restricted to menial work by managers who have less qualification than yourself.

Anonymous said...

It is true that the slowdown in Microsoft's rate of growth has created a kind of dichotomy between the Old Guard and the New Guard employees. Salary never used to be important. I remember having to sell my house for a 30K loss on the east coast in order to move to Redmond 10 years ago. It was big deal at the time, but I quickly got a new perspective when the stock options shot up to a million bucks within the first year. But those times are gone. Probably forever. Old Guarders need to remember that current employees' primary compensation is their salary and bonus. Stock awards are gravy, not the kind of wealth-building machine like options once were. Fortunately, I think that MS's salaries have come into confluence with the industry average. I like the fact that, through the years, MS's review model has been based upon demonstrated competencies, not seniority and patronage (granted, there may be cases where those abuses occur, but probably to very small degree). So the New Guarders can catch and overtake the Old Guarders, if they simply demonstrate better skills. That's eminently more fair. Still, I must say that there will probably always be a kind of tension between Old Guard and New Guard over the idea that some were in the right place at the right time -- and some weren't. But that's life.

happy said...

my biggest frustration is the way we are trying to improve morale. All the groups have a task now that if they are under the workplace health index that they have to improve it. Most groups improve it by emphasizing "work/life balance". That is the exact OPPOSITE of what we need. MS should WANT people to work longer, harder, better, smarter, because that's what our competitors are doing. Stop telling people to go home.

oh but i forgot, we don't pay people enough. we pay at 65 percentile yet we want to get 95 percentile people to work hard for us. HUH???? the difference in work to get a 4.0 or 4.5 from a 3.5 is probably going from 40 hrs a week to 60 hrs. But the difference in the lower levels in bonus/raise is a few %. So if you were someone happy with just hanging out and getting paid like in an old stodgy company then this works great for you. For someone that's ambitious and hungry? not so much...

frustrating!!!

Anonymous said...

This is in response to the "old guard" versus the "new guard".

I came to Microsoft 3 years ago from another company and I'm in Technical Sales (a TS). I took a pay cut and moved across contry (ugh, the wrong way). When I first got here it was all whiz-bang, wow, let me at 'em. I couldn't wait to roll out of bed.

Now, well, it's a job. I've tried to switch to other divisions but it is so incredibly hard to talk to those people. I tried for a PM spot and I was told that I placed too much emphasis on what the customer wants. WTF? I stood up and walked out of the interview. This after 3 earlier rounds and flying cross country just for the interview.

It was horrible.

The people back in Redmond are so insulated from what customers actually want and are asking for. I'm amazed that we even speak a common language.

Some random thoughts:

Why do we have managers who manage no one?

Why do we need yet another GTM and a whole organization to run it?

If you cut out the middle third of Microsoft (those that don't make or sell software) would anyone notice?

Bao said...

Hi guys, please join Robert Scoble and I for a serious debate about some nasty bugs in MSN Search and IE.

Robert has sneakily acknowledged some of the issues but refuses to talk about them more publicly which is why I have to post the links here.

For more details:

(1) Bug or censorship in MSN Search

(2) A brutal solution to the IE z-index bug

Anonymous said...

anyone actually read Ballmer's email announcing the further buildup of upper management infrastructure by splitting the company into three divisions and moving the VPs into President positions? Any comments? I've been waiting for Mini's remarks and critiques of the strategy for over an hour now...

My opinion? There are two ways to look at this. One is a further randomization of upper management structure which doesnt promote integration so much as separation of business units. Putting some of the people in charge that are mentioned places them in direct line of fire for criticisms of lost opportunities if they misfire on their strategies - and thus accountability is raised and made a true focus. The second is that we split off the money makers from the loss leaders and make their orgs actually perform at the higher level needed to bring them up to a profitable level.

There is also the spin that with promoting the people they did will mean that once Alchin leaves (which was inevitable given the massive scheduling delays and feature chopping in Longhorn) we'll see a new direction for Windows more closely aligned with maintenance and service pack development that our competitors would love to see, and then watch BillG and SteveB fade away slowly to retirement themselves.

