Thursday, September 15, 2005

Troubling Exits At Microsoft - Business Week

First we had the quick, tasty snack of this week's Forbes article on Microsoft's Midlife Crisis.

Now, a cover-story article extravaganza at Business Week:

Jay Greene rocks!

I've got to say, Mr. Ballmer got thrown some really good, hard questions. What do you think of some of the responses? I felt, reading it, so much Ballmer sunshine was being blown up my skirt that I was going to go nuclear.

So there's PDC and people feeling rightfully proud of what they've accomplished and are preparing to ship. It's a victory of technology up and down the Windows, Office, and MSN spectrum. But a good chunk you've got to realize is Pyrrhic: too many more "successes" like Vista and Microsoft will be undone.

Some other quick things:

  • What is Microsoft overhaul to avoid Windows delays all about? Sounds good to me (but I'm still stuff full of sunshine). I'd love to know more details.
  • Rory: you're too kind. But you gave me the final inspiration of what a good button design we could have made for the Company Meeting coming up next Friday at SafeCo Field: the bottom of a Magic-8 ball as the button itself. The question? Will making Microsoft Lean and Mean Save It? The answer floating in a triangle? AS I SEE IT YES.
  • Regarding this blog: most folks realize that while the postings are fun and all, it's the comments and participation and the related links and ideas elsewhere that make the bulk of Mini-Microsoft. If you're just subscribing to the web feed, you're only getting a small taste. Browse through the pages and read the comments to get the full-Mini experience.
  • That's right, it's September 15th. The bonus has been deposited and you're free and clear to head for the exits...

169 comments:

user43 said...

Mini-Microsoft, I recently found your blog and have started reading it from the beginning.

Nice work.

The thing that worries me is that there is no visible change in Microsoft the way I see it from the outside. It seems like Ballmer has his mind set. His recent chair throwing tantrum shows that frustration has joined hubris. Unfortunately, this will lead in the same direction, maybe even faster.

Vista and Office 12 may or may not be good products. In the end it won't matter as long as Microsoft is run in the same way.

My prediction is a steady 5-20 year slide to the middle of the pack.

It's already begun.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Balmer's quite the artful dodger. I guess it's just a pipeline of sunshine!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness Steve is surrounded by sycophantic executives. He'd have to talk to us peons otherwise. Does he even know anyone who's not an exec?
And the ever-almost-present-soon innovation pipeline? I'd like whatever he's smoking in that pipe.

Pop quiz:
1. Which Microsoft competency or, alternately, which company value is Steve displaying as he avoids any real answer to direct questions?
2. Explain.
3. Draw a picture of the innovation pipeline.
4. (extra credit) What color is it?

Anonymous said...

Amazing: he says Vista "wasn't delayed" in the same breath where he talks about a "culture of accountability." Part of accountability is honesty.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer is just simply out of touch.

--Jill Dunns

Anonymous said...

'o my.. rpc synch errors

Anonymous said...

anyone know of a group in Redmond where 85% OHI scores are.(or whatever objective measures he is referring to.)

please let me know(an internal http://career req would be great)

i cannot relo to India but would consider Somewhere on Westcoast. I wanna experience those results, where core competencies are rewarded and treated like an asset and NOT a cost.

OHI is published..and its the WORST it has ever been in my very large org, So Id really like to see this one special place where shiney happy people are holding hands..

Anonymous said...

Some of this sentiment comes out in blogs like Mini-Microsoft and others. Do you read those?
I do not.

Are you aware of them?
I know there is a blog called Mini-Microsoft.


I cannot believe Ballmer doesn't read this blog. Either he is lying when he says that or he is even more clueless than I thought. Apparently "W" isn't the only leader who sequesters himself in a warm little bubble. Do you suppose Ballmer shuns newspapers too?

Anonymous said...

Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, WA engages in the development, manufacture, license, and support of software development processes that enable organizations to create software with minimum productivity. With the newest methodologies created by Windows and Office management, code that is written in less than one hour by one developer can take more than two weeks to make it into the product. Microsoft takes special pride in ensuring that no persons actually competent with respect to software development are involved in the decision making process. So far, Microsoft has great success with isolating developers, attaining high target levels of frustration by ensuring that important decisions are flip-flopped exclusively between testing and program management.

Anonymous said...

Holy fuck, that interview with Ballmer is awesome - they actually asked some good questions. Ok, it doesn't help that he doesn't give many straight answers but oh well, what do you expect? Whats hilarious is that line where he says "Vista was never delayed" or something along those lines. What the fuck?

Its not the towels or the prescription copays (those are smart cuts IMO) - its exactly the other thing that the article pointed out - "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."

Anonymous said...

I read the Ballmer interview. Marketing people call that moving a little sideways.

No software product is delayed because you can keep redefining what will ship, rename it and then claim it shipped on time.

A software company that does not fully eat its own dogfood on its development tools -- Is Ballmer trying to be ironic?

You don't have to use any new IDE developed by the Visual Studio team.

You can have your department buy a different one to get your job done.

Different products use various home-grown build systems instead of using the project management features of Visual Studio.

Source code control used by various products is not in a shipping product (at least when I walked out the door).

There are various internal tools for the buddy test process before checking in code. It is part of the workflow of developing software at Microsoft.

There are various internal tools for finding bugs in software. Not all of them ship in a product.

Making U.S. software developers more efficient so fewer jobs are moved offshore is a bad thing?

Shipping development tools that can be used in large and small projects is not required?

You would think Ballmer would want to make that workflow as efficient as possible and to make money off of it in the process.

He's a funny sweaty man.

Anonymous said...

The article pointed out - "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." That explains the traffic jams at 9 am and 5 pm. With 2% raises and miniscule stock grants for the new employees that add nothing to our net worth, there's little incentive to work hard. It's just a 9 to 5 job while some wait for the market to recover and find a better job. For others, it allows work/life balance. For the few at the top, it's big bucks. But don't get frustrated with your underlings who aren't as motivated or smart or skilled as you are when you are paying them anywhere from 1/7 to 1/20 of your annual salary. If you want better talent, if you want employees to work more hours, damn it, pay for it!

Anonymous said...

Now we've hit the mainstream, we should take a moment to remember Microsophist.

While Mini regaled and enthused us with his witty style and depth of suggestion, Microsophist descended shamelessly into the gutter like a deranged Slashbot. Showing a complete lack of strategic insight, he proceeded to lambast indiscriminately all those who had the wisdom to disagree with him, culminating in a post of such ferocious venting that I suspect his ear-hairs are still singed. Then, foregoing the opportunity to make incisive and useful commentary, he instead decided that it was too scary, trying laughably incompetently to cover his trail as he gave up. The cowardly wuss certainly doesn't have the risk-taking, finish-the-job attitude that he brazenly claims Microsoft desperately needs.

While Mini has his moment in the spotlight, courted by A-list journalists, Microsophist is no doubt producing copious enamel deposits with envious and angry grinding teeth.

Microsophist, if you're reading this, here's a message: I'd 2.5 you any day of the week. Do us all a favour and quit.

Mini, keep up the good work.

vince said...

Maybe Ballmer read Good to Great backwards?

Seriously, from my outside developer's perspective - the XBox group is doing a better job than the rest of the company. I think they still remember that the old developers, developers, developers mantra, and they do a good job of making it easy for me to make games on their platform. I hope that trend continues.

On the other hand, for Windows development, it feels like I'm getting the CLR kool aid rammed down my throat. The CLR just isn't that useful for games development, even on the tools side, just because integrating with "legacy" code (i.e. the C++ we make the games with) is still terrible, and I'm not confident anyone really cares about it. It's a shame that Win32 has been effectively abandoned, because there is some cool stuff in .NET, but not enough for me to buy the whole managed cow, so to speak. The whole .NET thing seems like a vast overreaction to Java.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of that golden moment from Office Space.


Peter Gibbons: You see Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.
Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?
Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's another thing, I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob Porter: Eight?
Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

Anonymous said...

That's the first time I've read an interview with Ballmer where the report asked the tough questions AND followed up when Ballmer tried to dodge or misdirect. Kudos to the reporter. As far as Ballmer goes, he makes a few decent rebuttals but all in all, you're left with an impression that he's in a complete state of denial and if he just repeats a bunch of meaningless business efficiency fluff enough times, it'll be so. I mean, denying that Vista has been delayed? Is he obtuse or just lying? Profits up 70% since he took over? Unless of course you account for all the legal settlements and other special charges - in which case they're almost completely flat (probably the single biggest factor in the stock's malaise):

http://moneycentral.msn.com/investor/invsub/results/compare.asp?Symbol=MSFT

We're bullish on the stock so buying back $30B of it? Yes, I guess that's why he made the switch to paying employees via grants instead of options? Also, how much of that $30B is simply to avoid dilution because earnings growth is no longer sufficient to make up for it? 80%? 90%?

"Since I took over as CEO, our stock has marginally performed as well or better as anybody in our industry"

Are you on crack? Lots of people have outperformed MSFT since OO:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=5y&s=MSFT&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=hp%2Caapl%2Cgoog%2Cadbe

And just about EVERYBODY has over the past 2-3 years:

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=2y&s=MSFT&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=sap%2Corcl%2Cyhoo%2Cnok

And a culture of critcism? MSFT is the most political organization on the planet and truly speaking your mind is the single best way to at minimum get a lousy review/grant and [more likely] get pressured to leave.

Biggest dissapointment is that he doesn't read your blog Mini (at least supposedly). If he did, he'd at least get more exposure to contrary arguments and beliefs than he ever gets from his [largely overpaid and ineffective] direct reports or occasional impromptu fireside chats with employees. Plus, he'd be less likely to make the stupid ass arguments above which aren't just misleading but in some cases demonstrably false.

Out of touch, in denial, dishonest, wrong. Wow, other than that, he's great. I guess I was wrong when I called for his removal.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Microsoft has a spin-machine as good as our Whitehouse: Microsoft Set For Growth Despite Worker Morale Issues. A bit:

Goldman Sachs maintained an "outperform" rating on Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) despite employee morale issues.

The research firm cited recent reports about a decline in morale among Microsoft employees. "Microsoft has never been the most innovative company," Goldman said. The rapid pace of innovation by competitors including Google (nasdaq: GOOG - news - people ) has been a lingering employee concern, according to Goldman.

Anonymous said...

>And a culture of critcism? MSFT is the most political organization on the planet and truly speaking your mind is the single best way to at minimum get a lousy review/grant and [more likely] get pressured to leave.

Microsoft does have a culture of criticism. The problem is that many employees confuse whining with criticism.

-- Dare

Maarten said...

If this software thing doesn't work out, Ballmer can always get a job replacing Scott McClellan...

Anonymous said...

Face it. The CEO of Microsoft is an ex-cheerleader who learned everything he knows from those business how-to books you see traveling salesmen buying at the airport. No wonder the Harvard biz school prof on the board stands by him 100%. He probably wrote half that stupid ivory tower sh*t.

This is your 15 minutes, Mini. Run with it and maybe this blog can result is something positive beyond being a virtual watercooler. Get Ballmer and Gates outta there!

Anonymous said...

Well, Mini is a man, that rules out 15% of the workforce? :)

Ballmer seeming deluded. He repeats himself, he's not really answering any of the questions. As a Windows employee, I'm particularly troubled with his repeated praises of Amitabh. From my job lead SDET, all this guy has contributed to the division is process. The dev in my group hate it, my guys are pulling their hair out dealing with all checkin requirements (yes, for testing code). What used to take a few hours now takes weeks if not month to get done.

It seems like they are trying to make the whole division as efficient as Windows SE. The question I am asking is why is Valentine still here? They talk like he is some kind of hero for getting things shipped in the past, but hasn't he also been in charged as this division spiraling out of control?

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft does have a culture of criticism. The problem is that many employees confuse whining with criticism.

--Dare"

Well, admittedly you're still here despite your recent posts which, in and of itself, boggles the mind. BTW, there's also a difference between just being critical vs offering up solutions. Hint. Hint. However, I stand by my comment. If you want to be critical and voice your true opinion, you'll generally have a shorter and less lucrative MSFT career. Of course, if you've already given up on the company and the mgt and have stated your intention to leave anyway...

Anonymous said...

"Maybe Ballmer read Good to Great backwards?" Classic!

Ballmer is right, Vista as we know it, has never been delayed (yet). The delay was on a different product that would never see the day of light. It happens to be our most important product but hey, not a problem, everyone in our excellent executive team knows because they're soooo gooooooood.
His arguments are as un-microsoft as they get, 0 honesty, 0 accountability. If you still don't get how this company has turned into a 9 to 5 declining IBM, read the interview again.

Anonymous said...

Mini - congrats on the article!

I'm not sure I can take the company meeting with more empty, excited blathering from Steve.

What exactly is the point of this meeting anyway?

I really enjoy reading this blog. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Wow, as Microsoft employee I can honestly say he is in complete denial. Great interview, but his answers scare me. Ballmer simply does not get it.

Anonymous said...

If Steve says "bullish" one more time, I'm going to puke. Maybe he really means "bullshit".

That interview was crazy- he didn't answer most of the questions directly, and the ones he did, he was very vague about "the research" he's done about how happy the employees are.

Wow, what an unflattering article. I think it's great that he didn't actually give himself a grade. I guess "pretty good" could mean 'C'.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully sites like this will add value to the discussions around the problems that MSFT faces and what can be done to address those problems.

But the fact of the matter is if anyone thinks MSFT is in poor shape in terms of innovation, morale, etc... take a look at the rest of the industry, and just the economy in general.

