Thursday, November 17, 2005

Stack Ranking Has an Expiration Date

A big Thank You! to Simon G for the following comment:

Hi Mini

First, congrats on being the only person I have found so far who has wondered about the fuzziness of Ray's comments relating to the Business Division. As a Navision reseller, it troubles me that the ERP side of things isn't yet clarified in Ray's mind.

Second, have a look at a book review on rank-yank:

http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item.jhtml?id=5091&t=organizations

It both defends and denigrates it

So the link is to an article of of the Harvard Business School entitled: Forced Ranking: Making Performance Management Work. The article is by Dick Grote, who has a new book out about stack ranking / rank and yank, and is well worth a read. Going through the article, Grote first lays down the reason why a company would want to stack rank: a company could be at risk of evaluation inflation, misrepresentation of true results, and bad calibration between groups. The meat of the article is to review a mathematical model study done for stank ranking, where 10% of the employees are fired every year (sort of The Sims Rank and Yank edition). Given this model, the company became healthier and more productive. But.

First "but": a 10% dismissal rate seems to be optimal. 5% is not. And whatever mythical 6% firing rate Microsoft is doing is not even throughout the company but rather clusters of RIFs. So while we cling to stack ranking, we are not using it properly. 10% of every organization needs to go every year to make room for better hires. If you believe in that sort of thing being good and all.

Second "but": stack ranking does not work as a perpetual performance appraisal system. It's good for five years, and then you need to move on. Snippet:

Finally, for many years I have argued that for most companies, forced ranking systems should be used for only a few years and then, once the obvious and immediate benefits have been achieved, replaced with other talent management initiatives. While some companies have been successful in using their forced ranking system for decades, I find that most organizations are better served by implementing a forced ranking system as a short-term initiative. Scullen and his fellow researchers confirm that advice.

Great! I'd say it's time for Microsoft to move on. The article tries to be fair in addressing the issues folks might have with stack ranking but just glances off of the morale issue and the impact of personal success is more important than group / product success.

The article also has a good idea about management stack ranking that, as long as we have stack ranking, I hope gets put to good use:

A forced ranking procedure forces managers to think in far greater depth about the quality of talent in their unit than conventional performance appraisal systems typically require, and their ability to describe and verbalize their assessments provides a good indicator of a critical aspect of their leadership ability.

Manager's contribution to honestly stack ranking their reports should feed into their own stack ranking given that it provides a good insight into a key aspect of their management skills. Can they readily describe all the pros and cons of their reports?

So, Tamara: think we can get Grote to come in if he's out and about doing a book tour in the area?

Next up: lots of commenters have complained about Burgum. One celebrated his being sent out to the pasture but another followed up, with the quick summary of:

And considering that he gets to be Chairman now versus [deservedly] being fired, I'd call that being put out to stud vs pasture. Here was a golden opp for Gates/Ballmer to show that accountability was going to be demanded at the top not just the bottom. Instead, they send exactly the opposite message - business as usual. The guys at Salesforce.com, Rightnow, etc. must be laughing their asses off...

Some folks talk about Alchin and say to me, "Well, you know he's being pushed out of the company because of his performance." And I say, "No, I don't know that. All I know is that he's leaving to take care of his health and that Steve Ballmer is really bummed to see him go." I think of the re-org webcast. If Steve is really pushing out Alchin, then I all I can say is he's the biggest dork in the world for being on stage to say he's sad to see him go. Same thing with Burgum. If this is supposed to be a message of accountability, don't enshroud it within fake regret.

Another interesting comment:

I have been reading this blog since I was terminated in September from MBS. [...] For those of you that still work at Microsoft, you must realize that a huge plan is in progress to downsize Microsoft, especially middle management. For example, does the company still need 7 CFOs for 3 business divisions? A major overhaul and purging is not out of the question.

If you want to prepare for what is coming down (i.e. especially if you are one of those General Managers reporting into another General Manager or anyone significant inside of MBS) you need to read a book called Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro. She does consulting with Microsoft management and employees. Her book can show you how to survive and what to look for as Microsoft begins the largest purging of management ever!

The book was excerpted a couple of times in the Seattle Times Sunday paper. Yes, if you're playing the review game at Microsoft, this might be a good book to have during disruptive times. The chapter four extract is especially tantalizing: going from invisible to indispensable.

And finally, as for stock: sure, Google strolled past $400 today like it's just a little milestone, but at the same time, we closed at almost $28! I guess Steve Ballmer doesn't care since, you know, we (meaning SteveB) don't measure our performance by our stock performance.

126 comments:

Who da'Punk said...

And allow me to add the first broad negative comment that has been so vogue as of late to get it out of the way so that we can move on. As written by one of the alligator neighbors in Pearls before Swine:

Po Mini. You gone een lost you sparkle. You pest! Usta be intrestin but no mo! Leesten, I dunno why you bothers wit all dis. You ego musta be gettin to you. Een if you are a man und all, you won't go deletin dis!

Oh. And I wanna eat you.

Anonymous said...

re: the comment by the fired MBS guy -

Why would I take the recommendation of a guy who got fired, about a book on how not to get fired? Serves him right for not playing the game well enough. Doesn't he get that he's exactly the fat that needs to be trimmed?

NotQuiteAnon said...

Why would I take the recommendation of a guy who got fired, about a book on how not to get fired?

Because they're the ones who really question themselves....successful people tend to be exceedingly complacent until the freight train hits them (unless of course they manage to float somehow).

Emphasizing the credibility of the messenger over the quality of the message makes little sense. The credibility of the messenger only really comes in when the message is really a commitment of some sort and you're wondering whether the messenger can live up to it. Or perhaps if you're wondering whether the messenger is lying or not. Neither hold here.

Keeping an open mind enhances survival potential!

Anonymous said...

Emphasizing the credibility of the messenger over the quality of the message makes little sense.

Exactly right. But, the fired guy is not the messenger, he is the message orginator.

NotQuiteAnon said...

Exactly right. But, the fired guy is not the messenger, he is the message orginator.

Sorry, I was using a colloquial form of "messenger" there, knowledge/fate/whatever itself being the message originator.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about how many layers are there in the company. What I mean is, how many bosses are there between the lowest programmer and SteveB?

Want to know why Google is stealing MS' lunch money? Every time I turn around they are releasing an update or new product that effects average consumers. Why do early adopters love firefox? Because they have updates all the time and the easy to make extensions get better and more numerous all the time. It is shameful when IE goes for years without any change to its functionality. MSN toolbar was better then the Google one when it came out. Since then GoogleToolbar has had a series of updates that have made me switch.

Anonymous said...

As for Burgum, give the guy a break. He's had the same job for 23 years if you go back to the Great Plains days. Surely he has the right to move on to something new without all these assumptions.

Chris said...

Defining corporate performance by the performance of the stock... hey, I've heard of that before. Wait a minute - that was an Enron, Woldcom, etc. model, wasn't it.

Did you mean to say "why can't we perform in a way that the market likes better than they do now"? That might make sense. The market is sorting out Microsoft's move from a business that's exponentially expanding to a blue chip stock that's on a reasonable growth curve, innovating, and paying a dividend. You're frustrated that you see lots of stuff MS could do better/differently, and that's a good thing. I'm a shareholder, too, but rather than asking Ballmer what he did yesterday, I'll ask if you're you making Microsoft a better company every day, and whether you did so yesterday...

Enjoying the blog... a contrarian view.

Anonymous said...

"As for Burgum, give the guy a break. He's had the same job for 23 years if you go back to the Great Plains days. Surely he has the right to move on to something new without all these assumptions."

Last time I checked, MSFT wasn't running a retirement home. The performance of MBS under his tenure has been a series of mistarts and execution failures. Take a look at the numbers - they tell the story clearly. As a shareholder, I don't care if Burgum is a great guy personally or whether he's been successful in the past. I only care about whether he's successful in his current mandate especially given the stakes for MSFT overall of MBS being a success. Clearly, MBS hasn't been a success to date and even now, has nowhere near the growth/momentum/profitability that it should have. That it wasn't on the right trajectory to accomplish that, was obvious years ago and should have been dealt with at that time. Instead, more years have been lost during which competitors have taken more share and shareholders have underwritten more losses not to mention his very lucrative comp plan. Net net, you won't find anyone who believes Burgum is being "promoted" for the stellar job he's done. Which begs the question why is he being promoted at all versus simple fired for obvious lack of performance?

Anonymous said...

"If Steve is really pushing out Alchin, then I all I can say is he's the biggest dork in the world for being on stage to say he's sad to see him go. Same thing with Burgum. If this is supposed to be a message of accountability, don't enshroud it within fake regret."

