Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Microsoft Company Meeting 2006

Pre Company Meeting 2006

So, what were my wishes last year for the 2005 Microsoft Company Meeting?

  • Dates
  • Review System Overhaul
  • Management Flattening
  • Mea-Frickin-Culpa
  • Dissent

How did those wishes pan out during the meeting: "zip."

But, over the year? Well, the dates for Vista and Office are still presented somewhat fuzzy to the external world: now's the time to commit. The review system did indeed get a well deserved overhaul, though the glow of myMicrosoft is fading a bit and a few folks are looking around and saying, "Hey! There's still a curve, dude!" Management flattening? Appears to be happening in SteveSi's Windows org along with Office. Yah! Mea-Frickin-Culpa? The best we have is saying that we'll never take five years again to ship our operating system. Eh... hoo-raa?

As for dissent? Ha. Come on. SteveB is going to get on stage and run around and you're gonna to clap and cheer. And if any exec on stage asks internal Google users to raise their hand most of you Microsoftie-Google users are going to sit on your hands.

My topic wishes going into the meeting this year include:

Dates: yes, Dear Leadership, now things should be so sure you can actually commit to a street date for Vista and Office. It's neither brave nor brash at this point but come on, it's almost October already.

myMicrosoft:

  • Talent within: time to unleash the talent within the company. Look, we're not going to be hiring too many super technical people for US jobs. It's time to focus on building people within for the challenges facing us. It's time to let job transfers inside Microsoft be simplified and let people quickly interview without getting permission first.
  • Talent nearby: some people whisper that Microsoft might be opening up to flexible work-at-home / work-remotely options. Hmm. Interesting, though I don't know how well that works in our corporate culture.
  • ESPP: bring back the old ESPP. Consider it Towels II.

Profit, not Revenue: everytime you see revenue on a financial slide, ask yourself, "But, ah, what's the profit today?"

Inspirational Roadmap: we've got clouds of unfocused chaotic ideas, but how does it come together as a game winning strategy that gets us from a stumbling cool chaser to innovative deliverer with huge profits and exceptionally happy customers and shareholders? Is this the year that we both get our act together and establish a profitable strategy?

Company Employee Size: I can't imagine anyone who wants to clap for hiring more people... but that's just me rocking back and forth in my own little bubble world. I especially can't see those crammed together with coworkers in buildings with zero parking spots clapping: yes, please, hire more rats to put in my box. Please, don't make Microsoft go through what Intel is going through now. Hell, yes, I want to downsize, but not through a crisis brought on by extreme mismanagement. Cool things down, efficiently rebalance the company from its internal employee base first (again, allow easy interviews so that people can take charge of their career), clear out the dead wood, and then see where we are.

Post Company Meeting

Well, I wasn't as pumped after this year's Company Meeting as I was last year. But I think that's because of two things:

  1. 2005: end of a dry-spell. It had been a long time, last year, since we'd really heard from our leadership and what they were thinking and how things were going. Plus, it was a slump time after the Forbes and BusinessWeek articles.
  2. 2006: we're in the loop. The ongoing Town Hall meetings have kept us connected over the past year. And that's a good thing.

I guess according to LisaB, in the portion of her presentation about blogging - and, uh, especially (uncomfortably tugging at my necktie) responsible blogging - I've become Microsoft's Voldemort. He who must not be named. Except by alluding pauses. Cute. Anyway, I do hope that InsideMS becomes a successful forum where people can freely exchange constructive ideas for improving Microsoft and feel as though their voice is being heard, versus just being explained to why it is the way it is. I look forward to seeing how it goes. I'm surprised it's taken this long but perhaps there's some convincing that needed to be done. LCA is bought into this? Anyway, inside voices can make good changes. But sometimes that constructive criticism has to be public in order for the change to be forced from the outside.

I appreciate LisaB laying down the foundation for myMicrosoft 2.0. I hope that the local listening tour mixes it up with Live Meeting and face-to-face because I recognized the power in the room of people seeing each other's reaction to what was being shared and exchanged during those meetings. That shared, connected experience was part of the reason respect, enthusiasm, and hope arose, meeting by meeting.