I dont know if Windows will be as prominent as a cash cow in the future (or Office for that matter) as it was in the past. MSFT really needs to find the next big thing very quickly since it seems like everyone else has found something that is on the road to it and we're trudging along behind to pick up the pieces they leave behind.

Thras said...

There is a line in the movie Bulworth about what the character thinks America should do about its racial problems which goes something like: "let's all fuck each other until we're all the came color".

Won't happen in any sort of short time-scale. Besides, I'd like to keep my population's IQ advantages -- check out Lahn's ASPM and microcephalin articles in the new issue of Science; notice the population distributions. Yes Virginia, there are IQ genes, and they're distributed like everybody knew they were. And given that these were the first two alleles that Lahn's team looked at, be ready for a lot more.

Anonymous said...

I was told that I placed too much emphasis on what the customer wants.

WTF indeed. So how does this fall in line with CPE?? Surely a PM who is geared to customer needs is an asset?!?!?! I think that must be a PG thing - I work in the field, and for bypassing commitments and doing what the customers wanted I garnered a few awards/bonuses plus a good review. I know of other PG's where that would be seen as a real plus in the hiring process.

As for the reorg - I'm positive about it. A number of comments here are around being a good business manager as opposed to being a good tech lead. KJ is certainly the former and I think he will do well. As for the other parts of the reorg - well I don't know enough to comment. Interesting that a ton of the comments here prior to the announcement were uncannily true - so much for the idea that this blog is only digested by the leaf nodes...

Anonymous said...

>BrianV is a great example. He and Iain dragged W2K out of the mud and shipped it

Um... I didn't see it that way at all. I was in the Windows group during this time frame, and I think it went more like this:

Brian and Iain showed up with 1 year to go, and shipped by essentially stopping more stuff from creeping in.

I'm not saying Moshe did a kick-ass job, but let's be fair to him - he was there when ACPI and PnP absolutely HAD to be in the product. He was there when a 6 month delay meant that much more industry hardware HAD to be supported. AGP, firewire, time would pass and more stuff HAD to be added to work.

Brian and Iain showed up AFTER all that stuff was "paid" for, locked it down, and claimed total victory.

Now the tables are turned. They've been there for the duration of Vista. And guess what, it has slipped massively, proving they aren't some sort of scheduling geniuses.

Maybe the reality is giant releases of the OS are prone to slippage, no matter who is in charge.

Anonymous said...

Besides, I'd like to keep my population's IQ advantages -- check out Lahn's ASPM and microcephalin articles in the new issue of Science; notice the population distributions. Yes Virginia, there are IQ genes, and they're distributed like everybody knew they were. And given that these were the first two alleles that Lahn's team looked at, be ready for a lot more.

Maybe elephants (bigger brains) should run Microsoft ‘cause you’re stoopid.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/science/08cnd-brain.html

Dr. Lahn acknowledges this point, writing in his article that "it remains formally possible that an unrecognized function of microcephalin outside of the brain is actually the substrate of selection."
Another geneticist, David Goldstein of Duke University, said the new results were interesting but that "it is a real stretch to argue for example that microcephalin is under selection and that that selection must be related to brain size or cognitive function."


http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2005/09/this-is-bruce-lahns-brain-on-aspm-and.php

http://universalacid.blogspot.com/2005/09/human-brain-still-evolving.html

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to Kevin Schofield, I think he's missing a few key differences between the battles of the past and those of today. First of all, the Old Guard had the stock growth to carry them through the rough times - knowing you are worth millions or are on the path to become a millionaire makes up for a lot of the pain. As one poster suggested above, the Old Guard simply is incapable of understanding this (I don't mean that as an insult - just a psychological observation). Promotions and career growth are also much slower than they were in the past. I don't believe upper management can possibly appreciate how much this hurts morale because they are unable to put themselves in the shoes of the New Guard. Secondly, there are more fish with more resources nibbling at us than in the past. For example, we didn't have to fight heavily against the free software loons ten years ago (while I don't think they have a sustainable business model, we have to spend time and money to counter them). Thirdly, we have a number of legal issues that hang around our neck like a weightstone. We can't make decisions as freely as we once could. Finally, our major products are much more tightly integrated now. We aren't nearly as nimble as we were in the past, with all of this "integrated innovation" going on. Product development slows to a crawl when you must march in lockstep with ten other teams - just one incompetent team can affect the schedule and quality of many others across a division. I wonder how much of this pain Schofield actually experiences being in MSR.

