Friday, September 15, 2006

Blame it on the Coconut Cream Pie!

Left alone for a short time, I locked my fingers together over a strong cup of coffee and kind-of stared off into the various lamps strung about the dark, stylish Seattle restaurant I was in, quite happy for having had the absolute best coconut cream pie I'd ever tasted. It was like I was living a moment from one of those Life is Good t-shirts.

Inspired by this, I think it's time to share the goodness going on as we approach the 2006 Company Meeting and think about what's going right, or has the potential to go right.

Yah! Ding dong, the fixed curve is dead. Yes, Virginia, there's still a curve-like-thing, but it's more fuzzy and allows some wiggle room to accommodate for merit. While I celebrate the break from 3.0/3.5/4.0, I certainly hope that it's absolutely false that groups were mandating a certain amount of "Underperformed" ratings. That's just wrong and leads back to groups padding themselves with underperformers to protect their valued contributors vs. moving those underperformers out proactively. I think for most Microsofties, the rewards ended up being very similar to last year. A few folks on each team might still be trying to pop their eyes back into their sockets. I'm pleased. I hope this year's experience is leveraged to smooth out next year. Please.

Oof! Flattening re-orgs: Windows Experience is re-orging flat, Office is re-orging flat, MBS got re-orged - anyone I'm missing? A commenter makes a note about Office:

Anyone read Antoine's mail about manager span in Office? Basically he said that a lot of our line level manager suck, and that we're getting rid of a bunch of them to get the average span of a manager up to at least 5 (from about 3 where it is today).

And several people have noted that Steven Sinofsky's internal blog gives an interesting glimpse into what he's driving. Sucks to be, or had been, a PUM in Sinofsky's org! Well, you had a good run, I guess. For you. Now we're really going to see if a flattened organization is all that and if decisions and progress are made efficiently and effectively. This is your chance to show it is indeed the right path and to ensure the best managers are in place.

Yah! Both Vista RC1 and a refresh to Office Beta 2 are out. Raise the confidence level to green that these cash cows are going out on time with no further delays. Come on MSFT! Poppa needs a new retaining wall! The Vista EU drama is a bit disturbing and I hope just as much back-room negotiations are happening as compared to the court of public opinion, job studies and all.

Play! Zune has been announced so set aside the random speculation and get on with the groovification. Yes, I'll get a Zune. No, I must be too old to appreciate the brown color - sorry, that reminds of 70s era corduroy pants, flared collars, and shaggy hair. Anyway, it's a nice start and has a sweet screen. Too bad the Windows DRM has pressed the reset button.

You'd think with the dismissive hatred being thrown at Zune that one day all iPods in the world are going to wake up as WMA-lovin' Zunes. Zune not right for you? Great, rock-on with your iPod. Let the rest of us enjoy it in peace.

Oh, and perhaps we finally found out who made the great internal video for "If Microsoft Designed the iPod Packaging" looking at the minimalist Zune box. Nice.

Sweet! IronPython 1.0 is out and has received lots of good buzz and appreciative chops, for both its performance and for how it was iteratively developed. Even I'm stumbling along and learning Python, though it doesn't help to be learning the IronPython environment at the same time I'm learning PowerShell (Monad). Also, Microsoft Max continues to get some good buzz, too. Congrats! Additionally, lots of live.com services are being updated, though I'm personally frustrated with the level of Aunt Jamie's JavaScript Molasses clogging up my Spaces experience.

Pay! It's September 15th: pay-day. Your new raise (ahem) and merit increase and bonus have been deposited. One commenter notes this, too:

Today was the day that the checks cleared on bonuses and merit increases. And today was the day that my team lost two of the most senior ICs in the group to outside the company.

Fold them cards and gather your chips if you're ready for a new challenge. Also, now's an ideal time to update your resume and, what the heck, float it about or see what other groups are doing. Hiring managers are fairly smart: they know people start looking around right about now. Ping your network and do a few informationals. It's a great way to meet quality people and perhaps even establish some new work relationships.

Yah? Mr. Barr, I don't know if this is a good idea or not. We'll see. I have a strong aching desire to break the rules of conduct and add my own edits. If I were to do so, I would add something about the history of comments and the conversation and how the small spec of Mini-Microsoft's popularity brought in an undesirable element and resulted in comment moderation (even turning comments off for a while). Plus I'd make a note of Mini-like sites. But that would be sheer, indulgent vanity.


My wishes for the Company Meeting this Thursday? Well, (1) that it's the last idol competition that we have and that (2) Eye of the Tiger and any other sort of related song has been rejected as a SteveB high-fiving soundtrack. "I've got the eye of the tiger, baby!" Whaaaat? No. Not to be mean, but I also (3) wish that someone steps on Steve's foot while shooting some hoops before the show because foot pain, like what Mr. Ballmer was suffering during the EE keynote, seems to bring out this one-on-one clarity and frankness that I deeply appreciate.

In fact, I (4) hope the whoop-whoop is toned down a bit for the sake of content. It's too bad that the open nature of the meeting, let alone the press being present, results in the content being rather shallow (and remember: it's profit, not revenue... profit). Anyway, I'm looking forward to chugging some of the Kool-Aid again and then crowding in with the rest of Microsoft to see what kind of cool demos we might have. What can I say? I'm a Company Meeting fan.

If Mr. Sinofsky is on stage then I (5) hope we can talk about the flattening we're doing and the focusing on agility and nimbleness and effectiveness and how all the crap that Mini-Microsoft used to complain about is just not relevant and that a focused, resurgent, accountability-driven Microsoft has taken the stage and promises never to encumber itself with layers of bureaucratic decision makers and complicated, cross-connected features.

And, you know, (6) fire everyone in Redmond who decided not to come to the meeting. Just kidding. But I've got to protect the little spark of hope that remains that Microsoft might one day reverse its drunken hiring binge and, as it streamlines and flattens layers, move on folks not contributing to success anymore and that could be more successful and more happy elsewhere.

What's gone well from your point of view? And please, feel free to indulge in a hopeful, positive outlook or at least conjure up some constructive approaches for problems you'd like to discuss.

Might I suggest a slice of coconut cream pie?

Updated: fixed my wording around the cash-cows' time table. Added more pie.


106 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad we are flattening the orgs.

Although it means there is less upward mobility to become a lead, it will force lame ass managers to start really working instead of just drinking coffee.

I know a bunch of partners in Office who are now moving back to GPM, DM and TM roles since the idea to flatten out. This one Partner did nothing I really meant literally nothing for the entire 3.6 years we worked on Office. It was F'n amazing.

Now he has to be a GPM... Although he still does not have to really do work. He at least can't be totally clueless.

Also I got a pretty good raise and bonus. Rated strong for my contribution rating...WoHOO!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I wish it were all sunny like this. Some good stuff to be sure...I mean my teenager won't shut up about Zune. But...

1. I still agree with many that we vote with silence at the company meeting. DON'T applaud if you don't feel it, and DON'T cheer/applaud for the executive rhetoric.

2. Amazingly enough (and sadly), while we haven't stopped the hiring binge, we have our own version of a RIF going on. The one where ordinary ICs who executed very well were given Underacheived/Limited and made to swallow it. This is Kevin Turner's way of telling us that we "managing costs" and that our sales are not that great (any sales team will tell you that). So we're silenty attriting (bad attrition) people who just won't stand for this abuse.

3. So how many people are truly disappointed with the review this year? I think that too many were forced into models that became informal curves.

4. MyMicrosoft...a real joke. Let's face it, we all got the returned towels thrown over our eyes while they stabbed us in the back.

5. I don't think that the flattening is the answer. How are we going to identify, train and increase a new crop of good managers if there are no openings and the existing old guard manages to entrench into the few remaining positions. Let's face it, we need a new crop of managers.

6. I'd like to hear of any new programs or cool initiatives that people know of. I've heard of a work from home pilot to make that more formal...are there any others?

I'm done. Love your stuff Mini, but let's not tone down the message, there are still things that need to be done. We have a crisis in managers, lack of innovation, idea theft, bloat, etc. and need a way to rally to fix that.

Anonymous said...

Better watch out - People will start posting more clues about you and then it will be one big puzzle hunt.

At the company meeting I want
1) Free Zunes for all Microsoft Employees in not-brown!

...that's about it...

Anonymous said...

WWhhooohhh, more Mini! Payday and "See ya later"...I don't know of anyone leaving yet...but I'm sure I'll find out about a few next week...

Anonymous said...

feel free to indulge in a hopeful, positive outlook

I've been there, done that. I'm afraid that we mostly have the vocal (negative) minority here doing the postings. The rest are uncertain, or neutral - rarely positive. Which is not to say that management doesn't have some serious work to be done (MSPoll results confirm that). But this blog doesn't successfully represent the positive or balanced point of view, IMHO.

Keep up the great work, but readers should understand this is only part of the story...

Anonymous said...

"...but readers should understand this is only part of the story..."

I don't think so. Have you actually roamed the halls, talked to people, sat at a lunch table with a bunch of ICs. This is mainstream baby. The malaise is thick. And you can't just fix it by having those people move on...you'd lose a significant portion of some very good people...and most of them are the ones that are doing the work...bad attrition. No, aside from some small pockets of teams doing some cool stuff hidden from executive scrutiny...this is it, this is THE VOICE!!!

Anonymous said...