You want to be really depressed, talk to folks who work in the auto industry... or let's look into what ails the airlines... two bankruptcies in one day, and who's accountable? No one knows for sure, but a lot of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, etc will be paying the price for management mis-steps...

Even in the hi-tech industry, think MSFT is bad? Try working for IBM, HPQ, Sun, SGI, Intel, or if services is your thing, try EDS, Accenture, etc. Talk about endless meetings, lack of passion, regular quarterly headcount reductions to cut costs, missing the innovation that made some of these companies great... MSFT isn't so bad by comparison.

However... just because MSFT isn't as bad off as these stalwart companies, I also can't deny that MSFT isn't as passionate, innovative, and hip a place to work as companies like Google, Yahoo, and other darlings of Wall Street and the media are. But they'll all end up in the same place as MSFT eventually (with the same BW or Forbes articles written about them), and those same passionate, innovative, A-Type personalities will move on to the next big thing.

It's part company growth and part Wall Street. Get big enough, get successful enough, and God forbid, go PUBLIC, and you can flush long-term innovation and employee morale right down the toilet. Bill and Steve are just as beholden to Wall Street these days as Immelt and Palmisano and Hurd... cost cutting, earnings, and stock price trump innovation, employee morale, and benefits every time.

Upset about having to pay $40 for a prescription or no longer having towels for your after-workout wipedown during lunch? Would you trade that for what other competitors and other industries offer? Probably not.

As I mentioned, just because MSFT isn't as BAD as the majority of companies, that doesn't mean it's as GOOD as Google, et al, in terms of passionate workforce, excellent benefits, stock options, innovation, etc. There is significant room for improvement.

But at the end of the day, I'm not certain any publicly traded company in America can sustain the entrepreneurial spirit that got them going in the first place, once investors become the key stakeholders. Just look at what happened to the HP Way... it got laid off and put to pasture... Gerstner made quick work of the IBM family, and the "Think" mantra morphed into making the elephant dance... on the backs of tens of thousands of layoffs.

Microsoft has the talent and people and money to re-invent itself and compete. And most likely, change will need to start at the top with Ballmer. Often times, executive shakeups produce near and mid-term results. But ultimately, MSFT's situation is more a function of the influence Wall Street has on good companies, than anything else.

In other news: This site is fantastic and I just saved a lot of money on car insurance by switching to GEICO. ;>

Anonymous said...

In the Greene/Rebello interview, Ballmer's incessant talk of the innovation pipeline is numbing. Fine, there's a bunch in the pipeline. But when he's asked about the imminent crisis warning in the "10 Crazy Ideas" paper he has essentially two points:

First, we have a culture of self-critcism and self-improvement. And second, that we have tons of innovation already in the pipeline.

On the first, I have to wonder, do self-criticism and self-improvement always start with denial and redirection? Ballmer seems to think so.

Second, he's effectively saying that he's ignoring an indicator (right or wrong) of how people feel and judging only a snapshot of output. So, dear Msft Employee, never mind how you feel, you've done enough. No need to improve, no need to be passionate or energetic, no need to work for change. We've got a full pipeline, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure which company Steve works for but it's not the Microsoft I work for. First, you'd have to get rid of that fat middle layer (the people who neither make or sell software), then you'd have to get rid of two thirds of the dev PMs (how can you be a manager with no reports?) and finally, you'd have to actually listen to the customer. Then, maybe then, Microsoft would resemble the one Steve's talking about.

I've only been here 3 years but, still, it is a markedly different place than when I started.

I love Microsoft or, actually, I love the idea of Microsoft but I fear that that is all it is these days. Great to good sounds accurate.

Anonymous said...

imagine if half the company meeting attendees started a cheer when steveb stepped on stage -- 2.5! 2.5 ! 2.5! 2.5!

do you think that might shake him out of denial?

ok, you're right: probably not.

Anonymous said...

"Goldman Sachs maintained an "outperform" rating on Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) despite employee morale issues."

Goldman generally and Shurland in particular, are MSFT stooges. They've had a "buy" on this stock for the past 5 years as it has declined by 50%. They're still rating it a buy even though it's once again trailing the index badly. Every time there's a hint of bad news and/or weakness in the stock, Goldman and/or Shurland magically appear with some positive spin or other attempts at damage control and then a reiteration of their 5 year long incorrect buy rating. The only think about this that's telling is that even this paid stooge can see what Ballmer can't - namely that MSFT has an innovation and morale problem.

Anonymous said...

TWO-point-FIVE!
TWO-point-FIVE!
TWO-point-FIVE!
come on, say it with me.

Anonymous said...

"Great interview, but his answers scare me. Ballmer simply does not get it."

My thoughts exactly. When he can't concede even objective and externally obvious issues like Vista's delay or the stock's chronic underformance, you know there's zero hope he's going to concede more subjective and internal issues like employee morale, process problems and leadership issues. I find it impossible to believe he doesn't know better, so am left concluding that he does and just doesn't want to face it or (more typical of Microsoft management) plans to lie about it externally in the vain hope it'll buy him enough time to address it. How any employee/director/shareholder/partner/customer could read that article and not walk away with at least some concerns is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

that doesn't mean it's as GOOD as Google, et al, in terms of passionate workforce, excellent benefits, stock options, innovation, etc.

Not that I think MS is in perfect shape right now...but I think you and 90% of the people on this blog have an over-inflated idea about how great it is to work at Google. The benefits are NOT as great as MS (but the free food is nice). You don't get your own office. You don't get much in the way of direction. You think accountability is bad here? Hah, you don't know how bad it CAN get! The options are nice, assuming you started before the offering (they are now over-valued and unlikely to hold up at this multiple in the long run). The workforce, on average, may be more passionate, but MS is also much larger with a ton of legacy to support so the % of "cool" jobs is lower. There are plenty of groups inside MS that are incredibly passionate, but they don't get the press or they are too busy actually getting stuff done to talk it up. And innovation? Yeah, well, yet another IM client, yet another webmail app, and the ability to search blogs is far beyond anything MS has accomplished...their sole revenue generating activity is =SELLING ADS= for chrissakes. Ballmer and Gates, for all their faults, are at least clued in to the long-term implications of THAT business model...it certainly doesn't keep them up at night.

I see a lot of whining here with little acknowledgement of the good - mostly spoiled children suffering from "the grass is greener" syndrome. "That guy makes more money than me" wah wah. "Google looks more shiny" wah wah. "I don't know what my VP does so I'll assume he must be worthless" wah wah. "I didn't get the review score I think I deserved" wah wah. Criticism (with alternatives) is good, questioning why something is done a particular way is good, but if you keep comparing every little detail in your work environment to the millions of companies out there, you will NEVER be happy, anywhere. You'll always find someone who is currently executing better, someone who might be paying more today, someone who might be getting more media coverage this month, or someone who serves better coffee in the cafeteria. Every place has its set of headaches to deal with, the question is, which set are you most comfortable handling?

Anonymous said...

it was said:
Even in the hi-tech industry, think MSFT is bad? Try working for IBM, HPQ, Sun, SGI, Intel, or if services is your thing, try EDS, Accenture, etc. Talk about endless meetings, lack of passion, regular quarterly headcount reductions to cut costs, missing the innovation that made some of these companies great... MSFT isn't so bad by comparison.

I have worked for Apple, Sun, HP, IBM, Moto, and MS. Other than everyone getting an office, it would be hard to tell what company you were in if someone didn't tell you. MS had the most rigid development process - not the best, just most rigid. Too much thinking that MS success was due to the development process and not a combination of good people and a monopoly. Sun was better at OS development, but lost in space. Apple was a political, disorganized mess.

I am working for a telco, and we innovate faster than MS. Embarrassing.

Doc Doc

Anonymous said...

This may be off-topic but I was thinking about some earlier comments about "constructive discharge." Anyone know of an excellent lawyer that could handle a case like that?

Sam said...

Thanks for the kick in the stock groin.

Anonymous said...

Mini was mentioned today by Gretchen.(http://blogs.msdn.com/jobsblog/)

Since she admitted today that she reads this (and enjoys it...), hi!

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the kick in the stock groin."

The negative news articles partially inspired by Mini probably didn't help short term, although I applaud him for shining the light on several real concerns. The real reason for the sell off today (and for the past 10 days) has been the S&P rebalance which sees MSFT's representation decrease by 8% (and therefore all S&P tracking funds need to sell MSFT to come back into alignment). Yet another reason for the company to use its ridiculous level of cash and investments to buy back a meaningful amount of stock from either Ballmer or Gates or both (as per bagholder's excellent suggestion). And of course, when it comes to the real stock groin kick you've experienced over the past 1,2,3 and even 5 years, look no further than Ballmer/Gates and the board that lets them continue on despite increasing signs of failure (well, at least signs to everyone except Ballmer apparently). If there were no truth to any of Mini's comments, then they'd be dismissed out of hand. The fact that they aren't, and that his site is having the impact that it is, is precisely because there are signs that at least some of the concerns he raises are valid.

Anonymous said...

"Mini was mentioned today by Gretchen.(http://blogs.msdn.com/jobsblog/)"

Gretchen comes off as being more aware than Ballmer - and presents a better "pro" case.

Anonymous said...

What can you say about Ballmer? On the one hand, he says there's no problem with the stock. On the other, he's forced to do an underwater options buyback and move to stock grants. There's no delay on Vista, but he's quoted the other day as saying Vista exceeded the systems ability to deal with it and they'd been addressing various process deficiencies as a result. He says the company's doing well and then points out that he's HOPING to get back to double-digit growth again. He's concerned about what employees think but when faced with the defection of a key engineer to GOOG, his reaction is to throw and chair and vow to kill that company vs find out why a DE no less would actually leave MSFT. I agree with the other poster who suggested that MSFT management's problem is that they're convinced they're smarter than everyone else. Hmmm...when was the last time a bunch of folks were convinced they were the smartest in the world? Oh right, the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. If Ballmer and company were truly smart and concerned about the company's success including morale, rather than ignore Mini's blog he would actively search him out by providing a guaranteed amnesty and put him in a position where he can channel his thoughts/concerns/suggestions directly to Ballmer et al. Not suggesting that all of Mini's suggestions would have merit. But, he clearly has a lot of good thoughts himself and credibility with other employees who similarly have concerns and would likely feel more comfortable in forwarding them to him. So at the very least, Ballmer would get the alternate view and a lot clearer than he likely gets from his entire cadre of largely sycophantic VPs. As Kennedy found out, the best cure for "group think" is to ensure the alternate view gets expressed not stiffled.

Anonymous said...

Mini-Microsoft was mentioned by Scoble today too. http://scoble.weblogs.com

Anonymous said...

Well - some comments on this from someone from the outside. Some context: I’m currently employed with HP (in Software), and will have an interview next week at MSFT in Redmond.

In the Carly years at HP we had some internal forum where employees could voice their opinion anonymously. This was mostly useful and interesting, lots of interesting insight in the changes of the company brought in by Carly. There was useful criticism, and whining and eventually it sort of deteriorated to the level of the HPQ message board at Yahoo. It got closed shortly thereafter. That said this seems to better in shape, that is, there is whining but there is also some good criticism.

Some items that come to my mind:

Stock Options: We have to face it those who are working for larger companies will just not get rich off them anymore – I look at my HPQ options and I cry (even with the recent gain). So some small stock grants as a hiring bonus don’t look to bad anymore. I know that folks come up and say: Hey, what about Google? I think that GOOG is hyped, and way overvalued.

Stock being flat : HP announced massive layoffs and.. the stock went up. Maybe MS should do that too, and see what happens to the stock (just kidding). However, what I see from the outside is that MS is hiring and want to grown by creating better products. It seems Wallstreet prefers cost cutting over investment (innovation)….

Ranking/Rating: We do have a similar system, forced distribution (sort of). Your rating was even more important in the past years as we had layoffs every year. Poor rating (for whatever reason) = bye-bye. Now with the deadwood being gone, our recent 10% cut will hit good guys (as I did in my section with nearly 50% layoffs). So, the forced rating is questionable – especially if you proud yourself as only hiring the best of the best (thinking of MSFT here). I think you can do some forced rating distribution if a) the population is large enough (100+ at least), and b) if the “you suck – go away” rating band is not a hard set number. (It was 5% at HP, but this was abandoned after 2 years)

Raises: I saw in this blog folks complaining about a 3% raise – gimme a break! At HP we didn’t have raises for 3 years and then I got 3% as well (being in highest 15% rating for the last 4 years and I actually happy getting a raise at all)

Being in touch with your employees: Well – I remember Carly certainly wasn’t: Getting some new planes to jet around the world, while folks got laid off due to (or in part due to) her incompetence. Carly was out of touch and the interview with Steve Ballmer certainly indicates the same. That may be just an attribute of being a large corporation..???

(BTW: Carly had her personal hair stylist traveling with her, and I guess Steve won’t need that – LOL)

Anonymous said...

