Sunday, February 19, 2006

Comments, GM vs. PUM, and random links

(I've been busy typing along the weekly post and I didn't like how long the post was getting. So, I'm extracting out the miscellaneous stuff from the end of the post and putting this up first.)

"Oh, the comments are the best thing here!"

For the comments are the shiznet here inclined, you might want to check-out this new Co.Comments.Com comment service Scoble mentioned recently. Co.mments.com does indeed track new comments here over time, vs. you having to reload each and every page. I haven't tried every feature, but there also seems to be a way to subscribe to all the posts you're tracking so that you can be back in RSS land. They have some HTML goo I could flip into here to make comment tracking easier - let me know if you think this is worth while. It serves as a nice bridge until a comment RSS feed starts happening here at BlogSpot.

The GM versus the inbred

Not quite The Hills Have Eyes, but still a scary story of when a GM meets an inbred PUM and they just disagree (snippet):

They say perception is reality. I left Microsoft a year or so ago after being there five years as a GM. When I started at Microsoft, I too loved the company. I had the passion everyone speaks of so fondly.

I then ran into my first 'professional Microsoft' PUM who was running a 300 person organization creating nothing. I called bullshit on his efforts, and had no idea what I was stepping into. This individual was hired into Microsoft from college (what I refer to as a 'Microsoft inbred') and had never experienced real life. I have three successful startups behind me, 8 rounds of VC money, VP of two different public companies. Guess who won the battles? Not me. I ended up working for someone with little mnagement experience, also a Microsoft inbred, and the rest is history...

Another ex-Microsoftie has thrown in the towel, too (snippet):

[...] Things were great the first couple of years, I loved being a part of the MS culture and well the options at the time more than made up for the lack of salary and long hours and political BS. I learned so much and had a blast doing it!

but... after many years of salary compression, incompetent managers, watching the people that couldn't even pass a tech screen get hired anyway just to fill a spot while my teammates and I had to take up the slack I have decided MS sees no value in a long term dedicated employee so I put my notice in...

The village isn't destroyed yet, but it's suffering damage.

Other web going ons

(1) The blog 64-Bitter starts off with the post I'm just not that into you, talking about leaving Microsoft after ten years:

You stay because you are averse to risk, crave stability and are scared that you can't do better.

Well, I'm sorry, but I'm just not that into you any more. I can't die the death by risk aversion. I wish you all the luck in the world, because I have a lot of friends there.

(2) There are a couple of posts at http://minimsftinterns.blogspot.com/ about being a Microsoft intern in Canada. Yah, we treat our group's interns a lot different than it sounds like this blogger is experiencing...

(3) Next Microsoft continues along at http://nextmsft.blogspot.com/ and http://spaces.msn.com/nextmsft - the MSN Spaces area (it's still branded MSN, right?) gets more comments and - who-da-whatza?!?

Update: Just got an invite to a discussion on this exact topic from the Director of Development excellence. Eric Brechner is a great guy I respect and enjoy his columns and feedback, and I am looking forward to attending this.

Congrats. Sinofsky in the comments and Brechner brainstorming! Hope that turns out well for you.

(4) Oshoma Momoh has a few notes on compensation, looking back at Microsoft after moving on:

(5) Mr. Bishop over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a copy of Sr. VP David Cole's Goin' Fishin' internal email: MSN leader announces leave of absence.

(6) CNet reported that Mr. Gentoo-Linux Daniel Robbins left Microsoft. I haven't been able to track down the reason. Does it mean anything in the larger scope of things?

(7) A commenter provided a link to the story Lacking identity, Microsoft stock crawls along. Relevant snippet:

[...] Microsoft shares have underperformed every major equity index since the start of 2002, a slump that could continue until the world's largest software maker finds a clear investment identity as a growth stock or value play, fund managers and analysts said.

Basically, it appears that Microsoft stock is stuck in limbo with no obvious leadership to get it out. Are we a growth company or are we value company? Right now, it's not clear to the outsiders what path our leadership has chosen to direct the company towards. Uncertainty and doubt. Never a good combination on Wall Street. Another snippet:

"The company undoubtedly is doing some of the right things, but it's not going to move the needle for some time on a company of that size," said Scalise at Duncan-Hurst Capital Management.

Ah, if company size is an issue, I've got a great idea how to take care of that.


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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

(4) Oshoma Momoh has a few notes on compensation, looking back at Microsoft after moving on:

He mentions visibility as publish or perish. In his voting system, people would have to spend a lot more time letting everyone know exactly what they did so they would vote for them. More politics!