We saw lot of comments about the mgmt being clueless when the stock tanked about 5 mos back. Do not see anything about the fact that the stock is creeping back up. Come on Mini, you got to be fair dude ...

Anonymous said...

Re: flat organizations

I am an individual contributer in a 140,000 person company, and was surprised to find that there are only 6 levels of management between me and the CEO.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to wait until September 15 to leave for another company. As long as you work till the end of the fiscal year, June 30, then you are eligible for a bonus. If you leave before September 15, the company will mail you your bonus check. Of course, you don't want to let your management know you're leaving too early in the review process as they can decide to stick it to you and not give you anything (unlikely).

Anonymous said...

But I've got to protect the little spark of hope that remains that Microsoft might one day reverse its drunken hiring binge and, as it streamlines and flattens layers, move on folks not contributing to success anymore and that could be more successful and more happy elsewhere.
>
Partner working elsewhere? It is the most important talent at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

We saw lot of comments about the mgmt being clueless when the stock tanked about 5 mos back. Do not see anything about the fact that the stock is creeping back up. Come on Mini, you got to be fair dude ...

The stock is creeping back up since the shorts are covering. Smart Money is still sitting on the sidelines.

Anonymous said...

"We saw lot of comments about the mgmt being clueless when the stock tanked about 5 mos back. Do not see anything about the fact that the stock is creeping back up. Come on Mini, you got to be fair dude ..."

They were clueless; They broke the cardinal rule: don't surprise the street. That mistake cost investors $60B. Now you want to congratulate them because the stock has [mostly] managed to get out of the hole that they should never have dug for it in the first place - and at the cost of another $40B committed to tenders and buybacks? Leadership teams truly worth $1B in bonuses, shouldn't expect praise for simply fixing their own massive mistakes and using shareholder cash to do it.

Anonymous said...

We saw lot of comments about the mgmt being clueless when the stock tanked about 5 mos back. Do not see anything about the fact that the stock is creeping back up.

Had a lot of capital market economic theory in grad school. The explanation for the stock tanking and now somewhat recovering can largely be explained as follows: A few months ago, the mgmt said they were going to use $2B per year in stockholder money to, paraphrasing here, chase Google, Yahoo, etc. Markets no likee. Since then, mgmt announces more agressive stock buybacks and an increased quarterly cash dividend, which is saying, paraphrasing here, we are going to give you your money back, as opposed to spend it. Market likee.

The point being that the market has little confidence in MS's ability to invest against its competitors, innovate, etc. But the market will reward mgmt giving the money earned on its core products back to the shareholders.

This analysis cannot explain everthing and is obviously not rigorously done, but it is a compelling story, as we used to say.

If I were one of SteveB's advisers, I'd say, the market has spoken... quit trying to invest with your arrogance instead of your brains.

Anonymous said...

what is the point of this blog anyway?

If you are working for 'the man' then you are working for 'the man' : and you have to live with it.

If you dont like it then go work for yourself.

The idea that somehow you can be inside and change the company for the better, while laudable, isnt feasible : not with the current 'leadership' anyways.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Sinofsky is on stage then I (5) hope we can talk about the flattening we're doing and the focusing on agility and nimbleness and effectiveness and how all the crap that Mini-Microsoft used to complain about is just not relevant and that a focused, resurgent, accountability-driven Microsoft has taken the stage and promises never to encumber

-
There is no accountability without cleaning the partners.

Anonymous said...

Stock prices fluctuate all the time. Up, down, up down. Management doesn't deserve credit or blame for random fluctuations, or general market trends (currnenly up).

Management is responsible for long-term trends relative to the overall market. MSFT has seriously underperformed the DOW and S&P over the last five years. If MSFT has tracked the market, it would be over $32 right now.

So, no kudos for finally cracking $26.

But are there any Kudos for anything else? There is a push to get rid of complacency. Lots of cushy jobs going away and org flattening going on. Good signs, if not good times. I'm reserving judgement for a year, since there are huge potential negatives.

We are trying to recycle deadwood instead of clearing it out. If I ever get called deadwood, I hope I get the second chance we are giving people, and in it's own way, that says something good about the company. People who failed at one level are being moved back down a level or two and given another shot at success instead of being kicked out the door. Most of these folks had previous success and may still be valuable contributors, just in a different role. This is pretty rare, and the Peter Princicple is based on companies not doing this.

On the other hand, there are two potential backlashes. The recycling will create huge log jams preventing promotion of fresh blood. I don't mean promotion from 63 to 64, I mean promotion from grunt to lead grunt or lead grunt to middle management. Also, the recylced people will push really hard to get repromoted, and his may cause even more me-first behavior with people putting careers ahead of company.

Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I is the IE PM again. To the dev in my team does you hear management? PM sets vision and give leadership. Dev write code and design architecture.
>
IE PM is right. In the new org, PM has unlimited potential.

Anonymous said...

I left the ranks of the abused FTE's earlier this yr. and came back as a vendor, for more money, less stress.
I sold all my ESPP stocks and exercised all my remaining options when the price came up from periscope depth where it had been forever languishing. It spent only a short time at the surface (28)only days before more Ballmer depth charges prompted the DIVE DIVE DIVE Klaxon to sound again. Again,the stock went for the depths and command and a few others think it's coming up for air again. It's still running at barely more than periscope depth and we can only just see the horizon, er, Vista, and as we steam towards that Vista, it's nothing more than another deep abyss to attempt to sail across. More Ballmer depth charges will be tossed our way. Re-org career torpedos will strike with alarming frequency. The new skipper at the helm instills as much confidence as Joey Smallwood. The sea-anchor of middle mgmt and Sinofsky monkey boys has been deployed. Calls to the engine room for flank speed are being heard by stokers with nothing left to give, who were just 'rewarded' with a barbed-wire enema. Compartments are being locked down. Units are being segregated. Chiefs are dusting off their service jackets and looking for transfers out or looking to turn in their papers.


Calls of Abandon Ship! are not being

Come on in, the water's fine.

I got calls yesterday from 4 different recruiters for PM positions. Maybe they know something the Kool-Aid poisoned don't...

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for a flatter org if it brings Dev, Test, and PM closer together so that we cooperating instead of screwing eachother over in order to please our managers. More cheers if it brings input from sales and support into product design.

Is anyone tracking how much of the "deadwood" is being brought back to do similar jobs as contractors?

Anonymous said...

"There is no accountability without cleaning the partners."

So exactly how would that be done? Colon Pro™ Large deluxe detox enema cleansing system or a four pack of Charmin™?

Just curious.

Anonymous said...

In the new org, PM has unlimited potential.

Not trying to turn this into another spit-fest, but what exactly do PMs do and why would customers be happy to pay for it?

Anonymous said...

Mini, you drink to much of Vista. Do you know that it is filled by some kind of LSD, so everyone who drink it is full of "super excited" bool-shit.

As I see, everyone drink it a lot, managers' emails repeat "super-excited" mantra every few lines. Obviously MS is trying to convince itself that life is good.

Except someone, who do not drink anything lidghter beer, will notice obvious lack of truth and common sense, but who is interesting in his opinion? He is not a team player. He can't play our games with the world. Kick it, kick the ball, kick the world, it is so light with the Vista...

Anonymous said...

"Yah! Ding dong, the fixed curve is dead. Yes, Virginia, there's still a curve-like-thing, but it's more fuzzy and allows some wiggle room to accommodate for merit. "

Hardly. The curve is in the stock is in the future potential rating. I just witnessed a close friend of mine get bitch-slapped in the review for basically being on the wrong side of someone 2 levels up, and their spineless manager pinned the achieved/limited that my friend got on 3 specific events, all that happened within the last couple months, all of which were affected strongly by external circumstances. And, oh by the way, my friend has a disability that is (supposedly) accomodated for.

The new rating system doesn't solve the root problem, which is old-school-backstabber-MSFTies. The new system just lets them hide their pathological behavior a bit better.

Anonymous said...

There is no accountability without cleaning the partners.

Read Steven Sinofsky's internal blog to see his plans for partners.

Anonymous said...

IE PM is right. In the new org, PM has unlimited potential.

Potential to design products for nerds instead of end users.

Potential to take all of the credit and none of the blame when customers don't adopt the first 2 versions of their "vision".

Potential to let feature creep delay flagship products.

Potential to overpromise and underdeliver.

Potential to talk to one or two customers and incorporate all of their feedback instead of focusing on a broader group. Or worse...the potential to not even bother to create a path for customer feedback.

Yeah, PM's are "realizing their potential" all over the place. THAT is why the stock is in the toilet.

Does anyone else fear the plans to let the PM's have more power?

PM sets vision and give leadership.

LOL :) Whoa man...I almost soiled myself lauging at that one! And of all things it's coming from an IE PM too! Thanks!!! Best post I've read all year! ;)

Anonymous said...

Read Steven Sinofsky's internal blog to see his plans for partners.
-
What about the ones in other orgs?

Anonymous said...

So exactly how would that be done? Colon Pro™ Large deluxe detox enema cleansing system or a four pack of Charmin™?

Just curious.
>

How does partner contribute to Microsoft compared to the L63-L66 person in the same org? Partner should atleast contribute n times more. n is defined as total partner compensation/L63-L66 person compensatin. You will purge majority of your partners with this criteria.

Anonymous said...

Non MSFT:ie here.

Why so depressed of stock right now before Vista and Office is shipping? Why shouldn't MSFT stock boost when Vista is shipped?

