Monday, January 02, 2006

Whew, that was a bunch of comments...

Whew, holy smokes, talk about some busy commenters over the holidays... 175+ comments on that last real post regarding The Passion of the Googlers. If you find yourself with some spare moments, it's worth bringing it up and reading through the discussion. While some folks saw the 4am working late as the focus, MarkL followed up saying no, no, it's about the passion. How is the passion at Microsoft?

From my perspective: you treat brilliant people like cogs, they transition to cog-like passion. And passion certainly gets drained into the grayness of pulling a paycheck once they get clued into the grotesque difference in compensation and accountability between individual team members and upper management.

I've spent the time flying home re-reading about 350 comments (out of the 4600+ comments so far... please, Blogger, can we have a comment web feed soon?). Some of the recent interesting ones follow...

This comment certainly read my mind... from the middle:

Why can't a quick decision be made: 1 - Realize the 65% percentile pay target relative to the industry worked well when our stock options were splitting every 2 years, now it simply doesn't work. A change is needed.

2 - To afford the change, e.g. costs, something else has to happen - some cost cutting somewhere else.

3 - What's everyone complaining about? The fat cats, middle- and upper-management that are not incented to being risk-takers. They want to minimize the decisions they have to make to ensure they can stay at MSFT as long as possible. This the the best target for reducing costs.

4 - Biggest, quickest change: Offer incentive package for the "fat cats" to take early retirement. If they don't, make it clear their role, success measures, and compensation will be changing, i.e. they will need to start justifying their salaries. Not only make it clear, make it so obvious they will not succeed in the "business as usual, rest and vest" fashion that 80% of those offered the option of leaving w/the package take it. Then simply bump the 65% percentile to 75% or higher.

One comment from someone who used to work with MarkL ends with:

OK, now put MarkL aside. Look at Longhorn. Definitely not his fault. A lot of interesting bottom-up ideas that could make a great release. New file system, new desktop composition, sounds great. But that wasn't enough for the execs engorged on Powerpoints. DotNet Everywhere was the command - it's ready because it *has* to be ready. It's a Big Bet. You cannot question it... until 3 years are gone by and the Big Bet isn't paying off, and the top-down architecture is a piece of shit.

I do not think MarkL is 100% correct. But (apparently unlike most other commenters) I can see a true picture being drawn. At Google you can engineer your way if it excites you. Your peers do the reviewing. At Microsoft you have entrenched management controlling almost all visible initiatives. [That sad little live.com was probably just a small team doing something cool in a short time; now they have to carry the mantle for Ray Ozzie and a company wide intiative. God bless them.]

  • New products need small teams getting work done.
  • Coordinating with fiefdoms can be the death of small teams lacking in political talent (NOT engineering talent).
  • Engineering talent is disgruntled and increasingly jumping.
  • Key recruits are no longer at the IC level.
  • The focus is on process because the other mechanisms of maintaining quality have failed.
  • Growth has slowed and progression through the ranks is more political as openings are scarcer in the older businesses.

Another that worked with MarkL during the Hailstorm days posted their perspective on Hailstorm, including the following bit:

Hailstorm was a mess because it was trying to fix too many problems at once for people that didn't want them to be fixed. It was orginally trying to fix the online storage problem. It was trying to fix the proprietary interfaces and PR problem. It was trying to be the first web service. It was trying to get all the MS and industrywide apps to use the same data schemas. It was trying to make IIS based servers scale to millions of users.

Innovation is almost impossbile to sponsor at MS because whenever you want to solve a customer problem, you're stepping on the toes of three other products that are already offering something to that customer or selling something into that market.

An ex-Microsoftie notes how it came to a close for them at MBS:

I spent the last period of my employment with MBS, and that just summed it up and made it very real for me (so in many ways, thanks for illuminating that it was time to find greener pastures). Man, talk of a place that needs a very serious shake-up. I have never seen so many people and teams trying to f*** it up for each other. SAP and Oracle aren't the biggest challenges this unit faces - they are their own worst enemy, and until they get it sorted internally, MBS will never fulfill the potential, which is there. I am amazed that noone has done anything about it. Hopefully someone will, now that Doug Burgum has stepped down.

And finally, the MarkL poster loaded up both barrels when responding to the Robert Scoble criticism (and be sure you flip your sarcasm bit for that first paragraph):

Any finally Robert, Sorry about the mess I left behind, thanks for cleaning up after me. It was my idea to flip off the united states of america by giving them a version of windows that wouldn't boot, by telling the attorney general to go to hell, and by manufacturing phony demos. And yes, it was my idea to put our customers on a 3 year subscription cycle knowing that there was no way in the world that we would ever deliver them updates within their subscription window. Oh yeah, it was also my idea to crush all competition in the browser market and then once we one the war stop working on ours. Oh yeah, Vista is my fault too. Bill and Steve wanted to ship it 18 months after XP. I convinced them that an OS every five years is more than enough. Sorry, forgot about stack ranking... Me and a few other guys thought it would be a fun to give huge options and bonus awards to 1/3, give a cost of living adjustment to another 1/3, and then screw the bottom 1/3 with no raise or bonus. But agin Robert thanks for stepping up and offering to clean up this mess. I am sure that your non stop blogging (hey, how come your blog isn't on msn spaces?) is exactly the right way to fix this stuff. Shoot, if I knew you while at Microsoft, I would have voted you in as a partner and awarded you a 200,000 share restricted stock award. After all, as a partner, your contributions are certainly worth a cool $5mil right?

And just one small correction in your post. I was not a manager at Microsoft and I am not a manager at Google. No one has to kill themselves to get my respect. They just have to be smart and creative, willing to work the entire software stack from metal thur ui, and finally, do what they say their gonna do and do it in the timeframe they say their gonna do it in.

Another year. The pipeline is flowing. The MSFT stock went down 2% during 2005. Todd Bishop has his own stock comparison post today. I can only hope and pray (for what, the fourth year now?) that it's upward bound from here, though our leadership doesn't gauge success from our stock price.

159 comments:

Anonymous said...

IMO, the biggest problem is that teams don't control their own destiny. In windows, you are welcome to innovate as long as you:

1) Stick to the windows release schedule
2) Pay the windows tax (new integrations constantly, test other people's poorly-tested software)
3) Make your software look like whatever the windows UI designers think this release should look like
4) Don't cut your VP's pet feature, don't step on anybody's toes.

I'm reminded of the scene from Steve Martin's "The Jerk", where he's a carnival barker, and is asked, "What could I win?". He proceeds to narrow it down to "anything in this 3 inches".

In windows, you can innovate, as long as you stay within those 3 inches.

Got another topic for you. A while back windows had a big meeting where BrianV said that all work items had to be done by the end of the year. As of the end of the year, there are still 4000+ work items out of 6000+ at the time of the meeting. How does that relate to "all work done by the end of the year?"...

Anonymous said...

Check out the job requirements, salaries for Comcast HR and Microsoft HR in Craig List. It doesn't look as though MS HR is paying at the 100th percentile.

http://seattle.craigslist.org/hum/120715176.html

http://seattle.craigslist.org/hum/121242142.html

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all the rattling about Microsoft stock. MSFT is a large company, which is a part of dow 30. Microsoft did about the same as the other dow companies.

In stock market, there are seasons. Sometimes small companies stocks do well and sometimes large companies stock do well. The reason for the seasonal behavior is because the success profile for large and small companies are quite different. Large companies have to create markets to grow. Whereas relatively smaller companies could grow in already created markets. There are always some exceptions. Apple is an exception. Google is not. As of now there is no market which goog has created but yes Apple has single handedly created the market of legal music download.

I wonder what's going in the minds of S&P management to not include the goog in the S&P 500 even though goog qualifies to be included on technical grounds. Everytime S&P 500 is revised, the market hopes that goog would be included but then snubbed by S&P management.

Anonymous said...

With partners wanting to "lay low" to grab all those stock grants, isn't being a cog at Microsoft "by design"?

Isn't it just safer for a partner to wait until some other company comes up with an idea after it has proven to be successful in the market place?

Shift to Internet impacts Microsoft stock

It is developing an online classified ad service to compete with the popular Craigslist.

Microsoft is getting into the classified advertising business. People placing small advertisements so they can sell stuff?! Brilliant!

EBay Takes Stake in Craigslist

EBay Launches International 'Craigslist' Competitor


Its highly profitable, industry-dominant Windows and Office software account for about 60 percent of its revenue, with an additional 25 percent coming from software for enterprise servers. New software products are continually being introduced.

Hot rival may be just what Microsoft needs

A focus on a rival can also be unhealthy if that focus becomes obsession, such that it excludes an awareness of other potential threats, such as from new market entrants with better technology or a better read on customer tastes. Exhibit A: The Big Three automakers were so focused on what the others were doing that they ignored the potential for someone beyond that limited universe to break in and succeed competitively.

Will OpenOffice be the ignored threat while Microsoft focuses on Google? Or, will the threat come from somewhere else?

Why OpenOffice.org 2.0 Is Your Best Choice

Day in and day out office usability? For all practical purposes, they're about the same.

So, which would you rather 'buy?'


Office 12 makeover takes on 'feature creep'

Instead, users will see a "ribbon" of different commands above their document, with the options changing depending on the task.

Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Contextual Menus

You can think of a contextual menu as a shortcut to commands that make sense in the context of the current task.

Drawing a contextual menu as a "ribbon"? OK. Using them more often? OK. Worth retraining your staff for?

Anonymous said...

It was trying to get all the MS and industrywide apps to use the same data schemas.

This by itself was an impossible task for Hailstorm. Who wants Microsoft (or another group at Microsoft) telling them what data is important to their business?

Anonymous said...

I have been a contractor at MS the last 4 months. Here is a topic that no one has talked about so far .........

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

But one the plus side this humiliation lasts only for a few months. At least we do not have to undergo a review process and backstab each other in the process.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh...MSFT is such a mess. I used to be so excited about my job, about what I was doing and about what I was going to deliver as an individual (no matter how small it may have been in the big scheme of things). I used to see people around me act the same. Now I see people dashing for the exit door come 5pm as if the building was going to collapse.

Vista has been such a big mess. I have been self-hosting it and I am sad to have the product be associated with Microsoft. The marketing department will have you believe that it is a brand new OS with some amazing new features that will blow away XP...but I just don't see it. Its pathetic! The strategy behind it is pathetic! Makes me wonder why the fat-cats earn the money they earn...?

I could go on for hours about details...but its just not worth it...and from what I can see, no one gets it and no one cares about getting it.

Anonymous said...

Well, this site has certainly become an advertising site for Google positions. GOOG has biggest energy levels, GOOG is best, etc.

Google might be hot these days, but I am not that sure if people will be equally enthusiatic (especially in Wall Street) when it slips at #2 after Yahoo takes the lead... People tend to forget that current GOOG revenue comes mostly from advertising - a number will shrink in the next few years due to increased competition.

Anyway, guys, I was thinking - what deadline was MarkL working on these days? Google doesn't seem to have anything particularly exciting. Wait - isn't maybe the new Google Cube? Hopefully we will all see MarkL presenting it at Las Vegas in a few days :-)

Anonymous said...

Can anyone speak to how common Gold Star awards are? Is is 0.1%, 1%, 10%?

Anonymous said...

Interesting article:

http://www.emailbattles.com/archive/battles/browsers_aacehieihi_gd/

TheKhalif said...

I have been a contractor at MS the last 4 months. Here is a topic that no one has talked about so far .........

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

But one the plus side this humiliation lasts only for a few months. At least we do not have to undergo a review process and backstab each other in the process.




As a very "in-depth" CSG from back before the Stock fell, that is one of the major problems at MS. PMs hate devs, devs hate testers, and testers do too much work.
I was in charge of over 125 machines testing 5 COSD components and got treated like I forgot to do my janitorial duties.
Most people at MS don't even realize how many problems egos cause, or at least tend to "overlook" it when it comes from them.
And then to make it worse, you have that "three inches of latitude" that causes the worst ideas to be the current initiative.
Good luck to your in your sojourn. I had your mileage is better than mine was.

Anonymous said...

"I have been a contractor at MS the last 4 months. Here is a topic that no one has talked about so far .........

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

But one the plus side this humiliation lasts only for a few months. At least we do not have to undergo a review process and backstab each other in the process."

Depends on the group and managers. I had one group that treated me like 4th-rate pond scum. I was with another group (and hired) as a hero.

Anonymous said...

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

I'm not exactly why Blue Badgers would talk about the condition of the Orange Badgers, but this topic has been covered/is covered on these forums:

Orange Badges
Microsoft's 'orange badge' culture gets forum
Slashdot

dead wood said...

"Can anyone speak to how common Gold Star awards are? Is is 0.1%, 1%, 10%?"

Definately not 10%, probably not 0.1%. Out of ten people that I communicated closely with and who would reveal such things, at least two of us have gotten one in the last 6 years.

They are handed out by your VP.

Oddly, I was given mine by my skip level manager and when I got it I was told not to to tell my lead or my manager about it. I also had a 4.0 that review period, but was told that the review score was unrelated to the gold star.

Of course, a gold star doesn't mean jack in the long run. You just get a little bonus money and a nice little letter of appreciation from the VP.

Anonymous said...

"Now I see people dashing for the exit door come 5pm as if the building was going to collapse."

ROFL...that is so true. Even now, here at quarter to five I see droves of cars and people leaving...embracing that work/life balance.

Two things...I think it would be fun if we could post a list of known "partners" on this site. Call it a watchdog exercise. If we knew who these people are around us, we could emulate them (if they are good) or hold their feet to the fire for the millions they cost the company. If any wiley HR person can access the "Partner Briefings" DL membership and post all the names that would be stellar. If not, let's just list them one at a time.

Second thing, how about a general work stoppage. Yes, a true American strike. Imagine if every PM or every SDE just decided not to show up to work for a week. Our stock certainly couldn't suck any less. Sounds corny, but I've often wondered what a little cooperative bargaining might do for all of us.

Anonymous said...

...though our leadership doesn't gauge success from our stock price.