The problems that plague the company right now ARE fixable - but it's a mistake to think of them as being similar to the ones we've experienced in the past.

Anonymous said...

Brian and Iain showed up AFTER all that stuff was "paid" for, locked it down, and claimed total victory.

Now the tables are turned. They've been there for the duration of Vista. And guess what, it has slipped massively, proving they aren't some sort of scheduling geniuses.


Brian initially got promoted in Exchange because everyone else left. Established executives did not believe it would ship and they did not want a huge failure on their resume.

Because of the delays, people at other companies were starting to lose their jobs because they recommended Exchange 4.0 to their managers. Brian's answer to that was a group meeting in the atrium of building 16 so everyone could see the pained expression on the face of a guy working at an early adopter who was close to losing his job.

Same thing in every project though -- somebody draws the line at "no more" and then holds it until the quality is acceptable to ship.

It doesn't take a scheduling genius to do that.

Anonymous said...

Promotions and career growth are also much slower than they were in the past. I don't believe upper management can possibly appreciate how much this hurts morale because they are unable to put themselves in the shoes of the New Guard.

You're not helpless. Interview at other companies and compare any offers you get to what you are getting. If you want to stay at Microsoft, give them a chance to match it. If not, take the better offer.

Thras said...

Yes? These ASPM and microcephalin brain genes have swept through the human population due to some selective advantage other than intelligence? Go on. I'm intrigued by your theories. Don't hold back now.

(By the way, in case English isn't your first language -- I'm really not trying to be snide about this, I don't know that it is -- "formally possible" is a somewhat dismissive usage. Which is also obvious from reading the rest of the quote instead of snipping it off.)

Anonymous said...

"If they repeatedly load you up with other developers' bugs to consume your working day so you do not get to write new code, wake up and smell the constructive discharge."

While I stopped thinking much of the company as a whole, I don't believe my manager would stoop so low. I don't really believe in the tale of constructive discharges - this is at will employment, so there's nothing Microsoft would lose by politely ending the agreement and offering a small lump sum for a signed legal document saying all is as it should be.


You can read elsewhere on this site for how effective the "at will" doctrine actually is.

Your manager would stoop so low when pressured by HR to get rid of anyone with repeat 3.0's. If that's not you, then you're doing alright.

Anonymous said...

(By the way, in case English isn't your first language -- I'm really not trying to be snide about this, I don't know that it is -- "formally possible" is a somewhat dismissive usage. Which is also obvious from reading the rest of the quote instead of snipping it off.)

He would dismiss any criticism of his work wouldn’t he? You’re saying that because he dismissed someone else’s doubts about his work that it must be true.

Like I said – bring on the elephants. They have a bigger cerebral cortex.

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=7061
“For two of these outliers, ASPM and Microcephalin, previous work from Lahn's group already has implicated them in the evolutionary enlargement of the human brain. Loss-of-function mutations in either ASPM or Microcephalin cause microcephaly in humans - a severe reduction in the size of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, abstract reasoning and other higher cognitive function.”

http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/elep.html
“The total surface area of the African elephant cerebral cortex is 6,300 cm2. The surface area of the human cerebral cortex is 2,500 cm2.”

Anonymous said...

You know, the underlying question is what sort of company Microsoft is going to be in the long term, like 5 and 10 years from now. I say that because strategy determines management, which is what the people here are writing about.

Everything top management has done that you are complaining about was done because they thought, rightly or wrongly, it was necessary to achieve Microsoft's long-term goals. And likewise any suggestions you make are going to be rejected unless you can persuade top management that the changes would help Microsoft in the long term.

That means if you are going to get anywhere changing Microsoft, you need to think about this question of long-term corporate strategy.

Where are Gates and Ballmer trying to go? What markets is Microsoft aiming for, how much is it trying to grow, and how is it planning to defend itself against open source, Google, and Web 2.0?