Bigger issue there since this is the guy who knows where all the bodies are buried. So it's not like you want to send him out the door pissed off so that he can join an Open Source outfit and share intimate knowledge of all MSFT's architectural/code weaknesses and product plans for the next decade. Still, I think the real issue is that in most/all of these cases, Gates/Ballmer have their hands in the thing such that the executive could make the case that the failure was at least in part as a result of their involvement. For example, Alchin could likely argue that Gates decision to force WinFS into this release, played a major role in Vista's delay. Similarly, Burgum could probably argue that Office integration was thrust upon him and prevented them from executing more aggressively. Not saying I buy those arguments, but they do provide a plausible reason why Gates/Ballmer haven't pulled the trigger. If true, it also shows why Ballmer/Gates need to stay out of day-to-day operational decisions so that they can clearly and cleanly hold the folks officially mandated with that responsibility accountable and fire or reward them as appropriate.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, they send exactly the opposite message - business as usual."

Yup. If you're senior management and you fail to perform, even over 5 years, it's a "learning experience" and you might even get promoted (as in this case). If, on the other hand, you're an employee and fail to perform, even over one review period, it's...well...a failure to perform and you're on your way out.

Hmmm...kind of like that Sesame Street song "One of these things, isn't like the other, one of these things, doesn't belong...".

Anonymous said...

Some grist for your mill at Business Week - Microsoft's New Word: Accountability

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can answer your question regarding the number of layers between the lowest and highest level at Microsoft.

The reporting structure of a developer in the Tablet PC division looks something like this:
Dev-->Program Manager-->Group Program Manager-->General Manager (Peter Loforte)-->VP Mobile Platforms (Bill Mitchell)-->VP Extended Client Platform (Rick Thompson)-->Sr. VP, Windows Client (Will Poole)-->President, Platforms and Services (Jim Allchin/Kevin Johnson)-->CEO (Ballmer)

That's 7 layers between dev and CEO. I doubt it's be more than that in any product group, perhaps it's different in sales groups.

I have no idea how this compares to, say, IBM. Or Intel. Or Google.

Anonymous said...

isn't the comment from the mbs guy who was pushed out exactly what you want, mini?

Anonymous said...

"Some grist for your mill at Business Week - Microsoft's New Word: Accountability"

"If we don't make the ship date I'll give up my bonus" is Jones' idea of accountability? LOL, how about he gives up his job if he fails - now THAT would be accountability.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Tablet - whatever happened to Alex Loeb? That was one helluva disappearing act...

Anonymous said...

"The reporting structure of a developer in the Tablet PC division looks something like this:
Dev-->Program Manager-->Group Program Manager-->General Manager (Peter Loforte)-->VP Mobile Platforms (Bill Mitchell)-->VP Extended Client Platform (Rick Thompson)-->Sr. VP, Windows Client (Will Poole)-->President, Platforms and Services (Jim Allchin/Kevin Johnson)-->CEO (Ballmer)"

I suspect this person does not actually work at MSFT. Since when do devs report to PMs?

His number is just about right though. In SQL land, it's
Dev->Dev Lead->Dev Manager->PUM->GM->Senior VP (Paul Flessner)->Senior VP(Bob Muglia)->Corp. VP (Allchin for now)->CEO (Ballmer), which gets us to 8.

Anonymous said...

>Since when do devs report to PMs?
Not atypical in SE teams

Anonymous said...

Doesn't he get that he's exactly the fat that needs to be trimmed?

Only if you define him to be exactly the fat that needs to be trimmed, as proven by the fact that he got trimmed. In this wonderfully self-referrential world, everything happens as it should happen, as proven by the fact that it happened (or perhaps, that it happened to somebody else - a point to which I will return).

As they say in the car ads, "Your mileage may vary". It might be that he isn't exactly the fat that should be trimmed. It might be that the system isn't actually working very well. It might be that the real fat that needs to be trimmed is middle and upper management, along with the people with huge arrogant attitudes, who think that they are for some reason more valuable to the company because they play the political game better.

And one of those arrogant political people might be you. And it might be that you actually will need the book he mentions, as soon as you have a boss who either can see through the arrogance, or who has a political agenda that runs counter to yours.

MSS

notso anon said...

Dev Division layers

test -> test lead -> test manager -> Product Unit Manager -> Product Unit Manager -> CORPORATE VP -> CORPORATE VP -> SR VICE PRESIDENT -> CO-PRES, PLATFORM PROD/SRV DIV -> Steve Ballmer -> Bill Gates

Anonymous said...

I think you should re-read the HBR article on "rank/yank". You clearly didn't understand what was written. The conclusions were: (1)rank/yank works, (2)more rank/yank is better ...eg 10% is better than 5%, (2) some companies are successful at it for decades...microsoft?, (3)all would benefit by doing it for at least 3 to 5 years. The unsaid corollary here is: most companies dont have the guts to stick to it for the long haul. It is very hard to say that yesterday's winning race-horse is today's nag heading to the glue factory. Causes organizational cognitive dissonance around "employees are our greatest asset", blah, blah, blah. The theoretical limit of the simulation (i.e. infinitely repeatable game of culling the bottom 10% eventually gets you to such a small acceptable set that you cant find enough people on the planet to fill slots) is "reductum-absurdum" in practice. Business conditions, technologies, markets change fast enough that what is defined as "star" changes enough that never reach practical limits. I'll wager that yesterday's star FORTRAN programmer is not in "star status" today. (May still be a secure and well paid slot like COBOL guys have with legacy apps--but that is different point).
So that is the point(s) of the HBR article. While I'm not siding for rank/yank, I am pointing out that those "pro" now have ammunition that the "con" dont have. The "con" are left with rationale like "its not fair, nice, fun, blah, blah, blah." Well, markets (and labor markets are no different) are optimizing on efficiency, not equity. Need to get your debate cards ready for a strong "Con".

Anonymous said...

As an MBS employee, and one that came to MS from Great Plains, I have some points to make about MS culture, Burgum and Microsoft's future.

How can anyone who doesn't directly get ship-it awards for Windows or Office have one critical remark to say about Burgum and MBS? "Ye without sin, cast the first stone." I don't see you contributing to the bottom line of this company either. And, in fact you're probably costing the company money; you're just sitting on your round ass in a cushy office in Redmond. What have you done for the company lately?

MBS customers are a fickle sort. They're much more likely to trust someone who knows their business than someone who knows how swap to variables without using a third. Burgum must be retained in order for MS to have any credibility in the ERP market. Without Burgum you might as well cede the market to SAP and Oracle now.

In the future, being a technology comapny ain't going to cut it. The IT industry well beyond the stage when corporate customers care about upgrading just 'cuase Microsoft says so. Customers need a reason better than, "it is really cool, trust us". Microsoft needs to know their customers and use technology in appropriate ways to actually solve customer problems and not just invent technology in the hopes of a problem. Microsoft is good at inventing new problems. Let's try to solve one or once in a while. Microsoft needs to be a solution company.

The only way that MS can actually become a solution company is to reorg the culture. Fire all of the PMs for a start, and hire people who can solve problems. I've yet to see any PM at Microsoft be able to think in terms of customer solutions. Most PMs can only solve problems that they themselves directly experience. Why is that? 'Cause most of the PMs are devs without the aptitude for development. As developers, PMs are still too introverted to be able to relate to anyone but their own shoes. Fire the PMs and hire people who can actually solve problems and who have a customer focus.

Anyone try Groove? Groove is Lotus Notes for the Web. Can you say "one trick pony"? Ray O. is going to be serious problem for the company. Think integrated innovation is bad, just wait. If the future of the company is live.com and Groove, you better sell your stock at 28 now.

The culture within MS is just plain stupid. A culture that rewards people (the 4.0s) for taking risk and punishes the people (the 3.0s) who cover the asses of the first group, is just silly. I would not want to own a company of exclusively 'type A' highly motivated risk takers. You need a balanced and diverse employee base to make a succesful company.

Maybe that is not the problem either. Maybe the real problem facing Microsoft is that there seems to be a preference for using contractors to do all of the jobs the 4.0s don't want to do? Look in the org chart and you'll see the mountains of yellow badges everywhere. Yellow badges look good on the stock report, but sure doesn't buy loyality.

Wow, much longer than anticipated.

Anonymous said...

How about the following method for stack rank? The HR team should hold themselves accountable and set an example of themselves first.

HR should have a deeper curve for 3.0 and 2.5s and fire 15% - 20% of their org every year. It would be nice to see HR abide by the title guidelines, CSPs and level guidelines that applies to the rest of the org.

We dont need GM of HR, Senior Director of HR, Senior HR Manager of HR when the value proposition provided by these folks is not high. Outsource these positions, you can get more done with less cost and higher efficiency.

The MS HR org has become a country club for people from other companies.

Given the incompetency of the HR org, it is highly unlikely anything is going to change anytime soon. Lisa Brummel has a bloated, incompetent org and her first objective should be to fix up that org. Cut the fat, levels and salaries of HR and provide more value to our shareholders.

alecr@microsoft.com said...

You just made Wired (December issue) on p. 60.

Anonymous said...

It doesnt make sense for the HR folks to get paid the same way as people who contribute to Microsoft intellectual property and help sell our products and support our customers.

HR, legal and other non core teams should go on a different and lower pay/bonus scale. These are not Microsoft competencies - these people are adding to the beureucracy and the nonsense that goes on at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

RE: the Burgum thing...you guys really needs to think of this from Doug's perspective. He WANTS less responsibility. Maybe there are other things he wants to do with his life? (Hint: http://www.dcpoliticalreport.com/ND.htm)

Anonymous said...