Two incoming comments:

(1) Mini - this is it. Either you start your constructive comments WITHIN microsoft, or please just leave the company.

(2) Lisa's internal blog is a brilliant shot to take the wind out of mini's sails. "If anyone's going to go online and talk shit about our company and what we're doing, it's going to be internal so we can make sure its legit." Brilliant. Lets hope it works out as well in reality as it sounds like it should in theory.

I will certainly participate on the internal site as one voice sharing my insights and suggestions. And, hey, when the time comes that no one is participating here because they are engaged in InsideMS or whatever is happening internally, then I'll gladly fade into blogging history as I turn back into that lone voice. Trust me, there are many fun things I've put aside that I will happily resume when that time comes.

And it will come.

As for the rest of the meeting: I'd say the biggest cheer went to the paper airplane that made it to the stage. And the Microsoft PC-man / Apple-boy parody ads were fun. Not as good as the parody shorts we've seen the past, though. I would have love to have been near the vocally enthusiastic Zune team to see their presumably horrified faces as the Zune tune transfer ad-hoc demo fizzled. I still want a Zune but... you guys are still writing the software? What the-? Hmm. Maybe this is the new agility and I should chill. We'll soon see. Given that the Company Store will be carrying the Zune for a discount, you're going to have lots of internal adopters ready to share their constructive feedback.

My biggest disappointment: Ballmer affirming that if we're not succeeding at something then the only option is to keep coming, coming, coming and driving it until we are a success. Oy. I disagree. There are times you know when to fold them and realize withdrawal is better than fist-slamming stubbornness. Second biggest disappoint: when you think Live, think ads.

PhotoSynth bah-lew my mind, along with the 3-D tourist composition (it would be interesting to integrate video of a scene for more 3D there, frame by frame). Let's ship it! And the [[wow, holy crap, guess I shouldn't have mentioned that!]] nifty little desktop feature for Vista was news to me. That's going to make for some interesting laptop moments. When does the Playtable ship? Or is it a perpetual demo? Cool, but it's time to grow up from demo to furniture. A lot of the rest of the demos I had already seen so I was busy watching the various airplanes sputtering about. One day - one day, I tell you - our wonderful and overworked admins will realize that no paper should be given out what-so-ever during the Company Meeting.

And Ballmer presenting with a 101 degree fever? Geez. He once again affirmed, post Vista, there would be no more gaps. "Yes," closing the door to the empty barn, "them horses aren't going to get out a second time." Fine. And I appreciate that we are focusing on the end user. Really? I've been dying for that. The consumer is back? Excellent.

Your Wishes and Reactions?

What do you hope happens at the Company Meeting? What are your post Company Meeting thoughts?

Updated: added some reflections under the Post Company Meeting section.

Updated #4: corrected grammar / terminology. Thanks. I think this post wins so far for most # of edits within 24 hours.

Updated #5: (I'll do my best never to revise so much ever again): As mentioned in the next post, I was worried I had revealed a bit more than I should have, but then I've been reassured nothing was shown that I touched on that hasn't been shown over and over again. Read the next post for more discussions on that topic. I will be going through later and cleaning up off-the-mark comments regarding this because it's just not so. I wouldn't have updated this post yet again if not for the Seattle Times making a reference to it.


67 comments:

Anonymous said...

So here are my thoughts on the company meeting along your lines.

1. Dissent - SIT ON YOUR HANDS folks. I say don't even applaud for good exec comments, they have not earned it. Give bit applause to your colleagues in product demos and talent shows, but skip the rest.

2. Dates - totally with you on this, amazing that we can't commit.

3. myMicrosoft - Agree. Easier interview process would help rebalance after a hiring freeze. Work at home totally fits in our culture AND our software (shocker). And ESPP, agree.

4. Roadmap - yeah, we definitely need some leadership here from a technical/feature perspective. No more of this "people ready" crap.

5. More stuff - still want to see some satirical tee-shirts. Honestly, would love to see everyone boycott the company meeting.

As always...looking for the great analysis. And tone down the Kool-aid. If I wanted to read that, I'd just visit PressPass.