Our leaders are our partners, and most senior executives. The DO NOT need to see the stock appreciate. Their new comp package is based on gigantic awards of restricted stock. These grants GUARANTEE them at least $5m for DOING NOTHING! Check it out MSFT Insider Trades Jeeze, look at Jim's reward for screwing up Vista so bad... In November alone, he cashed out ~$45m worth of stock!

IF the stock appreciates, it means that Microsoft is taking risks and those risks are paying off and making $$. Of course, there is huge downside within Microsoft for taking a risk. You could step on someones toes, you could loose your partner status, etc. So, my theory is that our "fat cat" partners are sitting on their huge risk free windfalls, cashing out as often as possible and are willing to take the guaranteed payout rather then take a risk and loose it all.

So no, our leadership doesn't equate success with stock appreciation, but I think its this way for a reason. They are being paid in already appreciated stock. They are being given free stock. They don't need to see it appreciate in order to collect huge windfalls. Our leaders equate success with their own selfish ability to remain employed so that they can fully vest and collect their cash.

Anonymous said...

>Isn't it just safer for a partner to wait until some other company comes up with an idea after it has proven to be successful in the market place?

It appears you've forgotten the old adage: "Pioneers get the arrows; settlers get the land."

Anonymous said...

>MS treats all its CSGs like crap.

Maybe that's true where you are. Over here, they're two to a office, just like the regular FTEs.

Anonymous said...

Got another topic for you. A while back windows had a big meeting where BrianV said that all work items had to be done by the end of the year. As of the end of the year, there are still 4000+ work items out of 6000+ at the time of the meeting. How does that relate to "all work done by the end of the year?"...

He does that all the time. When he was the general manager in Exchange, it went something like "[insert competitor here] is stealing your child's college education so we have to meet this deadline". If that didn't work, he would put on a dress.

meep said...

I don’t understand why higher management/leadership doesn’t get it. It seems that there is overwhelming consensus (from employees, media, news outlets, etc) that MS has *way too many* unnecessary and expensive middle to middle-upper management making tons on money that could be better used in cutting costs (good for stocks and shareholders) and making the people that really produces (and therefore makes for the innovation, quality and money) a little more motivated. What that heck is going on? Are they blind? Too arrogant to acknowledge mistakes? Insensitive?

Anonymous said...

You know, it's so interesting to me. Microsoft really does still hire great people. There are a few duds of course, but other than that all of the people are pretty good.

The problem I think lies whenever people feel they can accurately judge other people. And it's an even bigger problem when they don't even try that hard. Managers and leads, I know many, but I don't know many that believe they are bad. In fact most of them in my opinion are trying to be good, even if unsuccessfully.

But it's so competetive these days that it ends up ruining everything. Does the average 4.0 really deserve that much more than the average 3.5? Is someone who appears to be a superstar really a superstar, or do they just have good PR?

I can think of two people I work near. One is kind of a superstar, he's easy to get along with, gets a lot of stuff done, and moves quickly. He's a great guy. The other may appear to be a dud, and drives me crazy sometimes, but he's super smart, and despite some problems, he's done stuff that the apparent superstar definitely would not have been able to do.

One of those people is going to get a 4.0, and one is going to get a 3.5 or lower. But I'm just not sure that's right. In fact, I'm sure it's destructive. We should be encouraging both of them with a nice pay increase at the end of the year and not raising either of their egos too high with a super high pay increase.

A really high pay increase won't pay off in the future, and the low pay increase will generate resentment.

And it looks to me like that's exactly what's happened at Microsoft. Lots of people with egos, but not really any more productive, and then lots of people with resentment and definitely less productive. And that's just not good. Net loss in productivity.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Vista:

What do people in Windows division think? Looking at the rate of decrease of active bugs over the last few months, do you think it can really ship by the end of this year?

What will the impact on stock be if lets say Vista slips to the middle of next year?

Anonymous said...

Dear John..er..Mini,
I've been a regular commenter to your blog for awhile now (republished several times as call outs in your main entries), and as far as your blog is concerned, I'm saying goodbye.

I first learned of your existence after moving to Redmond in 2005. After hearing you mentioned by both a colleague and a VP, I decided it was worth a look.

I took a look and read through your blog, and was amazed at your ability to say the things you said. I also identified with some of the comments. I posted as well and enjoyed anonymity and a sense of pride when my comments were called out in later messages.

But to be honest, it tinted the color of the glasses by which I viewed the company.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of politics here and there's a lack of business sense in how some of the decisions are made, but group apathy only sends us further down the spiral.

A parting suggestion... You've made it to the main stream press. The word is out. I think you need to reassess whether or not you're still making a positive contribution or demoralizing the troops. Why not call it quits while you're on top?

Keep the blog online with historical posts so others can take the ride, but hang up the keyboard and call it a day.

I'm reminded of the movie Ferris Buellers Day Off. For those of us at a certain age when the film came out, we loved it. So much so, that alot of us stayed through the credits. For those who did, a clip of Mathew Broderick showed up and looking into the camera he instructed, 'It's over. Go Home. Shoo."

It was fun while it lasted, but I'm going home.

So I've got to say good-bye.

It's not you, it's me.

After a few weeks out on vacation, almost totally offline from email and blogs, I'm recharged, reinvigorated, and ready to kick some Google ass.

Rather than quit my group or the company, I'm going to quit bitching and make a positive difference.

Thanks for the memories, be well, and best of luck.

- M

Anonymous said...

MS treats all its CSGs like crap

crap that makes way more per hour than I do as an FTE. Feel free to work elsewhere if you don't like the conditions.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not exactly why Blue Badgers would talk about the condition of the Orange Badgers, but this topic has been covered/is covered on these forums:"

When did this become a blue badge only site? Your one of the reasons for MS problems ... take your caste system else where dude ... like off the horse

Anonymous said...

CSGs treated like crap...
Completely depends on the manager.
I was a CSG in 2002 and was treated very well. I had other CSGs rotating through my shared office, but never more than 2 people at once in the office. It paid really well and the PMs and testers I worked with were great. The only things I didn't like about it were missing the team morale events and having to work hourly while FTEs could leave at any time and had more PTO.

Now that I'm a FTE I make it a point to treat CSGs as equals, like they will be future FTEs (which many good ones will become). If a CSG is feeling hate its usually from crappy managers. A good mgr will make a CSG feel important, even if its boring, mind-numbing work, a good mgr will praise the CSG since its important work that is needed to make the product great.

On a separate note, how a CSG is supposed to become FTE is so hush-hush / taboo / full of bad HR rules, it should be the subject of another blog topic.

Anonymous said...

And it looks to me like that's exactly what's happened at Microsoft. Lots of people with egos, but not really any more productive, and then lots of people with resentment and definitely less productive. And that's just not good. Net loss in productivity.

What do you think?


If locking up talent and wasting it prevents the competition from using it, Microsoft believes it is winning.

The competitive nature of the system has those in control trying to keep others with talent from taking their place. So, even more of it is wasted.

The monopoly position and people in control just competent enough not to get fired keeps Microsoft in its very profitable but mediocre position.

Anonymous said...

I first learned of your existence after moving to Redmond in 2005. After hearing you mentioned by both a colleague and a VP, I decided it was worth a look.

I took a look and read through your blog, and was amazed at your ability to say the things you said. I also identified with some of the comments. I posted as well and enjoyed anonymity and a sense of pride when my comments were called out in later messages.

....

Rather than quit my group or the company, I'm going to quit bitching and make a positive difference.


Oh, the warm and fuzzy feeling from a VP's colleague completing his homework assignment. Thanks for the manipulation ... you've convince me ... that management is not willing to fix the problems outlined here.

How much restricted stock did you get?

Anonymous said...

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

From management's perspective, it is a recruiting technique. You see how "friendly" all the full time employees are to each other and you want to be a part of that.

From an employee's perspective, there may be resentment that you get paid for every hour you work while their effective pay per hour decreases every extra hour they are there. This is more so today since there are no stock options and Microsoft's stock isn't moving.

Anonymous said...

I don’t understand why higher management/leadership doesn’t get it. It seems that there is overwhelming consensus (from employees, media, news outlets, etc) that MS has *way too many* unnecessary and expensive middle to middle-upper management making tons on money that could be better used in cutting costs (good for stocks and shareholders) and making the people that really produces (and therefore makes for the innovation, quality and money) a little more motivated. What that heck is going on?

Senior management understands that the company is making a lot of money and that they are in a position to give a lot of it to themselves - even though a lot of the revenue comes from having a monopoly position and not necessarily from their abilities to manage.

They also understand that they can find enough people willing to work for the company for a fixed income and the possibility of some small amount of performance based compensation.

A lot of senior and middle managers hire their friends so they aren't going to be cutting them any time soon.

As far as they are concerned, nothing is wrong.

To quote the senior manager that posted earlier:

"Rather than quit my group or the company, I'm going to quit bitching and make a positive difference."

In other words, "Shut up and make me some money bitch!".

Anonymous said...

"On a separate note, how a CSG is supposed to become FTE is so hush-hush / taboo / full of bad HR rules, it should be the subject of another blog topic."

Oh do tell ;-)

TheKhalif said...

crap that makes way more per hour than I do as an FTE. Feel free to work elsewhere if you don't like the conditions.


SO do you really think that the security of fulltime MS employment is a bad thing? True I have seen people take HUGE pay cuts after going Blue, but you also don't have to pay for your benefits.
You are actually showing what I was talking about. The fact that there is too much "bad blood" floating between the various levels in the hierarchy and it is all unnecessary.
Everyone is on the same team in the end.

Anonymous said...

"So no, our leadership doesn't equate success with stock appreciation, but I think its this way for a reason. They are being paid in already appreciated stock. They are being given free stock. They don't need to see it appreciate in order to collect huge windfalls. Our leaders equate success with their own selfish ability to remain employed so that they can fully vest and collect their cash."

Agree. The move to grants wasn't about aligning employees with shareholders; It was just another cash grab at the expense of shareholders. If MSFT was achieving stellar results operationally and stock wise, then perhaps these amazing comp packages could be justified. Instead, this "brain trust" delivered MSFT's worst growth year ever and screwed up so often and so visibly vs the competition that several business pubs ran cover stories about MSFT being over the hill. And the stock actually ended the year negative despite trailing the market for 3 years. First and foremost, MSFT needs to bring back balance (or any connection whatsoever) between snr mgt rewards and performance (operational and stock). Second, they need to take a hard look at the overall disparity between snr and general employee pay. Neither is seemingly going to happen under the current leadership.

Anonymous said...

I'm recharged, reinvigorated, and ready to kick some Google ass.

Hmm....
1. Seems like you want to hurt a company that offers a better work environment from many reports.

2. When/Why has Microsoft greatly increased employee compensation and benefits in the past?

3. How much of an increase in net revenue would it take to move the msft stock price? And how much will that actually help you?

Anonymous said...

"Todd Bishop has his own stock comparison post today."

Another Todd puff piece imo. "It's no GOOG"? Over the past one/three years, forget GOOG, it's not even a NOVL - or just about any other tech company regardless of how faint their pulse. I guess that's what he meant with "How does that stack up against its competitors? In some cases, not so well.". Talk about an understatement - something the media is rarely guilty of. Forbes had a better piece where they compared their Top 400 large companies over the past 5 years. MSFT's rank? 373rd:

Forbes 400 Best Big Companies

Hey, at least the management team managed to beat 27 companies on the list. Now, I wonder what would happen if Forbes had ranked these companies based on executive compensation to their senior 500 over that period? Does anyone doubt that MSFT would have been in the top 20? So, bottom percentile performance and top percentile pay. What's wrong with this picture besides everything? Ridiculous. MSFT needs a change of management and sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

I'm recharged, reinvigorated, and ready to kick some Google ass

What would I get if I kicked Google's ass too? Not much.

On the other hand, my VP will get his millions even if he doesn't kick Google's ass.

Anonymous said...

So seems like many of you guys agree now that nothing is gonna change. Many firmly believe that their VPs will keep making millions while making you work hard. Now is it safe to say that this blog has achieved zero results and only popularity - much like the VPs you despise? Or are you still drinking some koolaid thinking there are chances that posting comments here will turn things around?

Anonymous said...

All Mini/WdP is doing is opening our collective eyes to obscene executive compensation, planning/management snafus (botched schedules, cut features, uncompetitiveness in general), and relatively mediocre working conditions (long hours, no opportunity for advancement or creativity/innovation).

Why *shouldn't* employees be demoralized by these things? If you are bothered by the low morale, what would you prefer? Obfuscation and lies? Do you drive one of those giant white SUVs with 'W' bumper stickers that I see so often in Redmond?

Anonymous said...

I saw BillyG on an interview in which he talks about all the innovation at Microsoft at the CES. It was pretty funny. It was pretty funny. (no typo, meant to say it two times) MS has a brand new IPOD "killer" called Urge and BillyG debuted it with Justin Timberlake. Uh ok. Hmm, let me see here, IPOD has the great BONO and U2 as its front-man/group and BillyG has some boy band has been, Justin who. I know Jobs and Co. were losing sleep over it last night.

The brand new and exciting VISTA was also shown, wow looks very much like MAC O/S Tiger.

Hmm, how long do you think it will take for someone to break into and find a critical security flaw in VISTA after its official launch "sometime" this year?

The Nog said...

I'm recharged, reinvigorated, and ready to kick some Google ass.

I just want to say here, I still think a lot of consumers are confused about why Microsoft considers Google a rival to begin with and wants to destroy it. People love Google, and they use Windows and Internet Explorer to access it, and when employees or higher-ups like Ballmer talk about beating Google, people wonder why Microsoft thinks they should be in the web search biz in the first place, and they get defensive because they love Google.

I guess it would be like an electric company declaring its desire to tackle Starbucks. People love Starbucks, and they wonder why the electric company has a beef with them in the first place.

At least, *I* wonder why Microsoft thinks they have to beat Google. I wasn't aware they were competing with each other previously, before MSN suddenly decided it wanted to be the de facto search engine.

Anonymous said...