>It doesnt make sense for the HR folks to get paid the same way as people who contribute to Microsoft intellectual property and help sell our products and support our customers.<

They don't get paid the same way their budgets are much smaller than the groups that produce products. Not sure where you would make this assumption. Do you actually have access to the salaries that these folks make? The only way that you would is if you worked in the HR org.

Anonymous said...

>Given the incompetency of the HR org, it is highly unlikely anything is going to change anytime soon. Lisa Brummel has a bloated, incompetent org and her first objective should be to fix up that org. Cut the fat, levels and salaries of HR and provide more value to our shareholders.<

Qualify this broad statement with actual data and a logical argument What makes you an expert in this area? Or are you just a bitter employee with a shallow opinion of an org that you probably know nothing about?

Anonymous said...

quote: re: the Burgum thing...you guys really needs to think of this from Doug's perspective. He WANTS less responsibility. Maybe there are other things he wants to do with his life? /endquote

Sorry, empathy is not a core skill. Also see "microsoft management training"

Greg said...

Mini, it may be time to turn the comments feature off. The finger pointing comments toward the HR, Legal etc. are not productive nor do those comments offer real solutions. These folks add a lot of value to the company and are working hard to become more effective orginizations and become better partners to the businesses that they support which does add more shareholder value. These folks work to hard to be disrespected undervalued by certain individuals that post on your blog. They also hurt the credibility of your Blog and diminish what you are trying to accomplish here. You have a good thing here but there are some really ignorant comments that are bringing this forum down to a very low level.

Anonymous said...

You get upset when your org is mentioned in this forum? ( and it is fun reading blasting others ). The size of HR department is pretty big - you can benefit by mini sizing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini, I found a job for which I think you should apply. This is an actual posting from the microsoft.com site.

Job Title: Organization Capability Management
Job Category: Human Resources
Product: (Not Product Specific)

Job Code: 144396
Location: WA - Redmond
Travel Required:


People and Organization Capability Director
The People and Organization Capability Director provides a broad range of talent, leadership and organizational development services and support to the business leaders and HR generalists across the organization on the POC agenda, in conjunction with the HR Leader. Areas of concentration include; talent management, learning, leadership, and change navigation. Specific support services include talent assessment and movement, hi-potential development, People Review preparation, organizational design and restructuring, change management, team formation and development, large group interventions, culture change, strategic planning, and people strategy development. A key facet of this role is to integrate all the POC products into one single cohesive format, aggregating strategies, content, consulting, and programs from across the POC organization. By partnering and consulting with the clients and generalists they will apply solutions which assist the business in optimizing against and delivering on its business challenges. The scope of this role encompasses business units in both Redmond and field locations.

Key Responsibilities
- Design and develop practical solutions to business problems
- Design and implementation of people strategies
- Consults with business leaders on the organizational design of their departments and business units
- Facilitates strategic planning sessions as required by the business
- Designs and implements organizational and performance improvement initiatives, including building manager capability
- Actively manages the change management processes associated with organizational development
- Supports enterprise-wide, large-scale organizational initiatives and interventions
- Designs and facilitates large scale/leadership team development interventions
- Facilitates business culture change
- Coaches executives and coordinates coaching activities for leaders
- Contributes to best practices efforts across the POC org
- Implements talent management frameworks and driving the talent identification, assessment, and development processes
- Partners with the HR Leader on People Review
- Partners with the Learning & Development Org to implement a learning strategy to meet the business’ needs

Required competencies/experience/skill sets
- Exceptional knowledge of principles of organization design and development
- Excellent project management and consulting skills
- Ability to read the subtle nuances of a situation and react/plan accordingly
- Track record of success in helping to solve significant business problems
- Experience in dealing with and influencing senior executives
- 10+ years of experience in organizational development, management/leadership development, or related disciplines
- Advanced degree in human resource related field preferred, (e.g. Organizational Development, Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, or related discipline)

Anonymous said...

This job you posted doesnt require any freakin skills - just get a HR degree and clock ten years somewhere.

Other perks of this HR job:

Hang out with VPs and gossip around. You get to attend all the parties and meetings. Once in a while do some work - pretty soon get promoted. Participate in forums such as this and pass dirt on hard working people.

Anonymous said...

Here is HR Manager job description from microsoft.com website. I guess HR achieved break through results for business clients by eliminating towels?

Dedicated to Growth and Development
Microsoft Human Resources Generalists are charged with helping develop and retain the company's talented workforce. They provide resources that help build leadership and management capability, address people issues, and drive systemic improvements based on situational analysis.

Microsoft values the personal growth and development of its employees. For that reason, HR Generalists seek ways to provide growth opportunities and recognition, and make the work experience productive and fun.

HR Generalists play a hands-on role in helping their business clients do their best, by building connections between people and issues across the organization. That means they have a close and active relationship with their business clients, serving as consultants in order to provide the HR perspective on business decisions.



A few job titles found here:
Human Resources Generalist
Delivers human resources solutions that help clients meet business objectives through organization and leadership development, employee relations consulting, performance management expertise, and employee and manager coaching.

Human Resources Manager
Drives organizational change and partners with the business to deliver solutions to support company business objectives and inspire breakthrough results.

Anonymous said...

>Here is HR Manager job description from microsoft.com website. I guess HR achieved break through results for business clients by eliminating towels?<

Actually it was The Real Estate and Facilities Group that made that decision.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is so intellectually vapor-locked at this point that random bolts of lightning are better than whatever 'internet services strategic sea change blah-blah' that corp. is going to roll out. Employees who even want there to be a Microsoft should send their best ideas about internet services – no matter how highfalutin – to Ray Ozzie. Microsoft doesn't know how to innovate and never has. Apple will encroach on the desktop and no govt. agency in hell will re-up Office if they think they can get it done with opendoc. On a level playing field (no monopoly) its open season on cash cows.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft HR is beneath worthless. Its too bad they can't be replaced with a web app.

TheKhalif said...

Employees who even want there to be a Microsoft should send their best ideas about internet services – no matter how highfalutin – to Ray Ozzie. Microsoft doesn't know how to innovate and never has.


Though MS isn't always my favorite topic, CAN YOU SAY DIRECTX? How about ACTIVE DIRECTORY? WINFS also comes to mind even though it has been pushed back.

As far as MS losing the desktop I don't think so. The company has the distinction of getting paid for every PC because IBM outsourced the software for THEIR creation. You can't divide up intellectual property like phone lines so MS is here to stay.

Hopefully the writing is on the wall for upper mgmt and they will learn not to bite the hands that feed them.

TheKhalif said...

Microsoft HR is beneath worthless. Its too bad they can't be replaced with a web app.

Anything can very nearly be replaced by a web app and a good technician.

Anonymous said...

HR should get a 360 degree review from the customers they serve.

Any hiring manager at Microsoft can attest that they dont get enough resumes for their open positions.

From the posting here, it seems HR manager is a fat cat beureuocrat. It is anyones guess why these people should be at levels 64-67.

Anonymous said...

I work in Services and have been at Microsoft over 6 years. Every year, every reorganization, management reiterates their commitment to employees and employee development, but it never goes any further. I'm not one to give up when faced with obstacles or problems, but Microsoft has managed to bring me to a state of "disconnection" and I'm planning my exit early next year.

The only subjects that are discussed with any vigor in our org are how to squeeze the last bit of revenue from our customers (who appear to have been getting too much from us for free, lo these many years), and how to maximize Contribution Margin to make it as the top team in all financial categories so our GM can make charts that show his org at the top. Many moons (read REORGS) ago , discussions were actually focused on coming up with IDEAS to help win and secure the mindshare of our customers...but management just doesn't have the time, inclination, or desire to tap the potential of the "best of the best" they hired. Instead management focus is only on how to meet ridiculous plan targets by controlling operating costs and adding ever more burdens of accountability on individual contributors. This results in less time to actually deliver great customer sat since internal masters have to be satisfied first, specially if you want your next review to be 3.5 or above.

I can't think of a single positive discussion in the last few years with other Services ICs, whether consultant, TAM, or other, concerning the state of affairs at Microsoft. Many Senior ICs in my org have left in the last few months stating the lack of opportunity to excel, a clear career path, incompetence of their management, the bureaucracy, and review process bullshit.

Throughout these last 3 years, I've stubbornly (maybe naively is more accurate) continued to speak my mind on those subjects to my manager and his manager(s). They listen (or pretend to), nod, sometimes sympathize, and promise that things will get better....some day.

Quite the contrary, I think Microsoft has given up on employee development, career opportunity, and retention of it's senior ICs.

It's too bad because when I joined Microsoft, there was definitely a buzz and energy about the people I worked with and it wasn't just tied to the stock performance and possibility of wealth...it was mostly about being part of a company with a vision, the intellectual capital, and the coffers to achieve it.

I've been working very hard this last year to find reasons to stay at Microsoft.....but time has come to move on.

Anonymous said...

>HR should get a 360 degree review from the customers they serve.<

They Do. Why do you assume they don't?

