Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holiday Cheer and Think Week, in moderation

Okay, so it's the holiday time of the year and rather than grousing about crashing products plopping out of the pipeline, how about if I turn the dial to Cheer and find some good things to focus on.

Should you come to work for Microsoft?

So I said interning at Microsoft was a great idea but full-timing was a big no-no. Eh, I'm biased. The post has a whole bunch of great comments so please, if you don't visit posts often or just read the web feed, take a moment to load up the post and give it a read. I'm afraid I end up with my hands on my hips in a huff and everyone telling me to get over myself because most folks think that Microsoft is a great place to come to learn and to work.

Think Week Fall 2005

I look forward to dropping by the Think Week internal web site soon and reading if what I'm hearing is close to reality: a number of papers declaring that things just aren't all that good right now and (here's the cheery part) just what we can do to make things better for Microsoft and the employees. The one paper I'm going to read first is what my hallway is buzzing about: Voss says it's time to take Microsoft private. So long Wall Street!

I never even thought of proposing making Microsoft private. It's such a radically simple thought that it sort of redefines the entire problem and solution space. I can't wait to curl up with that one and I'd love to hear the feedback from BillG on that paper.

Any Think Week papers you especially recommend? Titles, general impressions only, please. I really don't want to go disclosing internal paper contents... like, you know, those, ah, ten crazy ideas. Bygones. But usually the submitted paper list is pretty long, so if you have star papers you recommend other Microsofties read, please share.

It is interesting that there seems to be a shift: acknowledgement of a massive internal problem (that's the first step, right?) and now an elevation of the discussion and possible solutions. It gives me hope. And cheer.

Corporate Confidential

The book Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro has been discussed back and forth a bit. fCh writes:

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.

So I bought the book and I'm reading it. Last night I put it down after one of the secrets and exclaimed, "Boy, is that cynical!" I'll follow-up later about it. It certainly is an unsettling book to read. When my HR-generalist talks to me next time, I'll probably slip into deer-in-the-headlights mode and then have to fake urgent gastro-distress to make a hasty exit and not let a word escape my lips.

A Little Moderation

I don't have Mr. Scoble's ability to deal with any and all comments (well, I guess he did go on a cleansing spree for Channel9 once). After playing the comment-delete game, I switched over this past weekend to trying out the comment moderation feature recently added to Google's Blogger. I. Love. It. And maybe it's just post holiday coincidence, but after turning it on, the comment quality shot through the roof. Thank you.

The only regret I have is that comments only get updated when I check-in on them, and that's in the morning and at night. Plus comment publishing is throttled, so they seem to trickle in after being approved. But other than that, it's working well.

90 comments:

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's current market cap is $300 billion which means taking it private is going to take a super-sized loan even if there is $40 billion (or whatever) in the piggy bank. Oh well, paying interest is no worse than investing in dud businesses.

Anonymous said...

"Voss says it's time to take Microsoft private. So long Wall Street!"

Would be interesting to see his logic. On the surface, it doesn't sound like a sound or even viable plan. First of all, MSFT would have to take on a HUGE amount of debt in order to finance it. Second, shareholders who have gotten hosed over the past three years are unlikely to support it unless there's a huge premium involved (which exascerbates the first problem). Third and perhaps most importantly, if being accountable to shareholders ansd the street hasn't been sufficient to make this mgt team act more aggressively to solve MSFT's many problems, what's going to happen when even that level of accountability is removed?

Kevin Schofield said...

Regarding Thinkweek documents, they are company confidential documents and should not be discussed outside the company. As employees who want to be trusted by our company, it's our responsibility to be trustworthy in return and not "go rogue" and leak confidential information.

For example, if there is indeed a thinkweek paper about taking MS private (I haven't tried to verify this) it's inappropriate for you to mention it here. Some reporter will read your comments, will start calling Microsoft asking for a copy of it and comments on the record, and will eventually nag enough people that someone will dig it up and leak it to the reporter. Or worse, they'll just make stuff up. This is a huge can of worms that you don't want to open.

Mini, I understand why you feel like you need to stay anonymous to be a public critic of Microsoft, and while I'm not sure I agree I certainly respect the reasoning and emotion behind that decision. You'd lose all respect in my book, however, if you start using the cloak of anonymity to leak confidential information. I think it's great that the company encourages a broad set of employees to read and discuss Thinkweek papers -- I love the philosophy that by default we should trust our employees -- but this is a relatively new trend for Thinkweek and I worry that they will be forced to re-think that policy if the papers keep leaking.

But by all means, I hope you enjoy reading the thinkweek papers. There's a lot of good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I actually predicted this within my group when all the buzz about what CFO John Connors (R.I.P., my friend) was going to do with the $56 billion. Buy back all of the stock and get Microsoft's financials off of EDGAR and away from public scrutiny and whiny shareholders!

Who da'Punk said...

Kevin Schofield: As employees who want to be trusted by our company, it's our responsibility to be trustworthy in return and not "go rogue" and leak confidential information. [...] You'd lose all respect in my book, however, if you start using the cloak of anonymity to leak confidential information.

Right. I want to be clear that I'm not looking for snippets or quotes or anything dirty, so to say. Probably not even titles, given that some of the papers themselves (scanning the list in my peer's office) have some pretty damn interesting titles. And in the end, I'm more interested in people actually going to the think week site and reading the papers and letting the thoughts spread and be discussed.

Unfettered constructive conversation is probably best enjoyed on http://blogs/.

I'll figure a way to indirectly recompile any flagrant comments I reject to not cross the line. Like... like... okay!

"Sanaz's paper gets my award for being the absolute boldest just simply for referring to Mini-Microsoft. Boyakasha! Interesting read, too."

(Oh, and I'm positively charmed to discover I have a speck of respect left in Kevin's book.;-)

Anonymous said...

Mini,

What makes you think that you are qualified to “…indirectly recompile any flagrant comments…” You’ve already shown poor judgment by posting the authors name, what he said, and a link to the internal sites we have.

I’m all for your blog but have you ever thought that perhaps you’d get further by coming out and standing up for what you believe rather than hiding in the closet?

Anonymous said...

Another crazy read along the lines of Corporate Confidential is Eat or Be Eaten - basically the rules that a senior manager at a large company followed to get to the top. It isn't pretty, but shows lots of useful stuff as far as covering your ass, building loyalty from your team etc.

Anonymous said...

Reading about Holiday Cheer on this blog just reminds me that Office's holiday party was cut in order to save costs. There's nothing cheerful about that.

Anonymous said...

"Buy back all of the stock and get Microsoft's financials off of EDGAR and away from public scrutiny and whiny shareholders!"

Excellent plan. Of course, MSFT will have to use all its available cash and borrow $200B+ more in order to afford it. But that may be a little less when the broader media gets ahold of this latest hair-brained plan to come out of Redmond and investors sell off the stock. Regardless, since contrary to company folklore, hardly any money is actually returned to us "whiny" shareholders (who btw have been virtually silent during the largest destruction of shareholder value in corporate history), the savings will be minimal whereas the debt service will be massive. And then there's those senior execs (where most of that "returned" money has really gone) who routinely lead the entire market in insider selling though of course they're "bullish about the future". With no convenient bagholders to cash-in their stock options, they're going to want even more money which - guess what - is likely to come out of your and every other general employee's share. The "good" news is that senior management will then be able to continue with the various winning strategies and execution that have led to the current sorry ass state of affairs - only now with zero oversight and accountability.