Anonymous said...

I wish the same. Please give us the dates.

Anonymous said...

> What do you hope happens at the Company Meeting?

Ballmer resigns. Stock doubles.

Anonymous said...

After 5 years at MSFT, I will be attending my first company meeting today. (If there are no crisises this year)

I am looking forward to having a small sip of the MS-Kool-Aid. I expect it to be served with a firehose.

I would like see the internal transfer process streamlined.

I am looking forward to seeing what we have in store for our underdog products. (Xbox, Zune and Search)

Bring back the old ESPP. If there is concern about people flipping the stock immediately, then they might institute a vesting period for the "discount". (I do not know legal implications, just a hair-brained idea for someone else to consider)

Anonymous said...

I'll say I went, but will instead stay home with Netflix. Nothing to see this year, and I'm too demotivated to go into work today.

If asked tomorrow at the watercooler (where's the Starbucks?), I'll say how razzed up I was to see another Vista demo, hear about our exciting new Live services, and see Balmer scream and sweat.

Anonymous said...

Today most MSers are unhappy: about their manager, their team, their product, their working environment, and their own career development, etc. What MS could embrace now is a new mechanism to encourage free internal transfers. In the long run, it will set ms up for a new era of innovation and rapid development.

Anonymous said...

This was my first company meeting, so maybe this is par for the course, but...

Good christ, J's ED&D demos/talk was the only part that didn't either put me to sleep or make me roll my eyes. It was seriously hard not to doze off during Ozzie's talk. OK, maybe the Playtable, er, Table, er, PlayAnywhere demo was cool too. But I'd seen (and played with) the same thing at the visitor's center, so it wasn't mind-blowing. Ballmer is the most embarassing person I've ever had the displeasure of watching on stage.

The China story and the fact that wer flew that girl and her family over here was really touching though.

The only part of the whole ever that had a hard number and no fluff was J telling us about the timeframe and discount for Zunes.

Lisa's internal blog is a brilliant shot to take the wind out of mini's sails. "If anyone's going to go online and talk shit about our company and what we're doing, it's going to be internal so we can make sure its legit." Brilliant. Lets hope it works out as well in reality as it sounds like it should in theory.

Anonymous said...

I wish the partner pay gets cut by 25-40%. Cull the number of partners in groups like HR and finance. Get rid of non performing VPs and GMs across the board.

Anonymous said...

Mini - this is it. Either you start your constructive comments WITHIN microsoft, or please just leave the company.

There has been too much complaints which we don't need, and too little real work and innovation happening around here.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that this company is so childish. The Get A Mac parades, while cute, was just petty.

Big Guy said...

Agree on ship dates and ESPP.... but hwat does this "easier interview process" look like?

Anonymous said...

Best company meeting to date (nine years in msft). Days before the meeting I had the opportunity to review OHI scores for several divisions. Surprise, most parameters in the 80s. Where is the dissent talked about here?

Next I read all the "don't clap" B.S. here. Surprise, surprise, there were standing O's all through the company meeting. All confirms my suspicion that most of the negative posters here are the few dregs left in the company (not including Mini who is not afraid to post positive stuff even if those folks will question his sanity)

I love this company. The meeting is just a reaffirmation. I'll work my butt off to get us to #1 in all the areas where we are not #1 yet. As Mundie put it, "strategy without execution equals hallucination"

BTW, LisaB for President of USA

Anonymous said...

"There has been too much complaints which we don't need, and too little real work and innovation happening around here."

Um, Steve, don't you have a company to er run?

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"If anyone's going to go online and talk shit about our company and what we're doing, it's going to be internal so we can make sure its legit."

Translation: So we can sweep it under a rug before investors/competitors/customers learn about it.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that this company is so childish. The Get A Mac parades, while cute, was just petty.

They were awesome. What was petty about them?

Anonymous said...

I thought the meeting was great. Ray Ozzie was the best speaker by far, although I was hoping for a clearer vision about where we're going with Live. It was pretty much the same as last year. It's a great vision though and I think he'll make a great CSA.