I think it's a smart thing by MSFT to release av time-limited donwloadable version (until June 2007?) of Vista RC1 for all. You should do that with the full version as a time-limited tryout/demo too. That way the users might try it and have the time to be addicted to it. Some month before the time-limit kicks in, the users could be offered (through a popup or similar) to buy a licenced upgrade to full version without the need to reinstall from scratch.

But that was the point, no...?

Anonymous said...

PM sets vision and give leadership.
--
This is management speak. For feature x, by definition the vision is from PM. PM gets promoted even if someone else does the job.

Anonymous said...

Since we're serving pie, I'd like to serve a piece to the live.com team for getting out another version this week (and barely announcing it.) Underpromise and over-deliver. Great concept. I haven't compared adsense and adcenter but someone told me they are basically a mirror image of one another - as are the google and live main pages. If you can't beat them, copy them, and figure out how to beat them later. It worked with Word, Excel and IE, etc. - let's see if we can work that "magic" one more time. I'm ready to swap my overpriced investment in GOOG for some MSFT v2.

Anonymous said...

IE PM is right. In the new org, PM has unlimited potential.

WTF!!!. The only reason our features are not as good as they can be is because of our PM. The PM does not even have a computer science degree, does not know the basics of coding and has no passion whatsoever.
The biggest mistake Microsoft has done is compromise on technical skills when it comes to hiring PMs.
Our PM is such a retard he once advised the team to start asserting if an untrusted input string is not null terminated and this PM is supposed to now have unlimited potential!!! Cleary he does not know the basics of the threats MS faces, basics of planning and scheduling.

If the PM does the basic stuff that he is hired to do like plan schedules, make sure end to end features are linked properly it is more than enough.
But no, they cannot even do that and the only thing they do is play the “blame the dev” game in the most ruthless fashion.

Any PM who does not have a computer science degree is a disgrace and liability to Microsoft and should be fired immediately. I bet they will come crawling back as testers because of the complete lack of skill they have, which they will realize for themselves when they try get through any technical interview.

Anonymous said...

With Vista, Office, zune (maybe) coming out in a few months. And each unit of XBOX 360 actually making $$$ this holiday season (to cover last year), MSFT is in a very good shape. Anyone heard of Microsoft Managed Services? This is gaining some track too. I heard good things about MMS from a friend who work in a fortune 500 company.

There are tons of good news coming. LET's keep the MSFT stock. All you need to do is *not* to sell for 3-4 months. Not selling right after ESPP vest (for 9/30 and 12/31). This will bring your stock price to a desired one - yes I mean > $30.

I know this is too much kool-aid but think about it, this is the season we are waiting for 4-5 years.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand this review system. I got wonderful words put in my review, that I'm consistently contributing blah blah, and then I was given a Limited ranking. I just don't understand.
I would like to change groups, but then requirement where one needs to ask for permission to interview is inhibiting me to do so, cause I am sure they'll treat me worse if I bring this up and did not find a right fit in 1 month time. I wish HR abolish this, so that each one of us (especially the hard working, consistently contributing ICs) can find our real fit without feeling apprehensive of having to ask for permissions. I'm losing my passion day by day, knowing they will for sure screw me all over again same time next year.

Anonymous said...

"Any PM who does not have a computer science degree is a disgrace and liability to Microsoft and should be fired immediately."

"I bet they will come crawling back as testers because of the complete lack of skill they have, which they will realize for themselves when they try get through any technical interview."

I was tester for 6 years before becoming a PM, and I can attest to the difficulties of dealing with PMs without a clue (as both a tester and a PM).

However, I strongly believe that entrenching oneself too strongly in one's own discipline can lead to precisely the type of myopia the above comments exhibit; Devs think testers are morons, testers think devs are condescending and PMs think they're the only ones that know what's going on.

These perceptions are wrong-minded. The disciplines might work better together if you didn't "stack rank" them in your mind's eye; everyone brings something different to the table - those differences should be used instead of dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is more irritating that reading posts by people who do not have command of the English language. There must be a high percentage of H-1 Visa holding employees at Microsoft.

If you are not articulate with the English language, at least get Firefox Beta 2.0b2 and use the built in spell checker. While the sentence structure issues may not be fixed at least the spelling will.

Phil said...

"Any PM who does not have a computer science degree is a disgrace and liability to Microsoft and should be fired immediately. I bet they will come crawling back as testers because of the complete lack of skill they have, which they will realize for themselves when they try get through any technical interview."

Oddly enough, I don't see you listing your credentials. But no worries, given your argument, I'm sure you have at least a Harvard PhD, right? I am in awe of your intelligence. Thank you oh lord of blogging for honoring us with your Anonymous presence. Sometimes I think Scoble was right about anonymous bloggers.

Seriously though, if you hate your coworkers that much, please leave. If you are just a troll, I hope you someday find another way to feel important.

For the record, I know numerous top-performing developers who “only” have a English or Biology degree. I mean come on, BillG left Harvard before graduating to start the company. A CS degree does not make a great employee. It does set a certain level of expectation, but it doesn't translate to top performers.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's amazing to me how an obscure Japanese game show can so accurately capture the essential gestalt of our entire review and reward process.

http://www.glumbert.com/media/tonguetwister

A few rise to the challenge and win acclaim, while the rest of us... well, you get the picture.

Anonymous said...

The fixed curve is not dead.

I work with a new lead who rated one of his employees high (is "exceeded" the highest rating now? ). This was approved by his manager, and by the PUM. And it went up to our VP, who reduced it.

He talked to me (I have previous lead experience), and asked what to do. I told him to tell the report the truth - that he rated him highly and fought for that rating but it didn't come through.

My review was average, though it still bothers me to get a 2% "merit" increase when inflation was 4.2% last year.

I'm not sure whether the new system is better than the old yet. Perhaps a little, though I notice that the promised "transparency" on salary etc. turns out only to apply to the levels below partner. Color me unsurprised.

The only good side is that I've been re-orged out of windows client, and our new management appears to have not one but several clues. I've listened to the new leaders of Windows client and I am unimpressed.

I'm not sure what to think about Brian Valentine leaving. I'm fairly sure he was forced out - his last email had "sit down and write your farewell email while I watch you" written all over it.

Will the housecleaning at levels below that?

Finally, don't be happy about Vista RC1, because it's not an RC, it's a misnamed beta. RC means that you believe that you have bits that you would ship, delta perhaps a small number of bugs (say, fewer than 50 on something the size of Vista). You do a bunch of testing over 3 or 4 weeks, fix anything you have to fix, and then ship it.

That isn't even close to the state that Vista is in right now.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of positive stuff going on in the company. I think collectively, Microsofties have learnt the lessons from the mistakes of the last 5 years.

Vista RC1, Office 2007 B2TR are looking solid. Zune is exciting and overtime it is going to cause som sleepless night in Cupertino. Exchange 2007 has some neat stuff. Live products are turning the corner. The search works really well now. I have not used Google for last 2 months.

Sinfosky is removing the non-working leads, GMs and PUMs. The merit and stock awards are great this year. Accountability is not dead. Just look at how jim allchin, brian valentine, will poole, mike nash were removed for the Vista debacle.

So yes, there is tons of positive stuff.

I am sure the regular PMs are bad, Partners are killing us, this place sucks type of ranters will keep whining on the comments forum. But the reality is that is MS turning the corner.
Note to whiners: please leave now....unless you are happy crying in the comments section of Mini.

Anonymous said...

Man, I love coconut cream pie, and, yes, I still love working for MS. There are still areas of excellence, high morale and visible accountability within the corridors of the collective. However, the number of groups with low morale, low productivity, and, frankly, too damn much deadwood seems to be higher now than in my 12+ years of experience. When you run across one of those, it's like finding a turd in the punchbowl. It really ruins your day, and makes you wonder if you really like punch (or Kool Aid) that much.

I admit, I like to drink punch with my coconut cream pie, but I'm starting to think milk might be just as good, and with less chance of someone "dropping a deuce" in the bowl. So, if you see someone in the audience at the company meeting sitting quietly, with my hands folded across my lap, a weak smile, and a milk mustache, you'll know it's me.

Anonymous said...

Regarding all the belly-aching about low merit increases, you have to realize that this company does not have a linear salary scale from $60K to $200K - it is a step function, with level increases as the steps. As you get above the midpoint in your level, you're going to slow down in your raises (explaining this was the purpose of publishing the "merit matrix" as part of myMicrosoft). If you've been in level for 4-5 years you are probably not going to get merit increases that keep pace with inflation. The only solution is to get a level increase. You shouldn't look at each individual annual merit increase to compare against inflation, you need to look at it with a window wide enough to capture your last level increase. Promotions typically include a pay raise of 6-15% to place the person into the new level band - this is where the real pay increases come.

Anonymous said...

Not every group is flattening. Take a look at the Office Live group. Closing in on 200 FTE's in less than 2 years in existence, and a lot of managers with 1 or 2 direct reports. Lot's of level 65+ titles, too. And what have they delivered? Not much so far...and not much in the way of a future vision. Just more of what's already out there. Let's hope someone wakes up and realizes that trying to come up with ways to cram more ads down the throats of our customers doesn't equal innovation. It certainly doesn't justify 200 people.

Anonymous said...

Nothing is more irritating that reading posts by people who do not have command of the English language. There must be a high percentage of H-1 Visa holding employees at Microsoft.