Gretchen's right. If you're an employee, decide if the overall proposition of working at MS (warts and all) is attractive and if so, put your shoulder to the grindstone and do your part to improve it from within. If not, leave and go somewhere where you can feel good. If you're a shareholder, unfortunately you're basically fucked. All bs aside, when MS switched to grants they might as well have rented a billboard saying they couldn't grow the stock. Either resign yourself to continued sub-market returns or move on. MS management has never been shareholder focused. Indeed, they were happy to massively dilute your ownership for decades - it's just that the company growth was sufficient then to make up for it and still show a great return. Those days are gone and given the choice between rewarding you vs protecting their legacy, they're going to choose the latter every time. And don't kid yourself. Ballmer/Gates aren't going anywhere. No external shareholder has the guts to take them on. If you want equivalent safety, a better dividend, and a better guarantee of future growth/sucess, put the money in GE. It ain't sexy and you won't get rich, but at least its better managed, has a better dividend, a better performance track record vs the indexes and less future growth/execution risk. If you're really underwater and can't bear to sell given the current meltdown, then hold through Dec and sell on the anticipation of good results and Xbox. Just sell before those results actually get reported because they're not guaranteed and everyone else is likely pursuing the same strategy.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer and Gates don't pay or treat themselves like Carly did. But their recent track record of accomplishment is just as suspect. Indeed, as screwed up as HP has been, their stock has handily outperformed MSFT over the past 3 years - by like 100%. And while I agree that things at MS may be better than say HP, having one of the most profitable monopolies in the world brings with it more resources as well as higher expectations.

Regardless, the same way Hurd is seemingly breathing new life into HP (albeit, I realize, at a huge cost), a capable outsider could have a huge positive impact on MSFT. The key is will that occur BEFORE the kinds of performance problems that have plagued HP and resulted in measures like this massive layoff. The way things are going, that seems dubious. More likely, there will either be a major product failure, a huge financial miss and/or a further stock implosion that will make not changing impossible.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer is either deluded or just an f-ing liar, and I don't know which one is better. I'm so glad I got out of MSFT last year.

Anonymous said...

"Well, Mini is a man, that rules out 15% of the workforce? :)"

He writes in English well, that rules out another 50% of the workforce.

Anonymous said...

The Ballmer interview is bizarre. I think that someone who had no particular knowledge about Microsoft or the computer industry -- like a typical Newsweek reader -- would read this and think the fellow was either nuts or lieing.

Corporate CEO's, when they are interviewed, are always positive, but generally in a modest way. They try to sound sane. They will admit to problems, but then say they are on the track to solving them. Ballmer says everything is fantastic in every possible way and is only going to get better. I have never seen so many positive adjectives in one place.

The fact that Ballmer sounds insanely optomistic means either he is, or he isn't but doesn't understand that that coming off that way causes him to lose, not gain, credibility in the eyes of his audience. Either way, something seriously wrong is going on in his head.

Anonymous said...

"Well, Mini is a man, that rules out 15% of the workforce? :)"

Not neccessarily! Mini and the reporter could have just made that up to help maintain annonimity.

Anonymous said...

Someone wrote, way, way, way up there:

"anyone know of a group in Redmond where 85% OHI scores are.(or whatever objective measures he is referring to.)"

I'm a manager of less than 20 people, and my OHI is 87%. I'm also hiring for three SDE positions for both managed and native development positions :)

I posted this once before - ippjobs at microsoft.com. Come talk to us. There are good groups within Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, what an unflattering article. I think it's great that he didn't actually give himself a grade. I guess 'pretty good' could mean 'C'."

He gets a 3.0 for doing what is expected of him. If he gets another, it should be converted to a 2.5 and he should be put on a personal-improvement-plan and subjected to 'constructive discharge'.

Anonymous said...

I think you are gutless for not putting your real name to your blog. My name is Duncan Strong by the way.

Anonymous said...

"'Well, Mini is a man, that rules out 15% of the workforce? :)'

He writes in English well, that rules out another 50% of the workforce."

Ugh, can the racists please just leave?

Anonymous said...

I just scored with Apple. Damn good money. That's good news for me, but bad news to my group. Hint to management: if you screw people during reviews and then a week later tell your directs that they are so important that if one of them leaves the entire product will be delayed, well, you're not going to increase their morale. ('We don't pay you well, but you'll have to work harder. For the common good. And by "common", I clearly don't mean you.')

Anonymous said...

Ballmer's interview confirmed that Microsoft is in trouble. Really guys, coming from one the CEO of one of the world's most respected companies, it was a totally unimpressive interview. Please don't destroy any more furniture Mr. Ballmer - just leave.

Anonymous said...

"The Ballmer interview is bizarre. I think that someone who had no particular knowledge about Microsoft or the computer industry -- like a typical Newsweek reader -- would read this and think the fellow was either nuts or lieing."

No kidding. This inspired about as much confidence among present/potential investors/employees as Gates' video deposition did at the anti-trust trial. Come to think of it, Ballmer might have been better off using Gates' "I don't recall" strategy rather than denying everything. At least that way he'd just look like a liar vs incompetent, defensive, out of touch and a liar. But kudos to the reporter. Ballmer is used to getting either minor criticisms or outright slow pitches during interviews. This guy hit him right between the eyes from the get go and didn't give up even when Ballmer tried repeatedly to either minimize it or avoid a direct answer entirely. I'd venture that Ballmer went back to his office, threw a chair and said "I'm going to f*#**#g kill that Mini". But of course, he's told us he doesn't do that - no matter what people's sworn depositions say. Right.

Anonymous said...

Want a $1,000 gift certificate?

I have 10 years of experience managing software development and implementation teams and a BS in Industrial Engineering. I'm looking for a new job, preferably in Washington state, and I could use a reference.

Contact me at marks@goowy.com.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Nice work. I'm an ex-Microsoft employee, and one of the reasons I left was that employee reviews were frequently conducted 6 months after the time it was due. There was no 1:1 sessions despite repeated requests, and there was no upward feedback machanisms.

I also observed behavior where a development manager went around yelling at people, calling then "idiots" and other choice (censored) expletives. It almost came to a fist fight when he tried that on a QA person (not even from his own group). And there was squat all HR did about any of this.

With no upward feedback, n ability to rebut any crap that's put on your review, and no one to reign in a deranged manager, it no wonder that the team felt demoralized. And this seemed endemic to the entire organization.

I know someone is going to point out that there is employee comments line in the review, but honestly, when it's done 6 months after it's due and you're told to backdate your review (and co-incidentally, it always seemed to happen right around the time you next review was due to be written up); honestly how effective do you think that line is?

About 50% of the managers that I came in touch with would be fired in the first week of joining another firm in the bay area. The remaining 50% just deal with another layer of managers who couldn't cut it in any other company.

Hopefully there have been some changes in this process since I left, otherwise I really feel sorry for the individual contributors who are still at MSFT!

Anonymous said...

IMHO: Ballmer has been brain-washed by that group with office just down 148th Ave, at Bel-Red and 24th St, aka COS.

Anonymous said...

Things aren't as good at Microsoft as they used to be but they're not as bad as the postings to this blog make it seem.

In terms of the Ballmer interview, did you really expect him to spill his guts in this interview? For those of us who are gainfully employeed at the company and very, very minor stock holders, do you think it would be in our best interest for Ballmer to admit to the popular press that there is something to these stories?

My hope is that the blogs and the interviews will cause Ballmer to look into the morale issues more carefully and with a greater sense of urgency but it certainly wouldn't do any of us any good to have "Microsoft CEO Says Major Morale Issue Damaging Company" stories all over the place.

One final point: If MSFT stock was still going up in leaps and bounds do you think any of us would be having this discussion? I assert that many are saying the sky is falling and MSFT is falling apart because they're just not making money hands over fist like they used to. The last twenty years at MSFT have been a business miracle that is very hard and unlikely to repeat. Exponential growth just cannot be sustained and MSFT is dealing with the law of large numbers. 8 percent growth YOY when revenues are in the billions is just freaking amazing, not to mention the 1 billion or more in free cash flow per month. MSFT is a great buy right now!

Oh, and by the way...the Wall Stree Journal has an interesting article that says AOL and MSFT are discussing a strategic partnership that would almost immediately eliminate 12% of Google's revenue. Please name for me one strategic relationship, merger, or business partnership that could eliminate 12% of Microsoft's revenue over-night? Google is vulnerable and over-priced. No wonder they floated an additional offering before the average idiot investor clues in!

I do believe that MSFT is gaining a tremendous

Anonymous said...

BTW, just an an fyi to the would be critics who will want to stomp on my post above (I'm an ex-Microsoft employee, and one of the reasons I left was that employee reviews...), I had a 3.5 on my review when I left. That isn't the point. It was the general trend that I found disturbing.

Anonymous said...

"6 months after the time it was due."

This either happened a long time ago or is just pure BS. We've all been whining about all the process and bureaucracy that's been put in place and this applies to the review process as well. The HR and review process which have been in place for quite some time do not allow reviews to be this late! This is just BS.

Anonymous said...

He writes in English well, that rules out another 50% of the workforce."

Ugh, can the racists please just leave?



I'd love it if the racists left Microsoft. You know, the HR people who push hiring visible minorities instead of - gasp - whitey. The Indians who think they are superior to everyone else. The Chinese who have work conversations in their own language and exclude everyone else. The arabs in my building who screamed bloody murder when some christians asked if they could share the prayer room with them. I agree, let's get rid of the racists allright.

Anonymous said...

If you are working at any large company (or even large mid-sized company), the team you join is more important as far as satisfaction, quality-of-life, and general atmosphere go.

Anonymous said...

I currently work at Microsoft within MSN. I whole-heartedly agree with the poster above who mentioned that things aren't nearly as bad as this blog and comments make them out to be.

Microsoft isn't the dominant player in every market anymore, and employees are definitely not making millions due to the stock. Does anyone really expect ongoing exponential growth year-over-year? Gimme a break. Kudos to the same poster who questioned whether employees would be as disgruntled if they were getting rich off the options/awards.

Not being the dominant player in the market anymore is really making all the business units (MSN In particular) figure out what is going on, why we're struggling and losing to competitors like Google. This is really a great time for MSFT (as cliche as this sounds), because it's underdog times like these where microsoft has come out ahead in the past. Is google going to suffer the same fate as Netscape? Probably not. Will Microsoft win this "war" eventually? Probably not a complete K.O on google, but we'll definitely be in a dramatically better position than we are today.

Having said that, I do agree that microsoft has to make some signfiicant changes. There is a corporate culture that has put us where we are, and things need to change in a dramatic way, but in focused areas -- compenstation, incubation and communication.

Simply saying that Microsoft is a bad place to work and citing examples of 6-month late reviews as a norm (what bullsh*t!) as proof is just a waste of everyone's time.

Let's quit whining about Balmer's interview and get to the heart of hte matter -- stop whinning and suggest solutions.

Anonymous said...

ok...let's talk about all the times we suggested viable alternatives to serious business problems only to be ignored by the managers with the authority to make the changes.......

Anonymous said...

"8 percent growth YOY when revenues are in the billions is just freaking amazing, not to mention the 1 billion or more in free cash flow per month. MSFT is a great buy right now!"

It's only amazing if the stock holders are making money. If the stock can't be relied upon to match the capital appreciation of the S&P, then maybe the dividend should be increased.

I think MSFT is a decent buy right now considering the number of products that are about to ship. However, how much profit will those products bring and how fast will it come? For instance, the Xbox 360 is cool and all but it's not expected to make a profit at release time.

On the negative side, the S&P rebalancing will put downward pressure on the stock. If Google gets added to the S&P, that will put even more downward pressure on MSFT. I'm hoping MSFT hits $30 by the end of the year, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

“It's only amazing if the stock holders are making money. If the stock can't be relied upon to match the capital appreciation of the S&P, then maybe the dividend should be increased.”

Agree! It just seems to me that many investors are not being particularly rational right now when they’re willing to buy GOOG with an 89 P/E and seem to miss the billions of cash that are being added to the MSFT Balance Sheet on a monthly basis. The same logic that said the stock price should drop by approximately $3.00 per share when the special dividend was paid because of the decrease in cash and short-term investments should work in the other direction as the cash horde is being rebuilt. Management doesn’t seem to want to use the money to make major acquisitions and it’s not going to accumulate to some massive sum as it did before, which probably means a bigger dividend (probably a much bigger one in the short term since Congress is talking now that the US can’t afford to extend the tax dividend tax relief provisions once they run out in a few years).

Christopher Coulter said...

The mandatory Software Assurance kick is a time-bomb waiting to go off. That's the real big news of late. PDC 2005 was just the less hyped, more sober version of the infamous PDC 2003, same script tho. Microsoft is darned lucky their competitors are so inept, their only saving grace. I predict they will back down on the Software Assurance rigid line. Backtracking as an art form.

Anonymous said...

Company Meeting...
I like the "2.5 chant!" But even better would be, "Mini, Mini, MINI!!" any takers? :)

Anonymous said...


Please name for me one strategic relationship, merger, or business partnership that could eliminate 12% of Microsoft's revenue over-night?

Massachusetts standardizing on a common office format, would in a short time (not over-night), result in an even playing field in the Office space, depriving MSFT of much of its current 300% monopoly tax. This would cause a greater than 12% revenue decline for MSFT, and an even greater profit decline, forcing MSFT stock to the low teens.

MSFT: Repent! the day of reckoning may not be far off.

Anonymous said...

I'm in for either 2.5 or mini. "Mini" seems easy to get going than "2.5", but maybe won't make the same impact.
Also wanted to say "Good work" to Mini--glad to see wider recognition for this. Some might say its a whining blog about somebody's bigger lollipop, but I think there are some good suggestions here. I hope some coordination comes out of this that can lead to positive change at MS. (And that it doesn't just de-generate into a bunch of complaining.)

fCh said...

Why all this fuss about Ballmer's interview? He's got asked the right questions and answered the right way. What would those who criticize him for his replies have wanted him to answer? Come to think about it! Hint: Microsoft employee/customer/competitor/partner/...

I think Ballmer knows full well the problems and so did few others at companies that got to the point Microsoft is in right now. Problem is that much fewer know or stumble upon the solution.