He also does not cover team compensation - a reward for working effectively as a team. This is brought up in a comment to the Business Week article.

The Struggle To Measure Performance

Nickname: MustBgettingOld
Review: It was ten years ago that I first saw the theoretically best approach discussed: _measure_ individual performance but _reward_ group performance. How else can you get teams to work together? (And the free rider problem is much less of an issue than low morale across the board! - It's self regulating.)
Date reviewed: Feb 2, 2006 3:47 AM

Anonymous said...

"(5) Mr. Bishop over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a copy of Sr. VP David Cole's Goin' Fishin' internal email: MSN leader announces leave of absence."

I am not in MSN team but did not David Cole used Office Right Management? At least in that case, somebody would had to retype the whole email to forward to an outsider. If David did not used Right Management then either he does not care that the exact text of the email goes out of Microsoft or else he did not take proper care.

Anonymous said...

Are we a growth company or are we value company? Right now, it's not clear to the outsiders what path our leadership has chosen to direct the company towards.

A new product that nets the company an extra billion dollars a year doesn't come along that often. So, Microsoft tries to make that happen with existing products like Windows and Office.

If you look at Microsoft's income statement between 2004 and 2005, Microsoft's operating income went up by 5.527 billion dollars. 46% of that increase came from reducing costs (like payroll).

Unless you believe there is something really compelling in Windows or Office that is going to cause a major impact, Microsoft getting a bump up in profits from businesses upgrading Windows and Office over the next six years seems to be more of a value play.

Office 2007 To Feature New Workflow And Collaboration Tools

Microsoft plans to deliver Office 2007 later this year in a lineup of seven suites meant to deliver its most sophisticated business customers new features at higher prices, while still keeping users of its core word processing and spreadsheet apps in the fold.

According to Giera, as many as 60% of Microsoft's business customers could upgrade to the Professional Plus edition of Office within six years as requirements for document management and other collaborative tools permeate the workplace. "This is your classic information worker [scenario]," she says. "As these customers come to refresh their licenses, there are a lot of things that are in Office that make life easier." About one fifth of customers are likely to license Microsoft's Standard edition of Office, which carries an upgrade price of $239.

Anonymous said...

RE: The DRM comment

Great question! Don't we use the very features we produce here? Go and count the number of emails you've got with this advanced DRM in...yeah, lots, I bet. Isn't it a little sad we have to advertise these very features in posters around campus? And isn't there something self-referential about the whole deal?
If somebody was thinking, they'd write a helper app that counted what actual features were used internally. Maybe we could help narrow down what would ship in O12 by what we actually use "dogfooding"?

Anonymous said...

Re: DRMed Mail

DRM sucks for mail. Not only can you not forward it, you can't do anything else to it either. You also can't read it on your smartphone, and generally I can't get it to work across OWA either.

Maybe David didn't use DRM because he TRUSTS the people at the company to take care of confidential data without any obnoxious babysitting software CRAP. However, given that someone gave the mail to a newspaper, clearly that trust is misplaced. Of course, it's always possible Wagged gave it to them intentionally.

DRM mail is used internally, and it does help keep some things more private than they would have been. Not everything needs it, though.

Anonymous said...

>Most companies have the equivalent of royalty, nobility, knights and serfs, both in terms of power structure and compensation allocation. Serfs are told they can climb the ladder to become royalty, but in reality that’s out of reach for most. If conditions are oppressive for long enough the serfs will revolt

What Oshomo says here is correct at Microsoft. What we are seeing now is a revolt by the serfs. Expect a post Welch GE system to take root in Microsoft in September where the stack will become optional.

Anonymous said...

For everybody's information office RM is designed keeping some social aspects too.

Suppose you want to write an email to your manager, and you do not want your manager to forward it. To some it may look embarrassing that one does not even trust the manager. Well, the good thing is that the manager does not naturally realize that it is RMed email until he/she tries to forward it. At that point the manager does appreciate that you send the email with right management embedded. I think RMed email is a great application and I imagine anybody sending out a hundred email a week would need this application weekly; otherwise he/she is taking a risk of getting his/her email posted on the front page of New York Times.

(The manager does not naturally realize an RMed email is true only if the manager has received RMed email in the past. The first time somebody receives an RMed email he/she may naturally realizes that the email is RMed).