Anonymous said...

You just made Wired (December issue) on p. 60. -alecr@microsoft.com

As much as I've stared at page 60 in that issue, I've yet to see a reference to Mini. Wikipedia + Feynman, yes. No Mini.

But Mini does have an explosive quote in this week's Seattle Weekly on page 11 (November 16-22 issue).

Anonymous said...

> Human Resources Manager
Drives organizational change and partners with the business to deliver solutions to support company business objectives and inspire breakthrough results.

Inspire breakthrough results? These guys are single handedly messing up Microsoft in the name of "delivering business objectives".

Anonymous said...

>HR should get a 360 degree review from the customers they serve.<

They Do. Why do you assume they don't?

>> If they really got the feedback, a good number of them wouldnt be employed today.

TheKhalif said...

Throughout these last 3 years, I've stubbornly (maybe naively is more accurate) continued to speak my mind on those subjects to my manager and his manager(s). They listen (or pretend to), nod, sometimes sympathize, and promise that things will get better....some day.

Quite the contrary, I think Microsoft has given up on employee development, career opportunity, and retention of it's senior ICs.




Sounds like one of the reasons I left.

Anonymous said...

"Quite the contrary, I think Microsoft has given up on employee development, career opportunity, and retention of it's senior ICs."


Actually MS has given up on employee retention at all levels. I left because of poor management vision and accountability. However, the VP of my old division was Kai Fu Lee whose vision was somewhere else (Google perhaps?) and completely uninspiring. It makes me laugh as I look back. Realistically MS needs a revolution. There are so many companies out there now chipping away at its foundation and I’ve seen stellar talent leave to competitors over the past 2 years. I realize attrition is common and expected however (example) when MS pays for masters degrees and doesn’t even attempt to retain the talent after degree completion you know there is a break in the system. It’s nice to be outside looking in again, it really gives you perspective.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Fidelity has a HR outsourcing department.

http://www.fidelity.com/workplace/drillDown.html?http://www.fidelity.com/workplace/PublicSites/MainWrapper/0,,CSN2646_PSN2646_SSN2649_PID18126,00.html

HR Services Expand
As HR outsourcing continued to attract significant market interest, Fidelity also broadened its human resources servicing with training, learning and enhanced performance management solutions. Fidelity acquired HR Access's application platform in 2003 to enhance its human resource and payroll offerings. With this acquisition, Fidelity gained a European base for expanding its global capabilities for U.S.-based clients based with worldwide operations.

"Servicing our clients' core employee data and systems for their HR, personnel and payroll administration enhances our ability to provide integrated servicing across the HR and benefits spectrum for our clients and their employees," Smail said. "Looking ahead, we expect the outsourcing trend to continue its momentum as organizations continue to realize the cost advantages, efficiencies and service improvements gained by streamlining their human resources and benefits activities."

Anonymous said...

Have any of you here who think HR and LCA does a good job have directly dealt with them? I had to deal with both of these orgs on two occassion and man! it was such a lousy experience. Two of the four total people I had to deal with are the ones 'assigned' to me and supposed to be my 'contact' person. These assigned folks who are supposed to give my questions priority takes an awesome 1 week to simply escalate my query to other 'experts'. I say this where the fat should be cut at the soonest. The HR and LCA generalists from my experience with them are extremely incompetent people and almost made me curious of whether they even check their emails on a daily basis. Anyone heard if a core tech person taking 1 week to respond to some question about their product/speciality (provided this person is not OOF in which case the automted system notifies you)? If HR and LCA wants to be valued like the core tech folks then their generalists need to be able to answer quick questions within a few minutes with links for more information. If the generalists are there simply to escalate an email to a specialist and that too after 1 week, then they really need to be shown the door by some automated service.

Anonymous said...

If Steve is really pushing out Alchin, then I all I can say is he's the biggest dork in the world for being on stage to say he's sad to see him go.

Yeah, Steve would never say anything untrue or misleading, that would be violating the Microsoft Values.

Are you stupid or what??!!! Sorry for the outburst, but geez-puleez!

BTW, now I know why companies like to hire ex-Microsoft people. The ex's are so happy to be someplace that treats them decent, they don't whine like the others. We know when we got something good.

Anonymous said...

There is at least one important difference from Grote's stack ranking simulations and how it is actually implemented at MS.

I'm sure that in Grote's simulations that the persons ranked at the bottom and removed were actually the least valuable to the company, and that there was a single metric to determine a person's value to the company.

What I saw in my time at MS was that people targeted for removal by the review system were not necessarily the worst contributors.

They ones out of place usually were the more politically inept, or a thorn in the side of their alpha-male empire-building managers; often because they dared to speak the truth about the product they were working on and call bull-s**t on failures by their management.

I could share stories of less competent IC’s who climbed the ladder to management in a Machiavellian manner and then pushed out those they felt could threaten them while surrounding themselves with yes-men lieutenants (who get automatic 4.0s), but it is best just to ask this question. If those in charge of ranking individuals have priorities that take precedence over and are at odds with the greater goals of the company, will forced (stack) ranking still be as effective?

I know that managers get together and review their rankings with each other and some sort of process validation is supposed to take place to keep things sane, but how would an individual know if their manager was going to bat for them or digging their grave? None of the people I worked with ever knew their ranking, so how could they know?

Anonymous said...

At the root of Microsoft was an incredible entrepreneur (billg) who's vision of the future was spot on. But even from the inception, Microsoft played the industry like a game, a sport. When the DOJ started closing in, Bill became palpably bored ("here steve, you drive") Would steveb have become CEO of any other F500 company had bill not handed it to him? More recently, steveb sat down and excruciated over Jim Collin's book Good To Great - trying to identify things that make a company great. The upshot of the book? That companies need to return to their original DNA, that thing that made them successful in the first place. Microsoft's original DNA was to cobble together an OS, play two ends to the middle with IBM on UI, and create turbocharged versions of existing products. So what is this DNA that we are returning to? Finding a new IBM to mug? Building a new OS? Rapidly reinventing existing products? There is no gas in the tank. We have a layer of senior management that makes more money in one day on their portfolios than they make in salary all year long. And below them are legions of minions whose job it is to guarantee their bonuses? Microsoft needs a punch in the jaw. Bill and Steve should step down and recuse themselves to the board of directors. A new CEO should be brought in and Raikes, Rudder, KJ, Bach etc. can report to that individual. When current leaders are required to take the painful steps to fix the company most will dump their ‘supplemental’ paychecks and leave. The stock is up and Vista will release next year - so what?

Anonymous said...

I used to be in MS HR and still have friends there.

HR is supposed to be sitting in stack rank meetings and make things "fair". It is anyone's guess how this works in reality though.

The size of HR has grown tremendously after 2000. There was no GM of HR generalists or Director of HR generalists then. HR generalists were called HR generalists not HR manager then.

HR people also need career growth - MS has not been the best place for HR in the past - mainly as the focus has been core tech. One of the goals of Lisa Brummel when she took over as HR VP was to provide career growth for HR. It isnt clear what this means - but hopefully we will see product GMs/VPs come out of the HR org in the near future as the focus is on management at those levels.

Anonymous said...

Anyone heard if a core tech person taking 1 week to respond to some question about their product/speciality (provided this person is not OOF in which case the automted system notifies you)? >If HR and LCA wants to be valued like the core tech folks then their generalists need to be able to answer quick questions within a few minutes with links for more information. If the generalists are there simply to escalate an email to a specialist and that too after 1 week, then they really need to be shown the door by some automated service.<

Technology has made you are an instant gratification junkie. You have what is called a 7-11 mentality. I want what I want and I want it now and if I don't get it, I am going to cry. Get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

"The culture within MS is just plain stupid. A culture that rewards people (the 4.0s) for taking risk and punishes the people (the 3.0s) who cover the asses of the first group"

Your kidding right? it's the smucks who are in CYA mode who are hurting good type type A and A- folks.

HR is screwed .. Terri E. for one is someone who should be concerned about possible legal action. She helped contribute to quite a few constructive dismissals in networking (jawad i hope you are reading).

Anonymous said...

In my experience, "get rid of the lower 10%" can have a bad effect on the org. The first time it's done, there are likely some dead wood that need to go, and that's good. But over time, you end up getting rid of competent employees who just end up at the bottom. I hve a friend - a top 10% performer - who just left a group because he had to fire somebody in that group.

And despite the fact that the pressure comes from above, the firing has to be done by the first-level lead, who then has to deal with finding, hiring, and training the replacement.

Anonymous said...

I'm not insider - but I've to deal with LCA and HR several times.
It's was painfull expirience - several months to get small contract approved by MSLegal.

If it was not Microsoft - but some other company - I will be avoiding doing any bussiness with them in future.

Bad MSLegal affect not only insiders - but Microsoft bussiness partners also.

Anonymous said...

>> HR is supposed to be sitting in stack rank meetings and make things "fair". It is anyone's guess how this works in reality though.


HR review should be tagged with complaints on review scores and models as they are part of the "process".

Lisa Brummel's bonus and salary should be tied to the complaints.