On the other hand, maybe us shareholders might recall that we actually own the company and just decide that what's really required is to replace the current, increasingly ineffective mgt team along with any employees who think like you.

fCh said...

Kevin, knowing that a GM with MSFT visits these pages confirms my suspicion that Mini-MSFT cannot be ignored where it counts a great deal (i.e. among the executives of the Company). Not being privy to the discussions you and your peers have about Mini-MSFT, I would certainly expect that, at least when you officially visit this place, some consideration is given to any one of the real issues people bring up. Addressing this forum obliquely does justice neither to your position with the Company nor to your public profile as illustrated by radio.weblogs.com/0133184/

The option of taking technology companies private again has been exercised by several (e.g. Trilogy, Seagate, Corel, etc.). In other words, changing the form of ownership of a company, from public to private, is just one of the several strategic options managers ought to consider. Since a prior comment here addresses so well such (im)possibility for Microsoft, one should be grateful to the public, if anonymous, intelligence, enabled by this blog, for saving some brain-cycles of Microsoft executives.

Cheers, fCh.

P.S. As I said at http://chircu.blogspot.com/2005/10/unorthodox-mix-of-voices.html, blogs are here to change for good the mix of voices taking part in corporate communications. It's going to be a fact of life, and the sooner one embraces it the better off one will be. fCh.

Anonymous said...

I’m all for your blog but have you ever thought that perhaps you’d get further by coming out and standing up for what you believe rather than hiding in the closet?

Stay in the closet and continue to host this immensely engaging and useful blog. As you well know, its the only place 'inside' Microsoft where objective and occasionally dissenting opinions can be heard without negative retribution. ie, don't shoot the messenger. I agree that this is not the place to share confidential internal information. The author should be more discreet in the future. Point made.

Anonymous said...

"For example, if there is indeed a thinkweek paper about taking MS private (I haven't tried to verify this) it's inappropriate for you to mention it here. Some reporter will read your comments, will start calling Microsoft asking for a copy of it and comments on the record, and will eventually nag enough people that someone will dig it up and leak it to the reporter. Or worse, they'll just make stuff up. This is a huge can of worms that you don't want to open."

As an external shareholder, what's inappropriate imo is that such a paper exists and worse, that it's being circulated amongst 50K employees. As such, it's only a matter of time before it gets leaked and makes the mainstream press - then look out. Additionally, MSFT is a public company and as such, the primary duty of its executives is to enhance shareholder value - not waste company resources/cycles contemplating scenarios for doing away with those shareholders now that management has been unable to deliver the necessary results for three plus years. WRT "trust", I don't recall "taking the company" private being mentioned as a possible scenario at the recent shareholder or analyst meetings, nor referenced in the various recent SEC filings. I guess "trust", like MSFT management candor, is relative huh Kevin?

Anonymous said...

> I actually predicted this within my group when all the buzz about what CFO John Connors (R.I.P., my friend) was going to do with the $56 billion. Buy back all of the stock and get Microsoft's financials off of EDGAR and away from public scrutiny and whiny shareholders!

This is just stupid. These 56 billions belong to shareholders, not Bill or Steve or current CFO. You can't take company private using shareholders money :)

Some companies pulled it, but read the full story how Seagate did it, it is a major shady deal and just would not work with MS. For those who are lazy to dig, during the bubble Seagate created a software child company (hard disks were not cool during the bubble, software was cool). Very soon this child company was worth almost as much as Seagate (it was THE bubble) and the management reached an agreement with other shareholders to exchange other's Seagate stock to this child company stock (with a tiny win). Of course, after the bubble the child company went bust, and Seagate is still around and alive. Smart move, good for mgmt, bad for other shareholder. Anyone thinks anything like this possible with MS?

Anonymous said...

I actually predicted this within my group when all the buzz about what CFO John Connors (R.I.P., my friend) was going to do with the $56 billion. Buy back all of the stock and get Microsoft's financials off of EDGAR and away from public scrutiny and whiny shareholders!

I know companies buy back stock to dispose of the shares but how many buy back stock to sell it on the market again later?

How much Microsoft stock does Microsoft as a company own?

Why doesn't the company "buy and hold" as much of its own stock as possible if everything is going take off with all the new products released and then sell it again later?

Who da'Punk said...

Obfuscated think-week paper recommendation of the morning (oy, this feels silly): Kurt's paper with a negation of "OK" in the title.

Anonymous said...

As an external shareholder, what's inappropriate imo is that such a paper exists and worse, that it's being circulated amongst 50K employees. [plus more stuff about wasting resources vs. "enhancing shareholder value"

Oh please. Some random employee wrote a paper describing provocative thoughts in order to generate some insight and possibly new ideas at the company. I could just as easily write one describing how to purchase Google and why that would be a good idea, but that doesn't mean anyone would go out and do that. I think your comment comes dangerously close to suggesting that a public company cannot explore ideas that could cost shareholders "value". This would effectively halt any development of new products or expansion into new market, which is the only way MS is going to extend its success.

Anonymous said...

It seems like MSFT might do better with less Think Weeks and more Execution Years.

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't the company "buy and hold" as much of its own stock as possible if everything is going take off with all the new products released and then sell it again later?"

For the same reason the company is hording obscene levels of cash vs reinvesting it in the business and execs lead the entire industry in insider selling - all bs aside, they're not particularly bullish. The large buybacks are mostly smoke and mirrors. From 00-04, $25B+ was spent on buybacks while shares outstanding actually increased. Even with the more recent and larger $30B buyback, shares plus share eqivalents again increased last year. So $55B of money supposedly returned to shareholders actually never went to shareholders at all, except indirectly to avoid a negative (further dilution). With the recent decision to accelerate the buyback, 06 may be the first year that shares plus equivalents finally go down - but that's still TBD (they could find some other way to blow it like say the next round of "top 500" mgr comp) and will be a rounding error on the ~11B+ shares outstanding even if it does occur. Bottom line, they're buying back shares because they have to not because they want to and because when used in that fashion (vs say dividends), they can say they're returning that money to shareholders when in fact the vast majority of it is going to executive and employee compensation.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I read a book while traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday that I thought would be merely intriguing but turned out to be a fascinating read you might find of interest. The book is the autobiography of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.

The book chronicles the history of Mr. Walton and Wal-Mart from Mr. Walton's perspective, and I found of particular interest the philosophy he insisted upon in the company around how important it is not to build up bureaucracy and too many layers of management. Pages 294 - 297 of the paperpack version include a section entitled "Stay Lean, Fight Bureaucracy" that directly addresses how Wal-Mart countered bureaucracy during Mr. Walton's reign. Mr. Walton also mentions in his book that he studied the work of Deming.

Another fascinating item in the book is Mr. Walton's list of what he thinks are the top 10 rules for running a successful company. I am not sure if it would be against copyright laws to list these here, so I haven't, but I found a link with them below.

http://www.refresher.com/!walton

It's sounds like what Mr. Walton is recommending is exactly what is needed at Microsoft. That, and executive leadership that isn't so clueless!