Anonymous said...

re: The DRM comments

And isn't it doubly sad that this is exactly an example of the innovation, creativity and market leadership (yes, that's right, Microsoft's enterprise rights management is market-leading) that people bitch doesn't occur at Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

Re: DRM

Why bother DRM'ing the mail when we all know that the feature is so easily defeated? His email would have made it to the press anyways, with a simple 3rd party screen capture program and OCR. There were no secrets in that email, so no harm if it gets leaked publicly. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

On the whole David Cole thing.

The DRM issue might not be David's. It could be someone just typing off the mail, or it could be that someone did the mail for him and forgot the DRM in the process. It's not unusual for execs to have others write their long emails.

On the issue itself. I noted from the text - which I read in the paper, since I'm an ex-Microsoftee myself - that the wording was that Steve and Kevin still saw a leadership role for David, aka not necessarily the top dog position. It may very well be that David has in reality fallen victim to the lack of success on the search bet (especially since it's well documented how Google can get Steve in the real red zone), and that this is just as gracious an exit, as he could get out of the situation. A real shame because David was really the one who put some professionalism into the MSN division.

Anonymous said...

If U.S. businesses and those from other developed nations are going to continue to offshore their IT work, what effect is that going to have on the sales of Microsoft products currently used by IT departments locally? Business software is a large portion of Microsoft's income.

Outsourcing Hasn't Hit Its Peak

Is the trend toward outsourcing anywhere near its peak?
No. The amount of IT outsourcing is small right now. The global IT spend is $400 billion to $500 billion a year. Some of that can't be outsourced. The addressable market is about $200 billion. But the current value of IT outsourcing is about $20 billion a year.


Where will the growth in Microsoft's revenue come from if their revenue from business software sales is eroded?

If the numbers are correct in the article, 40% to 50% of the IT spending in developed nations could move to companies offshore.

That would be a large hit on Microsoft's revenue.

Anonymous said...

"...the wording was that Steve and Kevin still saw a leadership role for David, aka not necessarily the top dog position."

Yes, that was my take after reading it as well. I don't know David and perhaps he did bring professionalism to MSN. But let's get real. He also vested some $26M of shares on the year despite MSN having been a perpetual laggard, brutally underperforming on advertising vs GOOG/YHOO and MSN search actually losing share during the recent Q despite the massive investments made there. Additionally, Messenger adoption has been losing ground to Skype but MSFT's VOIP is still largely TBD and the most recent Q itself was very weak financially. So personally, I hope Steve/Kevin at a minimum threatened a demotion. MSFT's biggest problem imo is seemingly a complete lack of accoutability for results at senior levels. If this and the recent Japan Xbox head change, signal a new results-orientated focus, then I'm all for it. Just because you're a nice guy, bring some positives to the table or have been around forever, doesn't mean you should be running a multi-billion dollar division and earning ~#30M in a year. For years, MSFT seems to have ignored that fact. Maybe finally someone is starting to figure it out. Who knows...maybe Ballmer will be next given his total inability to deliver results/manage street perceptions sufficient to drive the stock.

Anonymous said...

"This individual was hired into Microsoft from college (what I refer to as a 'Microsoft inbred') and had never experienced real life. I have three successful startups behind me, 8 rounds of VC money, VP of two different public companies. Guess who won the battles? Not me. I ended up working for someone with little mnagement experience, also a Microsoft inbred, and the rest is history..."

As another ex-softie who came with a lot of outside experience, that comment really resonates. That's not to say that all in-bred softies were weak - some in fact were excellent despite this lack of external experience. But FAR too many especially within middle management either mistakenly assumed their net worth or years of service equalled ability/experience or worse (and more typical) would act out against anyone who came in with a superset of either. It was really sad watching a new experienced recruit from IBM/HP/Oracle/other have to constantly bite their lip in order to make even Director level in-bred softies look enterprise-savvy. And of course, in the long run, most of those people's MSFT careers were cut short as a result. There's just too much organizational inertia to protect the old.

Anonymous said...

From the article on MSFT's stock...

""We're very bullish about our growth outlook this year and beyond," Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer told analysts in July. "We have never really used the stock market itself as a barometer of our success.""

Can someone please start the blog entitled "Please crap-can our stupid CEO"?

That quote is right up their with getting pulled over for speeding and telling the officer : "I don't use the speedometer to measure how fast I'm going"

If we don't use the stock performance to grade Ballmer, then wth do we use? Employee morale? Profitable growth of our acquisitions under him? (Great Plains anyone?)