Brummel should do more than sending e-mail about bird flue. Get off your but and vaccinate every MS employee from your budget or do something substantive other than sending junk e-mails.

Anonymous said...

generalists need to be able to answer quick questions within a few minutes
I'm not in HR/LCA but I know several folks who work there. Just wanted to say, keep in mind that generalists are inundated with mail. IMO, its much easier for someone with a technical position to effectively filter mail. Also, I'm pretty sure that an L60++ HR person does not make anywhere close to what an SDE of comparable level makes.
My only complaint would be that the "technical" recruiters aren't very technical at all (and believe me, I've known several TR's) - but then again, this may be the general trend in HR across companies, I really don't know...

Anonymous said...

well HR is a good screen for keeping those who were let go from getting back in.

I have had 5 different groups tell me "they represented a very bad picture of you"

Anonymous said...

" isnt clear what this means - but hopefully we will see product GMs/VPs come out of the HR org in the near future as the focus is on management at those levels"

No way ... someone in HR should not transition to product ... sure there is a certain level of "general management" skills but no way. Good luck to an HR person selling product ..

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to get it that this blog is a science experiment on part of management? Has anyone even passively considered that this is perhaps a clever upper-echelon attempt at evangelizing people into welcoming a RIF?

Yeah! Stock price sucks!
Yeah! Bad middle managers!
Yeah! Let's cut back!
Fire 'em! Fire 'em!

People in the field fucking freaked out during Saratoga.

Fucking.
Freaked.
Out.

There are alot of people at the company who've not worked anywhere else BUT Microsoft. The people who got cut found other work, but the people who didn't get cut were spooked beyond belief.

I think the lesson learned during that exercise is that people weren't prepared.

Enter Mini and the blog. Look at how he stays 'on message' and discourages discussions outside of his target messaging.

I've got strong confidence on who mini is (I've placed 'baiting' comments in the past to see which would be dropped/disappear), and I tell you folks - you're being led along. A couple of clues - read the BusinessWeek article again, think of description, add in that he's a native of India, and you've narrowed down your choices of who could have a site like this and get away with it to a select few.

It's so clear you could find it with the old MSN search.

Open Your Eyes.

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to get it that this blog is a science experiment on part of management? Has anyone even passively considered that this is perhaps a clever upper-echelon attempt at evangelizing people into welcoming a RIF?

Yeah! Stock price sucks!
Yeah! Bad middle managers!
Yeah! Let's cut back!
Fire 'em! Fire 'em!

People in the field fucking freaked out during Saratoga.

Fucking.
Freaked.
Out.

There are alot of people at the company who've not worked anywhere else BUT Microsoft. The people who got cut found other work, but the people who didn't get cut were spooked beyond belief.

I think the lesson learned during that exercise is that people weren't prepared.

Enter Mini and the blog. Look at how he stays 'on message' and discourages discussions outside of his target messaging.

I've got strong confidence on who mini is (I've placed 'baiting' comments in the past to see which would be dropped/disappear), and I tell you folks - you're being led along. A couple of clues - read the BusinessWeek article again, think of description, add in that he's a native of India, and you've narrowed down your choices of who could have a site like this and get away with it to a select few.

It's so clear you could find it with the old MSN search.

Open Your Eyes.

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to get it that this blog is a science experiment on part of management? Has anyone even passively considered that this is perhaps a clever upper-echelon attempt at evangelizing people into welcoming a RIF?

Yeah! Stock price sucks!
Yeah! Bad middle managers!
Yeah! Let's cut back!
Fire 'em! Fire 'em!

People in the field fucking freaked out during Saratoga.

Fucking.
Freaked.
Out.

There are alot of people at the company who've not worked anywhere else BUT Microsoft. The people who got cut found other work, but the people who didn't get cut were spooked beyond belief.

I think the lesson learned during that exercise is that people weren't prepared.

Enter Mini and the blog. Look at how he stays 'on message' and discourages discussions outside of his target messaging.

I've got strong confidence on who mini is (I've placed 'baiting' comments in the past to see which would be dropped/disappear), and I tell you folks - you're being led along. A couple of clues - read the BusinessWeek article again, think of description, add in that he's a native of India, and you've narrowed down your choices of who could have a site like this and get away with it to a select few.

It's so clear you could find it with the old MSN search.

Open Your Eyes.

Anonymous said...

A comment from an MBS manager:

I have no connection to Burgum, I don't think his retirement is either positive or negative.

HR, Legal and even recruiting? I've been there many times, and they really should be fired.

What's my problem? The review system makes so called "top performers" out of people who "drive" for results, whether those results are actually the best we can achieve.
Often times I have experienced that "high performers" grap a task and screws it up completely by making bad designs, using an immence amount of resources on it and create a maintenance nightmare for years to come. But the fact the "performer" achieves an immediate result makes him/her a great asset for MS and so the person can reap a 4.5.

Personally I'm a techie gone manager, I can mentor and match any of my people technically, but my peers are most often completely innane morons who are good at playing the game instead using their brain. I was a happy camper at MS when I was an IC and small time lead, but with the increased scope I have seen the horrible state of management we have, and I just don't like it!

I'm probably going to leave the company soon. I refuse to use my time in meetings, trying to play politics, so I can't get my 4.0's anymore and that's it for me. MS has finally depleeted itself of interesting opportunities for me...

Anonymous said...

When is everyone going to get it that this blog is a science experiment on part of management?:

Hah! If management is hosting this blog they are getting more than they bargained for. All the value in our company today is in the rank and file. A massive RIF would completely torpedo what respect the survivors have for senior management. Look at the expeditious pace at which billg is selling off his stock. Recounting ballmer’s peculiar behavior in public is more damning than any good that could be gained through a phony blog. Microsoft upper echelon should host a ‘what do we do now?’ blog. They would get more mileage from that than by any 'strategizing' that's currently taking place.

Anonymous said...

"It's so clear you could find it with the old MSN search."

So post the query ...

Anonymous said...

>HR should get a 360 degree review from the customers they serve.<

>>They Do. Why do you assume they don't?

>>> Until recently, I ran a 60-80 person team in Windows division for almost 3 years and never once had an opportunity to provide formal feedback about the HR generalist for my group. Like many other comments here, just because something may be true in your little corner of MS, don't assume that it holds true across the board.

Anonymous said...

"Until recently, I ran a 60-80 person team in Windows division for almost 3 years and never once had an opportunity to provide formal feedback about the HR generalist for my group."

That happened in fundamentals too ... fortunately it was uncovered and the HR generalist was finally pushed away (and out) of windows.

Anonymous said...

"HR is screwed .. Terri E. for one is someone who should be concerned about possible legal action. She helped contribute to quite a few constructive dismissals in networking (jawad i hope you are reading)."

i had three friends who got helped (e.g. SACKED) by her :)

Anonymous said...

Biggest specific examples of zero value add resources from my time in Windows division:

- Windows International Subsidiary Program Management Team: A team of PMs somehow representing the product groups that hang out in other countries. Does anyone really know what they do? I'm not sure of the exact number these days but it seems like there were almost 100 of these guys running around at one time. My experience with them was that about once a year I'd get an email from one of them suggesting some insignificant feature change in my product. The clock would then reset. No followup..no sources of their suggestion...no integration with the product team...no nothing (until of course the next year). Hopefully, this gravy train has already ended.

- PSS Premier Support: Very little value-add to the overall support and SE process. In my experience, only a handful of these guys actually debug. The rest basically manage excel spreadsheets of bugs that they've passed to the product group after waiting for the PSS CritSit clock to expire. When you consider that many of these guys are level 61 to 63, the waste here is likely still at an incredulous level. This headcount should really be in the product or SE teams where they could at least provide some debug value-add within the auspices of the group that they support.

- Windows Lifecycle Team: does this team do anything other than extend support to another arbitrary number of years? do we really need a team to do that?

Anonymous said...

They seemed to salvage some of the msn client people and moved them to networking. good lawd.

Anonymous said...

MS is going through one of their biggest attritions this year. Looks at the sales job Steven Sinofsky is doing to lure fresh grads into MS, even doing a sales job the Seattle weather. Looks like Office needs fresh grads that can work 100 hours a week and hear their VP say that "quality of life" really matters after he obviously cashed out during MS's prime time

http://blogs.msdn.com/TechTalk

Anonymous said...

"Looks like Office needs fresh grads that can work 100 hours a week and hear their VP say that "quality of life" really matters after he obviously cashed out during MS's prime time"

Just walk around the new Office building (36) to get an idea of how much the quality of life of people in Office is valued. Friend of mine just built a kennel with larger space and better view than the offices there.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft Named Worlds Most Respected Company"



FT REPORT - WORLD'S MOST RESPECTED COMPANIES
New economy takes the spotlight at last - For seven years the bridesmaid, Microsoft has triumphed in the rankings, but runner-up General Electric can take comfort from the praise it continues to win, writes Philip Coggan.
By PHILIP COGGAN
697 words
18 November 2005
Financial Times
Surveys WMR1
Page 1
English
(c) 2005 The Financial Times Limited. All rights reserved

The new economy has finally triumphed over the old. For seven successive years, General Electric has topped the table of the world's most respected companies. But for the first time, it has been pipped to the post by Microsoft, the software group.