Here's my $.02:

Amid all changes in the marketplace, Microsoft's stagnant stock price and increasing attrition rate make for a troubled picture. The BusinessWeek article seems to suggest that Microsoft was different in the '90s, and only now, with Ballmer at the top and Google/Yahoo becoming better professional destinations, things take a while to come out of Redmond. However, one should recall that after shipping MS-Windows 95, it took Microsoft a long time to come out with MS-Office--a suite that was made up of various pieces, built or acquired.

Obviously, Microsoft is facing a fork on its road. On one hand, enterprise software needs to come out to the market in lockstep. Thus, most efforts to transform the Company into a mature business ought to be in areas dealing with large enterprise software. There are many models one could think of, yet one has to start from one's own premises. On the other hand, in the consumer space, where the innovation pace has been set by Google, Yahoo, and Apple, Microsoft would do well to think of ways to stay nimble and flat! In any case, there are always some who wonder: "When has Microsoft stood for (product) innovation?" pointing to the Company's long string of acquisitions. On the enterprise side, Microsoft should look at way of getting better than IBM, on the consumer side it's got Google and Yahoo to worry about. Accordingly, there could be at least two different (corporate) entities, one targeting enterprises, the other consumers. No matter what the answer may ultimately be, trying to cut it into a size that fits all is just a dream, and no other entity has managed to be all things to all markets.

source: http://chircu.com

Anonymous said...

I like the 2! point! 5! chant. "Mini" is good, but "2! point! 5!" has a stronger ring. Not sure it would pierce the void, though.

Anonymous said...

jobs@google.com

Anonymous said...

"jobs@google.com"
bingo (although you didn't need to post the url!)

Anonymous said...

I work for Microsoft Services, we are the part of the company that ensures deployment and operations of the product that Microsoft develops and sells.

This is what I see happening in our part of the company.

1) Reorganization with a goal to reduce the overhead and quietly reduce the job levels at the same time. But the end result is actually more overhead positions than before the reorg....they just got them to take a level cut.

2) Poor management who seems to be trying form a military unit than a business unit.

3) No career path into other areas of the company. Many employees that are burnt out on travel or have no career path have recently attempted to move into the ranks of the technical pre-sales force, only to be told that they do not have any pre-sales experience. This is BS because everyone is expected to sell and do so in their current jobs, they just do not have a quota that documents their past performance.

4) Active attempt to drive out senior people with many years of experience in favor of college hires that receive low ball bids.

5) A leader that says that MSFT will pay at or better than 65% of the competition. Interesting that in the recent new compensation plan change that not very many people saw a slide that shows survey results for the industry that clearly shows Microsoft is way underpaying most of its workforce.

6) Rampent low moral. I have not talked with a fellow employee in the past year or so that is happy with their job, work-life balance, or compensation. We have a yearly survey that is the source of the data Balmer quoted incorrectly in his interview. Moral numbers have dropped consistantly for the past two years. The data from a survey question if people feel that they have a "good deal" with MSFT, has also dropped significantly.

7) "Culture of critisim"
That was true when I started with the company more than 7 years ago. I was told in my interview that MSFT will be recognize and reward those employees that identify, escalate and solve issues in the company. "We want to know where we need to improve so that we can address it quickly", "we cannot improve unless we know where we are failing". You were also told that you were empowered to do anything to improve efficiency or customer satisfaction.

Now it is the complete opposite. Employees are threatened or careers destroyed if you rock the boat.

8) HR's job is not to help or resolve issues, but to make them go away with minimum impact to the company. Complaints are completely ignored and most attempts to raise and issue regarding your manager ends up with the manager finding out and then retaliating against the employee at the next review opportunity. MSFT badly needs an ombudsman and a process to deal with complaints.

9) Compensation: Services just recently changed it's compensation approach for the consulting side of the business. Consultants not receive a 50/50 split of their review based on utilization (percentage of work hours they are consulting with billable customers) and a "commitment" side which is completely subjective. Commitments are evaluated by if you achieve or exceed the commitment. If you achive them all then in theory you receive a typical 3.5 rating, if you exceed some, then a 4.0, if you exceed all, then a 4.5, and if you kiss enough ass or are politically connected you get a 5.0 rating.

We are instructed by HR training to define quantitive commitments so that we can be properly measured, but some parts of the org dictate the commitments which are very vague and designed so you can only achieve them. If you seriously look afer you career and you attempt to modify the commitments to ensure quantitative numbers that can be achieved. This is met with with statements like "no one else is complaining about them" People are so afraid to speak out for risk of being labeled a trouble maker and destroying any hope of getting another job. The review process is designed this way to keep everyone in check. Manager use fear or threats of bad review scores to keep people quiet.

9) Work Life balance: The reality of the existing Services workforce at MSFT is we are all getting older and have families and do not want to travel. Microsoft does not want these kind of employees, they want young males with no ties that will go anywhere and do anything they are told. Women are almost non-existant in roles that require travel. This is mainly driven by a consolidation of consulting teams a couple of years ago into regions. Microsoft has three regions in the US. Basically cut the US into three equally sized vertical bars. You potentially have to travel anywhere within the region for an project. This could be anywhere from 1 week to 1 year.

10) The Redmond shrine: Yes Microsoft has lots of jobs available in Redmond where the cost of living is one of the highest in the country. Microsoft policy only pays a cost of living adjustment if you live in a location that has higher costs than Redmond, so NY or the Bay Are in CA. If you live in a low cost area of the country and want to move to Redmond to obtain a career path you have to face the following. A) A typical job level cut because you are probably higher that most people in Redmond. b) No cost of living asjustment. c) You salary range being lowered since you just got a level cut and therefore you potential for a raise just reduced because you are probably at a higher inside the pay range that your peers that have been getting screwed for years.

I live in a low cost area of the country. For me to move to Redmond I have to pay three times the cost of my current house to get apples to apples and I still have to drive 45 minutes to get to the campus. This bascially significantly impacts either my ability to save for retirement or my career opportunies within the company. My manager trys to tell me that I have to look at is as an investment in my career and not look at the impacts like trippling my mortgage payment, reduction in bonus potential depending on level this could be from 30-40%, longer work hours due to all the useless meetings that you have to attend now....this is reduculous and Microsoft is loosing great talent daily who are burnt out in the field, but cannot afford to go to Redmond. I honestly do not understand how people can financially make it there.

Well that is enough for now. Mini I think you are a wonderful person and I am ashamed that you have to annonomously raise these issues.

Too bad that the business week interviewer did not ask Balmer the following questions:

What is MSFT policy on people who blog about their MSFT experiences and issues?

Would you fire MiniMicrosoft if you ever found out their identity?

Why don't you implement an internal blog with anonomous feedback so that employees can give you direct honest feedback...are you scared of what you were hear?

Why doesnt MSFT offer incentives and rewards for employees that raise issues and solve them instead of fostering a environment of fear for speaking out?

Did you take any drugs before you did this interview because you are living in another world?

Good night an keep the blogging going.

Anonymous said...

2.5 chant

Sheesh. There is just no way you chickens are going to stand up virtually face-to-face with Ballmer and do something like that. Microsoft HR has turned you all into a bunch of chickens and you know the only you can say anything that remotely jeopardizes your job is in some kind of anonymous forum like this. Quit kidding yourselves. Sheesh

Anonymous said...

And don't think Microsoft doesn't know who you are. Anonymity on the internet is a very rare experience.

Anonymous said...

2.5 comment

If you are left in the Salt Mine you may want to work on your duck-and-cover tactics. Think flying chairs.

Oh, and will the last one to leave Microsoft please turn out the lights.

Anonymous said...

MSFT is we are all getting older and have families and do not want to travel. Microsoft does not want these kind of employees, they want young males with no ties that will go anywhere and do anything they are told.

I call bullshit. When I was in shell a few years ago, some VP, I forgot his name since leaving made a huge fuss about how he was taking paternity leave. He send out this email to the whole division about what a great benefit it was for the employees. When executives take parental leave, it isn't a good sign about where their focus is. I wonder whatever happened to him. Anyone from shell reading this and remember who it was?

PowerInsider said...

For more Deeper Throat stuff, more inside sccops and writing your own companies', visit - http://www.powerinsider.com/

Anonymous said...

"We've done some good work, but all of these products become obsolete so fast....It will be some finite number of years, and I don't know the number -- before our doom comes." --Bill Gates

Source: Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time, Daniel Gross (1997)

Anonymous said...

Just boycott the company meeting. If they can piss away $300K-$1million a year on incomptent managers who f*ck their reports, they can piss away whatever they paid to rent the arena when no one shows up.

Anonymous said...

As far as raises go, I've been there almost 10 years. One recent year I got a "raise" That came out to $0.25 per hour. That didn't even cover the increases in property taxes and gasoline prices.

I got the same raise back in '92 working in a grocery store while I was attending school. And that was the required annual increase the union collectively bargained for.

Yet I hear the same story as everyone else when they hand us 0 or near-zero. How valuable I am, how the group needs me, etc. I work my butt off, put up with the politics and BS, and watch management completely destroy products that people worked their asses off on.

Everyone from the PUMs on up are lost in a sea of delusion and hubris. They don't notice while they're collecting $500K+ per year the rest of us are struggling to pay our bills.

Every day I ask, why do I still work here? And the answer becomes less clear every day. I suspect that fairly soon I will be looking somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, yet another IM client, yet another webmail app, and the ability to search blogs is far beyond anything MS has accomplished...their sole revenue generating activity is =SELLING ADS= for chrissakes. Ballmer and Gates, for all their faults, are at least clued in to the long-term implications of THAT business model...it certainly doesn't keep them up at night.

"Google looks more shiny" wah wah.

Google only sells advertising ... wah wah (as you put it)

Starbucks only sells coffee and their stock has performed better than Microsoft's ... wah wah

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=my&s=SBUX&l=on&z=m&q=l&c=msft

Anonymous said...

And don't think Microsoft doesn't know who you are. Anonymity on the internet is a very rare experience.

Unless Microsoft rewrites the constitution and the Bill of Rights, who gives a fuck!

Even then, it would probably be years before it would "ship" giving you plenty of time to get away.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that JimAll is on his way out and Kevin Johnson will take over as Platform Group VP. If true, that would be awesome.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way...the Wall Stree Journal has an interesting article that says AOL and MSFT are discussing a strategic partnership that would almost immediately eliminate 12% of Google's revenue. Please name for me one strategic relationship, merger, or business partnership that could eliminate 12% of Microsoft's revenue over-night?

Dell already offers one alternative to Microsoft Office. Sun is coming out with StarOffice 8 later this year.

More PC manufacturers offering more preinstalled alternatives to Microsoft Office would cut into Microsoft's revenue.

Then again, Microsoft selling a "student and teacher" edition of Office on the honor system does that too.


http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=1123589

"For Microsoft's fiscal year ended June 30, the unit that includes Office had operating income of nearly $8 billion, on revenue of $11 billion. The company's overall revenue was $40 billion."

"That's a growing issue as software applications become more complex. For instance, the first version of Word had 100 commands. The 2003 version has more than 1,500 commands and 35 tool bars."

Anonymous said...

I'd love to know whose OHI he's reading from.

They performed miserably on the survey in '03-04. For '04 - 05 I think they tried to finagle a higher OHI by tailoring the questions.

Mixed in with the work/life balance was some self-referential crap like "My organization uses the OHI surveys to effect changes." Well, yes, I'd have to rate you pretty high on that because you altered the questions to try to make yourself look better, dumbshit.

This year, we tanked again, down 15 points on work/life balance and some other measures. It was the worst OHI survey I'd ever seen. Some of the measures were down in the 30% range.

Last couple of weeks they called hasty meetings and expressed puzzlement over the outcome. I can't tell if they're stupid, out of touch, or trolling for hidden critics to fire.

I don't think in services you could legitimately call the concerns 'whining.' It's not about towels or coffee or co-pays. It's a scenario where hundreds of jobs have been directly outsourced, others artfully managed out, resources cut past the limit and management is directionless and mendacious.

Be clear that the subject is not concern about what's in someone else's pocket. We just want a rational work environment where we don't have to feel like management is deliberately shooting against us. In services, I think everyone is feeling the same concerns the MCS guy posted above.

On the issue of "Would we all be saying this if we were still getting rich?", I lived through
that time too. No doubt, we were willing to tolerate a lot more. But I also think that our management was flat-out better in those days. We were free to have rancorous disagreements with anyone at any level without fear of recrimination, and more often than not, the right thing came out for the company. If someone in the hierarchy was a bozo, you just ignored him or bypassed him until he got a clue or went away.

There's an extent to which I believe Ballmer performed natural selection for fanatical conformance to process and doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that JimAll is on his way out and Kevin Johnson will take over as Platform Group VP. If true, that would be awesome.

That would be cool. I'm really surprised Jim hasn't been shown the pasture. When we had the whole Longhorn reset, he actually sent out an email to his directs saying next time he wanted to be notified well in advance when the ship goes that far off course. Imagine that...he didn't even know until they made the decision to do the reset.

It's just shameful, really it is.

Anonymous said...


"And don't think Microsoft doesn't know who you are. Anonymity on the internet is a very rare experience."

Unless Microsoft rewrites the constitution and the Bill of Rights, who gives a f...!

Well they have figured out how to ride roughshod over the Sherman Anti-trust Act, so it would not surprise me, if they do the same with the constitution in order to expose anonymity.

While Microsoft may score a 5.0 on business skills, they don't even rate a 2.0 on morality, considering their lack of conscience in repeated illegal ruthless behavior in the marketplace to protect their monopoly.

Aren't Microsoft employees ashamed about the immoral behavior of their company in the marketplace? How can you justify working for such an evil employer? Do you check your consciences in at the door as you go to work each morning?