I am very unhappy that Mini did not filter this post out. I love Microsoft for its diversity and the really smart people I get to work with. I read this blog for some of its interesting comments. But comments like these don't belong here and are off topic. By the way, I work on an H1 visa. How bad is my English?

If this post is filtered out along with the post I am responding to, that would be fine because both are off topic and the right thing has been done.

Anonymous said...

MSFT 30+ seems possible by EOY provided no more surprises on Vista and Office front. Whether it would kiss bye to twenties for good will depend upon many factors which all must be positive. A feat only Microsoft could achieve.

Anonymous said...

There must be a high percentage of H-1 Visa holding employees at Microsoft

Either that or most of them are Americans...Some of the worst offenders of English grammar are the so called native speakers of the English language. They speak the language well but when it comes to writing, its a whole different story!

I am sure you dont believe a word of what I have written here so here is a link for your viewing pleasure: http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2003-06/a-2003-06-11-2-1.cfm

Pull Up A Chair said...

You'd think with the dismissive hatred being thrown at Zune that one day all iPods in the world are going to wake up as WMA-lovin' Zunes. Zune not right for you? Great, rock-on with your iPod. Let the rest of us enjoy it in peace.

Damn, Mini, you drank the Kool-Aid. Didn't think it would happen man.

Did you know that J Allard, the man with one letter for a name, has called the iPod the 'Pong of Digital Audio'? Wow. Maybe it's just me, but the "Zune" looks exactly like an iPod with wireless. I can only assume that "J" is hoping consumers are stupid enough not to be able to tell the difference.

Mini, this is exactly the type of stuff you SHOULD be railing against. J Allard and his cronies have been lighting cigars with thousand dollar MSFT bills while the piles of cash and stock stack up around them. And for what?

"Zune" is a terrible name for a product. Imagine that meeting:

"Let's call it a Xune!"
"No...not XTREME enough..."
"I know...the Yune!"
"No...no dude, not nearly XTREME to the MAX ENUFF dude..."
*pause*
"I've got it dudes...the ZUNE. It's three times more RADICAL and OFF DA HOOK than the Xune."
"YEAH DUDE!"
*white guy high fives all around*

Just think about that the next time you see good ol' J "Never Made a Profit and Never Will" Allard cruise by in his shiny red Ferrari 355, Mini.

Anonymous said...

PLEEEEEEZ no more Dev, Test, PM vitriol. If you don't get it by now (whatever role you have), no amount of posting/convincing in this forum is going to do it. Mini...drop them on the CRF.

Anonymous said...

To the poster of "I would like to change groups, but then requirement where one needs to ask for permission to interview is inhibiting me to do so, cause I am sure they'll treat me worse if I bring this up and did not find a right fit in 1 month time":

Today's MSFT internal vocabulary word is just for you: Informational. It means, in the majority of cases, "Interview for which you do not need to ask permission, because it's not called an interview."

Here's how it works. You look through the job postings. You find a couple that look promising. You take note of the hiring managers' aliases. You write each a nice note, requesting an informational, to "learn more about their group." If it works out, ask if there's anyone else on that team with whom you might do an informational. If that works out, it's either time to ask for permission to interview, or time to ask for another team member with whom you might be able to do another informational to learn more about {aspect X} of the team.

Yes there is a small risk in doing this, that your team will find out you're "talking around." But overall, I'd call it lower risk than actually asking for permission to interview before you have a good idea of where you'd like to go (and who might want you.)

Anonymous said...

So are we happy yet?

My raise was ok, my bonus a sad joke for a company as profitable as Microsoft. Yet they say I'm "Strong." Whatever. What does the future hold?

Vista? How many people are going to rush out and upgrade their computers for it? I wouldn't.

And Office 2007?? OK, there's a few cool things in there. But would I shell out my own cash for it? No chance. And what about the corporate client? Well what's the "value proposition" (dare I say it, what are the "scenarios"?) that's going to overcome the fact that menus which have been in place forever are now lost in ribbon-land? Do you realize how much time it will take to retrain people on Office 2007? And to what gain? Hell, it took me three days to figure out the "File" menu was in that stupid circular icon (one of the worst design decisions I have ever witnessed). Yeah, the new graphs in Excel are pretty. Big deal. I think Office 07 is a bust.

Exchange 2007, on the other hand, is very cool stuff. But even if they double their revenue, it's a minor blip for Microsoft.

Zune? Yaa hah. With music players it's all about being cool -- image, ya'll, image -- and for starters the name stinks. And the name is half the battle. iPod is a great great name. And it was a brilliant visual design. Zune looks pretty cool, because it looks.... like an iPod. An iPod that was named by a fourth grader.

The Live stuff? Frankly I have no idea. I really don't care in the least about anything Live offers. I poked around a few times and can't find a single reason to use anything. But then, I'm not the type who cares about incremental enhancements to online email, so who am I to say? And I don't blog, post photos, or participate in online communities, so I'm not one to say if the Microsoft offerings are better or worse. Just call me when they start to make money.

What I'd like to see though, for once, is Microsoft opening up a new market, the way Amazon or eBay or Yahoo or Google or MySpace did. All this huffing and puffing to be third or fourth best.... sigh. Is there anything on our horizon where we can be first movers and big money makers?

Anonymous said...

dalen did they find you?

oh seriously there are some GPMs who need to be removed or demoted.

However, some PMs working for GPMs are quite good but are mis-used. A solid PM will help fight the cross team battles, manage a solid project and if your lucky is technical enough to be your partner in developing customer solutions.

Partnship in delivery is the most rewarding thing one can find. Makes a team like a fire-team.

Anonymous said...

The Zune, naming aside, does seem pleasantly designed, if rather derivative. (The big screen is a real plus.) I agree wholeheartly with the commentary referring to the "if Microsoft packaged the iPod" video, which went around to every graphic designer I know in about 30 seconds after it first appeared. Someone has learned that video's lessons. This is good.

I do think they made a mistake with the brown, though, but not by having it; by not taking it far enough. If they really wanted to go for that retro-hipster/emo thing, they should have made the "brown" option be faux woodgrain - and the faker, the better. If you're going for the cheese, go for the cheese. Also, sadly, there's a missed opportunity for (fair game) idea theft - use the cell phone physical design model to make the front of the outer shell removable, so users can apply their own shells to it. Then get the third-party groups currently making cell-phone front replacements in eight zillion styles to make Zune shell replacements in eight zillion styles. To be clear, I'm not talking outer protective covers, I'm talking snap-on/snap-off hard plastic base shells. Then there's also a market for protective covers that go on top ofthat. Two wins!

I mean, setting up the base and letting people add on is classic Microsoft strategy, and it's classic because it worked.

The only thing mitigating the otherwise-smart three-days-or-three-plays music tryout sharing is the three-days part. The three-plays part is fine. But one of the things you want to do in music is see how a song sounds not just played standalone when you're making a conscious effort to listen to it, but also to see how it sounds when it comes up just on its own (say, in random play mode) mixed in with playlists and other music. If you have a big music collection, three days isn't long enough for that to happen. It's too late for this version, of course, and the RIAA will probably never stand for it, but a longer "borrow" time would make this mini-feature into a serious power-feature. I also think it would push more legitimate music sales as people really get a chance to see how a song works with their playlists and their library.

The only big minus of the Zune is Ballmer's commentary about not having "the right talent capacity" to do it earlier. Um, guys, you have 71,000 people. How in hell do you not have the "right talent capacity?" It really made him appear entirely out of touch with the body of the company, and I found that rather discouraging. It just seems very clear that they don't know who and what they have, so they raided the only other group that's done hardware right this decade. This is a pretty good idea if you don't know what resources you have, but I'd much rather upper management know what it has, you know?

Anonymous said...

mini, with your intro, i was sure you were going to also throw out some props to the Microsoft Cafeteria Tour 2006 (MSCT2k6). They're taking slacktime at MS to an all new level.

Anonymous said...

>>Any PM who does not have a computer science degree is a disgrace and liability to Microsoft and should be fired immediately.

What nonsense. Some of our best folks not only don't have a CS degree, but no college at all. The ability to thrive in the world of software and the qualifications you possess are probably more unrelated than any other industry. No, I'm not a PM, but please let's get off - yet another - ctoss discipline sniping exchange. There are good and bad of all disciplines here just as everywhere else, and blaming the woes of the ompany on a particular one is just immature.

Anonymous said...

"With Vista, Office, zune (maybe) coming out in a few months. And each unit of XBOX 360 actually making $$$ this holiday season (to cover last year), MSFT is in a very good shape..."

Good shape. Good Shape? Take away all the above and...MSFT is still...in good shape! OEM XP sales and 97% of the desktop OS market...it's a cakewalk. MSFT earns $1 billion per month!

Never in the history of mankind has there been such an example of "bloat and gloat", of non-innovative Zune-like breakthroughs conceived to act as if "hey...we did something!”

We do nothing. The things we once did to benefit mankind we continue to hang laurels onto until they topple over with the weight of their own self importance.

To a man - and woman - we talk of the OK-ness of MSFT, of our wallowing stock, of coconut cream pie ("lemming" meringue?) - and dream of the day when someone will recognize our accomplishments.

We have become a "cult of convenience" living off of the facade built by the name expensively etched on our corporate windows. We are so addicted to ourselves that it no longer matters if we keep the world waiting for our lackluster products. We are blithely unaware of our pompous concept of corporate self.