1. "Seems like you want to hurt". Who cares what their work environment is like? Should companies only compete against sweatshops, gulags, and companies in Idaho?

2. "When has MS increased compensation..." Comp2000 when salaries were increased by 33% just to get to 65th percentile.

3. "How much increase in net revenue..." I think you mean how much increase in earnings. The big problem with MSFT is that there are 10 billion shares outstanding. This means that you have to increase earnings a lot to get earnings-per-share to grow. Do the math.

Anonymous said...

I am a Partner.

I have been with Microsoft for a long time. In fact, I was here slugging it out with Novell, Sun, and others, while you were probably still in High School!

I am sick and tired of reading all the whining, and "I deserve to be rich too" comments on this blog. Jeeze, get a life, or better yet, go find another job!

I paid my dues over the years. I wrote a little code, debugged some problems that I DID NOT CAUSE, and I triaged a boatload of bugs and attended far too many war room meetings.

My job now is to manage and to direct strategy for my teams features. This is a very difficult job. Have you ever tried to coordinate and manage a team of hundreds? Spread across multiple continents? Within a broader group of thousands? Yes, I get paid well for this job. I'm sorry, but frankly, I feel that if anything, I am being underpaid! I will be lucky to gross $350k this year and my big stock awards someone mentioned earlier in this post vest over 5 years. That means that for me to cash in on that $5m payday, I have to stick it out for another 5 years! You want this job? Then EARN IT! Put in your time, write some great code. We "fat cats" in upper management will manage the heck out of it and ship it for you so all you need to worry about is code, bugs, and free soda pop. Sorry, but this IS HOW IT WORKS! You don't just join Microsoft and get promoted to Partner. You need to slug it out in the trenches and earn the respect of your senior leaders. When you do, we will invite you to the club, AND at the same time saddle you with some pretty heavy responsibilities.

You want to whine about accountability? Go for it, but realize that with teams of thousands, and lots of moving parts, its not as black and white as you think. I took risks with Vista. Did I do everything I said I was going to do? NO! Did YOU? Should we be fired for this? Thats right. I don't think so and neither do you. I screwed up a little, but my screwup was your screwup to. Afterall, it was YOUR CODE that failed, NOT MINE. It was YOUR SCHEDULE, NOT MINE!

Lets just all work together to unleash the next wave. Put in your time, and I promise to notice and promote the super stars!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the way to get senior management to react is to change stock award grants given to them into stock options- That would make sure that they earn money only when the stock moves up. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm recharged, reinvigorated, and ready to kick some Google ass.

Jeeze, typical arrogant attitude. You must be one of those overpaid partners that gets paid $1m/yr no matter what happens to us or our reputation. Sometimes I am embarassed to work here with a**holes like you speaking publicly on my behalf.

Aren't you at all worried about how we convert our existing customers to Vista and Office 12? How we get a mass upgrade the drives a huge revunue spike? In my mind, thats the biggest challange that we face.

There is no doubt that with Vista and Office 12, we have a great set of products on line, BUT who is going to buy them, and why?

Correct me if I am wrong, BUT with our Windows monopoly, we get paid for virtually every PC produced in the world right? Virtually every PC carries windows and we get our Windows tax. With Vista, nothing changes here right? Our windows revenue is tied to the run rate of PCs, and unless that rate increases SUBSTANTIALLY, there is no effect on our bottom line. So, WHY ARE YOU SO OBSESSED WITH GOOGLE! You should be OBSESSED with SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASING the run rate of PCs! You should be OBSESSED WITH ensuring ALL LARGE accounts BUY NEW PCs!

Jeeze, we have a HUGE opportunity in front of us and all we focus on is Google. And when we focus, we focus viciously with our top officers vowing to KILL GOOGLE and to BURY THEIR CEO!

I want to see Mr. Ballmer vowing to personally UPGRADE EVERY SINGLE PC IN THE WORLD TO VISTA! I want to see him making house calls armed with boxes of Vista upgrading Grandpa's computer to Vista. I want to see him focus on the challanges we face with our current suite of products ensuring we have an upgrade and adoption spike that absolutely BLOWS AWAY Wall Street!

Microsoft is primarily a platform company. We make a boatload of money in this space and we are convicted monopolists. We should take advantage of this unique position, of our unique role in the industry! Our goal with platforms is to drive adoption, to build an eco system of supporters, to LOVE watching others succeed because it means we are doing our job!

Google would be NOTHING without Windows! How would the masses access it without our platform? We should LOVE that they are successful because this means that our customers are successfully accessing the internet safely, securely, and swiftly! We SHOULD NOT vow PUBLICLY to CRUSH these companies. They are part of our eco system, our partners, the reason our customers might consider adopting our new platform and operating system!

Please Steve, Bill, Kevin, and the rest of you. Please focus on finishing the job you started. You, perhaps foolishly, focused all of Microsoft on this "Big Bang" longhorn/vista wave. Don't loose your focus now. Go out and sell the heck out of it. Lie, Cheat, Still (do whatever you have to, and what ever you are good at) to convince Grandma, Grandpa, Ms. Robertson, GM, Baxter, and everyone in the world to upgrade and pay us more than the standard PC tax that we get thru our current monopoly!

Anonymous said...

I just want to say here, I still think a lot of consumers are confused about why Microsoft considers Google a rival to begin with and wants to destroy it.

No. There is a big difference between (a) considering Google a rival and fighting against it, and (b) be willing to do anything to destroy it. While some chair-throwing MS execs would love to have the liberty to "kill Google", that's not the overall sensation here at MS. Killing a company doesn't excite anyone, and it actually seems like a dumb thing to do. And, BTW, how come that MS didn't want to kill Yahoo for the last 10 years?

Several MS-ers I met are on the opinion that Google should be actually kept around, just to keep MSFT in sharp form. What GOOG did was just to awake the giant. We need GOOG for that job :-)

In the end, no, MS is not there to kill Google. And, Google will not kill MS either.

Google will probably dissapear for another reasons (their own mistakes, most likely) but not because of MSFT competition. Google is particularly vulnerable in the next years, and I imagine that they are already desperately searching for the next cash cow. Not sure if they found anything so far????

Oh, and one more thing for those Windows-bashers out there. Feel free to say tht Windows doesn't have any innovation in it, etc. You don't have any clue. Windows is technically light-years ahead of any other OS, especially in server space. Sure, we added some glittery UI in Vista, but many people are apparently using only this as their sole comparison metric... :-)

Anonymous said...

"At least, *I* wonder why Microsoft thinks they have to beat Google. I wasn't aware they were competing with each other previously, before MSN suddenly decided it wanted to be the de facto search engine."

Because:

a) GOOG has built a larger and more profitable business than all of MSFT's emerging businesses combined in way less time and at far less cost - which represents $ that MSFT desperately needs for growth and makes mgt look like the largely overpaid and ineffective team that they have unfortunately become.

b) Unencumbered by a fat client or even software business, GOOG can use/promote Open Source and WEB technologies to MSFT's disadvantage.

c) MSFT's culture is predicated on "see a bear, shoot a bear" with the bear being a competitor. W/O one to focus on, they quickly devolve into disorganization, internal politics and fratricide ( as we saw starting in the late 90's) because actually understanding customer's needs, building innovative products and winning on merit is just such hard work and MSFT mgt is all about shortcuts (hence the myriad of legal problems).

That said, if MSFT really focused on innovating vs lip service and embraced the new web world vs trying to stunt it, then instead of competing against GOOG and losing (badly), MSFT would be out pushing the industry into new areas. Won't happen with Gates or Ballmer - they still think this is the 90's and the previously successful strategy of holding back the market or letting others do the legwork and then come in late to scoop them works - it increasingly doesn't because MSFT doesn't have the clout it did and because the world generally has changed.

TheKhalif said...

So seems like many of you guys agree now that nothing is gonna change. Many firmly believe that their VPs will keep making millions while making you work hard. Now is it safe to say that this blog has achieved zero results and only popularity - much like the VPs you despise? Or are you still drinking some koolaid thinking there are chances that posting comments here will turn things around?


I have been thinking the same thing, but this is still a good forum for "releasing steam." Maybe one day the management will actually take this to heart and realize they could be making millions more with an efficient happy organization and not have employees and ex-employees making them look like tyrants.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see how much of their personal energy people are putting into complaining on this blog these days. There's so much we could all accomplish in terms of making Microsoft a better place and creating the next "big thing" if folks were willing to put as much of their personal energy and passion into fixing the company and inventing the next great thing as they put into their posts.

Me? I remain highly optimistic.

We've got great software coming and the rumor mill says that lots of good changes will happen in the next 8 to 12 months. I'm looking forward to the new comp model, towels returning to the locker rooms, the downsizing of huge teams and better food in the cafeterias.

Check back this time next year and see if we all don't feel a LOT better!

For my money, MSFT continues to be the best place in the world to build cool software.

markl said...

Mini,

With comment moderation, how many comments are you having to edit/decline? Do you think its safe to turn off the moderation so that your blog and the ensuing discussions can happen more real time? This is such a great discussion board, its a shame to have to throttle back updates the way moderation forces you to do.

Anonymous said...

"Do you drive one of those giant white SUVs with 'W' bumper stickers that I see so often in Redmond?"

Please leave politics out of this. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's become such a downer to read this blog. So many people spending so much of their personal energy and passion to complain and moan about the company!

If we could get everyone who's posted in the past 6 months to focus that kind of energy on fixing problems and building great software, think of the amazing things we could do!

I for one remain a huge optimist. The new software we have coming (Office 12 & Vista) is really quite stunning, especially in terms of UI innovation and user experience.

And if the rumor mill is right, we're going to see big changes in the next 6 to 8 months - I'm looking forward to the new comp plan coming in the summer, the return of towels to the locker room, better food in the cafeterias and a big slimming down of some of our biggest teams. Finally once the collective intelligence of the Windows and Office teams get focused on helping drive Windows Live and Office Live, watch out world!

I'm convinced that we are all going to feel a heck of a lot happier and be pretty excited about Microsoft in 12 months. Steve, Bill, Kevin, Jeff, Robbie, Kevin and Lisa aren't idiots. With a little bit more time we'll all see the kind of positive changes they can bring about when they put their collective abilities toward it.

Anonymous said...

I always found it ironic seeing that we are paid in the 65% of our industry while it's expected of us to work as if we are the best and brightest or is it that the company feels that we are in 65% when it comes to our performance??? (in that case I would cut all raises and bonuses to HR for hiring such low quality people :-) ) or wait...perhaps it's a clue that we should also put in 65% of our effort into work....somehow I feel that the brightest have already figured it out that is's better to work for companies that value their employees in the 90% or above when it comes to compensation. I think this will be one of my write-in questions to management in the next MSPoll... Anyone has a list of all tech companies that pay above Msft (35% of them...that's a lot)? Any of them in Seattle area?

Anonymous said...

CES coverage in NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/technology/circuits.html

Not too impressed...

Who da'Punk said...

I am a Partner.

Great comment. Great sharing of perspective.

Who da'Punk said...

markl:With comment moderation, how many comments are you having to edit/decline? Do you think its safe to turn off the moderation so that your blog and the ensuing discussions can happen more real time? This is such a great discussion board, its a shame to have to throttle back updates the way moderation forces you to do.

I probably drop one in ten pending comments. Either because the language is just plain offensive or because it's just an outright frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Microsoft missive. And sometimes because it's wildly off-topic. Or, of course, comment spam.

That's probably the same number of posts I was deleting before hand.

But. I think moderation makes a big difference and I can't imagine going back as of yet.

The quality of the posts really went up after moderation kicked in. I think that might be because someone could post and not suffer egregious, low-quality, profane-attacks.

Without moderation, you see someone post a good comment that gets crapped on. I think this can affect the next person thinking about sharing. Why bother? Why bother writing up something of deep quality if it's going to get crapped on?

Not that I don't let a few crappy comments through here and there.

Also, there was an obvious effort to torpedo each and every post as quickly as possible and to rag on thin-skin me for being an anonymous coward (with bad breath, to boot). It was just bad karma that instantly went away with moderating.

So until someone comes up with a wildly better system, I think I'm sticking with moderation. I might experiment with turning it off when I'm way too busy and then we'll see what that provides...

Reformer said...


I'm sorry, but frankly, I feel that if anything, I am being underpaid! I will be lucky to gross $350k this year

Well Mr. Partner, you certainly are not being paid at the 65 percentile as the rest of us are. With that salary, and without the $1M/yr stock to vest in the future, you would be well above the 95 percentile.

The only reason we can afford to pay you such a princely sum is because we have a monopoly cash flow. But this will end, as all monopolies do, and market forces will drive your partner salary down by 50%, still leaving it at about the 75 percentile for the industry. Then you will consider jumping ship, just as the rest of us are now pondering.

Anonymous said...

I am a Partner.

Very glad to see a partner reading this blog. Any chance SteveB is reading this too?

I am sick and tired of reading all the whining, and "I deserve to be rich too" comments on this blog.

I think people are complaining that executive compensation is not in line with performance of the company. Most people in the trenches make less than 100K. And you feel 1.35 mil/year is being underpaid?

I screwed up a little, but my screwup was your screwup to.

Your screwup is NOT my screwup. Because - you are paid way more than me. If anything, it should be the other way round.

I think you just reemphasized the lack of accountability in the upper management.

Anonymous said...

>I have been with Microsoft for a long time. In fact, I was here slugging it out with Novell, Sun, and others, while you were probably still in High School!

You probably deserve what you get paid. The "fat cats" are the ones who came in from elsewhere or who got up to management because of "managing up" or the ones sitting up over in HR land as partners without doing much. Many of the partners aren't doing anything worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the way to get senior management to react is to change stock award grants given to them into stock options- That would make sure that they earn money only when the stock moves up. Any thoughts?

But thats how it used to work. Was great for those guys in the old days. In fact, in 2000 partners were awarded ~400,000 shares, then we had a split and another round of huge grants. Each partner had ~1m options which unfortunately were underwater so Microsoft arrange that infamous underwater option buyback program. Regular worker bees collected a few thousand dollars at best while our illustrious partners collected a cool $1m each. Not the $20m+ that Steve was hoping for when he first issued the huge grants, but still not bad given the situation.