These are really tough problems for Microsoft because it doesn't make hardware like IBM, Sun, Apple and HP do. It makes only software, except for the Xbox, but it doesn't have the enterprise locked in like Oracle or SAP does. It is a huge company, but it mostly rests on two software programs, Windows and Office, and the problem with software is 1)it doesn't wear out and 2) it can be at least partly cloned. All that puts Microsoft, for all its strength, in a peculiarly vulnerable position.

So let me ask where do you think Microsoft is trying to get in the long term, and, if you think those goals are wrong -- such as being unattainable -- they where do you think it should go instead? And in either case, how does it relate to the particular changes you would like to see?

Anonymous said...

Someone asked about Amazon way earlier in this thread. I had meant to post some time ago and never did so, so here we go.

I spent 6 years at Microsoft and left for Amazon 2.5 years ago.

The net: I haven't spent a moment looking back.

Yes, Amazon is a big company that desperately wishes it was still a small company; yes, there can be a real and meaningful disconnect between the people getting stuff done and the executive team; yes, the lack of software discipline and quality control can drive one crazy.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, Amazon's a great place to be. One thing I didn't believe before coming to Amazon was that this was actually a company with real software engineering - they just make a website, right? How hard could that be? I've been disabused of that notion with authority as I dig into real technical and business problems. The engineering teams I work with today is as strong as the strongest team I worked with at MS, and other teams are equivalent. They're also in general more cooperative and less grandstand-y, and you mostly retain the notion that we're all in this together.

I've watched places where the company is struggling - in engineering, in management - and seen it try to figure out how to fix the problem, and make real (if sometimes slow) forward progress.

Perhaps most importantly to this group, we're quick at realizing when we make hiring mistakes. I've watched a lot of folks get marginalized-and-flushed quickly (sometimes perhaps too quickly...) as we aggressively move incompetence out of the way and out the door.

This is a tough environment in which to be successful: it moves fast, the amount of details flying at any one time are significant, and judgement happens quickly. That's risky - you can't just go hide. But it's nice to feel like what you do matters.

(more info? I made up a gmail acct for just that. msftamzninterest@gmail.com. Just contact me, I'll keep it to myself.)

Anonymous said...

Do a quick search for Microsoft reorg... How many results do you see? This regorg, like all past reorgs, does not change a thing. Sounds good on paper, is a great news story, but nothing will change.

Ok, so now there are 3 primary Divisions. How is this different, in a material way, than the structure that was in place yesterday. Jeff runs the business division, but what specifically didn't he run yesterday, that he now runs today? Same with Robbie, same with Jim.

This, in my opinion, is a reorg in name only, hand built for the press. You have the same old dinosaurs running the same old groups. No new thinking, and certainly no new freedom for these "presidents".

Exactly what new freedom do you think these guys will have? Do you think the Jeff will be free to pursue Office on Linux? Bet thats a decision for Bill, Steve, or the combined SLT. If Jim does not want to ship .NET framework on low end versions of Vista, do you think he is free to make that decision? Suppose Bill invents a new idea of "integrated innovation", are Jim and Jeff free to ignore Bill and run their businesses and set their priorities with complete freedom? Suppose Robbie thought that the best thing to do was to embrace Apple's format, shake hands, and ditch WMA. Does he have the authority to make a decision like that? I don't think so.

My belief is that all of the complex, strategic decision making, will continue to be centralized at the very top of Microsoft.

Why is it that folks think Microsoft has lost it's agility? My guess is that most associate the Longhorn/Vista delays with this lost agility. I think this is a cop out. The systemic constipation inside of Microsoft around Longhorn/Vista is the result of the Chief Software Architect's failure to properly design and architect his vision of integrated innovation. Bill is an architect in name only.

The only news is that Jim's retirement is official. Big deal. I thought Microsoft had some new found love of accountability. Why is Jim still allowed to work and get compensated like a king? Didn't he oversee the most poorly run software engineering project in the entire history of Microsoft? What about Valentine and some of the other cronies? What about Bill himself? He is supposed to be the "Chief Software Architect" of the most powerful software company in the world? Go look at all other architects at all technology companies, all over the world. How many of them would still have their job if the designs and systems they were responsible for have slipped by years, have been wildly over budget, and whose functionality will ultimately deliver less that 1/4 of what was originally promised.