And, should an outsider raise the slightest possibility that the elephant in the room truly is a naked one, we close ranks, run to the mini-blog and talk about our paltry standard of living.

For the few of us with sparks of concern for our Tara, we often make watered-down promises to "think of all that tomorrow."

What's to become of us?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the retraining curve for Office 2007 will be that large. The big improvement they've made is in making it easier to get to the features that nobody bothered to use anyway.

I strongly disagree w/ Vista RC1 being a misnamed beta. It's a very stable release.

And the person that posted about PM vs. dev vs. test => CRF had it dead on.

Anonymous said...

Accountability is not dead. Just look at how jim allchin, brian valentine, will poole, mike nash were removed for the Vista debacle.

If you want to send a clear message to the team, you need to start firing managers that have made billion dollar fuckups. Start firing the ones that make multi-million dollar fuckups too. The rank and file are sure to appreciate it, assuming the CORRECT people are eliminated.

If you really want the grunts to appreciate it, get the board to approve redirection of the massive bonuses/stock awards that they were going to have to pay these folks. Then spread that wealth amongst the people in their org. This is similar to what Google does (or at least I've read that on this site :)

Anonymous said...

Mini - how about spending a post or two getting feedback and exploring other problem areas of Microsoft outside of HQ?

I'm thinking specifically of MCS (Consulting Services) - over 1,200 U.S. and 2,000+ worldwide. I left the group because of extremely dysfunctional management, bullying, sleazy engagement managers, arrogant architects, brutal travel, and a law-firm mentality of billable utilization to the point of fraud.

To prevent a mass exodus former peers say there's an unwritten policy where there's a 3-6 month period when a consultant CAN'T leave for another internal position, effectively locking them into the MCS org.

I was lucky getting out but suffered an ass-whupping of a review. I'd never go back, and the only reason I stayed was the pride associated with working for Microsoft.

Still at MS - thankfully just somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Cripes; to the person offended by the Pong comment, get a grip.

Pong was the responsible for the inspiration that generated the video game industry. It was the device/game that started the gaming revolution.

Calling the iPod the dap equivelent of Pong would only be an insult to someone whose mind is so limited as to only see the comparison as "iPod is to music players as xbox360 is to pong".

Cripes. The iPod was responsible for starting the digial audio player revolution. It will be remembered as THE device that started the digital audio player revolution. And like Pong, the iPod is just the beginning of what is possible -- not the end.

Who da'Punk said...

Okay:

(1) Anymore Dev vs Test vs PM on this post should go to the one post about it or I'll re-route it to CRF.

(2) My bad with the IE PM thing. Troll-bait. I'll CRF that 100% from now on.

JamesD said...

With Vista, Office, zune (maybe) coming out in a few months. And each unit of XBOX 360 actually making $$$ this holiday season (to cover last year), MSFT is in a very good shape.

You're joking about the 360, right? Because in the summer results period it was announced that they've pushed back the tipping point for profitability from FY2007 to FY2008. Even then the whole Xbox thing is $6 billion+ in the hole right now.

Imagine if MS had become a third-party publisher instead of making their own system.

Anonymous said...

>Anymore Dev vs Test vs PM on this post should go to the one post about it or I'll re-route it to CRF.

Wrong tack, Mini. Routing the posts to places nobody reads won't make the problem go away.

Lance the boil and put up a real dev-test-pm topic.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article regarding problems Ford is facing. It is quite similar to what we have at Microsoft. Scary!!!!

http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2006-09-18-stevens_x.htm

Anonymous said...

Zone is cool! It already got Apple to drop its prices. Whether iPod wins or Zune wins, Apple loses in terms of lower profits.

MattyDread said...

The important question: where'd you get that coconut cream pie?

My guess is Dahlia. That's the best thing about that restaurant in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the context of J Allard's comment about pong, but I suspect you have to be a certain age to get the compliment. I'm 38 years old - I still remember the first time I saw it and it was a revelation!! Andy Roddick is the luckiest man alive. I bet that today's 15 year olds have the same sentimentality towards the ipod. Maybe J is hoping that Zune is Space Invaders.

Anonymous said...

"Just think about that the next time you see good ol' J "Never Made a Profit and Never Will" Allard cruise by in his shiny red Ferrari 355, Mini."

Agree. These groups are way overdue to start demonstrating the returns that should be the hallmark of "great" businesses. Meanwhile, Allard is being paid handsomely and promoted as a visionary. How much vision do you need to spend $B's and lose money? Usually, vision like that is rewarded with backruptcy not Ferraris.

Anonymous said...

And like Pong, the iPod is just the beginning of what is possible -- not the end.

That being said, Steve Jobs isn't exactly resting on his laurels, either (despite what J. Allard might insinuate)- and he damn well knows Microsoft doesn't just come to these games to play, they come to shove the baseball bat up portions of your anatomy. Steve probably walks a little funny as a result of what Gates and Sculley agreed to back in 1985 (where Sculley handed over the crown jewels of the Mac UI to Microsoft so they could make Windows).

That being said...

http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/features/giz-interview-j-allard-calls-ipod-the-pong-of-digital-audio-snap-200716.php

Giz: OK, if I'm using a Zune, am I really going to troll Wifi for other people's music? What is that going to do for battery life?
J Allard:It's a tough problem, and we're not done with it yet. What we have is different power modes. Oversimplifying, we have a beacon mode that says "I'm around." The next level that uses more power says "hey, I want to do something, and share, whether that's music, photos."


They're not done with something in late September that they want to sell over the holidays? Um, excuse me, but WTF? It's going to take 4-6 weeks to get your stuff in in quantity to retailers, even with the factory in Taiwan or wherever going full-tilt. That means you need to be done, WELL past prototypes, and doing your final large-scale testing, um, NOW.

FWIW, I've worked in a division where there's HW/SW integration...and this is WAY late in the game to be futzing around to have holiday availablity. The odds of having some heinous bug you won't catch because you're rushing things go up dramatically if you compress things at the end.

Anonymous said...

"I'm thinking specifically of MCS (Consulting Services) - over 1,200 U.S. and 2,000+ worldwide. I left the group because of extremely dysfunctional management, bullying, sleazy engagement managers, arrogant architects, brutal travel, and a law-firm mentality of billable utilization to the point of fraud."

You left out competing against partners, failing to live up to contractual agreements, and doing the old consulting "promise the high-end consultant but deliver the trainee come engagement time".

Anonymous said...

Well, just to provide a bit of balance to the "rah-rah" (not really faulting you for that, Mini. In fact I think it's the occasional "glass is half full" posts like this that show your objectivity and back up your basic contention that this blog is meant as a tool to improve Microsoft, not just a gathering point for the disgruntled to vent and for trolls to take unsubstantiated potshots).

That said, I was disappointed to read in the Wall Street Journal last week that Verizon seems to have had so many problems with the software MS is providing for their set-top boxes. Both MS personnel and code have been replaced with Verizon personnel and code. Why is it that MS is apparently so behind the curve in proficiency when it comes to our television offerings? I remember what a long, lumbering (and ultimately disappointing) process accompanied Ultimate TV. I remember all the partners that dropped us for proprietary solutions as we missed every milestone along the way. Even the current UI provided to Comcast is slow and quirky (though I'll allow that some of those quirks may be traced to Comcast design specs and some of the slowness may be due to bottlenecks on Comcast's own network, despite the fact that the previous non-MS UI rarely exhibited such behavior).

Track records like this and the money pit that is Xbox just have me worried about how effective Zune will ever be (I'm not saying MS shouldn't enter new markets like this, I just think we need to do a better job).

And I agree with the poster earlier who mentioned Ballmer's comments. I found that really insulting, particularly considering how little real innovation went into what ultimately became Zune. Does he actually think no one but J. Allard and his crew could have accomplished something so derivate? That's not only insulting, but scary. Not quite "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" scary, but scary nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

@ the ex-MCS guy. What country/region did you hail from? I've worked in both corp and in 3 MCS subs and found it one of the best places to be in MS. Yep, the focus is increasingly on billable utilisation but this is in reality MCS getting into the mindset of other similar orgs e.g. IBM GS, Accenture, HP C&I etc. Curious as to why/where it seems so rotten...

Anonymous said...

I am glad you enjoy the company meeting. For those of us that are not comfortable in a crowd of geeks, let us sit at work and get our real job done.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

An anon said "I'm thinking specifically of MCS (Consulting Services) - over 1,200 U.S. and 2,000+ worldwide. I left the group because of extremely dysfunctional management, bullying, sleazy engagement managers, arrogant architects, brutal travel, and a law-firm mentality of billable utilization to the point of fraud."

Yup, MCS was highjacked by corporate sales and taken from being "trusted advisors" to being bodies to make money for the EM quotas. Their reaction to poor morale, ship more work to India and make them work for dirt wages.

Anonymous said...

"I've got to protect the little spark of hope that remains that Microsoft might one day reverse its drunken hiring binge"

It'll never happen. The stock price, low as it is, is based on the assumption that Microsoft is going to continue to grow at a rapid rate for at least another two decade.

Now the only way that can happen is if Microsoft comes up with several more killer monopolies. And the only way it can do that is have dozens of new projects and hope that several of them will be unbelievably successful.

So Microsoft is going to keep hiring more and more people, and starting more and more projects. It is also going to keep supporting the dozens of present ones that are going nowhere, in hopes that one or more will miraculously turn around. The consequence will be the company is going to get bigger and bigger. Of this you can be 100% certain.