If you cannot work within the company to change their immoral behavior, simply leave, and stir others (employees, customers, shareholders) to heed their consciences as I have done.

Anonymous said...

"I live in a low cost area of the country. For me to move to Redmond I have to pay three times the cost of my current house to get apples to apples and I still have to drive 45 minutes to get to the campus."

Cry me a river. I am a software engineer in redmond with a 7 year tenure and good reviews - and I can't afford to buy a decent house here. I think MSFT pay and benefits are great for all those people who arrived before or around 1996, but anyone who didn't get a windfall from options is effectively working a highly stressful badly paid job that barely pays the bills.

Anders Kargaard Jensen said...

Excellent blog here about Microsoft. I had the pleasure working for MSN for 1½ years in 2003-2004 in Denmark. My big passion now is the fight between Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft - which I have created a blog about. Your blog will be an important ingredient in my future writtings, so I have made a permanent link. You can check it out at http://investinsearch.blogspot.com/ Cheers!

Anonymous said...

"Cry me a river. I am a software engineer in redmond with a 7 year tenure and good reviews - and I can't afford to buy a decent house here. I think MSFT pay and benefits are great for all those people who arrived before or around 1996, but anyone who didn't get a windfall from options is effectively working a highly stressful badly paid job that barely pays the bills."

You can barely pay the bills and have been at Microsoft for 7 years? Give me a break. It's called "savings" and "financial planning". I have been at microsoft less than 5 years, straight out of college, and have managed to buy a house and pay the bills. Sure I"m not the millionaire I would be if I joined before 1996, but let's be realistic. Don't piss and whine about Microsoft's compensation when I'm sure you are making over $85k per year.

Anonymous said...

Aren't Microsoft employees ashamed about the immoral behavior of their company in the marketplace? How can you justify working for such an evil employer? Do you check your consciences in at the door as you go to work each morning?

Spare me the outrage. Go bitch at cigarette company employees first, or pharmaceuticals. No one dies from MSFT products, there's very little pollution, yada yada yada.

Anonymous said...

"It's only amazing if the stock holders are making money."

Exactly. And 8% growth isn't impressive. Look at GE which is substantially bigger and growing faster. Also, factor in how much bigger MSFT's installed base is today vs 00. Indeed, against that backdrop, 8% growth is abysmal. If MSFT had built compelling products and shipped them in a timely fashion, growth would never have dipped below 10% in the first place.

"If the stock can't be relied upon to match the capital appreciation of the S&P, then maybe the dividend should be increased."

If? It's underperformed the S&P in something like 8 of the past 12 quarters with the S&P now being up almost 80% over that period vs MSFT up 10% and change. The dividend should be increased to at least 2% which will still leave investors with an underperforming equity but at least we'll be getting paid a market dividend to wait for Ballmer and Co to get their thumbs out of their asses.

"I think MSFT is a decent buy right now considering the number of products that are about to ship."

Been hearing that for 3+ years now.

"For instance, the Xbox 360 is cool and all but it's not expected to make a profit at release time."

There's an understatement. The Xbox has lost over $4B so far that MSFT admits to and will lose at least another $1B over the next year or two. Sony, the leader in this space, currently makes about $500M/yr off PS2 and related. So, assuming MSFT wins in a year or two (probability virtually zero since it'll probably be console round #3 before a final winner emerges), and can then instantly enjoy SONY's profits (probability 0%) it will take something like 10 years for MSFT just to RECOVER the initial investment far less make money. Meanwhile, shareholders get to continue underwriting this stupidity via reduced earnings and a lower stock price.

"On the negative side, the S&P rebalancing will put downward pressure on the stock."

Likely largely over. Smart players didn't wait for Friday to make their adjustments. That's why the stock has been selling off majorly for the past 10 days culminating in Friday's massive toilet flush.

"If Google gets added to the S&P, that will put even more downward pressure on MSFT."

If?

"I'm hoping MSFT hits $30 by the end of the year, but I'm not holding my breath."

Smart move - you'd likely suffocate otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"Google is vulnerable and over-priced."

So's MSFT. But meanwhile, GOOG is up more in just this past year than MSFT is in the past 9. Who's shareholder's do you think feel they're getting the better risk/reward payoff?

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts about the Ballmer interview:
1) The increases in profits can primarily be attributed to the Windows and Office monopolies. As long as price increases don't exceed switching costs, the customers will pay until they see a strategic reason to switch. At some point, that strategic reason will come along.
2) Steve mentioned customer satisfaction with equal weight to the other major metrics that he looks at. The people whose satisfaction is measured, CIOs and other IT managers, are inherently conservative and don't like big changes. Placing too much weight on their satisfaction will only encourage incremental improvements vs. big innovations. There probably won't be any end users upgrading themselves to Windows Vista as they once did with Windows 3.1.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed by how people are prepared to defend Ballmer's record on the stock. Yes, MSFT is a big company and is unlikely to grow like it did in the 90's. But lot's of companies are as large or larger than MSFT and their stocks have still performed. Stock prices reflect earnings and perception of competitive ability. In the case of MSFT, the former has been impacted not by magical forces but obvious ones including the failure to develop truly compelling software that would speed installed base adoption, the inability to ship even the somewhat compelling core ones (i.e. Vista and SQL), the massive post 00 hiring spree that hasn't resulted in a commensurate revenue increase, the various post anti-trust settlements that could all have been avoided had mgt followed the law and/or been flexible when confronted vs arrogant. And then you have the tens of billions expended on the emerging business units with at this point, none of them showing a sufficient or in many cases even positive return. Throw in the brain-dead $3 one-time which did nothing for shareholders and actually reduced earnings via interest for all future periods, the indadequate dividend and the still massive (albeit reduced) ongoing dilution which in any period wipes out most of the much hyped buybacks. On the perception side, the inability to ship, the losses to Open Source (Linux.OpenOffice, Apache, Firefox), the constant one-step behind in battles against GOOG and YHOO, AAPL, etc and the seeming unwillingness to act swiftly and visibly when units aren't performing (i.e. Bus Sols, Windows, Office), have all put a huge dent in confidence about MSFT's continued ability to dominate. Hence the reason why the market is now giving MSFT one of the lowest P/E multiples in its history and one that is far below even the software group average. Net net, these are real issues and reflect ppor choices that have been made - not some law of large company physics. Reverse these numerous earnings-adverse and shareholder-hostile decisions, demonstrate an ability to get your house in order and compete again against the best, and both sides of the equation will go up - earnings and confidence which will result in a market willingness to pay more for those earnings. At the end of the day, Ballmer is the CEO and is accountable. Maybe it's not his fault, but it's not getting fixed with him in place. So time for a change.

Microsophist said...

"Now we've hit the mainstream, we should take a moment to remember Microsophist."

Thanks for the shout-out and summary of the "live fast, die young" tenure of Microsophist. I'm flattered.

Mini, congratulations. Some may recall my claim that blogging would bring about executive level change at MSFT. You may also recall the replies suggesting that I put down the crack pipe.

It will be interesting to see where this ride takes us, but I suspect Mini's going to prove me correct.

-Microsophist

Anonymous said...

from:

"developers!, developers!,

developers!"

to :

"denial!, denial!, denial!".

Anonymous said...

Yeah, MSFT is great, in a sense. You get your own office, you get your annual 3% raise, you get your free health care, blah blah. But this doesn't mean much to people who truly love software and take pride in their work. Would you rather have your own office and work on Hotmail (which is slow and makes my eyeballs hurt) or share an office and work on GMail?

Anonymous said...

How to fix MS.

1. Ship Windows Core. Only Windows OS - no WMP, no MSN, no snap-ins, add ons, drivers, languages - nothing. You get the kernel, shell, networking and the necessities. Nice and thin and cheap. Sell seperate skus for all the stuff that is ripped out.
2. Rate upper management only on customer satisfation.
3. Performance, performance, performance.
4. Less integration, more disintegration. Thinner and more optional components, not fewer options and fatter.
5. Be more nimble - act FAST. Part of that means smaller teams that are more autonomous.
6. Innovate and not follow. I received an email at work (MS) about the recent Apple wheel mouse release - someone commenting - oooohh cool. I bet at Apple they never do that with MS products. Also why only develop something to answer the competition - why not lead the charge?

P.S. I kind of wonder if the government had actually split up the company, if all this would have come to pass as a result.

Anonymous said...

Question: Has Ballmer always been so wildly positive and optimistic, or is this something recent?

Anonymous said...

I'll work on Hotmail allright. Not because of the office, although cubicles and open space is plain not productive environment. But because GMail is an evil - its privacy policy is a joke. Begging for invitation in Beta and now requiring cell phone number? Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

"There probably won't be any end users upgrading themselves to Windows Vista as they once did with Windows 3.1."

I think you're off base. I'll upgrade just for the visual enhancements like Flip 3D. I wouldn't underestimate how much emphasis people place on 'cool factor', and Flip 3D is very cool.

Anonymous said...

Offices are on their way out. Look up "Workplace Advantage" on MSWeb. Watch the video. Nary an office in sight.

They're doing a pilot on the bldg 27 cafe starting this month.

Anonymous said...

Some people, especially non-MSFT employees, don't understand why MSFT employees are so irritated. They think it's whining about stuff.

I'm going to try to post a little over the next few days to explain the changes and why everyone is so irritated in a way that non-MSFT people can understand.

Let's start with middle management.

In the old days, we had the "Bill" model. Every manager was at one time an engineer and could code. Most would still code, and those that didn't were good at what they did back when they were peons. Most of them started at engineers at MSFT and climbed the ladder.

Enter the "Steve" model.

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.

This is one of the changes that has directly affected development. In the past, the bosses knew what it took and what the engineers needed. Now they are clueless.

They are also spineless.

Oldskool MSFT managers wouldn't be afraid to say "no" to upper management or tell Bill or Steve to fuck themselves. Seriously. They better have a point and ammo to back themselves up, but they wouldn't be afraid to say it.

The new managers don't like waves. You are punished if you criticize. That's why we end up on blogs instead of yelling "Bullshit" internally like we used to.

Does Steve throw chairs? Heck yeah, so does Bill, most architects, etc. We used to have holes punched in walls around NT. But I would rather have that than the passionless yes-men corporate Dilberesque managers we have now.

And there is no accountability at MSFT anymore because of this. No manager dares to point a finger because they are afraid of a finger being pointed at them.

In the old days, you wanted to fail a little. If there was no failure whatsoever, it meant you weren't taking enough risk. It wasn't punished - it was encouraged (unless you failed because of stupidity, but that's something else).

Now failure is a dirty word. And if a manager screws up, little if anything is done except all his reports get tanked reviews. Most of them should have been fired.

So, when you think about it, MSFT used to be like the open source community. A bunch of engineers writing a ton of code. And, the engineers were motivated by the same thing. It wasn't about cash, it was about making something cooler than the competitors, just like the Linux guys want to make something cooler than Windows.

That was the root of "crushing the competitors" just like the Linux guys want to crush Windows.

So you open source guys should at least appreciate that. Imagine going from the environment you are in now to having a boss sitting there with charts and graphs, with people who don't code telling you that you need to go to idiotic meetings, etc.

We used to be like you except working on closed-source. In fact, I used to be big on FreeBSD and had conversed a few times with Linus when we were both in school and Linux was still a hacked Minix.

All things considered, engineers are engineers and want the same things whether they work on Linux or Windows. They want to write screaming code that is better than anyone elses.

But now, we've been Dilbertized. We've been internally infested by professional managers who don't know how to engineer.

If Linux had MBA's with no coding experience telling developers what to do, what do you think would happen?

Well, that's what's happening at MSFT. Put yourselves in our shoes for a minute, and I'm sure you'll be able to understand the disgust, frustration, and outrage.

If you guys like this, I'll try to post more then-and-now scenarios.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing to see the proliferation of PM and test. What are supposed to be support functions for development (after all microsoft is into software DEVELOPMENT, not software program management or software testing) are now treated as if they were equivalent to the people doing the real work.

Note that none of these PM/test can actually find a job outside of a bureaucracy like msft/ibm etc. So the good devs leave, while the PM/Test dig in and so do the political devs.

Anonymous said...

MBA's with no coding experience telling developers what to do

This is exactly what I've been saying to coworkers. Theres not enough engineers let alone people with technical skills. I mean for christs sake, have you seen that stupid little card (thats advertising the Company Meeting) which is sitting on the cafeteria tables? It says we have 60,000 employees worldwide - and guess how many developers? Please, just guess and then on monday, go compare your guess with the right answer.

Anonymous said...

Amen to the guy who stated that test and PM no longer act as support functions for dev.

When I started, my first manager gave me a project by pointing me to the PM who essentially sold it to me as 'this is why we need it', and I started on the library and delivered a fully functioning project two months later. During that time, my manager talked to me probably four times, just checking in to see if I felt I was on track. I felt a sense of ownership, I worked myself to death and overdelivered a solid selfcontained design in less time than planned.

Fast forward to the present: I won't know what I'll be working on until a PM delivers a fifty page spec with pixel measurements and colors and APIs obviously designed by someone with a great english and liberal arts major. All of this will be discussed to death in plenty of meetings with representatives from test, localization, documentation together with the direct management chain two levels up. Halfway through the process the PM owner will change due to rebalancing. Then I get to start on a document describing all technical aspects of the implementation in detail, together with a daily schedule of what I will do when. All of this will be debated in many more meetings. Then I start writing code. Except I spend only about two days a week doing so - in between, I report progress to my direct manager and all of the stakeholders in separate meetings while also attending meetings in which I am supposed to be one of the stakeholders. Meanwhile, PM will change details of the overly broad spec. Which of course means those changes need to be discussed in more meetings. The PM owner will be changed to yet another guy I haven't met yet. Testing will throw a fit because they feel they haven't had enough impact on decisions. Meanwhile, I become more and more frustrated, I don't like the features I am writing, and I get blasted in my review for not doing a better job contributing to the spec, managing the process and supporting test. And all I ever wanted was to write great code.