IF we went back to options, they would have to be HUGE. If they were that big, my guess is that some of our partners would find a way to manipulate the stock market just a little bit, get a $5-$10 short term spike multiplied by 500,000 options and you are sitting on some decent money. Given how flagrantly we violated antitrust laws in the past, I do not want our leaders to have any incentive to violate serious SEC laws in the spirit of fattening their already over-stuffed wallets.

I really think the current comp system with stock grant based compensation is the right approach. It does align us with shareholders, and I think removes the incentive to artifically manipulate the market.

I think that the only thing thats seriously out of whack with the current system is that there is a huge disparity between the raw number of shares for partners and regular folk, and the partner awards seem completely disconnected from company performance.

I know we like to use stock awards as sort of a golden handcuff to retain people, but here, I think it is working against us. Instead of placing our partners on an 8 year program with huge grants, I think we should award them with yearly grants where the raw number of shares is directly related to company performance across a wide range of variables from the previous year. I would include customer satisfaction, industry perception, openness, innovation metrics, schedule prediction proficiency, etc. as the measurement criteria, not just financial results. With the current system, 3 years ago when we thought things were going to rock with Longhorn, before we were afraid of Google, etc. we awarded these guys $5m each. In retrospect, after looking at our broad performance over these past few years, clearly we have overpaid these guys, BUT we have virtually no ability to recall their grants and we certainly don't have the backbone to fire them. In my proposed system, I would dole out their options yearly and would have seen the errors in time to avoid over paying them.

I am a partner, and as a priviledged partner was part of the compensation review committe where I had an opportunity to give feedback on all of the options being discussed. I voiced my concerns then, and gave feedback similar to what I have said here as well as a few other major issues that I thought were wrong with the then proposed compensation plan. While I will likely benefit hugely from the plan, I think the plan is fatally flawed for a number of reasons, and I hope to see it eliminated asap.

And one more thing, to I am a partner whose post I just read... Your elitist attitude is a discrace! I am sorry you feel "underpaid" at $350k/yr. Tell the truth! Tell these guys you feel underpaid because you are used to a gross income of $5m+/year. And that YOUR CODE is at fault comment is WAY OUT OF LINE! These guys work for you. We pay you a boatload of $$ to see problems early, to react, and to recover. You come off as trying to say the problems are not your fault because you didn't write the code? Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. It is your fault because its your job to watch over them, to manage them, and to lead them. You took risks, and you failed. Its ok to do this, BUT it IS NOT ok to hide from it and blame it on someone else. It is not ok to hide your failures from your superiors managing upward so that you look good for as long as possible knowing full well that the house of cards will crumble but others will hopefully look worse than you and your team. This game of schedule chicken that you seem so skilled at has cost us dearly and its partners like you, guys that love to play this game, that should be held accountable, and yes, FIRED for engaging this game.

Anonymous said...

>In my opinion, the way to get senior management to react is to change stock award grants given to them into stock options- That would make sure that they earn money only when the stock moves up. Any thoughts?

Not in the millions like the old days please. Every partner in 2000 got two million stock options and then another grant as the first one was under water.

The problem with partner system is the difference in pay between L67 and L68. Why should L68 get 350K in salary, another one half a million to one million in bonus and five million in stock grants?

Anonymous said...

1. "Seems like you want to hurt". Who cares what their work environment is like? Should companies only compete against sweatshops, gulags, and companies in Idaho?
Because if you work at MS having a competitor that seems to make better offers for your work force will compel you to do more for your work force.

It is about competition for you! And competition for you is good. See question #2.



2. "When has MS increased compensation..." Comp2000 when salaries were increased by 33% just to get to 65th percentile.

comp2000 named for when it took place, right? 2000 when all of thsoe dot comp were spring up and making it harder for MS to attract quality folks.

What happened to comp MS after the dotcom bust? MS wasn't horrible. It didn't institute noticable pay cuts... but if you work there, you know and feel the difference.

Now competition is increasing for workers which is good for the workers. (See comp2000... Then if ms is success at crushing the competition for its work force, it will be the equivalent of the dotcom bust.)


3. "How much increase in net revenue..." I think you mean how much increase in earnings. The big problem with MSFT is that there are 10 billion shares outstanding. This means that you have to increase earnings a lot to get earnings-per-share to grow. Do the math.
Exactly. (Thanks for the polite correction.)

PS To the partner above getting $5mil over 5 years. That's still $1 mil a year which is a lot lot lot more than other folks who didn't manage to get to level 68+.

With great power comes great responsibility so it is reasonable that you get a large salary but it is also reasonable that you are held more accountable. Often, the product slips and buggy code is due to directives from above. You want to blame folks for not hitting the schedule that they gave you but one of the level requirements (well below level 68) is being able to sanity check schedules. So it seems like a shared miss on that one.

Disclosure I used to work at MS but quit over a year ago so I may have a biased perspective.

Anonymous said...

I am a Partner
Ok was it just me or did anyone else's Troll Alert go off with this post? Especially this line -I am being underpaid! I will be lucky to gross $350k. Sure , it could be legit but it sounded more like an attempt to get people riled up?

Anonymous said...

"You want to whine about accountability? Go for it, but realize that with teams of thousands, and lots of moving parts, its not as black and white as you think. I took risks with Vista. Did I do everything I said I was going to do? NO! Did YOU? Should we be fired for this? Thats right. I don't think so and neither do you. I screwed up a little, but my screwup was your screwup to. Afterall, it was YOUR CODE that failed, NOT MINE. It was YOUR SCHEDULE, NOT MINE!"

I actually thought you were making a half decent rebuttal until you treated yourself there at the end. Top mgrs take accountability period - they don't pass the buck to team members or argue degrees of culpability. And sorry, when a core product runs three years late and will be grossly short of the initial promise even when it does eventually ship, someone should have been fired regardless of the complexities inherent in the task. That as they say, is why you get the big bucks. As a shareholder, I would also have been interested in your thoughts on partner-level accountabilty generally at MSFT. Based on operational results, the company has been struggling in numerous areas not just Vista and clearly the multi-year stock performance is a disaster. And yet collectively, there probably isn't a higher paid team of snr mgrs in all of technology. Isn't that an issue? Doesn't that concern you as one of the performing partners? The way I see it, either a good number of partners aren't performing - which begs the question why are they still around? Or else MSFT's business model has become so poor that even with 800 highly paid stellar performers, only below average growth and results are possible - which begs the question why is Steve still around? Frankly, I don't believe the latter - not that I'm convinced Steve's up to the task. So imo, it's time for a lot of Partners to cowboy up and start proving they deserve their enormous comp plans by actually delivering exceptional results - or get replaced by those who can.

Anonymous said...

I can definitely attest to the bloating of middle management

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that a company can bet on its stock growing indefinitely. Its okay for a company to have flat stock as long as it is making a profit. A stock price is based on a lot of hoo ha. Microsoft is built to last. We have to slow down a bit, get better processes in - there is goign to be some turmoil when it goes through this

Anonymous said...

And one more thing, to I am a partner whose post I just read... Your elitist attitude is a discrace! I am sorry you feel "underpaid" at $350k/yr. Tell the truth! Tell these guys you feel underpaid because you are used to a gross income of $5m+/year. And that YOUR CODE is at fault comment is WAY OUT OF LINE! These guys work for you. We pay you a boatload of $$ to see problems early, to react, and to recover. You come off as trying to say the problems are not your fault because you didn't write the code? Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. It is your fault because its your job to watch over them, to manage them, and to lead them. You took risks, and you failed. Its ok to do this, BUT it IS NOT ok to hide from it and blame it on someone else. It is not ok to hide your failures from your superiors managing upward so that you look good for as long as possible knowing full well that the house of cards will crumble but others will hopefully look worse than you and your team. This game of schedule chicken that you seem so skilled at has cost us dearly and its partners like you, guys that love to play this game, that should be held accountable, and yes, FIRED for engaging this game.

--

Great post! I wish we had some more sane headed people like you at MSFT.

Anonymous said...

"Not in the millions like the old days please. Every partner in 2000 got two million stock options and then another grant as the first one was under water."

Whether partners get paid in just options or not to me is irrelevant. The key issue is ensuring that whatever way they're paid, the relative performance of the company and its stock has some major impact on it such that they can't go another 7 years paying themselves obscenely while the company growth tanks and shareholders and employees are flat to down. Bottom line, MSFT needs to institute a pay-for-performance structure that rewards success, penalizes failure and is consistent with whatever the company's resources are now given its maturity. Given previous excesses and current/expected performance, that likely means far less money overall, going to far fewer people especially if real accountability within this group starts being enforced and numbers of partners brought back into balance.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced that we are all going to feel a heck of a lot happier and be pretty excited about Microsoft in 12 months. Steve, Bill, Kevin, Jeff, Robbie, Kevin and Lisa aren't idiots.

--

Are you sure? The partner system has existed for six years now.

Anonymous said...


Ok was it just me or did anyone else's Troll Alert go off with this post? Especially this line -I am being underpaid! I will be lucky to gross $350k. Sure , it could be legit but it sounded more like an attempt to get people riled up?


I am an ex-partner. I left Microsoft a little over a year ago. The number is legit, and if anything is a bit low. Partner level comp of $250k with ~50% bonus is the norm which would result in gross comp of $375k. That coupled with existing options, grants, and future grants is designed to payout a minimum of $1m/yr.

Each quarter there is a secret, partners only meeting where Steve and Bill discuss issues of the day. I remember one meeting in particular, one where I had the priviledge of sitting next to "markl". Steve was talking about cutbacks and accountability. Markl looked at me that Steve doesn't have the balls to do the right thing. He thought that if Steve was going to send this message to the masses, he should first send a crisp message to the partners, that they are going to be held to a higher standard. He should have set up the meeting in advance with 400 pink index cards placed randomly under all of the chairs. He should stop the meeting, ask everyone to reach under the chair and hold their index card up in the air. He should then bring in security and escort all of the partners holding pink cards out of the building, immediately terminating their employment with Microsoft." His point was that we had far too many old timers sitting around doing nothing, and that if we need to make some hard core changes, we should start at the top. He felt that Microsoft would get along just fine with a random 50% culling of the partners, and that the impact this would have on the remaining partners would be a hard core wakeup call and they would likely step up and perform at the level that they should perform at.

After watching our performance over these last few years, and watching our current accountability crisis, I have a feeling that Markl's idea was a good one...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, just can't stand to keep quiet any longer. I'm a partner. And I know a lot of other partners and roughly what they make.

The compensation numbers being thrown around in this discussion are pretty wild. No one without a "VP" in their title is making the kind of money ("$1m a year") that folks are throwing around casually.

Jim/Kevin/JeffR? Yes. Your normal partner - nope.

There's a lot more myth than reality on mini tonight.

Anonymous said...

>> It was YOUR SCHEDULE, NOT MINE!

This is just retarded. Partner, let me tell you how it works these days in the trenches, step by step:
1. PM comes into your office with a bunch of handwaving instead of the spec.
2. PM asks you to give him/her a SWAG.
3. You tell PM that you can not provide a swag before you do some design and prototyping.
4. PM complains to your manager.
5. Manager says that this is going to be just a SWAG and you won't be held accountable for precisely hitting that date.
6. You give PM a SWAG.
7. Somehow, your SWAG finds its way into the official schedule and becomes a dev cost estimate for which you're accountable.
8. Work gets scheduled in completely random order by management, even though some of it has to be sequential (you can't build certain things if they depend on other thing).
9. Everyone starts blindly coding trying to hit wild ass estimates given to PMs under pressure from management.
10. On a date when everyone is supposed to be code complete folks just check their stuff in blind, without unit testing.
11. "Code complete" build never works. Test team uncovers excruciating amounts of bugs, half of which get punted in the very war rooms you've spent too much time sitting in.
12. Folks who insist on checking in quality code even if this means not making the deadline are punished with at best 3.5 and zero bonus/stock grant.

Oh, and did I mention how underpaid MSFT SDEs are compared to Google?

Anonymous said...

I am a Partner.

I have been with Microsoft for a long time. In fact, I was here slugging it out with Novell, Sun, and others, while you were probably still in High School!

I am sick and tired of reading all the whining, and "I deserve to be rich too" comments on this blog. Jeeze, get a life, or better yet, go find another job!



Microsoft has many talented people whose abilities are no where near being put to full use because of a system that focuses competition on fellow employees instead of focusing it on competitors in the market place.

Whose fault is that? YOURS!


If you want to stop the "whining", FIX the PROBLEM.


If you are not competent enough to fix the problem, you deserve the whining and people will go find another job.

Anonymous said...

Specific, Actionable, Measurable

Mini, so much of this blog discussion has devolved to gripes. The Microsoft we want isn’t about grievances, it is focused on actions, so let’s get the ball rolling and toss out some ideas. If the readers think that an idea has merit, say so. If the readers think that an idea sucks, say that too.

Problem: Bad attrition is higher than it needs to be because it is easier to find jobs outside of Microsoft than it is to leave unhealthy fiefdoms.
Suggestion: Reduce internal job movement barriers.
Specific change: Eliminate the requirement that employees obtain manager permission before interviewing.
Measurement: Internal job moves from unhealthy organizations increase at least 10% and bad (company) attrition drop at least 5%.


Problem: It takes years to push poor performers out of the company.
Suggestion: Give low performers time and incentive to find either a better fit or a graceful exit from the company.
Specific changes: Give any employee receiving a 3.0 review the option to take 90 days with pay to look for a new position, after which if they don’t find anything within the company they will be laid off and will receive external job placement assistance. Require any employee receiving below a 3.0 to take this option.
Measurement: Average good attrition exit time reduces by 12 months. Voluntary good attrition increases 200%.