Anonymous said...

Terrific site Mini.

Mini - I'm the blogger who started the Mini site for India. I find that the staff here are paranoid about posting on this blog. Is there any way you can post a link to the India blog on your site so that it generates a little more interest and traffic?

Have you tried using a site counter to see how many visitors and when they visit? I had one installed but because of some snafu, my blog got erased and for the life of me I don't know how to get another one.

If you wish to respond to me, I'll provide you my gmail address.

Anonymous said...

"And like Pong, the iPod is just the beginning of what is possible -- not the end."

Poster is absolutely right, the 1st gen iPod which shipped about five years ago was indeed just the beginning of what was possible (or maybe it was the Nomad just before that..)

Zune proves that Microsoft has the smarts to walk away from a "partner based ecosystem" when it's just not working out. It reminds me of Apple bailing on the PowerPC-Mac-clones in 1997.

Will Zunes be sold at a profit, or will they be sold as loss leaders with profits coming from other follow on services?

If Apple has demonstrated something with DAP's, it is that there are basically two ways to make money in that market - on the hardware itself, or as the record label getting the per-song sales revenue online.

One might assume that Microsoft isn't going to become a record label anytime soon, so either they're going to have to sell the hardware at a profit, or in fact sell it at a loss to build marketshare Xbox style. I can't see them convincing record labels to accept a smaller per-song cut just to be part of the Zune scene.

Perhaps Xbox will show profits this year and that money can then be used to help move Zunes at lower price points.

Anonymous said...

"What I'd like to see though, for once, is Microsoft opening up a new market, the way Amazon or eBay or Yahoo or Google or MySpace did. All this huffing and puffing to be third or fourth best.... sigh. Is there anything on our horizon where we can be first movers and big money makers?"

EXACTLY. I've been with this great company for over 15 years and successfully held high-profile IC positions. I love this place, but it has tanked under steveb's leadership. What disturbed me most about the billg -> steveb transition was the change in mindset away from innovation to market share protection. Only recently has steveb amped-up the innovation push.

Challenge yourself and your mgmt: what true innovation has your group delivered on in the past year? What true innovation has your GM signed up to for this FY?

Not so much - it's more about status quo + 10%.

Don't believe the Hype said...

Re review model- Don't rejoice too much mini. Some conversation that a small group of us aggregated re new model:

- management says that "meets" commitments is now 3.0-4.0 range

- management says that very few will get "exceed"

- management and HR said that undeperform has two tiers. One is the manage out tier and the other is the you're stagnating at your level, but we will not manage you out

Based on this, seems like changes to model only benefit "The Man." Makes sense of course, when was the last time any changes ever went the employees' way? I'm excluding the ridiculous towl thing for the 0.01% of us that ride our bikes into work. Last real attempt I remember was April 2000, when stock tanked and Ballmer issued supplemetal grant.

Re people commenting on stock creeping up - so what, we are still at levels that are ridiculously low (like 5 years ago low). See Microsoftextrememakeover for how we've underperformed.

Story that needs to be told: for the first time in company history, stock options expiring will be worthless (this will happen this week)

Anonymous said...

Mini, are you conducting an experiment to determine what kind of effect you have on crowds?

The tone of your blog entries seems to have set the tone of the comments. If you're critical, the responses are equally (usually more) critical. If you're upbeat, the responses are upbeat.

Only an observation.

I would like to comment on the several responses that implied that the stock will rise upon the release of Vista. Irrespective of how you believe the industry will receive Vista, the market really doesn't work that way. Often, it works exactly the opposite - stocks go down when products are released, and up when products are announced. The idea is one of potential. More often, the market has already taken into account a product release. The stock price today reflects the market's expectations on Vista release, and also reflects the market's expectations on Vista's likely success. Vista is represented in the stock price already.

Anonymous said...

The stock price today reflects the market's expectations on Vista release, and also reflects the market's expectations on Vista's likely success. Vista is represented in the stock price already.

Yes - you are right. Wall Street like growth and future expectations.

I however disagree with you that Vista is already priced in. On the contrary, I'm seeing Wall Street is pricing in another Vista delay. If no more delay in Vista, I can bet you that MSFT > $30. SURELY.

You might not believe me (and you don't have to believe me) but I'm making 15-20% return on my personal portfolio YTD. I often see what's coming before it comes - that's how I make big $$$. Right now I'm seeing a mini tech bull-run till Jan 2007 and MSFT via Office and Vista is the central of this boom. Yes, I own MSFT.

Anonymous said...

From the moment "myMicrosoft" was announced, I suspected an alternate agenda. It was pitched as the review/compensation program employees had asked for. "myMicrosoft" was the ticket that would cure every accusation of unfairness in the company.

Yet at the same time our cafeteria prices, our morale budgets, travel budgets, supply budgets, and everything else was being hacked. No longer would Microsoft buy employees speakers, head-phones, pretty wall calendars, or anything but the bare minimum. Two computers per person turned into one, and the new computer every two years evolved into three...yet we were positioned to trust that the new review system was a positive step forward?

Certainly Microsoft had been overly generous through the years, and had every right to cut those unnecessary perks...but to boastfully preach of a great new program in the middle of the largest budget cuts in history...was quite manipulative.

For years I filled out the Microsoft morale survey question, "how long do you see yourself working for Microsoft" with the answer "10 years or more."

I still truely believe that Microsoft is one of the greatest places in the world to work -- our health benefits alone are enough to place Microsoft at the top of the desirable company list.

Seven years ago I took a job at Microsoft. At that time, stock was at the all-time high. I recently watched all my initial options expire -- they never made me a penny. Yet that didn't phase me.

But our recent review compensation did.

My morale hit an all-time low when I received my review bonus percentage this "myMicrosoft" year. When 0-15% is the scale I expected, (and I have never received less than 9%) and my review is filled with positive results and successes that resulted in millions of dollars of savings to the company...a 3% bonus is a slam to my value, my respect and my confidence in this company.

Anonymous said...

I'm personally not too worried about the Verizon "snafu".

As someone else stated in a different forum, Verison wanted to turn up the suck.

I'd be amazed if any they even chose a target hardware platform that could compete with a 10 year old pc...

Anonymous said...

There is hope as the drunken hiring frenzy has stopped in some product groups. We still have to fire a few in HR and finance. Trim the roll call of Corp VPs and partner.

Anonymous said...

I however disagree with you that Vista is already priced in. On the contrary, I'm seeing Wall Street is pricing in another Vista delay. If no more delay in Vista, I can bet you that MSFT > $30. SURELY.

That you state that Wall Street is pricing in a Vista Delay seems to me to make my point. Wall Street has already made a consideration about Vista - delay, shipment, sales (good or bad), etc., and it is already represented in the stock price.

What you confused me with was this:

You might not believe me (and you don't have to believe me) but I'm making 15-20% return on my personal portfolio YTD. I often see what's coming before it comes - that's how I make big $$$. Right now I'm seeing a mini tech bull-run till Jan 2007 and MSFT via Office and Vista is the central of this boom. Yes, I own MSFT.

I wasn't demonstrating my opinion of Vista - or whether I believe it will empower the industry as a whole or will stall among our partners and consumers. I was merely stating that the stock already contains the street's expectations. Things change dramatically when you surprise the street. (Surprising the market isn't necessarily a negative.) Analysts aren't stupid. They're surprised when things come from left field - where they couldn't have possibly have seen them - or when they were just plain wrong in their opinions.

What confused me about the text I quoted above was your description of your prowess at investment, and "that's how I make big $$$". Unless you're selling something, you don't need to cite credentials. I'm merely stating my opinion. It's OK with me if you disagree or agree with me. People will form their own opinions anyway, so there isn't a need to 'sell' an opinion.

Incidentally, I hope you're right on the stock price. I'd really love to see some options suddenly have positive value, and I certainly don't plan on leaving MS before Vista goes out the door.

Anonymous said...

Zune has to be sold to make a profit because there's no money to be made in the music download service. You're always at the mercy of your competitor who offers the lowest price(Apple's iTunes only breaks even). Now that the Zune team is completely caught off-guard by the new ipod's pricing, Zune is doomed. They can't price Zune above ipod and still expect to gain market share. I hope they have a plan B. The wireless thing is the stupidest feature I've ever seen. ipod users share their music by sticking their ipod in a boombox to broadcast their music. Why can't MS remove the geek elements from consumer products? Sharing music wirelessly is so geeky. Good luck getting trendy folks to buy the Zune. And what about battery power drain? Make Zune simple and good looking and Zune might have a chance. And what's with the love with music subscriptions? Haven't the execs learned that people don't want to rent music? This is all common sense. I can't believe the execs are getting paid to screw up again. This is gonna be another money losing business for a long time.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps Xbox will show profits this year and that money can then be used to help move Zunes at lower price points."

So, IF after 4 years of racking up some $4-5B in accumulated losses, Xbox finally turns a profit, you want to divert that from driving earnings and/or starting to pay back that huge deficit and funnel it instead into yet another new, multi-year, massively unprofitable venture? If so, you must see something in ZUNE that, to date at least, eludes me.

Anonymous said...

Mini, this is my first time writing a comment on this site. I’ve been a recent read on this blog (I'm not from corp.) and totally agree with "Mini" MS mindset. So far I've refrained from writing comments, even after my departure, yes, I left MS about 3 months ago, but after reading these two I couldn't stop myself.