BTW, I'm not Kevin Turner! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I dont want to turn the conversation so abruptly from the financials over to the first part of the post without commenting about the stock buy back plan - imho it would be a great idea since there is that cachet/mountain of money in the bank that would be best served slowly buying the company back from the shareholders (ourselves included) and letting us get back to worrying about producing great bug free and secure software instead of constantly trying to justify publicly the profit margins and PE ratios that seem underwhelming when amortized against a stock unit whose price has been terribly static for years now. Going through and slowly reabsorbing the shares until we get to the point that our external capitalization has been decreased and the company simply owns all it's assets would be a huge boon and assure that the company can take huge chances in new product fields without worrying about how the stock market will react and shareholders eventually freak would be liberating!!

ok, done.

Now I have a comment to those newbies who ask about taking the job or just the internship.

The situation is everything when it comes to what decision you make. I'm not referring just to the job or the product unit, you also need to take into account the people you potentially will work with (if you have that luxury) and mostly the lead/manager you will be reporting to. I've been here for 7 years now, and of the 4 leads I've had, 2 have been the Passive/Aggressive types who wouldnt have a full set if you'd have combined the packages from both, one was a new lead who believed that micromanagement model of leadership and delegation(awful, simply awful...) and one who was phenomenal - he had it all together imho. During my career, I made the most contribution, most growth and received the greatest rewards (both in compensation and in job satisfaction) working for this lead - we are friends and I commonly go to him for advice or just as a sounding board.

If you are an intern and can be assured that you will be reporting to the lead that motivates and gives you the freedom to make the decisions that you should be empowered to do - then you have the best job in the world and for god's sake take it. You wont have those opportunities anywhere else except for those companies whose culture is the image of the one here back in the early mid 90's. But since most of the managers/leads here were indoctrinated into the same type of mismanagement school that those who have been criticized roundly here in the past, yes - dont do it.

The Nog said...

Perhaps it's time for a shareholder revolt ala Disney. That one was successful because of a provocative campaign by Roy Disney---www.savedisney.com, letters to all the shareholders informing them of the situation, and so forth.

Maybe Mini-MSFT is the first step in some very real, drastic change in the leadership of the company. Who wants to start www.savemicrosoft.com? :)

Anonymous said...

Mini, I read a book while traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday that I thought would be merely intriguing but turned out to be a fascinating read you might find of interest. The book is the autobiography of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.

Not only that, but probably over the storied history of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton likely never sold a share of his own (if his kids current wealth is any indication). This in contrast with MS mgt's unloading their bits as soon as it vests. Walton had the world vision and he had the 100 year vision and his knowledge of what people appreciate and value - people of all races, background, class and caste - is unrivaled. There have been hiccups along the way but they Wal-Mart have never deliberately shot themselves in the feet. Walton, operating alone, could probably outfox the entire upper echelon of MS management. He would encourage them down the path of arrogance - and then bury them.

Anonymous said...

You'll probably pull this "comment", Mini, but I thought it might make you smile.

To the tune of "Hey Mickey!" by Toni Basil (Jesus, Wikipedia is good for something, after all):

Oh Mini, you're so fine,
You're so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mini... hey Mini
(rpt twice)

You've been around all night, and that's a little long
You think you've got it right, but Schofield thinks you're wrong
Why can't we say goodnight, so you can post from home, Mini?

Oh Mini, what a pity, you don't understand?
You take us by the balls, when you take us underhand!
Oh Mini, you're so pretty. What's your master plan?
You'll either run us on the rocks, or you'll save us from the man...


(These lyrics are posted "as is", without warranty of any kind, etc. Feel free to delete, extend or pervert them to your heart's content.)

Anonymous said...

"Oh please. Some random employee wrote a paper describing provocative thoughts in order to generate some insight and possibly new ideas at the company. I could just as easily write one describing how to purchase Google and why that would be a good idea, but that doesn't mean anyone would go out and do that."

It doesn't matter who wrote it. All that will matter when it hits the press is that one of the most widely held companies, that has underperformed the market for three consecutive years, is "considering" a plan to go private. How do you think that's going to play?

"I think your comment comes dangerously close to suggesting that a public company cannot explore ideas that could cost shareholders "value". This would effectively halt any development of new products or expansion into new market, which is the only way MS is going to extend its success."

MSFT has not only explored ideas but implemented many that have cost shareholders value (all the emerging business for one). My comment said nothing about MSFT being precluded from doing so - albeit that many imo have been poor bets for which mgt should be held accountable. It did question the judgement of allowing a plan to circulate which purports to take the company private now that shareholders have seen more than half of their value destroyed and effectively underwritten all the investments made over the past 5 years (via lower earnings and impaired stock performance).

Anonymous said...

Mini, I think you have digressed far from your cause (whatever that was). Mentioning the author and contents of think-week papers is extremely poor judgment on your part. It looks like you have a big mouth and cant keep it closed

If you have any integrity I suggest you offer yourself for making microsoft leaner by 1. Maybe you dont love MS but the MS job?

Anonymous said...

You'll either run us on the rocks, or you'll save us from the man...

or you'll create an open forum where employees can share their views without repercussion. (don't forget that line ...)

Anonymous said...

Adding to the holiday cheer from Office group that does not have a holiday party to cheer...

Anonymous said...

Mini, I think you have digressed far from your cause (whatever that was).
Actually as an outsider Mini is still spot on. Bringing up different subjects and baiting the deadwood to comment. This is a remarkable way to get your stack rank to actually work and expose those that need to be "released".
It's only human nature that if you have a negative attitude and express it even once it can never be completely turned off. About your company, a co-worker, etc, etc, etc...
The individuals that I have met at MS (those that I've just corresponded with and talked to)and the Partners that have worked with me as a customer have all been excellent and dedicated people and are passionate about what they do. Wish that we could find such caliber people out in the "real world" where your products are sold. Sadly they are few and far between. We have to go thru 20 individuals just to get one who we hire.
If MS invites more actual customers to test software and give feedback during the production cycle the better the software will be usable by those of use who actually freakin use it every day in non software related fields! This is actually what is missing at MS. As an example from what I can deduce during the last beta of recently released (Office)software for small business. Very few of the testers actually ran it with actual company data, instead of testing with the "samples" supplied. This go-round the team is encouraging using everyday data to test with. We did this from the start, just seemed the only real way to see if it met our needs.
The problem with MS is actually a disconnect with the average consumer. If each employee was required to read and post (to answer questions as part of an HR requirement) on the MS hosted product newsgroups with their real names and email addresses the deadwood would be exposed rather easily instead of anonymously...

dead wood said...

"The problem with MS is actually a disconnect with the average consumer."

Worse yet, some of us who did participate in those newsgroups, who did advocate that our products are not "good-enough" and that they needed design changes have been marginalized, ignored, and been given poor performance reviews by the very people who originally wrote and/or decided to ship the poor quality previous versions of the product.

I am not sure what happened in the office team, but I have seen this happen repeatedly in the Windows team.

I would love it if every manager at Microsoft were forced to move to a different division. Too many managers have too much skin in the game due to their previous work and those old decisions need to be re-evaluated.

Shipping on time is all that matters to some teams right now, these teams aren't stopping to consider that shipping the right thing makes more of a difference to demand than shipping on time.

Someone should do a think-week paper on shipping a product that the customer wants vs. shipping on time.

Anonymous said...

"some of us who did participate in those newsgroups, who did advocate that our products are not "good-enough" and that they needed design changes have been marginalized, ignored, and been given poor performance reviews by the very people who originally wrote and/or decided to ship the poor quality previous versions of the product."