Would you still have your job if you performed so poorly?

Thras said...

bring on the elephants

LOL. Sorry about that. Your first post made me think you were serious. But there really are people with thought-provoking objections to these findings. I'm not sure that making fun of that in the way you are is helpful to the debate.

Anonymous said...

For Anonymous at 3:26pm,

The one material impact I can clearly see from this reorg is that most of the consumer entertainment items are now under one umbrella. Previously things like MSTV, Mobile Devices, Media Center, Xbox, etc...which all revolve around the digital entertainment space were spread out across multiple divisions. Getting these under one leader is a step in the right direction IMHO.

Anonymous said...

The genetic/race/intelligence comments are a totally off topic and a complete distraction.

Mini, I humbly suggest that you nuke them.

Anonymous said...

The company is in serious middle age.

Huge gulf between highly paid execs and the workers.

It's exactly what IBM was.

Anonymous said...

Recommanded Reading:
http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/
Managing for Creativity
Richard Florida, Jim Goodnight
July 2005 Issue
Reprint # R0507L

Abstract:
A company's most important asset isn't raw materials, transportation systems, or political influence. It's creative capital--simply put, an arsenal of creative thinkers whose ideas can be turned into valuable products and services. Creative employees pioneer new technologies, birth new industries, and power economic growth. If you want your company to succeed, these are the people you entrust it to. But how do you accommodate the complex and chaotic nature of the creative process while increasing efficiency, improving quality, and raising productivity? Most businesses haven't figured this out. A notable exception is SAS Institute, the world's largest privately held software company. SAS makes Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list every year. The company has enjoyed low employee turnover, high customer satisfaction, and 28 straight years of revenue growth. What's the secret to all this success? The authors, an academic and a CEO, approach this question differently, but they've come to the same conclusion: SAS has learned how to harness the creative energies of all its stakeholders, including its customers, software developers, managers, and support staff. Its framework for managing creativity rests on three guiding principles. First, help employees do their best work by keeping them intellectually engaged and by removing distractions. Second, make managers responsible for sparking creativity and eliminate arbitrary distinctions between "suits" and "creatives." And third, engage customers as creative partners so you can deliver superior products. Underlying all three principles is a mandate to foster interaction--not just to collect individuals' ideas. By nurturing relationships among developers, salespeople, and customers, SAS is investing in its future creative capital.

Anonymous said...

Wow, no wonder MS is "going down in flames". The employees either seem to resent people of other races and orientation or are resented for being of a different race or orientation.

The tales of woe are dreadfully typical of any other company out there, so readers please apply your BS filter when reading mini-MS.

The truth is, this is natural evolution. Its nothing to be scared of. Dinosaurs died, but left distant cousins that are succesful to this day. Mamammls survived but will eventually be wiped clean from this earth too. There are bigger things to worry about, like the Asian Bird Flu or the next pandemic. Get a life MS employees, stop feeding into the negative vibes and make a difference. Cream rises to the top, if you're not already there, maybe you should leave. MS will be better off without your near sighted racist and bigoted view of the world.

BTW: MarkL, good luck buddy. Your "hailstorm" was enlightening. You did *nothing*. You know what they called you? Mark Expletive Luckowsky. You know why? Because you swear soooo much, to the extent that I wonder if you made up the swear words in your SteveB account. After seeing you (not)work, sit in your home office in California and still get paid big bucks, I was actually glad to see you go. MS was generous to you: keeping you on the payroll while you did nothing.

Let's all hope the other nay-sayers "ooh I'm really doing this company a service by posting publicly" employees a) get a spine and b) apply their acumen towards real software problems and not their next blog entry.

Anonymous said...

David Berlind thinks the reogranization is a major change in direction

http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=1885

Anonymous said...

Dana Gardner on the reogranization

http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=1885

Anonymous said...

Sup?

Anonymous said...

"Let's all hope the other nay-sayers "ooh I'm really doing this company a service by posting publicly" employees a) get a spine and b) apply their acumen towards real software problems and not their next blog entry."