-------
"I'm thinking specifically of MCS (Consulting Services) - over 1,200 U.S. and 2,000+ worldwide. I left the group because of extremely dysfunctional management, bullying, sleazy engagement managers, arrogant architects, brutal travel, and a law-firm mentality of billable utilization to the point of fraud."
-------

I've been in services since my entry into MS, and I more or less agree with this comment, but not all of it. In my former org. at least, EM's are doing basically their jobs, which is selling services. They have quotas to fulfill, and they do what they need to get this done. I must say that my former position was NOT an EM, but you can’t blame salespeople for behaving like salespeople and trying to make their numbers.

I totally agree with sleazy management. In my case, they managed to grow the org by more that 100% in three years. What’s interesting about this is that we went from being around 50 consultants (the ones that actually bill stuff) and 10 managers/pseudo sales guys/admin staff, to being around 60 consultants and a whooping 45-50 non-consulting staff and 2 additional managerial levels. Not to mention filling most of these managerial boxes mostly with cronies from outside who didn’t know their arse from a consulting engagement, not to mention real consulting work. That and turning the workplace from a great place to work and a great team where could discuss any problem openly and respectfully, into a political arena where CYA and sucking up to the higher ups and HHRR is the norm.

After all that, I still think that MS is a great company (otherwise I wouldn’t be reading this blog right?), but I have to put my family and career first. That’s why I took a job elsewhere, and you know what? It wasn’t really hard to find something I liked (MS like company without the bullsh...)

------
What country/region did you hail from? I've worked in both corp and in 3 MCS subs and found it one of the best places to be in MS. Yep, the focus is increasingly on billable utilisation but this is in reality MCS getting into the mindset of other similar orgs e.g. IBM GS, Accenture, HP C&I etc.
---------

Could it be because MCS is not and will never be like HP and Accenture? The reality of Accenture is that they make their main revenue from services and not from selling software. For example, Accenture and evidently HP will screw over MS and sell oracle/goog or anything else if it’s convenient (rightly in my opinion) in order to get a sale. MCS can’t do that, hence it plays with different rules (also rightly in my opinion). The reality of MCS is that it’s there to promote MS sales from Software, period. It does this by implementing the right solution, high level of know-how, etc. Generating revenue should be a far second place. If you’re not convinced, take a look at revenue from software vs. revenue form services at MS…

Anonymous said...

It already got Apple to drop its prices. Whether iPod wins or Zune wins, Apple loses in terms of lower profits.

There's just one tiny problem with that: Apple doesn't matter. Apple's profits don't really matter much either. Their desktop market share has been and will stay in the single digits for ages, and their 0% server market share isn't going anywhere either. The only thing they have is the audio player market, which, while may be a big threat to the Zune group, is of no consequence to Micorsoft as a whole. You might argue that the market holds strategic importance, but if that is the case, whether Apple's profits are 10% higher or lower this year will certainly have no effect on something that doesn't exist yet.

What Microsoft needs is to lose this "kill everything that's not headquartered in Redmond" mentality. It doesn't matter if company X makes record profits. What matters is if company Microsoft makes record profits. In the meantime, we're so busy getting all riled up that someone else is making lots of money somewhere completely unrelated to us, that we're missing the opportunity to go and do something new ourselves. Imitation may have worked in the past, but it's not going to cut it in the long run. What we need is to stop chasing the latest thing to hit the press, and isntead go and do something and BE the latest thing to hit the press. Otherwise, we might as well call ourselves done, sit back, and milk Office+Windows for all they're worth. Oh, wait, never mind...

Anonymous said...

Notes from the field ...

Seastar has an awesome coconut cream pie - one of the best I've ever had. However, don't buy the "for 2" marketing. It's big, but it's not that big.

General feedback I'm getting on reviews is not bad to good. I'm hearing way fewer "I got screwed" than I did under the old system.

Vista RC1 looks good, but I agree with one of the previous posters that called it a misnamed beta. The Sept EDW should release this week - I don't remember the exact numbers, but the fixed bug count is HUGE, with tons more planned for RTM. This isn't your daddy's RC ...

More less than positive news on the Vista front - the number of machines some of our customers have that can't run Vista is much higher than some people estimated. I'm not sure Vista is compelling enough to drive large upgrades on desktops. I can't imagine a public company not requiring Vista + bitlocker on laptops, particularly given the inability of high-paid consultants to order coffee and not lose their laptops ...

Kudos to the Office 2007 team. Not quite there yet, but Office has some killer new features. The new version of SharePoint and the addition of Excel Services and Forms Services rock the server side too! The new interface has a learning curve, but once you get used to it, it's hard to go back. Nicely done!

Exchange 12 or MSIT's implementation thereof has a ways to go. I'm one of the lucky ones that gets to dogfood E12 - I truly understand the meaning of dogfooding now. Just doing my part for the greater good.

Stock is moving up ... babies need a college education. Steve - if you're reading, please don't say anything to the street. Take a page from Bill's book and pay someone smarter than you to do it. It's not one of your core competencies.

SQL Server rocks! Lots of wins against Orifice. 64 bit, dual-core servers with loads of memory allow SQL Server to do some *amazing* things. With AMD's quad-core just around the corner and ram prices continuing to fall, it only gets better.

.NET 3.0 (aka WinFX, Indigo, Avalon, et al) is generating a lot of buzz. Windows Workflow is getting a lot of attention and I've seen some incredible WPF prototypes. Does anybody get Cardspace (or whatever we're calling it today)? Ruby on Rails is cool and can do some things really well, but it's not even in the same league as .NET 3.0, particularly from a versatility standpoint.

Q1 is almost over - if we meet or exceed our sales target, and Vista and Office don't slip again, we could see $30 for Christmas ... I guarantee morale will increase as the stock crosses $30.

Getting bonus and stock vesting in a two week period didn't suck. With 4 grants maturing next year, it becomes a non-trivial event. In general, morale in the field seems up. Either that or the happy pills really do work ...

Congrats to the Fun in the Sun winners. I hear Hawaii was excellent. Now get back to work and close some Q1 business!

re: some of the MCS comments. It seems that things are better in general, but there are still some practices (or subsets) that suck. MCS lost a *lot* of talent over the last 5 years. Some internal, but a lot left the company. Services is a big business - it's real money now - amatuer hour is over. The days of being a boutique consultancy are gone. Someone needs to step up and drive the business. Sadly, we probably need to go to IBM, EDS, or one of the Big 4 to find that person (that worked so well last time ... NOT).

As for the hiring binge, there aren't many open field positions outside of services and we're stretched really thin. Maybe we could get some of that headcount reallocated?

Mini - thanks for inspiring people to be positive. As bad as Microsoft can be at times, it sucks *WAY* less than most of the rest of the world (that's no reason not to continue to push for improvements, just a dose of reality for the grass is greener crowd).

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting here is a constant attitude of "kill product xyz because it doesn't make money."

Kill a product because you think it is crap. Kill a product because it is bad and shouldn't be made.

But why on earth am I reading people screaming that we should be killing GOOD products? Instead, shouldn't you try to determine why a GOOD product isn't successful, and then FIX that problem?

Are you people really that short sighted?

Anonymous said...

4 years in services, 1 year in sales, now left the company. Services went from dynamic, innovation and customer focused to bureaucratic, utilization driven and internally focused after Mike Sinneck took over and remained so after he left. Thanks Mike for creating a little mini-IBM GS and populating it with your former colleagues.

The hallmarks of my MSO experience were weak management, self promoting behaviour and back-stabbing by "peers." It's such a great feeling to trust someone on your team only to find they have pre-empted all of your work and already claimed credit for it...before you even finished...and management had already rewarded them for it.

I also saw a lot of victories claimed when nothing of value had actually been delivered, pronouncements which were picked up by the sales/marketing management and praised, on at least one occasion, as "role model behaviour."

I'm in a smaller, more dynamic company now, making more money for far less stress.

Anonymous said...

The stock price today reflects the market's expectations on Vista release, and also reflects the market's expectations on Vista's likely success. Vista is represented in the stock price already

This is the normal fall rally which happens every year when Wall Street returns from vacation in September. In Oct, the entire market will tank as mutual fund companies close out their fiscal year. Historically, the net return for the month of October is 0%. It starts out strong and then falls off.

I don’t see institutional investors buying MSFT shares until Vista’s RTM date is announced. They have been burnt badly in the past and there is plenty of money to be made trading other stocks.

Charles said...

But why on earth am I reading people screaming that we should be killing GOOD products? Instead, shouldn't you try to determine why a GOOD product isn't successful, and then FIX that problem?

At some point, no.

Even in the theoretical "best" of products, there comes a point of irreversable loss - when the losses todate have become so large that no reasonable expectation of future profitability can hope to catch up and overtake ongoing losses - that's when the boat anchor is cut loose, it's that or risk sinking the ship.

The mere fact that MS has a cash-hoard (shareholder's equity) that allows it to sustain losses that would bankrupt most companies is not a sound business justification to sustain losses. Being able to "afford" losses is not good enough.

Further, assuming the more realistic of a less than theoretical "best" case product, i.e., a poorly designed, or poorly implemented, or poorly supported, or poorly marketed, or just plain bad idea, the cost of fixing lies not in coding alone, but includes org changes and then trying to persuade a reluctant marketplace to give it another try - all the while the competition is not standing still, nor are customers who needed to solve problems.