It is sweet revenge for Bill Gates' company, which was stuck in second place in all the previous polls. The survey was conducted by PwC, the big accountancy group, and polled 954 chief executive officers across 25 countries between August and October.

Microsoft is described by one chief executive as "innovative, fulfilling the needs of society with their products and ability to grow" and another as "a very innovative company (that) touches almost everything in our lives". A further comment is that "the company is the first and best in the world. They have a strong base and employee satisfaction."

The one-two ranking of Microsoft and GE among CEOs is echoed by polls conducted among fund managers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). And, to complete the set, Bill Gates is ranked the world's most admired business leader, just ahead of Jack Welch, the ex-head of GE (Jeff Immelt, the current GE chief executive is ninth).

Microsoft is also ranked number one in terms of shareholder value, community commitment and innovation. Only in corporate governance is GE ranked ahead of Microsoft. The only polls in which neither company tops the rankings are customer service, where the winner is Toyota, the Japanese vehicle maker, and the best turnround, won by another Japanese car company, Nissan.

GE can take comfort from some of the CEO comments which praise the company for its "great leadership", "ability to reinvent itself", "flexibility" and "aggressive approach to business decentralisation".

Outside the top two, the most startling climb comes from Apple Computer, which jumps from 42nd to 9th on the back of the success of its iPod music player, perhaps the iconic consumer item of the first decade of the 21st century. One CEO describes the group as "an extremely innovative company. It's been born again from the ashes. Apple is responsible for facilitating a new way of life."

Another technology company to leap up the rankings is Google, the internet search engine, which makes its first appearance in the top 50 at number 39. And a further symbol of modern life, Starbucks, the coffee retailer, makes its debut in the rankings at number 14.

The listings also throw up some nice juxtapositions. Almost suggesting a collective sense of humour on the part of CEOs. The Virgin group of brands, including Virgin Atlantic, is ranked 27th, one place ahead of the airline's arch-rival, British Airways. And as Airbus enters the top 50 at number 24, its fierce competitor Boeing drops out of the ranking altogether.

Many of the other companies to drop out of the top 50 have a distinctly "old economy" ring; DuPont, the chemicals maker, Caterpillar, the construction equipment manufacturer, Unilever, the food producer and Ford, the vehicle maker, have all lost ground in the eyes of global CEOs. But some new economy companies have slipped, too, notably the software vendors Oracle and SAP.

US companies once again dominate the rankings, with 24 of the businesses in the top 50. Germany is second with six constituents and the UK has moved above Japan into third place with four. BP, ranked seventh, is the first UK company to make it into the top 10.

So what makes companies well respected? By far the most important criterion seems to be financial success. Sixty-nine per cent of CEOs mention factors such as return on investment or profitability when making their nominations. The next most important factor, with 13 per cent, is a high quality brand or product.

The bad news for the investor relations industry is that "good communication with stakeholders" is mentioned by only 2 per cent.

20051118S401.472

Document FTFT000020051118e1bi0006j

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft is also ranked number one in terms of shareholder value, community commitment and innovation."

Would be interesting to know how the study was conducted. With one of the worst 3 year stock track records in technology, I doubt most shareholders would agree with the shareholder value comment. Innovation also seems like a huge leap even vs other F100 companies like GE far less technology competitors. Don't you actually have to ship something before anyone can determine if it was innovative or is not-shipping the innovation? :-) Community I can see. MSFT does a good job in that area.

Anonymous said...

>Would be interesting to know how the study was conducted. With one of the worst 3 year stock track records in technology, I doubt most shareholders would agree with the shareholder value comment. Innovation also seems like a huge leap even vs other F100 companies like GE far less technology competitors. Don't you actually have to ship something before anyone can determine if it was innovative or is not-shipping the innovation? :-) Community I can see. MSFT does a good job in that area.<

Richard Waters has struggled a bit with the results of the survey, given his recent editorial line. It is the most positive article on Microsoft I’ve seen from him. Admittedly, he contrasts Microsoft’s “calculating, domineering style” with Apple’s “daring and creativity” that has made the company “the most consistently innovative maker of personal technology”. However, Richard admits that Microsoft “owes much of its power to its success in opening up its technology to outsiders, drawing them in to create products of their own that depend on Microsoft’s software. This is something that has turned Windows and increasingly Windows into global standards.”

Richard continues: “Microsoft’s continued presence high on the list of the world’s most respected companies follows another year of remarkable financial performance – even if its growth rate has just dipped below 10 per cent for the first time in its 30-year history.” He points to $40bn in revenues and $17bn in cash flow and a slew of new products due to be launched in the next 12 months.

Anonymous said...

"I have a question about how many layers are there in the company. What I mean is, how many bosses are there between the lowest programmer and SteveB?"

Looks like 6-8 layers. I was curious because Jack Welch claimed he spent a few years getting down to 4-6. He claimed all the extra layers were simply shuffling memos back and forth wasting company time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an apologist for Microsoft LCA or HR, but am a realist. Service organizations always have it tough meeting unbounded demands with limited resources, more so when there is tumult inside the orgs that set objectives and strategies. I would back off from asailing the Microsoft HR org and view the departure of Ken DiPietro as head of HR (the first professional head of HR Microsoft has ever had) as a symptom of systemic trouble with senior management and its agreement on the mission and roles of the company and HR: "trouble right here in River City, that's TROUBLE with a T, R, OU, and BLE." Lisa has a hellish job in a hellish time, no doubt about that. Microsoft HR is 'collateral damage' not a root-cause. Don't forget that the DNA, culture, tone, etc. of any company is set by those at the very top.

Anonymous said...

Steven Sinofsky certainly sounds like a man of the world.

New college grads - If you want to have fun, if you want to kick ass, if you want to rock, then don’t come here. Microsoft is a morgue.

Anonymous said...

The new economy has finally triumphed over the old...

What a load of shit. It sounds like it came right out of a PR firm, which, judging by the nubmer of times they used the word "innovation", I think it probably did. It sounds exactly like what the pod people in upper management continually parrot.

Anonymous said...

"...departure of Ken DiPietro as head of HR (the first professional head of HR Microsoft has ever had) as a symptom of systemic trouble"

Ken's departure was because he was screwing two women working for him and one got pissed and blew the whistle. I think if he hadn't been so "distracted" he might have done some good as an "outsider". In any event, your apologetic view, while laudable, is misplaced. LCA is a train wreck, ask anyone who has been handed a boilerplate contract and been told "edit this and send it back to me"...it's no wonder we've been sued so many times....HR is no better...oh the stories.

Anonymous said...

I think you should re-read the HBR article on "rank/yank". You clearly didn't understand what was written. The conclusions were: (1)rank/yank works, (2)more rank/yank is better ...eg 10% is better than 5%, (2) some companies are successful at it for decades...microsoft?, (3)all would benefit by doing it for at least 3 to 5 years. The unsaid corollary here is: most companies dont have the guts to stick to it for the long haul.

The number of levels separating managers and their reports has decreased over the years. The source of that information was a VP at Microsoft.

Microsoft's performance management system has not really changed over the years so something else is responsible for the lack of stock performance.

One of the possible reasons is that the application of the performance management system has seen a percentage increase in the number of managers getting rid of potential competition resulting in delays in shipping product because of a decrease in the overall quality of the workforce that remains at Microsoft.

So, maybe forced ranking did work, resulting in an increase in the overall quality of the workforce at some point, but now it is more tempting for those in a position to abuse it to do so because of a more competitive environment causing the overall quality of the workforce to move in the other direction.

Anonymous said...

This entire thing started with someone giving a book recommendation for Corporate Confidential. I highly recommend the book as well. I picked it up earlier, around the beginning of October. It was fantastic. I wish I had it to assist me with my career at MSFT when I was there. I have since left, during the mass RIF exodus from the XBox group. I was a DevMngr and found several interesting things during my stay.

There were quite a few things that showed the differences between upper management and the people who actually construct the products. 1) There was a difference between the Stock Options the normal people got, and the Penny Stock Options that several of the executive management received.
2) When certain execs were requested to leave during my stay there, Millions of dollars that were loaned to them by MS, were forgiven so repayment was not needed. I fought hard just to get certain materials I needed for my teams to get their work done. I was promised a doubling of my head count for two years, and the open reqs appeared and disappeared before my eyes regularly. They would borrow mine and give them to other groups. That was a major problem. However, I will give a huge example of a problem that exists with the way the system runs.

If you took every person that ever received a "5" review score, and let's pretend there were 100 of them. (They received those scores because they were super gods that made a difference to the company and somehow did it across Business Units). Now let's say MS has some important new thing that needs to be created. They decide that it has a short deadline of two years to do. The "5"s all bust their butts and get it done in 1 year. Their work was just as good as it has always been. Now, as their manager, I have to take all those hard workers and force them into a bell curve and give half (if not more) 3.0s because they didn't stand out better than average against each other. It doesn't matter that they are all incredible. Someone else is some other group who normally deserved a 2.5 stands out as great because the 3 good people in his group left for jobs in different groups. So this 2.5 person received a 4.0.