Some unflitered thoughts about your comment:

A large percentage of Microsoft employees were hired right out of college and never have had the "experience" of being a Microsoft customer. Additionally, relatively few have ever worked in the field and been between Windows/Office divisions and the customer. Then, one day, they become managers and think that they understand customers because they blog. My favorite was always releasing a public beta of Windows after the triage bar has become so high that issues discovered won't be fixed.

A lot of people made their careers on shipping crappy products and then moved on to bigger, more impactful roles. Do you think that they are going to admit the state of the product when they left their old team? For example, at least two senior managers from the team that shipped IE 5.5 and IE6 have moved to high level positions within the security team...both were in extremely influential positions - one was previously the IE Test Manager and the other had been the IE Group Program Manager. An obvious question would be, "if these people have such significant security expertise, was that expertise demonstrated in out of the box IE versions while they were in the IE product group?" I'll leave it to the reader to decide...

Anonymous said...

"...without commenting about the stock buy back plan - imho it would be a great idea since there is that cachet/mountain of money in the bank that would be best served slowly buying the company back from the shareholders (ourselves included) and letting us get back to worrying about producing great bug free and secure software instead of constantly trying to justify publicly the profit margins and PE ratios that seem underwhelming when amortized against a stock unit whose price has been terribly static for years now."

No offense, but I'm amazed by the lack of knowledge some MSFT employees demonstrate wrt the company they work for (and presumably are invested in) not to mention Business/Finance 001. First and foremost, it's not the company's cash - it belongs to shareholders. Would you let me buy your house using your bank account/paycheck to pay for it? Second, that money took two decades to amass and even still, only represents about 1/6 of the company's current capitalization. Given that the company currently pays shareholders 1.1%, know any banks that will loan $250B+ for less than that - especially when your track record over the past 5 years is that you'll lose half of it? Third, even if it were the company's money, buybacks currently have virtually no impact on MSFT's shares outstanding because management continues to dilute the crap out of the stock. Case in point, last year's $8B "returned to shareholders", decreased shares outstanding by only 200M (on 10.9B) and shares plus equivalents (i.e. total share exposure) actually increased on the year. So in fact, none of that $8B of shareholder money was actually returned to shareholders - all of it and then some went to offset payouts to execs and employees. On the issue of producing bug free/secure software, this has nothing to do with MSFT's publicly-traded status. It has everything to do with a company culture and resource prioritization that for too long paid lip service to both -as several have pointed out here. MSFT's comp/emp costs are one of the highest in the industry - it's just being misallocated to overpaid execs and numerous losing new ventures. BTW, wrt to the latter, do you really think that a private MSFT would make bigger bets than the $20B+ already spent (and in some cases blown completely) over the past 5-8 years on failed cable and tbd but mostly losing emerging bets if it was their own money? Get real. A private MSFT would be burdened by a huge debt load, would have no external holders to underwrite ongoing losing "investments" and as a result, would probably avoid any new ventures and likely jettison several current ones - not to mention outsource even more aggressively.

MSFT's problem isn't "whiny" shareholders or its public status generally. It's poor leadership that consistently misses new opportunities because it's so focused on protecting the past, a lack of innovation, (in many cases) abysmal execution, a near total lack of accountability at the senior level for anything (not the least of which being anemic growth and by extension the stock’s chronic underperformance), ridiculous compensation for what in many cases are demonstrably sub-optimal results, an unclear and hugely unprofitable strategy of trying to buy its way into new areas, and a marketing department that if it sold sushi, would bill it as "cold, dead, fish 3.24 .net release candidate one" and market it using commercials showing folks eating hamburgers.

MSFT needs a house-cleaning and starting at the very top. Sorry to provide the Red pill Neo.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I think you have digressed far from your cause (whatever that was).

I think Mini’s original cause was to trim Microsoft by removing employees from the middle layer. It has become more evident, since, that the change needs to take place from the top down. Since senior leadership isn’t going to decamp, whatever happens at this point, happens. This blog has essentially become a teletype in the radio room of the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't the company "buy and hold" as much of its own stock as possible if everything is going take off with all the new products released and then sell it again later?"

For the same reason the company is hording obscene levels of cash vs reinvesting it in the business and execs lead the entire industry in insider selling - all bs aside, they're not particularly bullish.


If I had a company that I truly believed was going to do well in the coming months because of new products being released, I would buy as many shares as I could.

I didn't see any insider purchases.

I guess why would they if they keep giving themselves shares.

http://moneycentral.msn.com/detail/stock_quote?Symbol=msft

Are any employees who "devoutly" believe Microsoft is going to do well buying stock? I remember hearing that employees used to buy the stock on margin and take out loans to buy it when they thought it was going to go up. How much stock have their "evangelists" bought in recent months?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini(s)

Such interesting economic insight.

Anonymous said...

Deadwood,
I think that you actually proved the concept of Mini's blog with your post.
and to anonymous,
Why are these "right out of college" hires not trained in how the software they are hired to work on not trained in how it is actually used by your consumer?

Customer

Anonymous said...

"For example, at least two senior managers from the team that shipped IE 5.5 and IE6 have moved to high level positions within the security team...both were in extremely influential positions - one was previously the IE Test Manager and the other had been the IE Group Program Manager. An obvious question would be, "if these people have such significant security expertise, was that expertise demonstrated in out of the box IE versions while they were in the IE product group?" I'll leave it to the reader to decide..."

It says they sucked on IE and they needed new blood there and also that the security business unit is a turd hole and simply needs bodies.

Anonymous said...

Taking Microsoft private may be the only way to minimize the public perceptions that come along with a massive management and employee RIF. In my opinion, the debt service may be worth it if the company doesn't have to answer to public shareholders about the massive housecleaning that needs to be completed.

Anonymous said...

Hiring college hires is a big trend right now with MS ..

the price point + trainability is very inviting.

Too bad for seasoned / veteran professional types ... if your not already on "leet" levels your not getting it (right hr)

Anonymous said...

I just read this today off MSNBC/Newsweek. I find it insulting that Google claims these to be their ideas. I think almost all of these were born at Msft. Unfortunately, it seems that Msft has lost these core values somehow.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10296177/site/newsweek/

Anonymous said...

Mini, you do a superb job generating conversations in the hallways here in Building 18. However, I'm dismayed by the utter ignorance expressed by most of the comments about a MSFT LBO - 1) it will never happen 2) existing shareholders should love it 3) employees would get hosed. And the ones who don't get hosed get fired.

For the sake of us all, please refrain from talking corportate finance on the blog!

-b

Anonymous said...

Walton had the world vision and he had the 100 year vision and his knowledge of what people appreciate and value - people of all races, background, class and caste - is unrivaled.

I would not be so quick to put Walmart on a pedestal. It is one of the most despised companies in the USofA. And unlike Microsoft, that isn't just the opinion of most hardcore techies, a small, insignificant part of the population.

A good part of Walmart's profits come from underpaying its employees and foisting the costs on the taxpayers. I don't exactly see this as something Sam Walton stood for. I also don't think the man who once promoted "buy American" would be too happy with the company's current practice of forcing its suppliers to move their factories to China.

The point is that companies change, and not always for the better. The sheer size of Microsoft has changed the company, and the people who run it are no longer suited for the job.