Problem: Job requirements are so broad and specific that either wage demands are higher than we are willing to pay or the local talent pools do not have the supply. As a result, we have large lost opportunity costs due to a lack of labor.
Suggestion: Subdivide jobs into simpler roles. Drop the ego…a rock star might be 10 times more productive, but rock stars are not common and with a little work maybe the garage band can become a rock star…and even rock stars drop things on the floor.
Specific changes: Hire cheaper / less experienced people for more mundane tasks like fixing simple bugs, specifying use-case test cases, writing test cases and automation for the legacy code that we worry about touching, or writing simple code and mentor them with more experienced co-workers.
Measurement: Cost per productivity increase of 5%. Innovation increases 5% because we free experts from mundane tasks. Employee retention increases 5% from increased growth opportunity.

Problem: Groups like Windows and Office are too large. There is no competition and we are afraid to innovate.
Suggestion: Split every component of Windows and Office into an autonomous group. Allow competing groups to exist and let the best group win.
Specific changes: Split up any group larger than 50 people. Encourage ICs to submit a business plan and form competing groups if they can demonstrate that they will have a competitive or financial advantage over the current group(s).
Measurement: Innovation increases 200%. Job satisfaction increases.

Problem: Better together creates paralyzing levels of process.
Suggestion: Let the groups requiring additional process pay for that process.
Specific changes: Change accounting so that each group can bill back the common process groups for the time spent complying with those requirements.
Measurement: Costs due to process decrease 20%.


Problem: Redmond is too disconnected from customers.
Suggestion: Everyone needs to visit a real customer at least once a year.
Specific changes: All managers, leads, and ICs in dev, test, pm, pss, and doc will visit one customer in person every year and will be responsible for reporting that customer’s complaints to the rest of the company.
Measurement: Customer satisfaction increases significantly. Employee awareness of customer needs increases.

Problem: Internally promoted managers lack training, externally hired managers lack understanding of IC job demands.
Suggestion: Screen managers for psychotics. Give all managers training in management and technical areas.
Specific changes: Perform a psychiatric evaluation of each manager looking for psychotics and empathy and give each manager 2 weeks of training every year in management skills and another 2 weeks of training every year in technical areas.
Measurement: Manager feedback scores improve. Employee retention rates increase.
Employee satisfaction increases.

Problem: Re-organizations waste huge amounts of management time.
Suggestion: Justify reasoning for re-doing 3 year plans and mission statements immediately after a re-org.
Specific changes: Allow managers to use their own judgment to decide if they need to re-do work after a re-org. Maybe these processes can wait for another 9 months.
Measurement: Managers reclaim 5% of their time.

Problem: Employees have great ideas but due to compensation and risk tolerance within the company, they leave Microsoft to develop those ideas.
Suggestion: Tell individual contributors how they can pitch a new idea and develop it in their 8-5 hours, not their 7-12pm hours.
Specific changes: Publicize whatever incubator programs currently exist and reduce the barriers for prototype development in the trenches.
Measurement: Increase in incubator or prototype proposals of 500%.

Problem: Management process requires heavy middle-management
Suggestion: Automate and eliminate process.
Specific changes: Managers, tell your reports and your manager what you spend your time on and reward anyone who can take work off of your plate.
Measurement: Managers free up 15% of their time.

Problem: There is no incentive to innovate. Innovation adds risk.
Suggestion: Add an innovations list to the review forms and stack rank & compensate innovation across the company.
Specific changes: Measure what is important. If innovation is important, measure it and reward it.
Measurement: Customers and the industry starts to see us as innovative for the first time.

Problem: Middle management layers are too heavy and blame is too easily shifted.
Suggestion: Compensate handsomely for success, and penalize heavily for failure.
Specific changes: Pay management at the 95% level, even give them a 10% profit sharing stake over their area of management, but dock them down to the 40% level for the cost of failures.
Measurement: Good attrition of middle management increases 400%.

Problem: We take shortcuts.
Suggestion: Force everyone to take a long term focus.
Specific changes: Give everyone generous stock grants and set them to vest over 15 years.
Measurement: The company doesn’t implode under it’s own weight in 10 years.

Problem: We have started looking at our success instead of our failures.
Suggestion: Everyone needs to perform and study postmortems on a regular basis.
Specific changes: Perform 360 degree project postmortems after every ship and ship-slip, and require everyone to study at least one postmortem report every review period.
Measurement: Mistakes are repeated less frequently.

Okay, so some of these are not feasible, but we aren’t going to solve anything unless we suggest some specific action.

Which suggestions are idiotic and why?

What we should do instead and why?

Make it specific, actionable, and measurable so we can all send a list to Bill, Steve, Lisa, the members of the board, the major shareholders, and the hundreds of VPs.

Anonymous said...

MS treats all its CSGs like crap. It is high time someone highlighted this issue. 7 or 8 Orange badges are usually packed into one small dark & dingy room like lab rats.

How true!!! In fact they treat even MSFT employees from India who are visiting Redmond like this. I was once in such a situation - crammed in a hole with 8 other people and temperature dropping real low because it was supposed to be a lab. I had to escalate the situation to my manager back in India who couldnt do much but make me talk to one other guys in Redmond, who came over and lectured me as how MSFT employees were equal in all respects!

Yeah right! I get to sit like a rat with 7 or 8 other poor souls (read as other MSFT employees from India, CSGs and partners) while the guy had a huge office all for himself. All that I asked for is to treat me like a human! In fact I would have been grateful to him if he had let me share an office even if that were to be with 3 other people.

I am not saying this is Redmond vs India or anything racial or regional. I am just saying there are a few jerks who care least about treating other humans as humans. It is important to treat partners, CSGs and people from other divisions as equals. Nobody will want to work sincerely if they feel discriminated.

Anonymous said...

It's become such a downer to read this blog. So many people spending so much of their personal energy and passion to complain and moan about the company!

Quit being a pollyanna. There are serious internal problems at Microsoft. The upper strata is contemptuous of the contributions of the lower. And the lower (if you hadn't noticed) are getting pissed off about it. It needs to come to a head one way or the other. The expedient thing would be for management to clean their own house and balance the compensatory scales of justice. Short of that, this blog is a lightning rod for employees interested in positive change and who are smart enough to use the tools available to help achieve that change.

Anonymous said...

Somebody asked for the list of partners. I think it is a microsoft confidential information so it should not be posted outside of microsoft. I could point out where this information is available inside microsoft. Check the alias, "tcnppl". It has 452 members. I am not sure whether this is an alias of all the parters. All the partners I know are on this list. Check out whether the partners you know are on this list too. If yes, then post a confirming comment. If no, then post a refuting comment. Also, if you see any person who is on the list but not a partner then also post a refuting comment. In two days we will know whether this is a list of the partners. If yes, then we could held these partners responsible for any screw-up decision or praise them for any great decision.

Anonymous said...

Spotting the real Microsoft employee, on here, was getting abit like a game of "spot the geniune ebay email" until Markl turned up.

Anonymous said...

Yes this is very interesting.

The "i am a partner" person a) seems very baitfish here b) seems partially in the know and c) a very rude and pompus ass.

I suspect this is a junior partner since they are complaining as much as they are (i suspect they think they are cheerleading). Based upon the tone, I pick up a Silicon Valley hire .. goof.

Anonymous said...

"the return of towels to the locker room"

I guess Santa got Jeremy's letter :-)

Anonymous said...

Another partner perk - even if the partner loses the job, the awards will continue to vest and the salary will be paid. So what is the poster named "partner" complaining about? So KaiFu Lee and MarkL probably have stock awards vesting and salaries paid when they are collecting another boatload of millions from Google.

Anonymous said...

Windows is technically light-years ahead of any other OS, especially in server space.

I would have to say that you are severely delusional or just outright ignorant. Not a system administer, are you? The difference between a Solaris box and Windows in an enterprise server environment is the difference between using a Bic lighter and two sticks to start a fire.

Given a choice I'll choose Solaris every single time. Unfortunately, not all software is available for Solaris, so you always get stuck running some Windows boxes. This always sucks because while everyone else on the planet assumes their products will run in a heterogeneous environment, MSFT's stuff never seems to play well with others.

And then there is the quality of employee you find. When you hire a Unix admin you can easily get someone who actually knows what they are doing, right down to what is really important: When things go wrong they can examine the config files and figure out how to fix it. When you hire a Windows admin you are likely to get a button pusher, who if everything doesn't go right they just sit there staring at a GUI control panel.

I got sick and tired of Window's admins telling me I needed another machine to run each new app. Especially when I can point to our Solaris boxes and say, "We've got five apps on that one, ten on that one, four on that one." And if we need to put more on them we can just drop in more RAM or another processor board, without increasing the number of machines that have to be administered.

Anonymous said...

"So until someone comes up with a wildly better system, I think I'm sticking with moderation. I might experiment with turning it off when I'm way too busy and then we'll see what that provides..."

My prediction: Not much will change, if you only do it for the short term. You changed people's habits when you went to moderation. If you go back, it will take some time (a day? a week?) for the nastier elements to start coming back. But if you go unmoderated for very long, then yes, the dark side will reappear.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Great post! I wish we had some more sane headed people like you at MSFT.

Sorry guys. I'm out of Gas. No one really wants to address the real issues around here so I am planning on leaving in the Spring. I am definitely in the minority around here when it comes to driving change, driving hard core accountability, eliminating schedule chicken from our processes, etc. I love your blog and will keep reading and contributing, and hopefully in my new venture will not make the same mistakes you all have been pointing out. When I startup my new gig, I will be sure to send out an "I'm hiring" notice to this blog.

Oh yeah, and to whoever claimed that partners still get paid, still vest, etc. after they leave? Thats complete BS. You are just fanning the flames. When you leave Microsoft all vesting stops and you have 90 days to excercise remaining unexcercised but vested options. Stock Awards are a little different because those "auto-excercise" on vest so they immediately transfer to your control on the day of termination. Trust me on this. As someone who IS leaving the company on April 1, I would know and have already been thru this with my attorneys and with Microsoft HR.

Anonymous said...

"I'm convinced that we are all going to feel a heck of a lot happier and be pretty excited about Microsoft in 12 months. Steve, Bill, Kevin, Jeff, Robbie, Kevin and Lisa aren't idiots. "

As an investor, I hope you're right. But I would point out that most of the folks you reference as keys to future success are the sames ones who decisions over the past 5-8 years have led to the current crisis of confidence and marginal results. With the CSFB downgrade today:

MSFT Cut to Neutral

it would also appear that analysts (who have been wildy optimistic for the past 5 years despite MSFT's horrific track record) are starting to lose faith - which isn't particularly encouraging.

Anonymous said...

"Markl looked at me that Steve doesn't have the balls to do the right thing."

Very concerning if true.

"He thought that if Steve was going to send this message to the masses, he should first send a crisp message to the partners, that they are going to be held to a higher standard."

That partners are held to a higher standard should be implicit given their pay packages. The fact that there is seemingly some uncertainty surrounding that (or complete disregard of it), is also concerning.

Anonymous said...

Dear "Specific, Actionable, Measurable" poster;

Some of your ideas are really cool. Some are crack smoking.

But more than anything, thanks for posting something positive, specific and action oriented! Awesome.

markl said...

Spotting the real Microsoft employee, on here, was getting abit like a game of "spot the geniune ebay email" until Markl turned up.

But I'm not a Microsoft employee so I think this blog still has that element of "On the internet, no one knows your a dog" to it. Shoot, for all we know, Mini is really Steve, or Jim, or Bill, or Steven, or Antoine, or a Sun employee, or a Google employee, or a DOJ attorney, or a Grad Student doing research...

Shoot, we don't even know this post from markl is really from markl now do we?

Anonymous said...

I don't know how many here will appreciate this Microsoft CES spoof, but here it is anyway: http://www.maclive.net/sid/134

Laugh, it's all in good fun. :)

The Nog said...

Feel free to say tht Windows doesn't have any innovation in it, etc. You don't have any clue.

People in the know make these statements because five years of stagnation after the release of XP allowed media loves like Apple to steal the show. You must admit a large number of features in Vista exist in OS X--Ballmer more or less has (admitting in the past that Microsoft takes cues from competitors).

Windows is technically light-years ahead of any other OS, especially in server space. Sure, we added some glittery UI in Vista, but many people are apparently using only this as their sole comparison metric... :-)

Vista's new APIs like Avalon are neat, but again, the press will point to Quartz released five years ago. You can argue that the public isn't aware of these things, but that means they won't care about it in Vista either. What they'll notice are the plastic visuals and changed Start menu (again?!), but is that enough to excite people over XP? If you polled people, you'd probably find they want XP's security holes patched and little else changed. As for server space, UNIX dominates that front.

I agree with the guy above, Ballmer's overwhelming goal should be getting every man, woman, and child to upgrade their PCs with Vista. It's going to be a tough sell since a hardware upgrade cycle ended last year, and despite all the changes, Vista isn't a must-have release on face value. And the hardware requirements are still too high!

Anonymous said...

I love the list of concrete suggestions. But...

"Specific changes: Give any employee receiving a 3.0 review the option to take 90 days with pay to look for a new position, after which if they don’t find anything within the company they will be laid off and will receive external job placement assistance. Require any employee receiving below a 3.0 to take this option."

If the 3.0s leave, who is going to get the 3.0 next year? Somebody who was a 3.5 this year. And they aren't going to be a 3.0 next year because they aren't working as well, they're going to get a 3.0 because everybody worse than them left. In other words, to make this work, you have to have objective, concrete metrics for saying that someone is a 3.0 or 3.5, rather than merely "Joe is better than Fred."

MSS

Anonymous said...

>Give any employee receiving a 3.0 review the option to take 90 days with pay to look for a new position

Ha. Only if you make rankings contingent on ability and work done instead of brown-nosing, (a.k.a. "visibility") and start canning bad leads wholesale.

Anonymous said...

TCNPPL - is not a complete list.

For eg, it is missing mktg/biz partners. It also contains some architects and pums that don't look like partners based on where they sit

Anonymous said...

I know I won't become a millionaire working at microsoft, that's fine because I don't think that will happend if I work at Google, Sun or no-name startup.

But I do care about doing interesting and challenging technical work with minimum politics. Where are the groups doing interesting work, and can a new hire get into those groups?