Hmmm not quite fair, but I have seen similar things happen. I had to do that as a manager, and I had to trade review numbers with another department, just to give someone who deserved a 4.5, a 4.0. They tell me what options I can give, and I have only the ability to rate them against each other and their level in my group. I understand the concept of trying to motivate the team members, but there should be some aspect of slight feeling of fairness, justice, and reason. As managers, we all knew about the issue, but no one did anything about it, and everyone is told, that is just how we do things here at MS.

The concept of work-life balance is not really taken seriously. I had one employee, who busted his butt to make a deadline. After doing this with one team for a little over a month, needed to visit a family member in the hospital during some critical testing. This was the same day we needed to make a go, no-go presentation to the Group VP. The VP knew this employee was supposed to make the presentation, but I had a different team member make the presentation. The VP was actually unhappy that I let the individual go home for the day. MS needs to have a loyalty back to the employees. It can't all be one way.

If I would have had the book back then, I would have understood, which things I should have fought for, which things were and weren't important to MS, and why. I would have handled things quite differently.

Anonymous said...

A quote from Sinofsky's beloved Economist magazine this week:

...'There are, in short, lots of companies already delivering software in the form of web services, while Microsoft has yet to deliver much more than memoware. The cruel irony is that the key technology that makes all this web-based software as responsive as the traditional kind is AJAX (“asynchronous Javascript and XML”), which Microsoft invented in 1998 but failed to exploit. Instead, it is now the new web powers that are putting AJAX to best use. “This coming services wave will be very disruptive,” Mr Gates wrote in his memo. Disruptive to Microsoft in particular, he could have added.'
-end article-

The original 'sea change' memo (1995) was supposed to herald Microsoft's embrace of the Internet. Its 10 years on - and you can tell from the tone and length of Sinofsky's blog that he's sitting (comfortably, in his mind) atop the Office monopoly. Hello. Once the DOJ gets involved those monopolies aren't safe. You most definitely need a Plan B. It seems like we’ve been working on our Plan B for 10 years now and all we have to show for it are the tire tracks where Google ran us over.

Anonymous said...

"Outside the top two, the most startling climb comes from Apple Computer, which jumps from 42nd to 9th on the back of the success of its iPod music player, perhaps the iconic consumer item of the first decade of the 21st century. One CEO describes the group as "an extremely innovative company. It's been born again from the ashes. Apple is responsible for facilitating a new way of life."

But would anybody want to buy a PC from them? Naw!

Jack said...

- Windows Lifecycle Team: does this team do anything other than extend support to another arbitrary number of years? do we really need a team to do that?

As the former manager of the Windows Lifecycle team, I can tell you they don't have anything to do with deciding on support timeframes. That would be WinSE.

If you want to know what the Lifecycle team does, start at http://windows and go from there.

Anonymous said...

It's only folks from MS Recruting who can:
a) Send a local disk short-cut to important document in email attachemnt instead of document itself.
b) Give a link to "candidateportal" web-page but forget to provide password to access it.
c) Schedule two interviews in same day in two locations 800km each other
d) Incorrectly spell out your last name and list wrong time in mail merge email
e) Spend two weeks simply to send you expense report Excel template and one more month to process it.

Mini, it looks like they already work hard to prevent MSFT headcount increase ;-)

Anonymous said...

It is HR-bashing time again by the "below-bar performance" crowd. HR is not to blame for your year after year poor reviews and review scores. Matter of fact, as an IC, if you are clicking on all cylinders when it comes to performance, you may never meet your HR generalist or even know who they are.

But keep bashing HR (and teams you don't understand what they do). You've heard that the forced attrition (yeah that 10%) will be religiously adhered to. Hopefully that will get several of you deadwoods out and you can join the anti-MS open source hippies

Anonymous said...

It is HR-bashing time again by the "below-bar performance" crowd. HR is not to blame for your year after year poor reviews and review scores. Matter of fact, as an IC, if you are clicking on all cylinders when it comes to performance, you may never meet your HR generalist or even know who they are

Yeah right. I was a straight 4.0, but still got "displaced". Keep beleiving in whay you say, you may never have to face the truth.

Oh, and by the way, I thank my good furtune every day that I was forced to leave :-)

Anonymous said...

"I've got strong confidence on who mini is (I've placed 'baiting' comments in the past to see which would be dropped/disappear), and I tell you folks - you're being led along. A couple of clues - read the BusinessWeek article again, think of description, add in that he's a native of India, and you've narrowed down your choices of who could have a site like this and get away with it to a select few."

Yes, because MSFT management have shown such a deft touch in the past. Why, there was their handling of the DOJ, European Union, Mass, etc. And then of course those brilliant strategic moves against GOOG, Salesforce.com, AAPL. Hmmm...come to think of it, maybe your "theory" is just nonsense. More importantly, the important thing on this blog is the message/debate - not the messenger.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, now I know why companies like to hire ex-Microsoft people. The ex's are so happy to be someplace that treats them decent, they don't whine like the others. We know when we got something good."

I'm not religious but, AMEN to that! You hit right on man.

Anonymous said...

But keep bashing HR (and teams you don't understand what they do). You've heard that the forced attrition (yeah that 10%) will be religiously adhered to. Hopefully that will get several of you deadwoods out and you can join the anti-MS open source hippies

There is no place in the open source community for dead wood, so I don't know why you think it would wind up there. If you don't produce good work, fine: nothing you do gets included. You can't get responsibilities without producing meritorious work. Firing a bad developer who has repugnance for Microsoft won't magically infect the open source community with his/her poor work.

Open source development is a true meritocracy. All of the decisions are transparent; there's no possibility to get screwed by a political jerk manager. Frankly, the fact that the current stack/yank system could displace good developers (like the displaced 4.0 a few posts up) is beneficial to the open source community. It is their potential anger against Microsoft that could produce valuable work for the open source community. But the dead wood - meh. If they're really dead wood, what they do won't matter. If they're not, then that's a loss to Microsoft and a gain for whomever they develop.

Anonymous said...

"HR is not to blame for your year after year poor reviews and review scores."

That's an interesting perspective. I got a great review score before I left, but during the exit interview I mentioned how stupid and unfair the process has been I was told that HR realizes there's a problem (a big problem) with the review system and that they want to fix it but it takes a long time because of 'corporate culture'. So basically, you don't know what the f**k you're talking about so go back under your rock little troll.

Anonymous said...

"I was told that HR realizes there's a problem (a big problem) with the review system and that they want to fix it but it takes a long time because of 'corporate culture'"

'corporate culture' of course just means that Steveb is unwilling to change it

Anonymous said...

"HR is not to blame for your year after year poor reviews and review scores."

Sure they are .. they help contribute to the problem. They will not address bad managers who are clearly managing someone out over personal issues.

Anonymous said...

'corporate culture' of course just means that Steveb is unwilling to change it

HR's job is not to think. Its merely to discharge the party line. Their job is to represent senior management 100% of the time. That's it. There has been plenty of discussion about contracting out the HR role, or replacing with an online function. You wouldn't get any resistance from the folks who work in HR, in any case.

Anonymous said...

Y'all are acting like it's HRs job to decide who to hire, who to make a manager, and how much to pay everyone. They don't do any of that.

The "As-Apps" on the individual teams decide who to hire and who to make a manager. BillG, SteveB, and a handfull of super-senior VPs decide how much to pay everyone. HRs job is to try and keep the employment related lawsuits to a minimum. It certainly isn't their job to make your manager understand how brilliat you are...

I have my occasional problems with HR (like forgetting to send out an offer and almost costing me a hire), but yelling at them about the current state of the company is like yelling at your cat because the laundry didn't get done.

Anonymous said...

Back in the Win9x days I had to put up with all my non-softie friends and relatives's relentless jibes about BSODs, now it seems the XBox is just as bad. Sigh. Why can't we keep quality high on such a closed, narrow platform?

http://www.xbox-scene.com/xbox1data/sep/EEFkZkkkyEHasmrPqu.php

Anonymous said...

Back to the original question:

So that is the point(s) of the HBR article. While I'm not siding for rank/yank, I am pointing out that those "pro" now have ammunition that the "con" dont have. The "con" are left with rationale like "its not fair, nice, fun, blah, blah, blah." Well, markets (and labor markets are no different) are optimizing on efficiency, not equity. Need to get your debate cards ready for a strong "Con".

Given that the "ammunition" consists of a simulation with rules drawn up by the researchers, I can't say I'm too impressed. If there's anything empirical in there, it wasn't mentioned. It doesn't seem far-fetched to me that firing 10% of your workers every year has effects on recruiting, retention and performance that they don't take into account.

Anonymous said...

RIF exodus from the XBox group

Can someone explain what this was?

Anonymous said...

>> It is HR-bashing time again by the "below-bar performance" crowd. HR is not to blame for your year after year poor reviews and review scores. Matter of fact, as an IC, if you are clicking on all cylinders when it comes to performance, you may never meet your HR generalist or even know who they are.