So sayeth Anonymous...lol

As far as MarkL, I didn't know him during his later days, but when he was in Windows, he was a good engineer. Maybe that changed. Even (especially?) the best people lose morale and become frustrated.

Yeah, he swears, but he's not the one criticizing Ballmer for swearing and throwing a chair. He is just stating his version of what happened.

Anyhow, MarkL isn't all fuzzy and soft. I remember him telling one manager, "If you can't fire your engineers, I'll do it for you." over a build break.

So, to both MarkL's swearing and Ballmer's tantrum... Whatever. If that stuff bothers you, you probably don't belong at MSFT (or Google for that matter).

If you like how the company is and where it's going, I suggest this blog isn't for you. This is for people who don't like it, and hopefully want to get it back on track.

Anonymous said...

MS has been the most diversified place I've ever seen.

Good lord. Have you ever left the eastside?

Todd said...

As a former Microsoft employee, I'm really glad to see this site. I left the company three years ago because I saw an increase in the bureaucracy and a decline in the influence of the engineers on the software. I'll admit that I left mainly for monetary reasons. As an investor in the company (through ESPP and stock options), I no longer felt that Bill or Steve were operating in the best interest of the company. Microsoft had a big pot of cash and I wanted to see it invested. Instead, the company was playing a defensive strategy. As any good investor will tell you, you can't save your way into prosperity. My guess was that the stock price was going to be between $65 and $70 (pre-split) in five years. Unless there's a really big run-up in the next couple of years, I think that I'll probably be a little high on the estimate. Given that I was commuting two hours per day, the trip to Redmond just wasn't worth it.

I'd like to comment a little about all the negative press I've been reading about Ballmer. I remember the first meeting that we had with him. I was impressed just like everyone else. Steve had a way of motivating the troups and selling the message. In his sales role, he's a real asset to the company. That being said, I personally believe that SteveB is a drag on the company. I made the mistake once of complaining to him about all the password resets and how it was having a negative impact on our group's ability to service our customers. As the former head of sales, I was expecting a positive response. Instead, Steve cc'd my GM and effectively told me to shut up. It was right about that time that I realized the Steve was the king of the bureaucracy. The current political system at Microsoft isn't an accident. It's designed that way, no matter what anyone has to say about it.

I also have to chuckle a little about SteveB's comments about the book "Good to Great". When I read that book, I said to myself "this is exactly what Microsoft is not". The main thrust of the book is about focusing on what you do best, or the "hedgehog principle". When I look at Microsoft, it's anything but a hedgehog. MSNBC and Slate are just a couple of examples of how easily Microsoft is distracted from its core business.

What I realized a long time ago is that the future of computing has little to do with software. It's all about service. I've working in commodity businesses before, and as a former boss of mine once said, "A case of ketchup is a case of ketchup from any vendor. What sets you apart from the competitor is the service you deliver." I'm a big fan of open source, mainly because the model is customer focused. Give away the software and sell the service. It's great for your customers and great for your bottom line. The problem is that Microsoft really doesn't know how to do anything other ship shrink-wrapped software in a box. The irony of the situation is that I'm more likely to invest in IBM these days than MSFT, mainly because they're a service organization. The heydays of selling an application are coming to a close, and Microsoft isn't adapting their business model.

I worked for Microsoft for seven years because I believed in the company. I left the company because I felt that it was no longer headed in the right direction. It's really a shame, because Microsoft could be so much more than it is today. And it's time for its leadership to step up, admit failure, and look for a new direction. But I doubt that that will happen.

Anonymous said...

Which are the hot startups and blooming companies you'd go for?

Anonymous said...

You're not helpless. Interview at other companies and compare any offers you get to what you are getting. If you want to stay at Microsoft, give them a chance to match it. If not, take the better offer.

lol, steve ballmer would rather throw a chair than give a raise

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say there are many, startup and blooming companies that I would stand behind as such except perhaps Sun and Google (Bless them). But what about communities people back? It’s not all about corporations, Open Source is the future, its power to the people. The Romans had the idea. Why would anyone in their right mind trust a try-hard monopoly like M$? By the time the next moon landing happens M$ will be just like the old Unix companies, Dead and forgotten. Open Source will always be here.