I see it like a Greek tragedy. The personality traits of BillG and SteveB that led to the company's phenomenal success are now so harmful to a large, mature company that they will lead to failure. Unfortunately it goes even deeper than the people at the top because they made Microsoft's culture into an image themselves.

I don't know if the company can be downsized as much as Mini may want, but I would like to see a process of reformation. Chop off the top echelon of management, replace it with adults who act like civilized adults, and let them usher in a renaissance. If there is downsizing in the process then that can only help the bottom line and improve our agility.

Anonymous said...

"The personality traits of BillG and SteveB that led to the company's phenomenal success are now so harmful to a large, mature company that they will lead to failure. Unfortunately it goes even deeper than the people at the top because they made Microsoft's culture into an image themselves."

Agree. Unfortunately, they're not leaving, no one appears willing to force them out (despite the obvious problems including what appears to be a 4th straight year underperforming the market) and it would likely take a complete outsider anyway given the organizational culture problems and largely sycophantic, self-indulgent and underperforming executive team.

joe said...

There does seem to be a systemic, culture problem inside of MSFT, and it obviously comes from its leader and founder BillG.

The first issue is pure arrogance. Yeh, there's a lot of smart people there, but they arent the only smart people on the planet. You dont prove to other people how smart you are by reminding them how dumb they are, unless you want them to take away that you are an asshole.

The next big issue is the culture. I can't believe the attitude that I hear towards workers who have families. Jealousy against new mothers who take time off. People who have a life outside the campus. Its absolutely unreal, inhumane, and unsustainable. People are humans, with lives and ambitions and stuff that is important to them outside of work.

THen there's the compensation issue. MSFT expects extraordinary effort, but only has ordinary rewards. If you expect someone to devote 60-80 hours a week, every week, and be in a high-performance environment, you need to compensate them for that extraordinary effort, which used to happen with large stock option grants, but doesnt any more.

Anonymous said...

A rule from the founders of Google:

"Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone's opinion counts, making the hiring process more fair and pushing standards higher. Yes, it takes longer, but we think it's worth it. If you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring process, you'll get more great people. We started building this positive feedback loop when the company was founded, and it has had a huge payoff."

I wonder what procedures for hiring managers Microsoft has been following the last five years,it might explain the drop in quality.

Anonymous said...

Hiring college hires is a big trend right now with MS ..

Because college hires are still nieve and leadership can get productivity out of them. The time between the day they are hired and the day they figure out they are being leveraged only to protect leadership's jobs is getting shorter. It used to take years to come to the realization. In many cases, now, its only taking weeks. The fact that management is riffing smart people to make room for the new hires is not lost on anyone, either. In many cases these baseless departures are leaving the surviving groups in a disgruntled snit. Since the darwin scenario didn't play well on the big field (the DOJ stopped it) the only thing bill and steve can do is turn the guns inward and try to create a survival-of-the-fittest petrie dish inside the only venue they control - Microsoft. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the book Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro. I read waht was posted by fch and I can't believe it. I don't compare the author to George Carlin. Yes, she seems truthful and gets directly to the point, but I am sure that is to get her message across, and not a direct representation of her personality. In addition, you wouldn't bring home George because you wouldn't know what he would say or how he would say it. After reading the book, I find the honesty and straight forwardness refreshing. I certainly would want her at my dinner table. Things would be worded carefully to make sure children could listen, and yet I know I would get the information I needed. I certainly desire and need that.

Also, at certain times it may seem cynical, but it seems to me that she doesn't state that all companies and all HR representatives are like that. She seems to point out what to look for and how information should be presented, IN CASE your company happens to be one of them. If you don't know what the underlying agendas are, then you don't know what to say, or how to handle certain moments. Again, I believe that she may lean a little on the side of being careful, but that is to protect the reader, not knowing what company they are at and the people the reader works with.

Basically, I read the book, love the book, and highly recommend the book to everyone. I would rather have the information and filter it myself than never get the information I need. Even if it may sound a bit cynical at times.

Anonymous said...

Mini- Please do a write up on Microsoft Services (Consulting and Premier). This is a completely different side of the house that is literally on life support. The leaders are gone and so are the consultants.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for your comments on new college hires. Shame that there is apparently no training on how customers (and stock holders)actually use MS software.
In our small business there is a 6 month probationary period (signed by employee)for "training and meeting our customers" for evaluation before being considered for full time employment.
From the outside, Mini's blog is right on subject no matter the argument about internal b--chin and moanin as apparently no one that posts anonymously here has a better idea for software improvement other than upper mgmt has to go.
As stated previously, its not the software its the message (and support)to the consumer. Just read the newsgroups, they are really the only place to go without paying 35.00 for a phone call for support. Your MVP's do a great job.
Recently on channel 9 there was a video about Win FS and Life Journal, great, great software beta bits. Could use this product yesterday... Wish these were published beyond MS as Office 12 beta is being "advertised" on your site. Leads back to the disconnect to the average consumer. If we had your ad agency, we would fire their arse as totally ineffective.

Customer

Anonymous said...

Ok...have been withholding comment to see if its mentioned...but wanted to see what mini thought about the paper that quotes him (very graph-heavy, lots of data-mining).
I like the "negation" one...but don't see it offering realistic solutions.
Also, can anyone point to a more "internal" discussion board on these papers? (Or even hint me towards one?) I'd love to do more posting, but would prefer to do it on a internal-only server.
Thx!

Anonymous said...

Bottom line, they're buying back shares because they have to not because they want to and because when used in that fashion (vs say dividends), they can say they're returning that money to shareholders when in fact the vast majority of it is going to executive and employee compensation.

So, if Microsoft stops printing money, the shareholders might see an increase in the stock price?

Why do shareholders vote for the people doing this to them year after year?

The following might leave a lot of people trying to Odd Todd their way out of unemployment if these offshore investments mean job cuts locally over the next four years.

Or, it could just mean Bill and Steve are trying expand the company even more than they already have thereby thwarting Mini's plans to shrink it by recruiting those who don't speak Mini. New feature for blogger - "Translate this page" found on Google.

http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=14769&hed=Gates+Invests+%241.7B+in+India§or=Industries&subsector=Computing

"Microsoft plans to invest $1.7 billion in India over the next four years, Chairman Bill Gates said on Wednesday."

"On Monday, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett promised to invest $1.1 billion in India (see Intel to Invest $1B in India). In October, Cisco CEO John Chambers set aside over $1 billion for India (see Cisco to Invest $1.1B in India)."

"The Indian economy is growing at a rate of 7 to 8 percent."

Anonymous said...

Going private is unrealistic, as others have pointed out (the market cap is just too big), so it isn't going to happen. But it would be a great thing if it did. The source of much, probably most, of Microsoft's problems is the frantic scramble for growth that was just not sustainable after about 1998 or so. Company leadership was so focused on finding another few billion a year in revenue to match Wall Street growth targets and justify high PE ratios that they didn't pay enough attention to the existing, very lucrative, business the company already had.

As a result, we poured billions into unprofitable ventures and acquisitions, diverted talent away from core (profitable) products, bloated our staff with marginal hires, and established a culture that rewarded people long on promise and short on delivery. All because we tried to keep growing at 20+% a year, even after we had revenues over $10 Billion a year, because that's what the market wanted.

Well, we can't go private. But maybe we can stop chasing phantom billions and focus on rehabilitating the products that pump real billions into the coffers.

Anonymous said...