Mark said...

People who want the dynamic environment and don't see it should either move to a different division where they can find that atmosphere (if they can find it) or change jobs. I know what it's like to be wedded to a company, and it's an emotionally painful process to extricate oneself from it, but you can end up better off for it in the long run, doing what you love doing, in the way you love to do it--just not in the company where you're at now.

I think some of these comments on here provide perspective: You think it's bad at Microsoft? It's not necessarily better elsewhere.

The technology industry is a different place now from what it was during the 90s, and probably the 80s. I've read others who compare what we're going through now to what the tech industry was like in the 70s: flat growth, milquetoast earnings, flat hiring. In other words, not much happening. Even if Microsoft were to break out of the mold and do something "leading edge" as Mini advocates, I'm sure a lot of developers would be interested in that, but I don't know how much revenue MSFT would get from it in the short run. From what I can tell, besides digital music players and digital cameras, people and companies just haven't been in a tech-buying mood until recently. I saw the presentation with Jim Allchin about how analysts predict that when Vista ships it's going to be the biggest Windows release ever, with a huge marketing budget. All I can say is I hope so. Maybe consumers and businesses will be in more of a buying mood then.

Secondly, perhaps the reason the higher ups and MSFT have been willing to forgive the slip in the shipping date for Vista is that most of MSFT's customers just haven't been up for another upgrade. What good would it have done MSFT to say in 2004 "Okay!! Here it is!!" and for customers to say, "Great. We just got done installing Windows XP. Thanks for asking. Bye now."

There seems to be some obsession on here with how well Google is doing, and how it's luring away MSFT talent. Personally I consider Google to be a service company, not a tech company, though they have come out with tech gadgets every now and then (like desktop search). Don't get me wrong. They're innovative, but they're not the same beast as MSFT.

Some of this makes sense. Corporations have by and large shrugged off their temporary obsession with having the neatest, latest technology. Since 2000 (thereabouts) they've been more interested in managing what they have, and making what they have work more effectively, squeezing out the ROI. They're more interested in getting the applications they have to work together, than in buying new ones. They've been doing mundane stuff (to us developers), like share the data they have across applications. They haven't been into buying something whiz-bang and new.

Maybe Mini is suggesting that Microsoft just let the technology aspect atrophe, and for it to transform itself into a services company, like IBM did? Maybe that would be the best thing out of all the options, for its stock price. But would he be happy with that? That's where the market seems to be.

Does anyone remember an IBM ad from a while back, where a young whipper-snapper is telling an older exec. "Hey, take a look at this cool thing I just got!" The exec. looks back at him with condescension, "Cool?? What good is 'cool'?! My daughter colors her hair purple and calls it 'cool'!" The point of the ad was it was only "cool" to the exec. if whatever it was would save them money. The subtle message was, the exec. wasn't into taking a risk on an unproven technology. Stick with what you know.

There are up-and-coming businesses to be sure. That's why I made my earlier comment that I thought MSFT was making a mistake by abandoning the low end of the market, in favor of more robust enterprise-class applications and systems (and more expensive). They've been ceding some of the market to low-cost competitors, such as open source. And I don't buy the hype about open source being "more secure" and "crash proof". I've heard too many real-world stories to the contrary to believe that, not to mention my background in computer science. The main reason some small businesses are adopting it is because it's cheap and does something useful that they need. There are indications this is changing, so MSFT may have dodged a bullet, but I think they should be concerned about pricing themselves out of a market where they could win more customers.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with the comment regarding pm/test being support functions for dev. Think about it, how many of the pm or testers in your team will find a job at google, vs developers.

The core competency of microsoft is developing software and the org should be organized that way, at least in the product groups. The only way I see it work is that the dev takes charge and is ultimately responsible for the product/ feature. She can then use the PM and test as resources to do things that dev could do but are not a good investment of time, with some special skils in some cases to be used as support functions.

Anonymous said...

From the article:
When Ballmer took over, he was determined to overcome the looming challenge of corporate middle age. He pored over how-to management books such as Jim Collins' Good to Great.


If anyone reading this get's a chance to talk to SteveB (or hell, feels brave enough to send him a message at steveb@microsoft.com), ask him if he believes he is following the "Stockdale Paradox" in his management outlined in Good Jim Collins' Good to Great:

http://www.jimcollins.com/lab/brutalFacts/

It seems unbelieveably hypocritical that Ballmer is doing the exact opposite of what this book says.

Anonymous said...

For the people bitching about test, this tester says you can f'ing bite me.

If you guys could ship code that worked, heck, code that even COMPILED PROPERLY without a buddy test and a test pass, Microsoft wouldn't be employing us. The growth of QA is specifically because developers cannot be relied on to write functional code.

When devs do get away from those "useless" PMs and Testers, they write crap code for their own purposes that doesn't meet any customer needs properly and doesn't even work half of the time or when it is localized, etc.

So cry me a fucking river, dev-boy.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think we would ship code that doesn't compile if we didn't have testers? (Followup question: how would that even be possible?)

Half of my bugs are on features that aren't even implemented yet, so of course the code doesn't work. How is that helping?

Anonymous said...

If you guys could ship code that worked, heck, code that even COMPILED PROPERLY without a buddy test and a test pass, Microsoft wouldn't be employing us.

2.5 for this one. Better yet, a retroactive no-hire.

You must be one of those idiot testers (and most aren't) that randomizes your devs over and over again with the same stupid questions, a complete inability to provide a useful bug description other than "it's broken" and a complete refusal to even try and debug something. At least we now have WTT to waste as much of your time as you've wasted of ours.

Anonymous said...

"Its amazing to see the proliferation of PM and test. What are supposed to be support functions for development (after all microsoft is into software DEVELOPMENT, not software program management or software testing) are now treated as if they were equivalent to the people doing the real work."

Wow pretty ignorant statement buddy. It turns out this software 'development' thing is a team game. I don't buy the 'this is a software devlopment shop' argument for reducing the scope or roles of the other disciplines. You need to design the thing before you build it if you don't get design right you end up with a steaming pile of unusable/useless crap. Microsoft learned this and invented the PM role, every software company worth their bits has followed suit. And testing??? Without rigorous testing you're code breaks and, yes you guessed it, you ship a steaming pile of crap. The industry learned this one way back in the 60's... the result? The software tester role.

Obviously the developer is the one that writes the code, but using this argument to discount the importance of the PM and test roles is akin to the general contractor of a building calling architect/insepctor roles pointless. Why don't they do the work. Cuz they don't have the skillz baby.

"Note that none of these PM/test can actually find a job outside of a bureaucracy like msft/ibm"

Are you joking? Try browsing the Google, Apple, Amazon or Yahoo job listings, you'll find the title Program manager in all of them.
It's a key role, the drives the design and direction of features.
Also, I'm not sure how it is in your Org but most of the PM's I work with have backgrounds in CS, and would proudly call themsleves engineers (myself included) So Please I beg of you, refrain from spouting FUD on this otherwise wonderful post.

From a less pointlesspost...

"When I started, my first manager gave me a project by pointing me to the PM who essentially sold it to me as 'this is why we need it', and I started on the library and delivered a fully functioning project two months later...

Fast forward to the present: I won't know what I'll be working on until a PM delivers a fifty page spec with pixel measurements and colors...Then I get to start on a document describing all technical aspects of the implementation in detail, together with a daily schedule of what I will do when. All of this will be debated in many more meetings. Then I start writing code."


This is a very interesting post (find it about 6 posts above). I agree with the author that this is often the case, but I feel that it highlights one of the interesting trends I'm seeing in my group as well as other places... Stronger, more agressive PM's working with timid and more task oriented devs.

The result is a scenario fairly similar to the one described above where the PM completely controls both the manifestation of the feature idea, and the detailed design. I hate this (though I have been guilty of it) and I think it is hurting microsoft. Heres why I think its happening

An increasing number of PM roles are filled with top CS students from top schools that are looking to have a broader impact on the product, enjoy design, and can work with people (this was how they sold me the PM role). The result is more control being placed into their hands, often times turning the dev into a blackbox that inputs specs/PM direction and outputs coded features. This is not my idea of fun. to make matters more interesting, in general I'm finding that devs are not as aggressive, ballsey, loud, assertive (insert your own adjective) as they used to be. I'm miss the cocky swagger dev's had, I enjoyed having to convince them that I was "worthy". Mostly because I knew that all of this cocky BS was backed up by some badass ability. Working with the new breed of milktose, can't look you in the eye dev's kills me and makes me feel like the manager in the relationship. The result? I end up bossing them around, dominating the design, and sometimes even helping them with their SWAG's. Not what I'm paid for and not much fun.

We need to get back to a environment where PM/dev/test co-design features from the start. Dev's are smart, PM's are smart, testers are smart together they make up more than the sum of their parts. Not only will this make the feature better it will make the product cycle go that much faster.

How do we do that?
- focus more on (what my org would call) the feature crew. let them work together from the very beginning fighting about the design and making the feature better.
- kill a bunch of the process around formal design review/critique/loc review/accesbility/ meetings... sure they need to happen but dear god One feature on our team had 17 (and it got cut).
- Hire brash, smart, opinionate people (duh)

Am I completely off base here, is my team not the microcosm of MS that I thought it was? lemme know

Anonymous said...

What a load of bull. The PM positions have traditionally been filled with techies that couldn't handle code. They are a good dev's worst nightmare: someone who knows just enough about software to throw out the words, but a complete lack of depth to understand what they are saying. Combine that with the fact that their job title includes the word "manager" and the vaguest job description I've ever seen in my 20+ years of software development and you have a walking, talking, time-wasting disaster. Feature direction and design? Yeah, it's called today's whim.

the PM's I work with have backgrounds in CS, and would proudly call themsleves engineers

I'm sure they would...fortunately, no one would believe them.

Anonymous said...

Just because you got good grades in a CS program doesn't mean you're dev caliber. Almost everybody who interviews for a dev position is a top quality CS student and only a fraction of us are hired. In fact, if you're failing a dev interview, you often get busted down to a test loop. What does that tell you about who has the "skillz"? And what makes you think PMs have special skills? Devs took the same software engineering and UI design classes you did, and probably aced them.

Yes, Apple and Google have PMs, but not very many and they don't play the same role. Devs do most of the product design work, and arguably do a better job.

As for you bossing your devs around, you might want to rethink your situation. I know plenty of devs who will not argue with their PMs because they consider it a waste of time. Maybe it's different in your group but I suspect you are just making your devs annoyed and/or resentful.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it's different in your group but I suspect you are just making your devs annoyed and/or resentful."

A PM annoying his devs? What are the odds?!?!??

Anonymous said...

I know plenty of devs who will not argue with their PMs because they consider it a waste of time.

Yup, that's me. I just ignore them, or at most use them as a glorified technical writer. Whoever put "manager" in their title set them up for a world of disappointment.

Anonymous said...

The dev/pm/test posts above illustrate one important point: the holy trinity doesn't work as a productivity booster like it used to but is now a cause for mutual frustration. This is a very bad sign - this organizational structure has served Microsoft very well in the past and it looks as if it doesn't anymore.

Common complaints:
(1) Too much process: I'd bet this is the root of all evil. Instead of the three disciplines pushing each other and software development being a personal thing (which means each stakeholder puts himself on the line), you get a lot of rules to follow and meetings with few actionables to attend. Motivation suffers because people are less involved in the product, brilliance is absent because it gets replaced by group-think (where the consensus and sitting-power of everybody involved is more important than the individual fighting for a good idea), and all those bright people we hired look at their day-to-day jobs and ask themselves how happy they are with being really small wheels in a big and uncaring machine.

(2) Discipline crosstalk. If an individual dev contributor gets a bad review because he didn't manage process or supports test, something is seriously wrong. As an IC, that's not his job. We hire smart people for all our positions - and we should not waste their time by having them 'drive' the work of other smart people in a different part of the organization. They'll never be as good at it as the people who are supposed to do that job, and those other smart people probably aren't happy with the situation either.

(3) Missing empowerment. PMs who complain that their devs are too timid, devs who are frustrated because they can't find the time to write code anymore, testers who complain about the way devs write code all point to one thing: we have people who are good at their discipline but do not feel as if they can spend time on what they are good at and own that part of their work (including the power to outright say 'NO' to other disciplines). That can't be good.

All of these can be fixed easily (and without added cost). It's time that we start doing so. Which brings me to

(4) Bad management. With all these problems - whose job should it be to ensure that the ICs have as few obstacles as possible in the way of clearly defined roles? It seems like those people are not doing their job (or, alternatively, they are constrained from doing their job by even higher management).

Anonymous said...

You must be one of those idiot testers (and most aren't) that randomizes your devs over and over again with the same stupid questions, a complete inability to provide a useful bug description other than "it's broken" and a complete refusal to even try and debug something. At least we now have WTT to waste as much of your time as you've wasted of ours.

Actually, I'm an eight year plus company veteren as a tester. I've shipped quite a few pieces of software and generally gotten a good job. Unlike the Dev that was just hired out of college into his role, I actually worked my way up based on ability.