-frustrated softie

Anonymous said...

OK, I have racked my brain and racked my brain and finally figured out something good about Microsoft.

The Group Legal benefit. I LOVE this thing. I got it to pay for a new will which basically paid for two years of the benefit. But more recently, this thing is paying SIGNIFICANT portions of my divorce. I don't care if I never use it again (oh, I will) I would stay with this plan forever because of that. I don't know too many companies that offer that type of plan.

Anonymous said...

>It was really sad watching a new experienced recruit from IBM/HP/Oracle/other have to constantly bite their lip in order to make even Director level in-bred softies look enterprise-savvy

Yeah right. The losers from IBM, HP, homedepot are savvy. Give me a break. Check out mashida if you need examples of savviness.

Anonymous said...

>It was really sad watching a new experienced recruit from IBM/HP/Oracle/other have to constantly bite their lip in order to make even Director level in-bred softies look enterprise-savvy

Yeah right. The losing fat cats from IBM, HP, homedepot are savvy. Give me a break. Check out mashida from NDT if you need examples of savviness.

Anonymous said...

YES, regarding previous experience. Most have not shipped a product, and yet act as if the number of years in MSFT = number of products shipped.
Oh how I laughed when mgr asked, "What are your career goals?" Even if I told you, you wouldn't understand them so why waste each other's time?

Anonymous said...

"If we don't use the stock performance to grade Ballmer, then wth do we use? Employee morale? Profitable growth of our acquisitions under him? (Great Plains anyone?)"

It gets worse, the comment was actually made at the annual shareholders meeting not to analysts as reported. It's always smart to tell long-suffering shareholders that you've basically decided to ignore that stock metric. Of course, where's the BOD when monkey boy makes such stupid statements? Asleep at the wheel as per usual.

Anonymous said...

"Yeah right. The losers from IBM, HP, homedepot are savvy. Give me a break. Check out mashida if you need examples of savviness."

Wow, you certainly proved me wrong with that insightful rebuttal. Don't tell me, you're one of those long-time in-bred middle managers promoted way over your ability?

Anonymous said...

On the "inbred MSFTie" issue: Like another poster, I came here with tons (15+yrs) of external experience shipping lots of products, having my own companies, etc. Several observations:

I don't want to diss anyone at MSFT, but if you've spent your whole career in one place, any place, it shows (at least to those with broader experience). And usually it shows in a narrow, narrow view of just about any work-related topic (and many life-related ones as well).

My experience got me hired, but I don't think that it is valued as I am not "MSFT self-referential" enough. A sure way to shut down a conversation with (former) management is to say, "When I was at X company, we did Y." I quickly learned that they didn't really want to hear about what was done elsewhere or about most of the rest of my experience. I moved to another group.

When I was looking to move to another group from Office (one of the most self-referential groups I have seen), I had all of the qualification for the job I was targeting. But when I talked with the hiring manager (a formal interview), she said, "I need someone with partner mkt exp here at MSFT with product x. You don't have that, do you?" "No. But I've done partner marketing with x,y, z companies/products." "I don't care that you did it elsewhere with products I've never heard about at places I don't care about." I stood up, thanked her for her time and left immediately. Yikes.

Finally, I've found a manager that not only wants to hear what other companies do, but actually asks me questions about that. He incorporates some of these ideas into our workgroup. Hmmmm... listning to many different ideas and applying the ones that make sense. Who would've thought we'd do that at the largest sw company in the world?

Anonymous said...

On the "inbred MSFTie" issue: Like another poster, I came here with tons (15+yrs) of external experience shipping lots of products, having my own companies, etc.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but there is always the other side of any story. Personally, I don't subscribe to the belief that experience could/should prevail over intelligence or common sense. Also, demonstrating results with smaller companies (assumption on my behalf here) is not a proof of ability to achieve similar successes in larger groups.
I have no doubt that there are plenty of rigid-thinking managers "formed" inside MS, but that doesn't mean "the inbreds" (as if it were so bad to have spent one's career in the same company) should lay aside their experience, in exchange for that of the new guy.

Most people cede to a well made point; one's vast experience in the "free" world should afford one the ability of presenting a case logically, and thus gaining appreciation (and trust). It's a matter of tact, if you will. I doubt anyone enjoyes hearing how their ways are erroneous, and that company X did it better, be they inbred or not.

Anonymous said...