Please do a write up on Microsoft Services (Consulting and Premier). This is a completely different side of the house that is literally on life support. The leaders are gone and so are the consultants.

why not do it yourself? mini won't be able to do this, nobody in a dev division knows anything about the services org, and vice versa

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the attitude that I hear towards workers who have families. Jealousy against new mothers who take time off.

Why does one class of employee get more time off than another? Maybe if they weren't paid for not being at work it wouldn't be so bad.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe some of the comments I am reading regarding the Corporate Confidential book. I thought the book was extremely useful, and I will keep my copy in my bookcase for reference. I know there will be times in the future that it will be handy for me, and for several coworker friends. I think Ms. Shapiro did society a good and needed service.

I believe all college students should be required to read it before getting out of college. Not all companies are bad, and not all people in society are criminals. However, that wouldn't keep me from educating my child of things they should look out for to protect them in society. I think graduating students should know what to look for and what to be aware of as they enter the workforce. It might also force some of the bad company practices out there to change.

Overall and excellent read.

dead wood said...

What the heck? Are we trying to ensure that R2 is stillborn? I thought this was a big bullet item on the roadmap graphic. Is marketing asleep?

Server 2003 R2 is out and the only news of it is a MSDN TechNet Flash? The Seattle Times doesn't even have an article about it.

Anonymous said...

"So, if Microsoft stops printing money, the shareholders might see an increase in the stock price?"

If they stop diluting the shares, then the buyback dollars would actually result in a net share decrease. With less shares, EPS/share would increase which for any given P/E multiple, should lead to higher prices. Then again, if driving the stock price was a goal, then they would never have done the $35B one-time and would instead have done an immediate $35B buyback and/or increased the ongoing dividend.

"Why do shareholders vote for the people doing this to them year after year?"

Probably because most own via mutual funds and assume (incorrectly) that the mutual fund mgrs are on the ball. Also, a fair number of direct holders likely hear mgt talk about "buybacks" and money being "returned to them" and figure that's a good thing and that mgt wouldn't bullshit them (wrong again).

"Microsoft plans to invest $1.7 billion in India over the next four years, Chairman Bill Gates said on Wednesday."

Translation: the China strategy has been a major failure despite MSFT being early to the table. So now they're going to try and buy their way to success in India because any chance of future overall growth is heavily dependent on being a major player in at least one of these two markets and probably both. And yes, they realize that they can tap a ton of generally cheaper, better educated, harder working, talent which will help curry (sic) favor in India as well as reduce costs overall (not to mention grumbling from dissatisfied NA workers) thereby allowing the senior execs to continue paying themselves obscene levels of compensation despite increasingly mediocre results.

To put it in perspective, this is one of world's most profitable and richest company's with what was once (and likely still is) one of the strongest market positions, and yet this mgt team since 00 has managed to lose half it's market cap (that's more than was lost at ENRON and Worldcom combined btw) and is weeks away from underperforming even the indexes for the fourth consecutive year. Meanwhile, due to a ton of suspect investments/legal problems/a company-wide hiring binge/execution failures/etc. earnings over that period are virtually flat despite a 100% increase in sales and many would argue that the company is generally weaker today than it was 5 years ago. Worse, more than $40B has been paid out in stock-based compensation over that time with the lions' share going to the so-called "Top 500" who, along with Gates/Ballmer, are primarily responsible for this fuck-up. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"As a result, we poured billions into unprofitable ventures and acquisitions, diverted talent away from core (profitable) products, bloated our staff with marginal hires, and established a culture that rewarded people long on promise and short on delivery. All because we tried to keep growing at 20+% a year, even after we had revenues over $10 Billion a year, because that's what the market wanted."

Jesus, get a job as Ballmer's apologist. ALL companies - including much bigger ones like GE - are under pressure to grow and most don't have the luxury of highly profitable virtually monopolies in their legacy businesses and one of the world's largest cash hordes available to re-invent themselves. MSFT's failures have little to do with the street and everything to do with poor leadership, failed strategies and execution.

Anonymous said...

"I can't believe the attitude that I hear towards workers who have families. Jealousy against new mothers who take time off.

Why does one class of employee get more time off than another? Maybe if they weren't paid for not being at work it wouldn't be so bad."

You get 4 weeks paid off, and up to an additional 8 weeks unpaid. That doesn't matter if you are male or female. If you are really mad about the additional time off, go forth and procreate.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe the attitude that I hear towards workers who have families. Jealousy against new mothers who take time off.

Why does one class of employee get more time off than another? Maybe if they weren't paid for not being at work it wouldn't be so bad.


There really is a bad vibe towards employees who have lives/families. Mgmt does not like it.

Anonymous said...

For all of us who are without a holiday party this year let's get a posting of all MS parties around Seattle, shall we?

dead wood said...

I appologize for that outburst. I am just taken aback that a huge deliverable left the Windows division and the local papers didn't even mention it.

The announcement seems to have gone out only to a pretty small audience.

I know it is largely a stop-gap between W2k3 and Vista to keep customers happy, but even Windows 98 and ME had some fanfare when they were shipped.

How do we expect to sell it if we don't evangelize it?

Anonymous said...

For all of us who are without a holiday party this year let's get a posting of all MS parties around Seattle, shall we?

Jeez! Is this the same person complaining about towels? Dude go to a bar and buy yourself some food and drinks and stop complaining about holiday parties. If you must know, people that matter don't attend those boring shindigs. Nobody cares

Family Manager said...

There really is a bad vibe towards employees who have lives/families. Mgmt does not like it.

This is bs. I'm a manager, I've got 4 kids and I insist on a life. I also insist my team have a life (or if they want to work all the time to not expect that everyone else will too.) My manager and his manager (VP) have ives and families as well.

The "us vs. them" auto maker union mentality is ridiculous. I agree with Mini that MS has big honking problems, and that cutting staff and focusing on "things that matter" would help. This begs the question of who decides what matters, at this point it's Bill and Steve and many people are not sure they are picking the right things. Your career is YOUR responsibility, whether you work at Microsoft or anywhere else.

Everybody (even those "bigwig" VPs) gets screwed sometimes. It could be out of a job, a raise, a girlfriend, a puppy, whatever. Turning it into "all of Microsoft sucks" is wrong. A friend once asked me if MS was an ethical company. My answer was no, and neither is ANY OTHER CORPORATION ON EARTH. Corporations are made up of people. Hopefully, the vast majority of those people are ethical. The company never will be. It works on a set of rules designed to make money and those rules have effects on the employees and sometimes the rules are written in such a way that you can win more by being unethical. Does that mean people should be unethical in order to win? Hell no. Will they? At least sometimes they will. It's human nature.

MS isn't going to fix itself without a huge outside stimulus. Two bad quarters and the market punishment that brings might do it. Until then, we'll keep doubling down on the pass line and throwing the occasional hardway bet.

I'm kind of all over the map on this one, but there's a point or two in there.

fCh said...

What an interesting read makes the couple (so far) of arguments supporting Mrs. Shapiro's book. It reminds one about the thrill of discovering there is no Santa or babies are born/not flown.

Here's my position on this: Instead of struggling for the visibility advocated by Mrs. Shapiro ("Without learning the secrets that unlock the key to career prosperity, you will merely be one of the “regular employees.” Invisible) one should try to find a (work-)place where one is true to oneself, without risks for being even a "regular employee." Any of the book's defenders wondered what if any of "Corporate Confidential" (un)intended consequences is a corporation dominated by spin-masters? How does one square such consequence with the fact that, according to this blog, spin is what plagues Microsoft management types?