If you think I'm lying about code not even compiling, you need to take a closer look at some parts of the company. We get these cowboy devs who think that the company is all about them and any other role is a speedbump on their trip to glory. They ignore any and all processes they don't like and then do things like bust the entire windows build for their VBL because they couldn't, for example, get a buddy test. Even when this happens, you cannot legitimately claim that most testers just go "it's broken" and don't do anything else. Do you really think testers are that stupid? We do actually know what we are doing. If you think that of test, you should be looking for another job too. Try finding a nice one where the Devs test all of their own code. I'm sure it is a high quality product and position.

In my years at Microsoft I've seen many many devs who acted like they could walk on water but had to spend six weeks of a milestone fixing their code because of the actual functional bugs that testers found. Gee, if they hadn't coded those bugs in the first place, those testers wouldn't have found anything, right?

Anonymous said...

Regarding all of the recent comments about PMs, my opinion is that there are some great PMs that really help improve the product. The problem is that I think it is *MUCH* easier for a talentless PM to escape notice than a talentless dev. If a PM sucks, dev and test can ignore him and the feature still gets written. If a dev sucks, he can't hide the fact that the feature is late, always crashes, etc.

I would say only about 15% of PMs are actually usefull. 75% of them are next to useless, and 10% of them actually are worth less than nothig because these slow other people down while contribution nothing but pain.

In a related rant, I cant beleive how little people actually back up thier new features with customer data. It is extremely rare for someone to be talking about something othr than what they want.

Anonymous said...

Testing as a concept is fine. Testing as the accumulation of the political and inept employees is not. There are two kinds of testers:

a. Those who want to build an empire by getting to be a lead, manager and so on. This kind jumps on any product flaw to justify hiring more people, and makes sure each such flaw is as widely advertised as possible.

b. Those who want out of test, with the good ones wanting to go to dev and those who think they are too smart to do real work wanting to go to PM.

What the 'a' kind of people cause is bloated process and roadblocks (they call them sign offs) without any real productivity. Due to 'b' the test org get perpetually worse because of the moving out of people who are able to.

Anonymous said...

This thing about Dev x Test x PM is just a diversion. I don’t know how people felt into it. The REAL issue here is the organization as whole – vision, strategy and above all management. If you really think that this supposed issue is the root of all the problems, then you surely are so short sighted that you can’t see the big picture. I agree that some Test/PM has more politicking, bureaucracy, empire building, etc. than one would hope, but that is just the resonance of the company attitude, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

bust the entire windows build for their VBL because they couldn't, for example, get a buddy test.

It's call a buddy build. If you're going to blather on about how smart you are, you might try to get your terminology correct first.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini, I am an MS employee and just started reading the information on this site after reading the Business Week article. Awesome! I hope that you are rewarded some day for your efforts and don't have to hide your identity.

Here is the biggest downside that I see at MS related to the stack rank program. My position at MS requires me to work with many different teams at MS. The quality of these teams varies greatly. For certain teams, I would define them as "areas of excellence" where I am challenged to find any dummies. However, for other teams, the entire team or department with a few exceptions just flat out sucks, can't deliver on anything, and I think 80% of the team should be getting 3.0s (in particular on the Operations side of MS).

Excellent managers breed excellent employees. However, stupid managers breed stupid employees, and under the stack rank program you end up with a bunch of stupid people getting 3.5s and 4.0s on certain teams. I fail to see how this helps MS in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing to see the proliferation of PM and test. What are supposed to be support functions for development (after all microsoft is into software DEVELOPMENT, not software program management or software testing) are now treated as if they were equivalent to the people doing the real work.

In the division that I worked in, we all got an email stating that they were going to flatten the org chart by reducing the percentage of managers in a group giving some target percentage.

When HR wouldn't give me any stats several months later 'cause I didn't need to know, I went through the global address book and counted the number of PM, Dev, and Test with direct reports in our product group.

When I asked, the VP's explanation of why the PM percentage had not been improved was they wanted to minimize the disruption in the development process.

Well, most of the PM's that I worked with in over a decade at MS, wrote a feeble spec, fucked off to some conference, and never kept the spec up to date.

That's why they are getting developers to do the documentation now -- so they "need" fewer PM's.

You don't really need direct reports to give speeches.

Keep checking the stats and email your VP and ask why you need so many managers in PM.

Do they need that much supervision?

Maybe they all need to wear hockey helmets so they don't hurt themselves.

Anonymous said...

Ok, here's something weird that I found out over breakfast today: I was venting about my review this year with a friend of mine. Turns out that guy got a better rating (4.0 vs 3.5). He's at the same level and has roughly the same tenure. But he ended up getting a slightly worse salary increase and worse stock (factor of 2)?! All of that made me feel better, but I always thought that the review model was supposed to equalize rewards across the company?

Anonymous said...

But he ended up getting a slightly worse salary increase and worse stock (factor of 2)?!

All other factors being equal, salary increase is a function of your Compa Ratio (look it up on hrweb), and stock grant is a function of your longterm value to MS (and supposedly is not tied to review score as directly as salary / bonus).

Anonymous said...

It's call a buddy build. If you're going to blather on about how smart you are, you might try to get your terminology correct first.

It's only called a buddy build in certain circumstances by certain people. Most testers and devs, all over the company, call them "buddy tests." The "buddy build" is what the dev makes if he's doing a full test build of his code. Thanks for playing, dev-boy.

Try going to http://uxstats. It doesn't show "buddy builds" there as a listing. It does show "buddy tests" and gives a mechanism for getting stats for them in Shell.

Anonymous said...

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_39/b3952001.htm

The pay disparity is exacerbated by Microsoft's rating system. The company uses a bell curve to rate employees in each group, so the number of top performers is balanced by the same number of underachievers. But Microsoft has a long history of hiring top-notch computer science grads and high-quality talent from the industry. Under the rating system, if a group works hard together to release a product, someone in the group has to get a low score for every high score a manager dishes out. "It creates competition in the ranks, when people really want community," says a former Microsoft vice-president. A company spokesman says managers don't have to apply the curve with smaller groups, where it's not statistically relevant.


Dow Chemical figured out that the distribution of employees is not a bell curve (a.k.a. normal distribution) a long time ago for the reason that they only hire those they consider to be top-notch and stopped using the curve when rating employees. They still rate them. They just don't tell a certain percentage of them that they suck if they really don't.


And even if the stock does begin to climb, employees won't hit the kind of jackpot their predecessors did. Two years ago Microsoft stopped issuing big dollops of stock options, retreating to more modest helpings of stock grants. The idea was to help retain workers by giving them a sure thing -- stock with some value, since so many options were underwater. Meanwhile, 90% of the tech industry still rewards employees with stock options.


If you really believe Microsoft's stock is going to take off in a few years because of Vista etc., you can sell some of the stock you were granted and buy LEAPs in Microsoft stock.

http://www.cboe.com/products/leaps.aspx

http://www.cboe.com/Strategies/BEL-Calls.aspx

http://www.cboe.com/Strategies/BEL-CallsAsStockAlternative.aspx

If you are afraid Microsoft's stock might tank in a few years (e.g. somebody coming out with a real alternative to Microsoft Office), you can buy some LEAPS Puts in Microsoft stock.

http://www.cboe.com/Strategies/BEL-Puts.aspx

If you think Google or some other company is going to do better, you can purchase LEAPS in that company without changing jobs if you're too afraid or can't take the risk.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Test and PMs are bad... Well, ever heard of TDD? Write tests yourself, deliver actually *fully* working code (that is, tested on real world scenarios, not with three clicks here and there) and prove QA is a waste. However, I seriously doubt you'll like the process. No PMs? Well, that's why 90% os UI in shareware apps is crap. Yep, someone should specify pixels.

Anonymous said...

If you're a dev and your tester is hounding you for a PR build every other day because he has nothing else to do, when are you going to have time to test your own code, and what's the point anyway? Most of the builds I give my tester are crap and I know it, but that's how the system works.

Likewise, why should devs try to design a feature if it means endless meetings and arguments with PM? It's so much easier to sit back and let the PMs think they're useful. Oh, and the idea that devs are bad at UI design is crap. Just look at Apple and Google.

Anonymous said...

Google has rich UI? Where exactly? Apple does not have UI designers? URL, please.

It is your own problem if you produce crap. Then don't whine that you don't get promoted, our stock does not go up and users hate us.

Tester has nothing else to do? Ask him to write checkin suite for you. Or draft you manual checklist so when you submit, you will be submitting feature that is actually done as opposed to moronic "code complete" state. Who the F needs "complete" code which does not work? QA folks are often not bad code reviewers. And why do you think testers can't write code? They ften can and not worse than you.

Anonymous said...

Read he Inmates Are Running the Asylum before you decide that you are good enough UI designer.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's interesting to hear about the good ol' days when MSFT wasn't so bureaucratic and programmers were free to ship tons of great code unencumbered. Out of interest, how come that code hardly ever made it's way into shipping products either?

MSFT's problems aren't just bureaucracy. The entire organizational culture has never been about excellence, or leadership innovation or insanely great customer experiences. Indeed, part of MSFT's post 00 problem has been that it had pretty much beaten or destroyed everyone by the late 90's and lacked the innate creativity or customer-centric desire to push the envelopes on its own. Short term, the best thing that could have happened to MSFT is the massive spyware/virus problem (and associated press) as well as GOOG's emergence and Apple's resurgence. The former has made the company finally get serious about quality after years of lip service and the latter let's the company do what it does best - focus on a competitor and given their road map, copy/improve and eventually catch up and even surpass.

Longer term, MSFT better figure out how to thrill customers and asap. In a world of choice, average software, shipped late with little understanding or even regard for customer needs (be they enterprise or consumer), augmented with weak marketing and a generally outclassed sales force, isn't going to cut it. Come to think of it, with 6% growth lthis quarter, it's already not cutting it. It would be nice to see the company address these issues and proactively. But when the CEO himself seems to think that everything's great and that the company actually has a core competence of innovation despite massive evidence to the contrary, it's hard to imagine substantive change even being contemplated far less initiated. Oh well, it's been a nice run...

bv said...

I truly believe this site is the vocal minority.

http://belikedilbert.blogspot.com/

bv said...

I truly believe this site is the vocal minority.

http://belikedilbert.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

The the guy who wrote the before-and-after post: that was just great. Please do some more posts like it.

Anonymous said...

oops, I mean then-and-now scenario.

Anonymous said...

"I truly believe this site is the vocal minority."

I think you mean "hope" not believe. BTW, is that you Steve? I thought you didn't read Mini?

Anonymous said...

No, Google does not have "rich" UI. They have simple UI that's easy to use. That's why people like them and they're successful.

Apple does have UI designers, but much of the design is left to dev. I don't have a URL--I know this because I talk with people who worked for Apple.

You missed my point about crap builds. Testers want builds before features are ready, and then they think the devs can't code and file a lot of obvious, worthless bugs that the devs probably already knew about. You sound like one of these testers.

As for your ideas about how test can "help," you don't even realize that you're causing the bureaucracy problem. More checklists? More code reviews? Come on!

Anonymous said...

>You missed my point about crap builds. Testers want builds before features are ready, and then they think the devs can't code and file a lot of obvious, worthless bugs that the devs probably already knew about. You sound like one of these testers.

I was in test for 5 years, and I wasn't like that at all. What I wanted was to do my job, which in theory according to the HR guidelines, was to write code - test code, not shipping code, but code nevertheless.

Unlike devs, I didn't care if whatever I wrote would ship - I looked at it as more a job where I was paid to learn particular technology and/or APIs.

But between the endless cycle of installing the latest, the general lack of information about the product/features I was to work on, the crap builds the devs would give me (as you have so noted), and difficult to test features (UI features only and no, writing Visual Test wasn't my idea of a career path; or irreversible state changing ops that basically required a full reinstall to get back to a known good state), all my time was sucked up into basically STE level work.

Test could have been so much better; I would have killed for a position where I'd have X years to learn networking, then switch to DirectX, then switch to databases, then switch to compilers, or whatever. But mobility was never a priority, and the sole career path for test is management, most typically becoming the lead of your group, and staying at the same thing year after year. You get promoted too high and then you're permanently screwed, as you can't move into a dev position at your same level anymore.

After getting forced into a lead position and basically hating it, I got a 3.0 review. Which I thought was decent considering being a lead was new for me, plus I didn't like it at all. Unfortunately, a 3.0 means it is impossible to switch jobs. This vicious cycle wore me down and now I'm gone, to a dev job at another company, one which I enjoy a lot more than my days at MS.

But back to your comment; you seem like one of those devs that holds test in utter contempt. So I'm sure you probably deserve the same attitude reflected back to you.

-K

Anonymous said...

"'Well, Mini is a man, that rules out 15% of the workforce? :)'

He writes in English well, that rules out another 50% of the workforce."

"Ugh, can the racists please just leave?"

That isn't about racism, it's about nationalism (BTW I didn't originally post that). Sure, I understand that "trying" to keep COGS done is good business, but how is exporting work that needs to be fixed back in Redmond a good thing?

Sure, MSFT can pay some "international" vendor $10k a month (120k a year) for medicore code, I'm sure we can pay some US citizen $50k a year to do the same (or hopefully better, after ramping up on all the process), and not have to make 2am conference calls and re-write the code anyways...

Anonymous said...

I read with fascination and concern the business week article on Microsoft’s people losses. Microsoft nearly missed the boat with the internet, and now they are on the verge of losing outright the search engine war. The risk here is that Google may finally render the desktop OS obsolete. Instead, over the past 10 years Microsoft’s executives’ efforts have been on an insidious and disabling rise in bureaucracy accompanied with a consequential loss of innovation. Worse yet, this lack of innovation applies not only to the products, but also equally to the management, people and process skills in the company.