I know Windows is out because of it's legacy it can't realy create new and intersting things. MSN is out, because I personally have no interest in web apps. Lots of other groups are out, because I don't care about UI-type stuff. So whose doing the hard-core multi-threaded systems stuff at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

tcnppl doesnt have all the partners. HR is "fatcat central". I have heard there are about hundred partners from HR. Then there is finance, legal and sales.

Anonymous said...

With the double standard of cost cutting in ways which affect those of us in the trenches disproportionately while mainting an elite class out of touch with reasonable compensation linked to results (as expertly demonstrated by the first partner poster on this thread) some of the comments from this article might set a good example of what excellent stewardship of a public comany can look like as well as being a leader to all the employees in your company.

This is from the description of Kinder Morgans executive accountability from the CEO of the Year article on morningstar: http://news.morningstar.com/article/article.asp?id=153027&phsection=Comm3

". . . we're also impressed with the firm's topnotch stewardship. For example, financial disclosure is superb. The firm releases an extremely detailed annual budget each year that sets out its annual goals, and then benchmarks itself against them each quarter as the year progresses. This is the same budget that Kinder Morgan uses internally to assess performance, so there's no possibility of moving the goalposts if the firm has a bad year.

On the compensation side, Kinder Morgan is delightfully free of the corporate frippery--country club memberships, corporate jets, special executive retirement plans--that so many firms hand out to top managers. Base salaries for executives are capped at $200,000 per year, with the bulk of executive compensation coming from performance-related bonuses and restricted stock.

Kinder himself has never received any options or restricted stock--his sizable interest in the company comes from his initial investment and additional shares purchased on the open market--and he receives $1 in salary. Since the firm's unusual structure as a master limited partnership means that it must pass through the bulk of its income as distributions to shareholders, Kinder's compensation increases only if distributions to shareholders increase as well. That's the kind of strong alignment with shareholder interests that we like to see.

Given Kinder's strong track record of judicious capital allocation, it's perhaps no surprise that he sets a cost-conscious example for employees by doing things like flying coach and staying at cheap hotels. (When one of our analysts went to Kinder Morgan's annual analyst day last year, he reported back that dinner was barbecue and Michelob al fresco, rather than steak and Cabernet in a fancy restaurant.)

Kinder summed up his attitude in an interview last year with The Wall Street Journal: "Our goal is getting everybody to think, 'How would I spend the money if it was my money?' Most CEOs try to sell that message to their people. But when you are out in the field trying to get them enthused about watching costs and then they see you get in a chauffeur-driven limousine back to the Kinder Morgan jet, they are just going to laugh you off."


But I'm skeptical that the current leaders of the company choose ethics over their pocketbooks (I wish they would prove me wrong).

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that you are severely delusional or just outright ignorant. Not a system administer, are you? The difference between a Solaris box and Windows in an enterprise server environment is the difference between using a Bic lighter and two sticks to start a fire.

Very plastic comparison, but unfortunately irrelevant in the current discussion. I would like to point you to a wonderful site - slashdot.org - where you might want to practice your argumentation skills a little bit more.

Anonymous said...

Re: After watching our performance over these last few years, and watching our current accountability crisis, I have a feeling that Markl's idea was a good one...


A friend of mine in Finance told me that his manager sat in on a financial-related con call in which the former CFO John Connors reportedly said something along the lines of "There are too many guys making too much money at the top who don't contribute." Completely hearsay on my part, but I wonder if John saw something coming. He seemed like a very sharp and astute guy and gave an awesome speech. I think Chris Liddell is quite impressive as well and can probably hold his own with Bill/Steve.

Anonymous said...

should we all quit en masse

Anonymous said...

The "tcnppl" alias is for something else, but certainly does list a LOT of partners. But it also has some VPs and higher ups like Eric Rudder and Gerri Elliott. Still there are lots. The other method is to check for those GM types and L68 people around you that you suspect of being a partner and check for their membership in "Partner Briefings" which will tell you. I didn't see Charles Fitzgerald in "tcnppl" but he's a partner...and one I've known for years...has done NOTHING in fact at times really screwed the pooch or pissed off customers royally. I don't buy the "I've earned my stripes" argument. MSFT is very much a "what have you done for me lately" culture at the IC level even if you did good stuff in the past, you get paid to continue to do good stuff at your level of stewardship. If that means you get rewarded well, that means you must do more good stuff. The "earned stripes" argument is just another form of elitism and the good ol' boy protectionism. I agree, a good culling of partners and middle management is needed, but fear that instead what is more likely is that Lisa will feel comfortable with getting rid of a bunch of ICs show a little cost improvement, but ultimately lose a bunch of people that really have the passion and ideas to take MSFT into the future. I mean honestly, if the partners had "it" wouldn't they have come up with something already?

Anonymous said...

>> Windows is technically light-years ahead of any other OS,
>> especially in server space.

Scary thing is that many internal people who have never used a real UNIX system in an enterprise environment fall victim to our own marketing. Some pretty serious people, too. They claim the superiority of Windows in server environment and when you ask them about their UNIX experience it turns out that they don't have any.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that this is the verbatim language from a complaint in a recent class action discrimination suit...

"Microsoft's policies are not applied uniformly or fairly. The
Corporation's written and unwritten policies and practices regarding promotions do not require posting of all
positions, but allow “management nomination" or “management discretion” which amounts to little more than word
of mouth recommendations, and other closed procedures, including the use of a high-potential list. Jobs are filled
without being posted, candidates are handpicked in advance, and supervisors who make hiring decisions disregard
the results of panel interviews and manipulate circumstances in order to ensure that their favorites are chosen."

Hmm...closed procedures, including the use of a high-potential list. Based on this blog, it would seem like there is at least some basis in the complaint. BTW, MSFT won.

I'm guessing that there is a fair representation of women on the partner alias due to MSN, HR, Legal, Sales, etc. but perhaps not.

Anonymous said...

"Its okay for a company to have flat stock as long as it is making a profit. A stock price is based on a lot of hoo ha. Microsoft is built to last. We have to slow down a bit, get better processes in - there is goign to be some turmoil when it goes through this"

Huh? Shareholders are invested in MSFT to make money not to provide a comfortable environment for MSFT employees to self-actualize. Sure, you can get away with a flat or even down year now and again, but flat over more than three consecutive years while the general market is up 60%+? All the while paying out one of the largest aggregate compensation levels in the industry? No way. Keep it up and shareholders will finally revolt, the stock will go to the teens and the new mgt team that comes in will start off with wholesale firings - probably starting at your level.

Anonymous said...

"We "fat cats" in upper management will manage the heck out of it and ship it for you so all you need to worry about is code, bugs, and free soda pop."

Well, Mr/Ms. Partner, Let me enlighten you on a few things:
1. The first and foremost thing as you already mentioned in your comment was how you are underpaid. Well guess what: You want to earn more and guess how you will do it: By playing politics with other "partners" within the company by making sure that your product does not get cut and by stepping over other groups toes so that when you "succeed" (or your definition of succeed) you can ask your manager for that fat bonus so that you can get over the $5m hump faster -- must be a hard life.

2. After doing the above, you will force the people under you to go meet your "vision". You will pretend to take feedback from your minions and dismiss most of it so that they can drive towards your goals and what you think is right (because you are working so close to the metal these days I am sure you know exactly what is goes on). But of course you are involved with all specs and implementation and testing.

3. Your minions will follow and then of course realize that as expected things are not going to get done, but they will continue to drive and you will continue to ride them.

4. Once something goes wrong (as you have once again pointed out in your comment), you will take some blame for it, but then you will want to cover yourself by blaming everyone around you because all of them screwed up too. Of course when it all comes to a head -- you will meet with your other partner buddies and set some arbitrary deadline so that Bill and Steve dont fire you or give you "peanuts" for your bonus just so that you can meet some market date to minimize losses and in the process mislead customers and make them think that they are getting something far better (when really its just a glorified service pack).

5. After that you and your partner buddies will continue to have meetings (and play political games) and on the other hand you will tell your minions that "we need to do better", "we have problems and we will work on them", "we need to have more visibility" while none of what is ever discussed behind closed doors will ever get out because visibility to you means: "Hey review time is here and here are my goals for the next review period".

Believe me Mr. Partner, I know you think you paid your dues and at one time you were a minion (when I was still in high school or diapers or whatever), but things are just a bit different now and you cannot compare apples to oranges.

Anonymous said...

So whose doing the hard-core multi-threaded systems stuff at Microsoft.

Join Development Tools org, you may fit in .NET CLR, debugger or IIS.

Specific, Actionable, Measurable said...

"If the 3.0s leave, who is going to get the 3.0 next year? Somebody who was a 3.5 this year. ..."

Do we want a lean, mean Microsoft or not? This would go a long way toward making Microsoft smaller.

Admittedly, if we cut that much, we would likely need to:

1) Start hiring more new people.
2) Tweak the curve so that only 15% get a 3.0 score.
3) Fix the review system so that it doesn't favor the brown-nosers.

...or, given a couple review cycles, the managers that favor brown-nosers end up with teams that have no productive ICs and find that they can't meet their goals anymore and the review system might fix itself.

Would anyone like to take a stab at a specific set of review reform suggestions?

For starters:

Problem: Performance reviews are arbitrary and are determined by politics more often than by actual achievements.
Suggestions: Make stack ranking a result of reviews, not the other way around. Use 360 reviews with fairly selected reviewers and require them to review based on deliverables. Give the reviewers a review-feedback score.
Specific Changess:
1. Fire any manager who debates or agrees on a stack ranking before the reviews are written by their reports.
2. Use 360 degree reviews. The manager selects 3 "peers", the report selects 3 "peers", and 3 people are randomly selected from other divisions in the company for an independent view.
3. The report and the manager both provide each reviewer with a set of review-feedback scores designed to help reviewers give more useful and honest feedback.
4. Give 360 degree reviewers access to all deliverables, self-review and commitments. Require the reviewers to base their review on what was achieved.
Measurement:
Gripes on minimsft about the review system drop to nil.


...and for the other responder, yes, some ideas are crack-smoking. I only hope they get someone thinking about the problems in new ways, or at least made someone laugh.

Anonymous said...

CSGs are often too timid and allow themselves to be abused.

Some managers hold the carrot of a FTE position and hint that if the CSG works off-the-books overtime that they have a better chance of going blue.

As a FTE, I was horribly embarassed to see this happen and have shown several CSGs, who were being coerced into working unpaid overtime, the Washington State Law on unpaid overtime. They still refused to say anything because of either the carrots or the threats that managers held over them.

After L58s were demoted from salary to hourly (before the Windows STE layoff), some managers tried to coerce hourly FTEs to work unpaid overtime too.

I pray that this isn't the case across the company. At a minimum, in Windows we have a few managers trading short-term gains for the risk of a class-action lawsuit.

On the flip-side, I know a number of former FTEs turned CSG who love life now that they are freed from the politics and performance review BS.

Anonymous said...

From a previous post by Mini:

"Brummel's listening tour: The kind of changes being discussed are big, really big -.."

Mini - Would you please at least hint at what kind of changes are being planned? This will help those who would be affected negatively to jump ship a little earlier. Rather being part of a 5000 people lay off, which will make finding a job hard outside MSFT.

This will make MSFT leaner, even before the changes are implemented (assuming the changes involve some kind of layoffs among ICs).

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

>> I don't know how many here will appreciate this Microsoft CES spoof

I bet not many. Many MSFT folks sincerely believe that Vista is not a blatant rip-off of Mac OS X Tiger. Heck, 90% of them have never used a Mac and will believe whatever corporate cool aid they drink on any given day.

Anonymous said...

Give any employee receiving a 3.0 review the option to take 90 days with pay to look for a new position

Ha. Only if you make rankings contingent on ability and work done instead of brown-nosing, (a.k.a. "visibility") and start canning bad leads wholesale.


Stack ranking is a cost cutting curve. If you get 3.0's, take a closer look at the sheet showing your annual salary if you have received more than one.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about partner benefits has made me think. I now understand what the P in CPE really means :-)

Anonymous said...

What a mess. There is no easy way to fix this problem without getting rid of a good number of partners.

Anonymous said...

Middle management's role is to buffer the upper management from lower level people. One cant cull middle management without culling upper management. Most likely, nothing will get fixed. Lisa Brummel will probably do some lip service after the listening tour and hire some more HR generalists to "fix" middle management and add new review processes. Partners will get the special 450K to 1 million bonus as suggested in this blog.

Anonymous said...

"A friend of mine in Finance told me that his manager sat in on a financial-related con call in which the former CFO John Connors reportedly said something along the lines of "There are too many guys making too much money at the top who don't contribute." Completely hearsay on my part, but I wonder if John saw something coming. He seemed like a very sharp and astute guy and gave an awesome speech. I think Chris Liddell is quite impressive as well and can probably hold his own with Bill/Steve."

I had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions and he was a class act all the way not to mention very capable. So would have a hard time seeing him say something like this in an open forum but no problem seeing him thinking it. Of all the people who've left, his departure concerned me the most and made me think that perhaps folks smarter/closer to the source also think that we're not on the right path for future success and worse, that getting on the right path isn't possible (either politically or actually). He also vested and sold his remaining shares when he left vs holding them, which raised an additional concern given how bullish he always appeared to be. But perhaps that was a requirement for his new posting so that he wouldn't have a real/perceived bias. In any event, big loss for MSFT regardless of Liddell's competence.

Anonymous said...

Any doubt we're being hunted?

New! Download the essentials to make your PC just work: http://pack.google.com/

Anonymous said...

He felt that Microsoft would get along just fine with a random 50% culling of the partners, and that the impact this would have on the remaining partners would be a hard core wakeup call and they would likely step up and perform at the level that they should perform at.

Not going to happen. Senior management would rather have partners asleep in their offices instead of working for the competition.

Anonymous said...

What hasn't been mentioned here yet is that Partners are subject to a different performance review curve then the rest of us. At 68+ only 5-10% are required to get a 3.0 rating, compared to 25-30% at lower levels.

There is actually less accountability for these 'leaders' who are reaping the large rewards of $1m+ per year compensation.