Folks, to put it differently, we all know that large corporations abide by Plato's "Noble Lie." Preferably, you'll find your place (in/out-side MSFT) and still remain yourself, be that indispensable or invisible employee. If a book like "Corporate Confidential" changed you, expect many a change you never asked for.

Cheers, fCh.

P.S. As I find this subject only marginally interesting in this context, feel free to email me if there is more to be said. fCh.

Anonymous said...

How about idea to relocate all execs / officers / high-level managers to India and save 1/2 of their salary.
This did for this folk http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2001999773_india08.html (old - but relevant)
"Microsoft's cost per employee in India is about half its cost in the U.S., and even Rajiv took a pay cut when he relocated"

I'm pretty much sure their work quality impossible to decrease ;-)

Anonymous said...

If your division isn't having a party and you REALLY want to go to one - just show up at one with your blue badge and you'll get in as long as you're not dressed in jeans and a tshirt. I've gone with friends to their parties and all they do at the door is wave you thru when you show your badge. Besides, the *other* groups parties are always more fun...

Anonymous said...

These comments about infant care leave and bias against families are amazing. All of us had always thought the "work life balance" talk was a complete sham in the field but somehow we thought maybe WLB was respected or soemthing in the Land of Redmond/Oz. Sad to see wanting to have a family life is universally dissed by our company.

Anonymous said...

As a newish MS employee hired into a fairly senior position, this blog has been a great way for me to realize I am not alone in what I feel. Which in a word is frustration.

This company is in big trouble. There is a lot of good here but the politics, the fiefdoms, and the bad groupthink simply outweighs the good. The size of the blinkers that some of the senior leaders have on is staggering. This company needs a good purging and it should start at the top.

A lot of the frustration has been 'predicted' in a fairly good book that I recently read (and recommend whole heartedly) ...

Breaking Windows by David Bank

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743203151/qid=1134149948/sr=1-5/ref=sr_1_5/103-8619819-6419031?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

This is a great forum and please keep it going!

Anonymous said...

"The "us vs. them" auto maker union mentality is ridiculous."

Actually, scarily appropriate and totally understandable when you have a group of lavishly paid, largely ineffective senior managers who are imploding the company while simultaneously selling it out from underneath the feet of average employees and shareholders.

"I agree with Mini that MS has big honking problems, and that cutting staff and focusing on "things that matter" would help."

Most of the problems are due to poor strategic initiatives and execution. Had they been smart investments, the problem would be adding more staff - not cutting them. Cutting regular employees will help expenses but not fix the strategic issues.

"This begs the question of who decides what matters, at this point it's Bill and Steve and many people are not sure they are picking the right things."

No shit - in case the numbers alone didn't make it sufficiently obvious.

"Your career is YOUR responsibility, whether you work at Microsoft or anywhere else."

Generally yes but when the shit really hits the fan, MSFT will be forced to make major cutbacks and we all know those will start at the bottom even though in many cases the real problems are at the top. So at that point, taking responsibility for your career likely won't matter - except in your next job.

Bottom line, managers expecting employees to quietly wait in line as the Titanic sails full tilt towards the iceberg and senior management is busy readying their personal water taxis, is unrealistic at best and assinine at worst. A major crisis is not in the interests of the company, employees, shareholders or customers. So those who see one ahead, have an obligation to try and avoid it - even if that means changing the very leadership of the company (which imo is long overdue).

Anonymous said...

For Microsoft management to get the full measure of that thing that is most precious to them - the intellect of their employees – they need to dramatically improve on their understanding of the ‘people thing’. The direction its heading now, senior management will soon be presiding over a mass mutiny. Employees are demanding respect (or at least to work on something that is going to make them rich while they are being disrespected). If you can’t give them one situation or the other, they will leave. Or worse, yet, they will stay and, while collecting a paycheck, surreptitiously undermine the efforts of all around them. Waiting for competitors to create something cool so you can copy it is no longer a good strategy. Senior management surrounding themselves with a handpicked layer of sychophants is no longer a good strategy. Having Bill and Steve step down to the board of directors and preside over an ‘executive search’ is a good strategy.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know about these "special" programs: the bench, gold stars, and blue chips?

Anonymous said...

Just don't think that "WLB" really means anything. What MS wants - and gets lots of - is eager post-graduates who will do anything to keep their shiny new toys. Then disillusionment sets in. And that you never seem to have a weekend. And that you're always on e-mail & your cell phone.

And that the "Top 500" rake in billions of dollars in compensation - but you are stack-ranked at 3.5 and marked as a "loser."

And that billions is blown on failed products, but oddly, none of those people seem to really get fired.

And that you work for a company that seems to always be entangled in legal issues with regards to respecting laws.

And that you hear of low-level employees or new-hired being blamed for the egregious mistakes.

And then you think, "Was this worth it?"

Anonymous said...

Hi Mini,

Any comments on this:

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2005/tc20051207_482454.htm?campaign_id=tbw

Anonymous said...

The work life balance is so broken that many people have no idea that life exists outside of work.

We have many employees repeatedly loosing multiple days of vacation time each year instead of taking the time off. They would take vacation, but loosing the vacation time is a stronger sign of a committed employee that needs a level increase.

Microsoft should either force everyone to take their vacation time or financially compensate employees for the vacation time that they give up.

Anonymous said...

"And that you hear of low-level employees or new-hired being blamed for the egregious mistakes."

Well this just points to accountability.

Someone in a position of authority "HAD" to have approved a plan that may have been introduced by a a "low" level employee.

A C C O U N T A B I L I T Y?

So if they approve a plan on someone low, why not hold that first line or other mid-manager accountabile for "not scrutizing" that plan to ensure it's aligned to the groups charter/drivers. And if they fail not take part of the accountability.


A C C O U N T A B I L I T Y?

if your new to ms .. new college hire .. you are a PAWN in the game of MS Chess. Be prepared to pick up soap

Anonymous said...

Anyone know about these "special" programs: the bench, gold stars, and blue chips?

>>
the bench - this is the set of partners who can take over vp job

gold stars - special award ( a golden star ) given to people.

blue chips - special award for chosen people given by HR

Anonymous said...

the bench - this is the set of partners who can take over vp job

How are people chosen to be partners? What does it mean, at Microsoft, to be a partner? Is it basically a GM-level accomplishment?

Anonymous said...

Partner is 68+ and has a special profit-sharing performance-based compensation plan.

Blue-chip is a classification given to highly-desirable candidates. What it translates to, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

gold stars - special award ( a golden star ) given to people

More specifically, it's an award that recognizes someone who is at or near the top of their team. Someone who will likely have (or currently has) a huge impact on the future of that team. The reward can be substantial, such as a year's worth (for a top performer of stock.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft should either force everyone to take their vacation time or financially compensate employees for the vacation time that they give up.

I believe they have to compensate you for lost vacation time in California.

As the "nice" HR lady explained to me with a smile on her face, Microsoft does what is legal. If they legally don't have to compensate you for vacation time you don't take, they will not do it.

Anonymous said...

And that billions is blown on failed products, but oddly, none of those people seem to really get fired.