However, these are far from the biggest issues. For the company, it is remains gaining respect as an innovator. This is critical for preserving a modicum of “coolness” and sustaining the ability to attract the best and brightest. With software, the value is not just in the capital or balance sheets, but also with the intellectual horsepower of the people. Flawless execution of a business process unfortunately will not win the hearts and minds of the best and brightest software developers around the world.

Most discouraging was reading the interview with Ballmer. His answers came across more as talking points from the DNC and marketing gibberish, than an executive that truly had a bead on the challenges that face the company. His comments lacked intellectual honesty and substance. In fact, I can only classify them as “content-free communication”.

Therefore, they struggle. Inside executives contemplate more mind-numbing business processes stifling any potential for improving technical innovation. Granted repeatable and predictable results are critical for any company, but to do so requires domain expertise not MBAs who have never seen a line code. As well, and for years, the company pooh-poohed outside, independent expertise and forums in Computer Science and Software Development. Instead, they continued to hire senior managers who are non-experts in software development. Consider the hiring of Kevin Turner from Wal-Mart. This is a formula for diminishing returns and decline. My recommendation back to Microsoft is to focus intensely on your problems, develop your technical leadership and fire the lawyers. Demonstrate that you can ship a product of as high quality as Apple's OS or the I-Pod or as innovative, an internet-based service as eBay's or Google's. Then maybe the respect will come and better yet the stock price may actually grow, and you retain your talent. Now that would be respect.

Anonymous said...

The thing that worries me is that there is no visible change in Microsoft the way I see it from the outside. It seems like Ballmer has his mind set.

He has a nice fat monopoly to sit on. The company is still making money and so is he.

As far as he is concerned, there is nothing wrong.

Windows and Office

Vista and Office 12

Same old. Same old. Strategy.

Anonymous said...

I heard a intersting anology while runing the VC gauntlet for funding. Web search by MSFT, Googee and Y! are the equivalent of NBC, ABC and CBS. Sell ads around content. Y! is the most diversified Internet Content Network. Google has all the cool shows for this fall's season.

Oversimplified, but oddly accurate

MSFT is the only software company among them.

Anonymous said...

MacDailyNews Take: Hey, Microsoft employees, "Towels!" We found a nice one for you guys and gals, but, alas, it's sold out.

Microsoft suffers from malaise, key defections, Windows Vista struggles, lack of towels

Who da'Punk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You people bashing PMs/testers- uh, you HAVE to be kidding me.

Yeah, PM and test are support roles to development- no code = no product. And yes, there are incompetent PMs/testers. Word has it there are incompetent developers as well. Go figure.

But you know what? Some people are GOOD at spotting design flaws and creatively breaking things, and only so-so at writing code- they're fine at automation but you might not want them writing kernel drivers. They make good testers. Some people are GOOD at understanding UI and design principles, and incorporating user feedback, but not so good at coding. Those people make good PMs. Do you really want to tell those people to fuck off and die because they are not as "l33+" as you, or would you rather have them move the furniture out of the way so you can get back to coding?

I know I got to participate in spec reviews as a tester. So did my developers- we fixed bugs and design issues BEFORE we had to code them. I didn't hassle my developers for work before it was ready, because it's not any more effective than asking your parents "Are we there yet?" 87 times in the car when you are 6.

But yeah, I KNOW I was a part of a valuable team when I tested at MS, because my developers threatened (jokingly) to lock me in car trunks after finding bugs on checkins. It wasn't because they were very sloppy; it was because the job they had was HARD, and I was good at kicking ass all over the code, and asking questions, and working with PM and Dev and not being stupid (anyone who filed a bug of "not working" isn't doing their job). But I was pretty lucky when I worked at Microsoft- most of my time was spent in small groups where we could fit everyone on our team into a 20-30 person conference room.

Anyone in Dev who can't figure out how to make use of Test and PM just has a dysfunctional organization. Some people like a particular discipline in software engineering better (Test or PM), and have skills more suited to that (I know a fair number of dev types who don't write well and would produce horrible specs, and while they are domain experts in coding would be totally lost understanding real-world user issues most testers would see pretty quickly). I don't see why people who do good jobs in PM or Test MUST become developers, or they aren't really helping...but that's me, I guess. I suppose that means RNs should become heart surgeons, then?

Anonymous said...

Probably it's too late at night to have endured reading Ballmer's outright freaking lies, but frankly, I don't know whether to puke or hire a hit man. Honestly, how can any otherwise sane individual stand up and say shit like this?????

Timmy said...

Great article but it missed one very important point when it talked about Steve cutting $2.6B from Opex. The reprecussions of this. After 10 years at MS I lost passion as it became no longer a marketing machine, but a meetings machine. With that became no real actions, just reactions and as such politics and a mess. If Seattle thinks they have issues, dont even try to comprehend the subs.

Anonymous said...

>(after all microsoft is into software DEVELOPMENT, not software program management or software testing)

Like those gazillion bugs in our products marched in the front door and just happened to sit in the source code.

I wager you're just as incompetent as the other developers I've met who bluster about the uselessness of test.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine going from the environment you are in now to having a boss sitting there with charts and graphs, with people who don't code telling you that you need to go to idiotic meetings, etc."

Hah. Ever tried swimming through the politics at Debian or Mozilla?

Garrett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Speaking of troubling exits, here's a candid view of a recent departure.

Anonymous said...

Devs who dislike testers should be immediately fired from MS! You have shown zero CPE interest and you deserve to go into Good Attrition.

I'm a long time dev lead and dev manager (outside MS) and I came to MS because of my passion for test. I have met your type a lot of times during my run'ins with dev, and anytime a developer acts up I code his ass off the whiteboard. I criticise the hell out of his ER diagrams, his class diagrams and 9 out of 10 times he changes the freakin' work and begs for mercy. And I will abso-freakin'-lutely go and review the guys code and file a shitload of bugs.

Don't cut all testers into "they just failed their dev interview" bucket. Some of us are star developers with a passion for quality, and if you ever meet one of us you change your view of testing forever.

That rant aside, MSFT has done a horrible job to attract the likes of me to the testing ranks. Taking in people who want to "grow" into devs should literally kicked out of the interview rooms. We need people to realize that test is a career path which is not only about clicking the mouse around a screen, but it is also QA role on the code the devs make. I have had test teams which have had SDETs so strong that we were mentoring the dev team (in MSFT!)

So please cut the crap, learn to love testers, they will in the end be the ones saving your sorry little ass from being sued for billions of $.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see that 888 on a shuttle, I read MMM - Microsoft Managers are Morons :-)

Anonymous said...

I doubt I'll be able to articulate this just the way I'd like but I'll try.

I never cease to be amazed at how leaders dodge questions in interviews. Somehow - not so cleverly, I'm sure - Ballmer manages to end up at the "amazing product pipeline" in each response. We see it all the time, politicians do it (on both sides). They never really say want they want to say, they're so afraid.

I'm confused on how I feel about this stuff. On one hand, I would just once like to see these people, who have such huge leadership roles, just break it down honestly. On the other hand, I know there is *some* value in focusing on the positive. I know I'm not the only person who reads these interviews, daydreaming, "Man, if that were me, I'd answer those questions with brutal honesty. Wouldn't that shock the industry? Everybody would like us then - they'd see we're real." I just don't understand what it takes to get people who think like that into these roles. Are the two mutually exclusive?

Anonymous said...

(snip)"I think some of these comments on here provide perspective: You think it's bad at Microsoft? It's not necessarily better elsewhere."

I've worked a lot of software companies in the Seattle area, including some startups, and each place has its (negative & positive) issues. What I've seen here at MS, and what y'all have talked about, is not all that unique, except it is on a much larger scale. In my experience, Adobe (Seattle), Real, Amazon, & Expedia are all worse overall.

While I had lots to complain about here at MS in the Office group, I'm now in a different team I like, with a good manager (rare here, in my experience), and we've got some interesting work to do.

Do I like my work? Yes. Am I rabidly jazzed about what I do? Not really. Do I need to be? Not really...it's just a job.

Would I like to be rabidly jazzed? Yes.

But that hasn't happened since the early & startup days. Realistically, those won't return here, especially in the mature (dare I say, monopoly) businesses where protecting the franchises and drinking the kool aid are de rigeur (sic). And in smaller teams, especially doing real innovative work, the larger org mostly always gets in the way..."must kill the new thing...."

As someone else said here: (like any place else) it depends on the group you're in, who your managers are, and who you work with everyday. For that, my group gets a 4.0.

Too bad about the stock performance, the bloated high priced management structure (Directors or GMs with no reports, anyone?), and all those that drink/inject the kool aid. Fools.

Anonymous said...

Dear everyone!
As a passionate and enthusiastic software salesperson I've been selling our software in the enterprise quite successfully over the last several years and growing the sales business by at least 20% in my team.

After the nice little re-org we have a lot more folks "helping" to sell the software, rather than actually working with the client directly. I wholehartedly agree that there are tons of very expensive GMs with very few or no reports in the field and very little effect on ultimate sales numbers. It is very easy to identify them and someone should ask the tough question, why are we paying them all these outlandish salaries? Someone gotta ask them to leave and make room to boost the salaries of those ones who make money for the company!!!

Anonymous said...

Sad to see a company that has achieved so much and with such an incredible potential slide into this decay over the last 5 years. Employee morale is the lowest in the last 15 years that I have been around. And no - its not because of flat stock price - remember early 90's - people were still excited inspite of the stock being flat for a number of years.

The cultural problems can be traced to the reward/punishement/review/HR process, that hasn't kept pace with the growth of the company.

Increasingly managers are forming "inner circle" to help in political battles. Loyalty to the manager is more valuable than loyalty to Microsoft. The current review mechanism allows managers to freely reward these individuals. This behaviour is spreading like an epidemic.

On the other hand its very easy for a manager to lable individuals who challenge or are critical as trouble-maker or not a team player. The review mechanism makes it very easy to punish them. Less and less people want to challenge and be critical - playing along is the favourite game. Result is groupthink or people leave silentltly.

COmpunding this problem is strange organization alignments. Quite a few VP own a bunch of disparte organization with less and less alignment. They are more and more removed from the challenges. Its hard for them to understand and drill-down and identify problems in self-congratlatory good news thats being reported to them. In turn they pass it up to steveb.

No wonder steveb feels everything is hunkey-dory with MS when its not.

Anonymous said...

How is the internal drama at Microsoft any different from other tech companies? We have the same problems at McAfee. On the marketing side internal promotions are rare. Company keeps hiring inept outsiders for management roles. Bunch of hack Nortel rethreads. We have managers who know how to manage up but no freaking clue how to manage down the line. The point is - the grass is rarely greener on the other side.

Anonymous said...

As a microsoftie I work all day long just because of my professionlism and ego, nothing else now.

Anonymous said...

Its all about integrity and Balmer lacks it. Tough words? Of course they are, but he once said at a company meeting as he trounced around a stage at Safeco field. "I'm in, are you" and asked the same question 10 times until everyone said "I'm in".

At that time shares of MSFT stock was about $25.00-$27.00 per share and that was approximately 5 years. Now, 5 years later the stock is at the same point.

Using the MSFT rating system where a 3.0 warrants only meeting job performance with nothing to indicate going above and beyond the daily norm. I would have to say that executive management is doing quite well considering they fit into this category. How else do you explain five straight years of a stagnant stock price?


As an MSFT employee if I recieved a 3.0 review score for the last 5 years I would be told in a polite way to go looking, I would get no raise or minimal, no bonus and little if any stock awards. As it stands now VP's and GM's get awarded a possible $1,000,000 per year as a VP or 350-550k per year for a GM, all for showing a consistent 3.0 performance for the past 5 years.

Keep in mind our shareholders have not made any money in the last five years, but the one's who are responsible for pushing up the stock price at MSFT get rewarded for a lack of performance.

Why is it Balmers fault, why do I say he lacks integrity? I'll answer that this way. I spent over 20+ years in the military and as an Infantry Airborne Platoon Sergeant one of the things I always remembered was that "I was responsible for everything my platoon did or failed to do" and since Balmer is the CEO of MSFT that makes him responsible for everything this company does or fails to do.

The recent reorg where all the execs follow each others email after the first one is sent to prove they are all on board with the change is a case in point. No new real blood, all they really did was shuffle the existing execs around hoping that would change something so Windows Live will be some big deal, which it can but not under this existing leadership.

I could care less that a VP makes 1 mil and I could care less that a GM makes 350-550k per year. Quite frankly that level of responsibility if successful should get that kind of money. However, show success first. What I care about is the fact that MSFT shareholders have been stagnant for the past 5 years.

If a shareholder had been sitting in the audience 5 years ago when Balmer said "I'm in, are you" and could see where their money would be right now, how many of them do you think would say "I'm in"?

By the way, the recent shake up had much to do with the the latest tirade about not releasing Vista in November instead of January 07. The fact is, Vista is launching with much less capability than it was originally designed for but because the execs want to get a new OS out the door as soon as possible they cut back on functionality to make it. However, what they failed to take in to account is the fact that the people that were left to design what was left of Vista were not the cream of the crop because the good one's rolled out to Google. Hence the reason Vista is really shipping when it is.

Keep in mind this is the same crew of brainiacs that did not ship enough Xbox 360's just before Xmas.

I'm in are you? C'mon Steve, get on stage and tell the truth and stop being a suit for once! Or at the very least and admit like Gordon Gekko did, that "Greed is good" because at least then you would be honest.