Lastly, there is the reality of even good products/services not being attractive because they are from MS. Customers indeed have biases, whether justified or not, it is a business reality to be considered.

Given the hundreds of millions in shareholder equity lost already by MS' illconceived market-following embrace and extend "strategies", the time to curtail these losers has long since past.

In fact, rewarding the losing offerings' progenitors and champions with million dollar awards is certainly a sufficient milestone at which point to guage an offering's further justification. If the offering is not generating sufficient profits to cover the rewards plus costs, then cut it (and them) loose.

Anonymous said...

I'm fortunate to be a L68 Partner after starting as a level 11 (current 61-62) SDE about fifteen years ago. I came with experience, which is why I was hired as a level 11 rather than level 10 (current 59-60). So there is evidence that someone can start in a fairly entry-level position and get to L68. Yes, it takes a while. I'd say most other partners either came to MS with experience (so were hired at higher levels) or have been here a similar length of time. I personally know several partners who have similar stories to mine - came into an entry-level job and have worked in the trenches for a long time. I consider that an advantage - I know what it's like to do a Workaholic Wednesday to get bugs under 100 and stay until 5 AM because we were at 102 at midnight, but those last two took a while. I know what it's like to ship great features - and no so great features as well.

I would argue that one thing we're getting with good Partners (and I don't claim to personally know all of them) is that experience of having been through the good and the bad. Are we excessively rewarding them? I don't know - you have traders on Wall Street with similar experience making $10 or $20 million a year. You have twenty-something ballplayers making $50 million over five years. So is the world's largest and most profitable software company overpaying a group of its most senior managers when most are making $500K - $1 million a year?

One thing that's different this year with the new review model is that the curve on contribution ranking is applying at the L68 level as well - so there are Partners getting their first non-exceptional review. My personal lifetime review average over the previous 15 years was 4.0, but I didn't get an Outstanding contribution ranking this time - ouch, but probably fair. I'm being compared to other L68s acrosss my product group, and that's a good thing, IMHO. I did a lot of good work, but there probably are others who did more and the air is pretty rarified at the L68 / Outstanding.

So I think there is a channel for people starting today at level 59 and 60 to get to partner level, but it won't happen in five years - maybe in ten. That's appropriate. What we want is an experienced cadre of folks who've done a bunch of jobs at the Partner level. We have to pay them well to retain them - especially those folks who were like me fortunate to live through the 90s at Microsoft, when we had such an explosive growth in stock. Don't get me wrong - I love my job and I love Microsoft. But I also love my family and having time to do whatever I feel like. If I was being paid $120K and getting a $10K bonus, I might well decide I could instead fall back on the wealth of fifteen years of accumulated stock, and work part-time as a consultant to various companies and probably make a similar amount - so why work full-time plus at MS? I'm confident enough of my abilities that I think that both Microsoft and me are getting a good deal from my compensation.

Anonymous said...

>Kill a product because you think it is crap. Kill a product because it is bad and shouldn't be made.

>But why on earth am I reading people screaming that we should be killing GOOD products? Instead, shouldn't you try to determine why a GOOD product isn't successful, and then FIX that problem?"

If it doesn't make money then by definition it is not a GOOD product. I don't work for a charity.

-- Dare

Anonymous said...

"But why on earth am I reading people screaming that we should be killing GOOD products? Instead, shouldn't you try to determine why a GOOD product isn't successful, and then FIX that problem?"

Depends on whether its lack of profitability is a design, execution or original conception problem. If it's the former two, then maybe. Unfortunately, MSFT has far too many examples of the latter - hopelessly conceived products that have little chance of ever being profitable. For those, you'd be better off putting the cycles into identifying the morons responsible for championing and approving them and ensuring that both aren't in a position to make similar mistakes moving forward.

Anonymous said...

"Notes from the field ..."

Good post. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

"But why on earth am I reading people screaming that we should be killing GOOD products? Instead, shouldn't you try to determine why a GOOD product isn't successful, and then FIX that problem?

Are you people really that short sighted?"

Define 'Good Product'.

Alyosha` said...

Even in the theoretical "best" of products, there comes a point of irreversable loss - when the losses todate have become so large that no reasonable expectation of future profitability can hope to catch up and overtake ongoing losses - that's when the boat anchor is cut loose, it's that or risk sinking the ship.

Uh, not exactly.

Let's say you spend $3 billion to develop a product that you now realize you can only sell $2 billion of. Stupid you, but you should still follow through and finish it off, so that in the end you'll only be stuck $1 billion rather than the original $3 billion.

However, if you're $3 billion into product development and realize that a) it will take $X billion to finish and b) you have no hope of ever selling $X billion of product, that's when you need to just swallow the sunk cost and move on.

Anonymous said...

More comments on the path to partner

I started as a level 9 (current 57-58) about 12 years ago. I'm not partner yet, but I'm two levels away(I've heard they won't promote someone to 67 unless they think they're going to make 68 - but that could be bs) and I'm also in the bench program, so I think I have a shot at making it in a few more years.
I also wanted to point out that there are many non-managers (IC's to use the lingo) who are partners, so it's not necessary to be a manager to make partner (I'm also an IC).

Anonymous said...

I could use some guidance after getting screwed on my review.

I'm considering leaving the team, but I'm not sure how my review ratings will be received by prospective hiring managers. Will my current manager further screw me by providing negative feedback if he's asked about me? I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. Damned if I leave, damned if I don't.

Anonymous said...

"I would argue that one thing we're getting with good Partners (and I don't claim to personally know all of them) is that experience of having been through the good and the bad. Are we excessively rewarding them? I don't know - you have traders on Wall Street with similar experience making $10 or $20 million a year. You have twenty-something ballplayers making $50 million over five years.

Question: If the trader or the ballplayer doesn't add value to the firm, what happens to them? They get FIRED.

"So is the world's largest and most profitable software company overpaying a group of its most senior managers when most are making $500K - $1 million a year?"

Question: How how the partners contributed in any meaningful way in the last 5 years to the company's profits?

Charles said...

Alyosha notes:

Let's say you spend $3 billion to develop a product that you now realize you can only sell $2 billion of. Stupid you, but you should still follow through and finish it off, so that in the end you'll only be stuck $1 billion rather than the original $3 billion.

There is a reason it is unprofitable even assuming best-case sales. Offerings don't become big losers overnight, they get there a few million a day, every day without generating value for customers.

The fiscally prudent plan is to stop development, liquidate, and redeploy the remaining resources to projects with better ROIs, else terminate.

Worst case you lose not more than $3B, possibly recoupe some on liquidation, and assist some other ostensibly profitable project. Otherwise you risk greater losses sinking still more into development with no guarantee of any revenue, let alone $2B.

Companies can not be reasonably run with unknown and growing losses. Fixed known losses are workable, but (supposedly) smaller yet unknown losses are not. Small unknown losses almost always become larger unknown losses. That's how $3B got spent to generate $2B revenue in the first place.

Your hope to spend still more to maybe "win back" $2B and cut losses to $1B is how gamblers and poorly managed projects continue to hemorrhage money.

When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Anonymous said...

What country/region did you hail from? I've worked in both corp and in 3 MCS subs and found it one of the best places to be in MS. Yep, the focus is increasingly on billable utilisation but this is in reality MCS getting into the mindset of other similar orgs e.g. IBM GS, Accenture, HP C&I etc.

Could it be because MCS is not and will never be like HP and Accenture? The reality of Accenture is that they make their main revenue from services and not from selling software. For example, Accenture and evidently HP will screw over MS and sell oracle/goog or anything else if it’s convenient (rightly in my opinion) in order to get a sale. MCS can’t do that, hence it plays with different rules (also rightly in my opinion). The reality of MCS is that it’s there to promote MS sales from Software, period. It does this by implementing the right solution, high level of know-how, etc. Generating revenue should be a far second place. If you’re not convinced, take a look at revenue from software vs. revenue form services at MS…

Yup, MS is a software company first and foremost. Anyone who joins services after working for a services company finds this out pretty quickly... However, generating profit (NOT revenue) is something that everyone in the org has a role to partake in. Hence the focus on billable utilisation. MCS is not going to be able to take a free ride any more, and subsequent mindset change. Which is for the good, IMO.

Anonymous said...

wow. there are so many whinners here. Come on if you don't like it leave. Too many people are too comfortable, easy job, easy city seattle. there are tons of great jobs out there, but people don't want up root the family and give up the msft benefits that they don't value until the see the crap other companies and start ups offer..
wow:
MyMicrosoft...a real joke. Let's face it, we all got the returned towels thrown over our eyes while they stabbed us in the back.

Anonymous said...

So there is evidence that someone can start in a fairly entry-level position and get to L68. Yes, it takes a while.

Wow, I'm amazed that you actually think that way given the size of Microsoft today. I started in 1997, and left in 2005. Even after 7+ years, there was no way that I was even getting close to partner level. If I had joined in 1993-1995, when growth was huge and opportunities were abundant, then perhaps -- but now there are too many people vying for those positions, with promotions being progressively more difficult to obtain as you move up.

The way I see it, to be a partner you're either hired in at that level, or you're old school Microsoft and were here in the glory days.

Anonymous said...

Dude, my girlfriend made the "if Microsoft designed the iPod packaging" video.

No, really. She's a graphic designer. The video was (of course) sponsored by someone at MSFT, but she's the one (or one of three, I think) who actually made the video.

Small world. Hilarious video.

(ex-MSFTie here)