"Most people cede to a well made point; one's vast experience in the "free" world should afford one the ability of presenting a case logically, and thus gaining appreciation (and trust). It's a matter of tact, if you will. I doubt anyone enjoyes hearing how their ways are erroneous, and that company X did it better, be they inbred or not."

On the former, I think you're being naive. MSFT is one of the most political orgs anywhere and rarely are you going to prevail on logic alone. With respect to the last point, that's exactly the problem with too many in-bred softies. Lacking ANY enterprise experience, virtually all their ways are erroneous and therefore they're constantly getting their back up verus simply listening and seeing if in fact there's a better way. Folks with experience aren't saying stuff to stroke their ego (atleast most aren't). Their saying it because it's self-evident given their training/experience and they want the company to improve/succeed. In any event, few would argue that a healthy company doesn't need to continually gain expertise from the outside. Still fewer would argue that having done so, you should ignore that input because it's different.

Drei said...

..that's exactly the problem with too many in-bred softies. Lacking ANY enterprise experience, virtually all their ways are erroneous and therefore they're constantly getting their back up verus simply listening and seeing if in fact there's a better way. Folks with experience aren't saying stuff to stroke their ego (atleast most aren't). Their saying it because it's self-evident given their training/experience and they want the company to improve/succeed.

And we're getting back to square 1 - you are essentially postulating that "inbred" MSFT people are incapable of making good entrepreneurial decisions, and that experience always prevails over anything else.
I am obviously not in the position to argue to the contrary (as it may very well be true in your case), but I'm not convinced of the validity of your point.

Anonymous said...

Given how difficult it has become to get a promotion internally, I see a lot of external hires coming in at absurdly high levels.
For any number of reasons these people are then unable to consistently perform at that level. Even if they did perform, they would not do so well in a stack where the internal hires are low leveled.

Anonymous said...

"And we're getting back to square 1 - you are essentially postulating that "inbred" MSFT people are incapable of making good entrepreneurial decisions, and that experience always prevails over anything else. "

No, I qualified my original comment by saying that I worked with many excellent in-bred softies, just far too many who weren't especially in middle-mgt. And no, I don't believe experience is always right. For me, with a lot of experience, there were times when the MSFT way of doing something - while initially counter-intuitive - actually worked better. However, experience often is valuable and so the key factor is the willingness to check you ego and listen to alternative approaches vs seeing them as personal attacks (or worse, just rejecting them because they're different). Bottom line "group think" is a problem for any org and the consequences of it at MSFT (where imo it's rife) are starting to show via failures of strategy and failures of execution. Hopefully, someone at the top is noticing and is prepared to deal with it aggressively, but you sure don't get that from the public comments of either Ballmer or Gates. Sometimes I think MSFT's location in Redmond serves as a disadvantage in that it isolates management from reality. Perhaps the best thing there is GOOG showing up generally and especially right down the road from campus. One thing MSFT could always do well was focus on a competitor once one appeared on the rader - it's when they weren't around that the company seemingly had no internal innovation compass to guide it.

Anonymous said...

> Given how difficult it has become to get a promotion internally, I see a lot of external hires coming in at absurdly high levels.

I second this. People are brought in from big bureaucratic companies at high levels. Not only do they carry prior baggage, they have difficulty adjusting to Microsoft business model and fast paced culture.

Anonymous said...

"they have difficulty adjusting to Microsoft business model and fast paced culture."

Fast-paced culture? 5 years for the new version of SQL? Almost that amount of time for Vista and still no product for almost another year? 3-4 years for a major new version of IE? 3 years for the first major rev of CRM? Puulllleasse. Maybe you meant fast-paced politics and yes, few outsiders are probably prepared for that when they get here no matter how big a bureaucracy they came from.

Anonymous said...

Fast-paced culture? 5 years for the new version of SQL? Almost that amount of time for Vista and still no product for almost another year? 3-4 years for a major new version of IE? 3 years for the first major rev of CRM? Puulllleasse. Maybe you meant fast-paced politics and yes, few outsiders are probably prepared for that when they get here no matter how big a bureaucracy they came from.

It is a repeticious feudal culture.

Management keeps throwing buddies in charge of projects until one doesn't get fired for being incompetent. This results in a lot of deja vu and an increased time to market.

Some people blather on about a meritocracy. However, for the projects that matter, it is more of a question of who you know and who owes you a favor because of what you did for them. There are plenty of over qualified people at Microsoft most of whom do not get choice assignments.