Anonymous said...

Specific changes: Give any employee receiving a 3.0 review the option to take 90 days with pay to look for a new position, after which if they don’t find anything within the company they will be laid off and will receive external job placement assistance

Followed by:


1) Start hiring more new people.
2) Tweak the curve so that only 15% get a 3.0 score.


Let me say this: How many of you would join a company where there is a 15% chance that you will be laid off in any given year, just due to performance reasons (not counting other factors like market conditions etc.)?.

For me, MSFT of the 90's - Yes I will take the chance. Today's MSFT - No. The risk is not worth the reward. People at the IC level take a paycut to join MSFT today because of the job stability. If that is gone, there is no incentive really, unless MSFT pays at the 95th percentile or something.

You cannot have an entire company of just stars and superstars unless the company has at most a few hundred people. (stars and superstarts being relative terms in themselves).

I think laying off or spinning off entire loss making divisions along with their expensive partners should make the company leaner and more focused.

Anonymous said...

I bet not many. Many MSFT folks sincerely believe that Vista is not a blatant rip-off of Mac OS X Tiger. Heck, 90% of them have never used a Mac and will believe whatever corporate cool aid they drink on any given day.

I know someone involved in Windows UI who purchased a Mac for the specific purpose of 'analyzing' it and boasted about the purchase as a point of cleverness. Sorry.

Specific, Actionable, Measurable said...

"Let me say this: How many of you would join a company where there is a 15% chance that you will be laid off in any given year, just due to performance reasons (not counting other factors like market conditions etc.)?."

To clarify my original suggestion, I just suggest that we make it easy for 3.0 performers to find a better fit and/or leave the company. I wasn't suggesting that we fire everyone who gets a 3.0, only those who get lower than a 3.0.

That said, I really like your suggestion that we lay-off or spin-off entire un-profitable divisions.

Anonymous said...

To people who say that Vista has copied the features from Mac Tiger:

Microsoft is pathetically slow and risk averse at the middle management. I have seen so many new features proposed to general managers and they cite business reasons not to get them implemented. They are afraid of experimenting. I have seen some of the Vista features suggested even before xp. Clearly, these GM can't keep their cards close to their chest. They spill the beans - that itself is a part of the business execution - so that other competitors do the experiments for them. Microsoft officially was talking about desktop search being integrated into OS years earlier than tiger. They infact wanted to have the first desktop search tool and beaten by google. I do not think it was either google or apple idea to have the desktop search. Both Apple and Google execution seems to be better than ours and they implemented these features sooner than us.

Also, copy-cat seems to be a image dependent label. In last five years in the tech industry the biggest example of copy-cat is your favorite innovator. Yes, Google. When google does that it is called "perfecting" not "copying". Google copied the whole of overture (now yahoo) ad-placement model. Overture showed how to make money via ad placement in search engines. Before that only dream Eric Shmidt had was to make google an acquisition target of msft. That was true as late as 2002. Read Battelle's book. Google officially accepted to this copying and paid 350 Million worth of stock to yahoo (which infact sold it for more than 750 million). But you know what jouranlist, you and me say for google success -- ad model invented by overture but "perfected" by google. Instead of saying ad model invented by overture and "copied" by google. This ad model is the single best reason behind google's billions.

Anonymous said...

>Any doubt we're being hunted?

Are you sure that's the disease, and not the symptom? Microsoft's leadership has already stated in no uncertain terms that they're going to hunt (and "f'ing kill") Google. At this point, something like this is just as much a defensive measure as it is an offensive one.

And let's be perfectly honest, Microsoft's biggest enemy isn't Google. It's Microsoft. Google can only take down Microsoft through the same way Microsoft nearly destroyed IBM -- gross mismanagement and arrogance.

Go ahead and tilt at the windmill of Google (or Linux or whoever is the enemy next year), but don't forget it was you that brought the war to their turf, not the other way around. Maybe it was always Google's intention to challenge Microsoft, perhaps it wasn't, but remember who fired the first shot.

Anonymous said...

You do know that Exchange can have hidden aliases, don't you? While "tcnppl" might be a valid sub-partner alias, it's likely the real list of partners isn't comprised in an e-mail alias.

Not that you shouldn't be trying to find these partners, but that the e-mail alias strategy might not get you all that you want.

Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

"Not going to happen. Senior management would rather have partners asleep in their offices instead of working for the competition."

Have to admit, I find this difficult to understand. As a former employee, I was generally impressed with the company and its people. Yes, there were too many tenured rest-and-vest performers and inexperienced/weak middle managers who confused their net worth with their ability. But senior management was almost uniformly solid, focused and prided themselves on being hardcore and even penny-pinching. Now it seems that Gates and Ballmer will spare no expense to keep partners in the style they became accustomed to back in the go go 90's regardless of visible performance problems and MSFT's declining growth. WTF is up with that? If MSFT has a bunch of partners who want to sleep in their offices rather than perform, then Ballmer should be only too happy to help them continue doing so - only at a competitor's facility and on their tab. What happened to hardcore? What happened to pay for performance? What happened to execution and happy customers? What happened to the pride most of us had in kicking competitors butt vs getting kicked and lately, even fearing them? In short, someone bring back the old MSFT - this one's an impostor!

Anonymous said...

Admittedly, if we cut that much, we would likely need to:

1) Start hiring more new people.

> best of luck in doing that. top guns are sitting on roadside curbs waiting to be picked up by MSFT.

2) Tweak the curve so that only 15% get a 3.0 score.

> this probably makes sense. you need to cull the partners first for this to work. otherwise people the partners and their buddys dont like will get trimmed

3) Fix the review system so that it doesn't favor the brown-nosers.

> not possible without culling partners. there are many ole boy/gal gangs with people in similar reporting structures for many years. things like I give you 4.0 or 3.5 and you dont write negative stuff about me in manager review are common.

Anonymous said...

>That said, I really like your suggestion that we lay-off or spin-off entire un-profitable divisions.

It sounds good on paper. What would that leave MS? Windows, Office, DevDiv, and ...? Can't forment change if you're no longer part of the team.

Let's then say that we re-start all of our attempts at expanding into other markets and mandate they be profitable within N years. This touches off what? Ultra-tight finances meaning a small personnel budget (i.e. too few people for the job) and bare-bones equipment, training, bonus, and morale budgets. Co-ordination gives way to internecine warfare as groups try to foist off work items and accounting charges on each other. Job stability for non-profitable businesses vanishes as people are forced to leap from one failed business to the next attempt or try to scrabble their way into one of the profitable ones. Of course, the management chain will ride people like a horse to squeeze enough productivity to scrape their way to profitiability.

Yeah, sign me up...to go to Google.

Anonymous said...

>> Microsoft officially was talking about desktop search being integrated into OS years earlier than tiger

Of course Microsoft was "talking". Apple patented desktop search very thoroughly back in 2000. Search USPTO, see for yourself. They've even patented "search as you type" and search from voice input. I bet we're even paying royalties in some shape or form.

Anonymous said...

To the "we've invented desktop search but Google and Apple stole it from us" guy - check out patent 6,847,959 at USPTO. Filed January 2000. Makes a very entertaining read.

Anonymous said...

"Let me say this: How many of you would join a company where there is a 15% chance that you will be laid off in any given year, just due to performance reasons (not counting other factors like market conditions etc.)?."

To clarify my original suggestion, I just suggest that we make it easy for 3.0 performers to find a better fit and/or leave the company. I wasn't suggesting that we fire everyone who gets a 3.0, only those who get lower than a 3.0.


Managers don't want employees who consistently get 3.0's.

They will not find a "better fit".

This is how "layoffs" work at Microsoft. People are given an "opportunity" to find a "better fit".

You need to take a closer look at the distribution of review scores.

Here is one person's estimation of the percentage of 3.0's handed out.

At 68+ only 5-10% are required to get a 3.0 rating, compared to 25-30% at lower levels.

If this is true, you are effectively suggesting that Microsoft fires %30 of its workforce every year.

Your suggestion is absurd.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft shuts down controversial Chinese blogger

"Microsoft Corp. has followed the request of the Chinese government and shut down the internet journal of a blogger who discussed politically sensitive issues."

I think this story illustrates the problem with Microsoft.

Poof! There goes the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Microsoft needs more competition.

That is the only way to effect change in the company. They are not feeling enough pressure yet from competitors to make real changes. So far, we only have "listening" from Lisa Brummel.

Anonymous said...

If MSFT has a bunch of partners who want to sleep in their offices rather than perform, then Ballmer should be only too happy to help them continue doing so - only at a competitor's facility and on their tab. What happened to hardcore?

Senior management is afraid they will "wake up" at a competitor's facility especially if they are fired.

"Hardcore" is what happens when someone with enough ability (political and otherwise) is fired and they want to show their former employer what they're missing.

Microsoft doesn't want to provide the wrong kind of motivation to their partners.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's biggest enemy isn't Google

The more of Mini-Microsoft that I read, the more I feel that Google is the best thing that's happened to Microsoft in a long time.

Anyone reading this blog around when we were competing against Lotus? How about Word Perfect? How about IBM's OS/2, or Netscape, Palm, etc. All of the competition from these companies ended making us (Microsoft) stronger with better designs and development techniques. I believe that Microsoft strives on competition -- remember how we "turned on a dime" for the Internet revolution? We went from having apps that didn't know what a socket was to ones that "extended and embraced" the Internet. Personally, I think that having Google (and the revitalized Apple) around will give us the kick in the ass we so desperately need after somewhat of a complacent 90's.

Anyone out there still running Lotus 1-2-3 on OS/2?

Anonymous said...

> "Hardcore" is what happens when someone with enough ability (political and otherwise) is fired and they want to show their former employer what they're missing.

Microsoft doesn't want to provide the wrong kind of motivation to their partners.


Yeah right. Fat cat according to dictionary.com is

fat cat
n. Slang
A wealthy and highly privileged person.
A wealthy person who is a heavy contributor to a political campaign.

Many of the partners ( read 90% or higher ) would still be sleeping in their offices if they got re-leveled to L65.

Anonymous said...

This is the microsoft invented desktop search guy. First, read my comment carefully, I did not say microsoft invented desktop search. Microsoft was talking about it years before tiger - that's what I said. Second, as a microsoft employee I am not supposed to read the other companies patents without legal permission. But, as far as my understanding of the patent system goes, one can't patent the abstract idea. Somebody patented desktop search is absurd. It is like somebody patented the cryptography, or media player or web browser etc. So apple patented the desktop search probably means that they patented one way of implementing it. It does not mean they were the first to suggest the desktop search. Google probably had patented another way of doing desktop search, etc. It is absurd to suggest that apple invented desktop search on the basis of their one patent. It is like some company has patented that software must be run on pc to make pc useful. Correct me if I am wrong - Microsoft did beat Apple in implementing desktop search. I think I have been using microsoft desktop search before tiger. It could be a different thread altogether but I think microsoft desktop search is very competetive.

Microsoft was beaten by Google, which itself was beaten by some small company aquired by yahoo, in the market and there were repercussions to mostly partner level employees. BTW, I am the same guy who has praised apple in many other posts. But generalization like, apple and google invent and microsoft copies are wrong. As I already said, the biggest copying in the last five years in the tech industry is google copying overture business model. Even apple is copying the abstract concept of media edition operating system.

Microsoft is among the biggest innovator behind IBM and may be few others. The whole technology industry gains from microsoft innovation because microsoft does not enforce its innovation. IMHO, microsoft is willing to have cross licensing agreement with equally big players and does not sue small players for using our innovation. But this could change and then you will see another reason for many to hate microsoft and microsoft to make another billion.

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of making positive suggestions:

The review model is busted, but forcing people to meet a curve is valuable because otherwise wishy-washy managers would give everyone 3.5 or 4.0s (telling someone they got a 3.0 is not fun). But giving someone a 3.0 when the did good work is frustrating and makes me feel slimy.

Solution: Adjust the curve for each team based on how well they did on their project. If the team kicked ass, they get lots of 4.0s and no 3.0's. If the team sucked ass, they get no 4.0s and lots of 3.0s. Getting the measurment of team success right and keeping weasels from gaming it will be hard, but it's doable, especially if it's strongly based on objective measurements. Accuracy in scheduling, number of bugs, and customer sat are good metrics to start with.

The idea is - if you are part of a team that comes in on time with something of high quality that your customers like, you'll get a much better review score than if you're on a team that drags it's ass across the finish line three years late trailing a boatload of bugs behind and pissing off customers from the moment the start the install.

Anonymous said...

Here is a little quiz for you. Check out the executive staff alias. Every exec in this alias is a partner. Ask yourself if you would go work for any exec in this alias if they started their own company or went to some other company. Bill and Steve are exceptions. If you answered yes, ask your best buddy at Microsoft if he would work for the same person.

If you get two yes votes, you have a partner who is worth the millions that is being paid.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft strives on competition -- remember how we "turned on a dime" for the Internet revolution?


And then the DOJ turned on a dime. After that, it became a lot less fun. No doubt Apple and Google will give us a kick in the ass though. Back in the day we were fighting to mint millionaires. Today we're fighting for our lives.

Anonymous said...

If this is true, you are effectively suggesting that Microsoft fires %30 of its workforce every year.

Your suggestion is absurd.


Your logic is flawed - 3.0s aren't universally fired, 30% of the workforce thus isn't turned over per year, and yes Dorothy, 68+ people have a curve that requires very few 3.0s.

TheKhalif said...

Anyone reading this blog around when we were competing against Lotus? How about Word Perfect? How about IBM's OS/2, or Netscape, Palm, etc. All of the competition from these companies ended making us (Microsoft) stronger with better designs and development techniques. I believe that Microsoft strives on competition -- remember how we "turned on a dime" for the Internet revolution?


In all the time I used Netscape, there was no news of "incedibly destructive" flaws. The Windows monopoly is what defeated the other products. MS pressed the advantage so perfectly that the gov't had to get involved. Unfortunately, it was too late. There will never be a successful "retail" browser whether IE sucks or not.
Google and MS aren't even in the same market space so there should be no competition. It could perhaps be just designed to rouse the kool aid drinkers. But at any rate, can you get them to turn on a dime and release a VS2005 Service Pack?