There is more deadwood in HR land than anywhere else. Add to that lack of accountability and lack of feedback at all levels - you have a poisonous mix. This group of beureaucrats are the one that need slimming the most.

HR group is the one that is maintaining/continuing the current stacking system - ask a manager who couldnt meet the curve and who s(he) heard from?

Anonymous said...

a

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, you guys at MS are funny. laugh about this

MSFT

$27.96 +0.05 / +0.18%
Nov 23 2:48pm ET †

GOOG

$422.99 +6.52 / +1.57%
Nov 23 2:49pm ET †

Anonymous said...

There is more deadwood in HR land than anywhere else.

Understand HR's role. An HR rep, in rank, is above an administrative assistant but below a marketing rep. They are not paid to think. They are paid to serve process as handed down from above. That's it.

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping Mini has already read this link I'm posting and is writing a comment on it - this is one of the most spot on things that can be said about any software company and not just MSFT:

http://codebetter.com/blogs/scott.bellware/archive/2005/11/21/134910.aspx

While this is a huge diatribe against the dev attitude in VS2005 (accurate as it is) I dont know how many other large companies actually have agile development implemented as a process... EDS definitely doesn't!

Anonymous said...

>> Understand HR's role. An HR rep, in rank, is above an administrative assistant but below a marketing rep. They are not paid to think.

HR generalists named as "HR Managers" are ten - fourteen levels above the administrative assistants. Heck - they are even ranked above dev/pm/test leads and managers.

Anonymous said...

My X-Box crashed on the first day too :-(

The QA on this thing has obviously been appalling... what's more worrying is that it's held up as a shining example of a "cool" division to the rest of us working on core products whilst bleeding cash for years.

Anonymous said...

>GOOG $422.99 +6.52 / +1.57%

Actually, I don't have much trouble laughing at that, for quite obvious reasons.

Do let us know how your investment turned out in a couple of years, 'mmmkay?

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the people who recognize that HR (or more specifically recruiting) is not really the source of the problems. We're just cogs in the machine, too. I have given notice to leave Microsoft after 4 years in the company, my last year and a half as a college recruiter. In my time in recruiting, I worked standard 60 hour weeks - didn't have the luxury of a ship cycle like you product group folks. Being this overworked, it's really hard to keep up with the high volume expected of us. As a result, a few people do fall through the cracks. If you want to see better candidate experience - advocate to the higher ups that they appropriately fund recruiting. It is notoriously understaffed because it doesn't directly make $$ for the company. Underinvesting in recruiting is underinvesting in the company's future.

I'm sick of having to make the choice between work/life balance and giving candidates the experience they deserve. I can't in good conscience continue to work in this job.

I was an SDET for my first 3 years at Microsoft and I NEVER worked as hard as I work in recruiting. So please, be nice to the recruiters trying to help fill your positions. They are underpaid, underlevelled, and overworked.

Anonymous said...

By the way, one more thing:

As a recruiter I hate being referred to as HR. We are not core HR. We don't interact with them any more than you guys do, except if we have to fill their positions. When we do have to fill their positions, it is a living nightmare. They are the worst client group we have. They are unreasonably demanding and overstep their bounds on a regular basis, asking us to act as their secretaries and travel agents, and never trusting us to do our jobs.

The recruiters with whom I work are extremely competent. Again, they are just extremely overworked which makes it impossible to keep up with the volume. If it's a new hire for your team that we lose, make sure to raise a stink with the higher ups (like Lisa Brummel) to fund recruiting better. It will go much further than bitching at the recruiter in their 14th consecutive hour at work....

Anonymous said...

LifeCycle jack ..

You got screwed bro ..

Anonymous said...

Lifecycle Jack glad your still around.

Sorry to had to witness what occuured with you bro.

Anonymous said...

How open is Lisa to getting feedback from employees who are not getting adequate support from their resident HR rep?

I know I have a few words for her in regards to the generalist from windows networking (whom was named previously by another soul who was setup to "succeed" by her).

Lisa if your reading ... your generalists are abusing the system. they are misrepresenting employees who were impacted by constructive dismissals from being re-employed but furthermore are threatening possible hiring managers from letting good employees back who want to come back.

(yes for those who want to respond with "why come back after getting screwed" well just let it go).

Anonymous said...

"How open is Lisa to getting feedback from employees who are not getting adequate support from their resident HR rep? "

If you feel you are not going to be heard, it is more than likely true you won't be.

Anonymous said...

Lisa - if you read this, you need to send out sat surveys on HR.

I tried contacting my HR generalist 5 times over 4 weeks to get an answer and *never* recieved a reply. This is even after I copied his peers (with ongoing thread) and they suggested he follow up.

fCh said...

First, I would like to start by pointing out that the MSFT HR is probably tasked with bringing in talent as opposed to hand-holding employees through the political mechanics of the organization. Had HR been truly responsible for anybody's career development, I am sure, there would have been more and louder voices to complain than what we seem to have now. Unfortunately, most employees at your typical organization perceive HR as the PC-police (as in "political-correctness"). Ideally, HR should be at least the fair and unbiased mediator between an en employee who feels stuck/cornered and the employee's supervisor. Problem with this is that HR is representing the point of view of the organization, which usually is associated with management.

Secondly, I'd like to comment a bit on Mrs. Shapiro's "Corporate Confidential." I think she is like your George Carlin type: says some truths bluntly, cuts through the fog of convention and such, but you would not want to have that type at the same dinner table as your teenage (or younger) children... Guys, if you make yourself in the image she's selling, don't wonder what the world has come to. I am really puzzled at the idea people value her 'insights' to the point she's a consultant for your company - that's what I call masochism.

Cheers, fCh.

Anonymous said...

Comments seem moderated again.

Maybe someone was right :)

Anonymous said...

apparently so

Anonymous said...

How about this? My IBM reddened office has just banned laptops in meetings!!!? WTF?

Anonymous said...

there is a belief that better focus/attention in meetings will make things better vs. simply reducing the # of meetings and making theones that are requird actually useful.

I have 3-4 hours of meetings a day which seem totally useless to overall productivity.

on toolbox there is a utility to calculate how much time is lost in meetings ...

Anonymous said...

I have 3-4 hours of meetings a day which seem totally useless to overall productivity.

I worked at Microsoft for over a decade and hardly ever went to meetings.

I did get all my work done but I also never got promoted even with above average review scores. No visibility?

Maybe everybody is too scared not to go?

Meetings would be more productive if they were held around a camp fire in a cave where you could scratch pictures on the cave walls showing your prowess with the keyboard and spear to convince everyone why you should be come chief.

Anonymous said...

Maybe everybody is too scared not to go?

==

I would argue there are simply not enough choices in seattle. The collusion factor to the other tech companies (amazon for example) is relatively high. You would be surprised how many couples have a spouse at each company and share "oh employee X is a bad person at our company"

Toss in "relocation" and what are your choices.

Anonymous said...

Mini:

I am not sure if you saw the the January 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review, but there is an bit in there about evidence-based management. The part you might find interesting is the bit on stack ranking.

The authors, Pfeffer and Sutton note:

If [they] had reviewed the best evidence, they would have also found that in work that requires cooperation...performance suffers when there is a big spread between the worst- and best-paid people, even though giving the lions share of rewards is a hallmark of forced-ranking systems.

The article goes on to provide cite a couple of studies that found problems with forced ranking. (See pages 63-74 of the January 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's review system is flawed, and most empoyees are afraid to say anything about it because they fear retaliation in the form of a low review score.

Here is a true to life example. Employee A knows what his review score will be, becuase he and his manager, Mamager A, discuss weekly how he is tracking.

At review time, Employee A's manager is demoted, because he stood up to his own manager on some issue.

Employee A is assigned to a different manager, Manager B. Manager B tells employee A that he should not expect a high review score, because Manager B has not observed his performance during the past year. Employee A counters with "because you didn't see it, doesn't mean I didn't do it. Go talk to my last manager".

Manager B gives Employee A a lower rating, and convinces Employee A that it was his own fault. Employee A later learns from Manager A that initially his score was what they were in agreement on throughout the year. Further Manager B swapped Employee A's score with Employee B.

Here's where it gets interesting. After receiving a great review and bonus, Employee B decides he needs a break and takes advantage of the company's policy to take a 6 month leave of abscence.

Employee A inherits Employee B's work and learns that Employee B has not been doing his job at all. When Employee B returns from his leave of abscence 6 months later he resigns.

Over the next three years, Employee A is denied promotions, and Manager B continues to reward and promote his employees that he takes vacations with, go out drinking with after work, etc... who can't do the job.

Manager B is eventually found out and demoted to individual contributor, and moves on to a new job at a lower compensation level.

Employee A is now in a situation where he hasn't been promoted eventhough he has recieved consistent review scores that warrant a promotion.

Employee A gets RIF'd, which allows him to look for work in the company, but no manager will hire him, because eventhough he has good review scores and the respect of his peers and customers, he hasn't been promoted in three years.

reso said...

Hi

Tks very much for post:

I like it and hope that you continue posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: Performance appraisal systems

Best rgs
David