Since hiring friends is encouraged, why would they fire anyone unless they couldn't blame it on someone lower down the food chain?

Anonymous said...

Waiting for competitors to create something cool so you can copy it is no longer a good strategy. Senior management surrounding themselves with a handpicked layer of sychophants is no longer a good strategy. Having Bill and Steve step down to the board of directors and preside over an ‘executive search’ is a good strategy.

Everybody who works there knows how many interesting features get cut to get a product out the door.

As long as they are in the dominant position and nobody is coming up with anything to motivate the installed base to choose something different, why would they have to innovate in any dramatic way? Security only became an issue because of a lot of external pressure to do something about it.

Earlier in this thread you can read someone explain that shareholders really aren't looking too hard at why the stock price isn't going up. So, "I won't do it! You can't make me!" comes to mind when it comes to executives stepping down any time soon. You can loot a company as long as you don't kill it.

Anonymous said...

What the heck? Are we trying to ensure that R2 is stillborn? I thought this was a big bullet item on the roadmap graphic. Is marketing asleep?

They'll let existing customers know about it first.

Stable technology is boring to mainstream news media. Rejoice in your "toasterness".

Wait for the "excitement" of Vista. A new release of a server product is always fun news after customers get their hands on it.

Gartner will come out with their boiler plate recommendation to wait for service pack 1 of Vista which is always safe advice because of pressure to get a new release out the door.

It's a boring little dance punctuated by exciting news of vulnerabilities.

Anonymous said...

The direction its heading now, senior management will soon be presiding over a mass mutiny. Employees are demanding respect (or at least to work on something that is going to make them rich while they are being disrespected). If you can’t give them one situation or the other, they will leave.

Most people like a steady paycheck and don't want to take the risk of finding something new even if it would be better.

That's why Microsoft can lock up talent that would make other companies serious competition - by making employees feel safe and secure without making them rich.

Microsoft is a mature company that doesn't need to make employees rich - see India, see China, see Microsoft run.

Anonymous said...

Everybody (even those "bigwig" VPs) gets screwed sometimes. It could be out of a job, a raise, a girlfriend, a puppy, whatever. Turning it into "all of Microsoft sucks" is wrong. A friend once asked me if MS was an ethical company. My answer was no, and neither is ANY OTHER CORPORATION ON EARTH.

Ken Dipietro got screwed in a good way then a bad way.

But, he's already rich so it is easier to take.

The rank and file don't have that cushion of wealth to thumb suck on after something bad happens to them.

Anonymous said...

As long as they are in the dominant position and nobody is coming up with anything to motivate the installed base to choose something different, why would they have to innovate in any dramatic way?

I think Sun-Apple-Google working together could make life interesting for Redmond. Apple can pull developers onto its Intel platform. Google can become a download point for OpenOffice. SUN may (continue) to team with IBM to enforce open document standards. Its tough for press and analysts to ignore it when direct affronts are being made to Microsoft's monopoly franchise(s).

Anonymous said...

I think Sun-Apple-Google working together could make life interesting for Redmond. Apple can pull developers onto its Intel platform. Google can become a download point for OpenOffice. SUN may (continue) to team with IBM to enforce open document standards. Its tough for press and analysts to ignore it when direct affronts are being made to Microsoft's monopoly franchise(s).

Not quite a full keiretsu yet but it is already happening.

Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

Sun offers enterprise software as open source

Google throws bodies at OpenOffice

The Web-based Office will have its Day

Instead of just using Intel chips in computers it manufactures,it would be even more interesting if Apple had its operating system running on a desktop PC with a card (or cards) adding any extra hardware required either manufactured by them and/or someone else. You can already get Firewire cards for the PC.

That way the usage of Mac OS could spread more rapidly and be available to many more people.

Anonymous said...

the bench - this is the set of partners who can take over vp job...

Not exactly. This iteration of the bench program (which I believe is the 3rd since I've been in HR?!) actually has two tracks: one for partners aka "Partner Bench" and one for lower folks aka "Member Bench". The idea is that people chosen for Partner bench are on track to make VP and generally already level 68+ ("E" potential). Member bench is the same thing for people on track to be partners ("P" potential).

But don't tell ANYONE! If employees knew about this, managers would have the tough duty to actually manage and explain to their people why they aren't in the Bench and *gasp* give them feedback on how they could get there or *gasp**gasp* that they never could.

LuckyMe said...

The problem I see in a lot of these posts is sheer arrogance! No kidding! Microsoft hires CS majors, most just out of school, who have never had a full time job anywhere before hire. They are clueless! And worse, they whine and complain about their job while they receive some of the most unbelievable benefits I have ever seen. They should put in some quality time in a cubicle at a different company. Just being a CS major doesn't mean you are better than every other employee on earth. If you don't like your very nice job at Microsoft (where you can scream at other people without getting fired), then why do you stay? And I mean that sincerely. Be the sacrificial lamb and quit. Most companies don't promote you by levels- you are stuck where you are until your manager leaves. And Microsoft is a publicly held company- it has to answer to investors. Empoyees don't decide the compensation packages. All companies have problems. But being an EMPLOYEE at Microsoft is a stroke of very good luck. Should they hire so many non-Americans? Probably not until they have recruited from every American college and company. But that would take time and energy that HR doesn't seem to care about. It is bizarre that they bring in interns for interviews and sometimes the intern, who could have fit somewhere nicely, gets sent home without a job. Somehow though, hiring CS majors right out of college seems to create the problems with immaturity and lack of ability to manage. But there is nothing like reading a bunch of people whining about their life at a huge company that gives them a private office, a huge benefit package and reasonable job security. Microsoft is no longer a company that will make you a millionaire just because you show up for work! Get over it. It had its day in the sun and the lucky people from those days are probably still smiling. They know the definition of serendipity. Msft is now like every other huge company- but more successful. Oh- and as for all the resentment towards the higher levels- just be glad it isn't YOU who is responsible for getting a product out the door. If you want that responsibility and the headaches and meetings that go with it, then get cracking. Start leading and taking intiative. And then don't give up for about 12 years. If your attitude is "I'm not giving one extra second", well,I don't see how you can complain when you get a 3.0 and no compensation. It's still a COMPANY. It needs improvement, and alot of posters here have nailed the management problems- maybe more inservice for management OR a high power management intervention team that literally goes from team to team to correct the problems. Microsoft has not benefitted from its sprawl. Those problems are solvable. But the whining about the salary and reviews- get real.

Anonymous said...

It's heading for five years since I last posted this one...

To the tune of "Hey Mickey!" by Toni Basil (And Jesus, Wikipedia is still good for something, after all these years):

Oh Mini, you're so fine,
You're so fine, you blow my mind, hey Mini... hey Mini (rpt twice)

You've been around all night, and that's a little long
You think you've got it right, but Balmer says you're wrong
Why can't we say goodnight, so you can post from home, Mini?

Cuz when I try to use my Kin,
It says it fuckin' can't
It's givin' me the chills,
and it breaks my fuckin' heart!
Every night you still
Leave me all alone, Mini!

Oh Mini, what a pity, you don't understand?
You take us by the balls, with your sexy paper bag!
Oh Mini, you're so pretty. What's you master plan?
Will you run us on the rocks, or will you save us from the man...?

Eh, mini?
Eh, mini?

(These lyrics are posted "as is", without warranty of any kind, etc. Feel free to delete, extend or pervert them to your heart's content.)