Anonymous said...

I worked at Microsoft and I have had ups and downs as far as the reviews are concerned.

When I first started at Microsoft 9 years ago, I found that the review system was well thought out relative to other companies. For example in my first year I didnt really do much since we were constantly getting reorganized and I went thru 3 managers in 8 months. I got a 3.0 and I took that in stride since I couldnt really say I accomplished much. I was told that there are two reviews: past performance and future potential. On past performance I didnt get a chance to deliver and on future potential I didnt screw up yet. So I got no reward for past work but was well rewarded for future potential (i.e. options). And in those days that is what really mattered. Salaries pay the rent and options offer the potential for riches. You work like a dog and things would work themselves out.

Well things have changed: you work like a dog and you get kicked around like a dog and the dogs snap at each others for little treats, that's life at Microsoft

Anonymous said...

"I believe that Microsoft strives on competition -- remember how we "turned on a dime" for the Internet revolution? We went from having apps that didn't know what a socket was to ones that "extended and embraced" the Internet. Personally, I think that having Google (and the revitalized Apple) around will give us the kick in the ass we so desperately need after somewhat of a complacent 90's."

I think you mean "thrives" and agree, but don't see that as the positive that you seemingly do. What it underscores imo is that MSFT is primarily a reactive, competitor-focused entity vs a proactive, customer-focused one. Because of that, it has often been late to catch new industry trends not the least of which is the internet one you characterize as a success but in reality was very nearly a total failure to spot and catch a major industry shift. The resulting desperation saw MSFT engage in actions later deemed illegal with untold legal, financial, credibility repercussions and ongoing sanctions that continue to haunt the company to this day. Worse, when MSFT finally did win, it went back to sleep and let IE stagnate, thereby opening the door to Firefox and others who have now taken 10% marketshare in just over a year. This was unconscionably stupid after risking the entire company to win that marketshare initially.

MSFT really needs to take a look at why it's so consistently late in catching new industry trends be it internet, search, web apps, software as a service, etc. In the past, MSFT exerted enough control and the industry was moving slowly enough that catch up was always possible. Increasingly, that doesn't appear to be the case although MSFT's current management seems to think that all the old tricks will still work and keeps getting surprised when they don't. Focus on the customer, innovation, and execution (vs the competition and defending the legacy cash cows) and let competitors focus on reacting to you - that's MSFT only hope for continued future dominance. I'm not optimistic unless there's a major change at the top - see a [competitive] bear, shoot a bear and then coast is too ingrained in Gates/Ballmer and the other LT'ers...

Anonymous said...

If you want to see how quickly insiders are turning over their stock, type in symbol MSFT in Yahoo Finance and click on Insider Transactions. Fun.

Anonymous said...

In the same yahoo finance check out the insider trading for Microsoft's competitors. Microsoft's insider trading is way less pessimistic than others.

Number of insider stock sold as a percentage of the total insider stock.

MSFT - 3.3%
YHOO - 5.0%
GOOG - 8.3%
AAPL - 20.6%

Insider hardly purchase their own company's stock no matter how bullish they are - this is just investing 101. Insider always give a bearish signal - because they have to sell their stock for one reason or the other. In this respect if you see MSFT insiders are giving the least bearish signal. Keeping aside bill gates trading, who is on pre-decided selling schedule, many insiders at msft execute their old options because otherwise these option would expire. But if you see, apple insiders are giving the most pessimistic signal. Even worse, apple selling is being done by their senior vice presidents.

Anonymous said...

>> Correct me if I am wrong - Microsoft did beat Apple in
>> implementing desktop search

Correcting - Tiger betas were available before MSN Desktop search came out.

Anonymous said...

If this is true, you are effectively suggesting that Microsoft fires %30 of its workforce every year.

Your suggestion is absurd.


Your logic is flawed - 3.0s aren't universally fired, 30% of the workforce thus isn't turned over per year, and yes Dorothy, 68+ people have a curve that requires very few 3.0s.


Forcing everyone with a 3.0 will result in many of those people getting fired. You can see the attitude here on this blog that people assigned a 3.0 are "not worthy".

Given the relatively high percentage of people who get a 3.0, your suggestion of causing that churn on purpose is still absurd.

Anonymous said...

Getting the measurment of team success right and keeping weasels from gaming it will be hard, but it's doable, especially if it's strongly based on objective measurements. Accuracy in scheduling, number of bugs, and customer sat are good metrics to start with.

Which objective measurements?

As far as the number of bugs go, games are already played with "severity" and not all areas of the product are tested equally so the number of bugs is not an objective measure.

I had a development lead who had all of his bugs resolved as "issues" instead of "defects".

Anonymous said...

MSFT really needs to take a look at why it's so consistently late in catching new industry trends be it internet, search, web apps, software as a service, etc. In the past, MSFT exerted enough control and the industry was moving slowly enough that catch up was always possible. Increasingly, that doesn't appear to be the case although MSFT's current management seems to think that all the old tricks will still work and keeps getting surprised when they don't.

Senior management is copying what is released by competitors successfully as a strategy. They don't want to be out front as illustrated by an earlier posting:

Isn't it just safer for a partner to wait until some other company comes up with an idea after it has proven to be successful in the market place?

It appears you've forgotten the old adage: "Pioneers get the arrows; settlers get the land."

Anonymous said...

"If the 3.0s leave, who is going to get the 3.0 next year? Somebody who was a 3.5 this year. ..."

Do we want a lean, mean Microsoft or not? This would go a long way toward making Microsoft smaller.


Your basic assumption is that everyone with a 3.0 actually deserved it.

You would have to fix the stack ranking system before you fired everyone with a 3.0 (which by definition is someone who is doing their job).

Anonymous said...

RE:
MSFT - 3.3%
YHOO - 5.0%
GOOG - 8.3%
AAPL - 20.6%


Uhh, in most of those cases I would suggest it's people cashing in on their companies' successes...uhh..all except for one...cough cough...

Specific, Actionable, Measurable said...

"Given the relatively high percentage of people who get a 3.0, your suggestion of causing that churn on purpose is still absurd."

If we accept mini's assertation that Microsoft is too fat and lazy then high churn, at least temporarily, is a solution.

Either way, if you think my suggestion sucks, please provide an alternate suggestion.

I freely admit that some of my ideas are, as someone else suggested, "crack-smoking". At least I am suggesting something.

Who da'Punk said...

Holy poo on a flaming popsicle! Okay, I have an information rich comment that I'm going to decline to post.

It seems to be a list of high-level people (about 450) along with their levels.

As long as I'm moderating, that's not a line I want to cross. Now then, if you go and create a quick, anonymous blog and post that information (even, perhaps as the one and only post) I don't mind linking to it... I just don't want to be the one pulling up the skirt here.

Sorry.

Anonymous said...

"That said, I really like your suggestion that we lay-off or spin-off entire un-profitable divisions.

It sounds good on paper. What would that leave MS? Windows, Office, DevDiv, and ...? Can't forment change if you're no longer part of the team.
"

Why does MSN need to be a division? Perhaps it could be run more profitably as an external company that MSFT just has a majority stake in.

Yes, it sounds good on paper and probably sucks in reality, but I would love to have the option of investing in Xbox stock without owning Office too.

Anonymous said...

"Which objective measurements?

As far as the number of bugs go, games are already played with "severity" and not all areas of the product are tested equally so the number of bugs is not an objective measure.
"

Gaming the system is a problem.

The only measures that I really like are "customer satisfaction one year after shipping" and "profit", but they only apply to teams that ship a product and they delay measurement by quite a while.

We could add in measurements of number of changes required between code complete and ship, and again for sustained engineering, but that would require a lot more management overhead and it starts to treat people like cogs.

Mini - I think we need large discussion on objective measurements.

Anonymous said...

I am a partner as well, and the money figures being thrown around are complete crap. Maybe in the "old days" people made that kind of money, or maybe some of us are just getting screwed, but noway am I making 350K a year with $1m in stock. HA. I wish.

People -- partner is not that glamorous. I wish it were!

Anonymous said...

"Given the relatively high percentage of people who get a 3.0, your suggestion of causing that churn on purpose is still absurd."

If we accept mini's assertation that Microsoft is too fat and lazy then high churn, at least temporarily, is a solution.

Either way, if you think my suggestion sucks, please provide an alternate suggestion.


One option is to first get the employees competitive spirit focused on the market place instead of each other.

In addition to performance based compensation for individual achievement, provide performance based compensation for team achievement.

You can base the amount awarded to various aspects of a project:

1) Meeting milestone deadlines that the team sets - They are the ones doing the work. If management higher up adjusts their schedule so they have less time, management will be responsible in part for the team not meeting a deadline. It will result in a certain percentage being deducted from their manager's performance based compensation.

2) The percentage of features implemented by a team out of those originally in the schedule - This is based upon the assumption that sufficient market research has been done to indicate that the features are actually wanted by customers.

etc.

I would put more weight on the team component of the performance based compensation. I believe that would take some of the "poison" out of the workplace.

You can use your peer review suggestion to make management aware of people that aren't pulling their weight in a project for whatever reason (e.g. ability, health problems, burn out, etc.).

You can adjust the distribution of the stack ranking curve based upon how closely the team met their goals of completing their work.

Anonymous said...

To the guy that mentioned how long MSFT was talking about desktop search, so in effect they take the claim...

Talk is talk. Nothing else. To me, the fact that MSFT talked for so long without action shows that as far as they were concerned, it was a pie-in-the-sky idea. It took other people to show that it was actually doable!

Imagine for a moment that the guys at NASA talked for years about space travel for normal people. Now we have private companies that are setting up the entire space travel industry. Should NASA get the credit for that, just because they talked?

No.

If they were supposed to get the credit, just like you imply that MSFT should for talking about desktop search for years, surely there'll be a shit fight for who gets the credit for teleportation if it ever becomes a reality!

Anonymous said...

Suggestions to improve Microsoft are great, but we are past the recovery point. I'm thinking that we are going down a spiral never to come back.

I was a developer in MBS and saw project after project developed for three years and then getting canned without any consideration. The management is totally clueless as to how to unify the multiple ERP applications that we bought, Great Plains, Navision and Solomon. On top of it we have a small business accouting, point-of-sale, human resources and CRM applications. Also we have a bunch of old bCentral.com applications hanging out of Boston. Project Green is an unmitigated disaster. MBS is one place where you will find GMs reporting to GMs and Directors reporting to Directors.

Most of it is because of the refusal of Fargo to integrate with Redmond culture. And Doug Burgum played a big role in it. Though he is out of the picture now, he is still the chairman and can wreak havoc if wants to. The only good thing that Doug Burgum gave Microsoft is to think more about the Customer. But definitely not to the level it is being hyped up. The whole CPE (Customer Partner Experience) is a scam which made many of the Great Plains Marketing/Sales folks rich. I'm pretty sure the recent brainless name change from MBS to "Microsoft Dynamics" wasted millions of dollars to a market research company. When I said "Microsoft Business Solutions", people were able to recognize and ask me, "Is that ERP?" Now you say "I work in Microsoft Dynamics?" Also Great Plains previously had a product called Great Plains Dynamics which was later renamed to MBS Dynamics and now it is called what? Dynamics Dynamics? Someone made their day with this name change.

I heard from one of the Great Plains Marketing person that we bought Great Plains because Steve Ballmer and Doug Burgum were roommates in college. If that is true, Microsoft is doomed.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, I don't know if MS is doomed. But for a large multi-BILLION dollar company, you sure have a lot of sheep.

How come you powerful, rich, techie high-IQ, brash, confident people can't figure out how to turn it around?

You realize your competitorS (plural) are running rings around you, and you're not responding?

You realize that you are shipping Windows XP Plus3-or-so, and OfficeXP+ a snazzy new UI and corporate features that mean squat to Joe User?

Have you lost your voices? I remember the days in the 90s where we had demos of upcoming products, and normal employees stood up to lambaste brainless features or decisions.

Where are those people now? Why are you all so quiet?

Sheep, I tell you.

Baa baa baa.

Bah.

Anonymous said...

To the guy that mentioned how long MSFT was talking about desktop search, so in effect they take the claim...

Talk is talk. Nothing else. To me, the fact that MSFT talked for so long without action shows that as far as they were concerned, it was a pie-in-the-sky idea. It took other people to show that it was actually doable!


Hey guys, you can argue all day,but everybody knows that Apple quickly added Spotlight in Tiger in response to the WinFS. Bill Gates started to evangelize to the unified desktop search experience since 1999-2000. i can search for all these talks if you want.

Anyway, too bad that WinFS turned out to be wrong. If people are saying that Apple are the innovators as shipping desktop search before us, then I think we deserve that...

Anonymous said...

In an ideal world, the truly outstanding MSFT managers would eventually build world-class teams of high performers with a passion for developing innovative software that delights the customers.

The entire team would be consistently and fairly reviewed on their performance against lofty objectives without artificial constraints on the aggregate results of those review scores. They would then be rewarded for their performance in keeping with their contribution (either directly or indirectly) to their product's revenue targets.

Microsoft's current review model makes the above scenario an impossible dream. The larger the organization, the stricter the requirement that the organization adhere to a 3 tiered review model seperating out high-, middle-, and low-performers.

HR gives clear and objective guidelines to describe expectations for employees in all disciplines and levels. Managers determine review scores based on these guidelines. However, HR then takes the resulting objective review scores and maps them to the "Review Model" 3-bucket model, making it not just improbable (as would be the rare case of a truly gifted manager) but impossible to build an outstanding team of people in a sustained fashion. No self respecting superstar will (or should) accept a 3.0 or 3.5 rating when they have exceeded all expectations and objectives when measured against a formal set of criteria for their level. Those that remain in this situation are forced not into higher levels of excellence, but rather, into more fierce competition with their peers, or down to a lower level of productivity that matches their review rating.

Given the type of people who could excel in such an environment, is there any wonder why the quality of inspirational leadership in their "Partners" is lacking?