Anonymous said...

By the time the next moon landing happens M$ will be just like the old Unix companies, Dead and forgotten. Open Source will always be here.

Whoa, dude. You need a different flavor of Kool-Aid. Microsoft will probably be around long after you've gone on to push up daisies. With its immense pile of cash, it can acquire entire market segments. My prediction is that MS is becoming something more akin to GE -- a huge corporate conglomerate -- consisting of many smaller subsidiaries.

Anonymous said...

Here - let me help you out.

Your position at MS is hopeless. You are, essentially, working at the IBM of the 2000s.

Your cash horde protects you from market realities, but your products are stale.

Think: What business NEEDS anything in Vista at the price of replacing all the hardware?

What business NEEDS Office 12? Sure, you have a few customers who'll buy it - but look at the field of people who can simply use Office 97 or OpenOffice for what they do.

I work at a large company with worldwide assets. We use some MS software because it's convenient. But there's nothing that holds us to anything MS. And so far, with what we read of MS's offerings for Vista/Office 12, we don't see a .single. .compelling. .reason. to even look beyond the fliers.

Anonymous said...

who is balmer, by the way

Anonymous said...

Doe$ anyone el$e have a hard time taking $omeone $eriou$ly that doe$n't have an "S" key on their keyboard?

Anonymous said...

FWIW I have worked in the industry, inside and outside MSFT, for over ten years. I have worked for companies that had a lot of ambient racial tension. Microsoft is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

"Doe$ anyone el$e have a hard time taking $omeone $eriou$ly that doe$n't have an "S" key on their keyboard?"

See explanation of this malady here under "the moralist" (but expect profanity):


Open Source Zealots

Winemaster2 said...

It is all good and well for MSFT to hold Company meetings for employees, stockholders etc. But what is lacking is the real interaction with the coustomers and consumers, that use MSFT products, have issues and problems.

The worst of it is that, the usual technical and customer sevice outsourced are robats, indocrinated with the so called policy and repeatitive BS one has to go through over and over with one person to another. These service providers never bother to read the file established for a case, and what ever is put into that file by individuals, who are supposed to render help is not what is told to the customer over the telephone. In most cases their solution is that it is a hardware problem rather then the MSFT software, despite the fact the hardware has been throughly checked by somebody more competent in the hardware business.

No doubt installed software will have problems and corruption with extensive use and time. However, when an idependentally purchased costly software has inital installation problems and issues, it is just unacceptable for MSFT and their engineers to take six months or more to fix the problem, despite the fact that before purchase it was clearly stated by the Windows XP Pro, technical services that there would be no problems with a particular computer name and model, that meet all the requirements for Windows XP Pro of the case and point.

Further these MSFT experts only work and conduct communications between 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

In keeping with the MSFT policy, they refuse to budge that the CD that has been removed from the box and now declared as used, is corrupted and MSFT production line , despite all their QC can produce a defective product.

After six months of this, they are prepared to provide a new replacement CD, that turns outs to be not the product in question. The on the reorder, which is supposed to be an overnight delivery by DHL/Airborne Express, their delivery service has no update for tracking after five days and on the sixth day, they post that the package was delivered without obtaing a signature to the fact.

On the third time around, after some discussion about USPS priority or special delivery, without notifying me that yet another order was placed and supposedly shipped by priority or special deivery. I am told, they made another mistake that is was shipped by regular USPS and it will take ten days. The order is said to have been mailed out on the September 19th, 2005. Today is September 26th, however MSFT's 10 days is Oct.1st, 2005.

Bill Gates, whom I like, and consider a decent and very good businessman man, not only has incompetents but engineers and replacement/order department people that cannot count 10 days. Their priority shipping of a $399 CD means regular USPS service that costs about 50 Cents.

What MSFT needs is not all these high powered reorganized departments but somebody that understands what priority and expeditious service means.

On the other front MSFT is too busy shoving their so called one sided Licensing agreements down the consumers throat. When push comes to shove, MSFT will end up being sued in every small claims counrt in the country and it will have provide attorneys to defend at the cost that exceeds the cost of the products.