Lisa's parting comment of "love what you do" reminded me what I dislike about the comments on this blog: so many of them are negative moaning from employees who simply don't have the fire in their belly to build the best software. Focus on that people, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Anonymous said...

Mini,
To keep some competetive edge refrain from speaking about stuff thats shld be kept within the company till Vista ships. It took only 3 hours for you post the "we havent shown this to public yet" stuff. No wonder the Zune team needs to maintain so much secrecy. Looks like microsofties just cant keep stuff internal till the things release. Coming back to the meeting, I thought this was the best I had been to ever since I joined Microsoft 3 years back. Billg looked refershed and the standing ovation he got was great. It seemed like it lasted for ever. Looking forward to the internal blog.

Anonymous said...

Bring back the old ESPP. If there is concern about people flipping the stock immediately,

They should be more concerned about executives having 1/3 of their stock grants vested immediately and ready to sell the next day!

Anonymous said...

>Lisa's provided an alternative that allows us to have a free and open discussion without having every competitor or journalist see our dirty laundry, but you're just too addicted to the glory and the notoriety to stop now, it seems.

I agree that most of the people here are whiners and losers, but I have to ask: What the hell kind of attitude is that?

*I* want our dirty laundry run up the flagpole, ringed by floodlights, and a PA system running 24/7 blaring "This is a problem and must be fixed!". *I* want the combined knowledge and experience of Microsoft, the greatest software development institution in the world, to focus on getting that dirty laundry cleaned up. *I* want us individually and collectively to learn from those mistakes and never repeat them again.

Sweeping our internal problems under the rug is the business equivalent of security through obscurity. Down that road lies Enron and the Challenger disaster.

What do *you* want?

Anonymous said...

Mini, don't post this but the grammar nazi in me must point out that it's "allude" (to make indirect reference to), not "elude" (to evade).

Anonymous said...
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Who da'Punk said...

Hey.

I want to take a moment to remind people that a lot of what was demo'd today is already public. Yes, there seems to be a part of Vista that I did err blabbing about. But it's really cool.

But if you think PhotoSynth and Playtable and 3-D construction haven't already been revealed, you need to hang around TechMeme more.

Maybe you're all abuzz with responsible blogging. Good for you. But if you want to ping me for discussing something I shouldn't, say what it is and be sure it hasn't already been demo'd to hell and back.

Other than that, there's always the CRF.

Anonymous said...

>Today most MSers are unhappy: about their manager, their team, their product, their working environment, and their own career development, etc.

The OHI numbers for the division I'm in, backed up by my own personal experience, give the lie to this BS. People aren't ecstatic about MS, but they're not particularly unhappy either.

Anonymous said...

Company meeting is a waste of time, and has been since they blew up the Kingdome.

Because it's in Safeco, there can be no non-NDA discussion - everything said in the meeting is already known (after all, the press is literally standing outside listening to every word said).


And I bet they never mentioned about how badly the 64s with more than 30 months in service were shafted last review (management mandated that every level 64 with more than 30 months at level in one division got a "limited" on principal - it didn't seem to matter how they actually performed).

There are a bunch of shellshocked senior SDEs wandering around right now wondering how things would look at Google or Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Hmm...looks like the company meeting went as was expected.

I'm changing stripes for a moment and want to provide some industry perspective to show all those inclined to wear their hair shirts clanging bells and chanting "Woe is me -- the end is near" is not necessarily true: down here in Silicon Valley all is not "cabernet and brie"...tech is "still coming back" (that play "Waiting for Godot" makes no sense as a play, but makes perfect sense in real life). Santa Clara county house prices dipped 6% so far this year (a decent 3B/2Bath Ranch House in Palo Alto still costs $1.5M) but the boom never came back with even a honk...now we're starting to hear the Hsssss.....

Some stats from today's close of market are (I'm using cowboy-math with rounded numbers but story-line is still true):
* S&P up 30% since Jan04
* IPO market is still non-existent
* MSFT stock price basically flat since Jan04. $268B market cap. $40B in revenue up from $36B in 04. 37% op profit. $6B in r&d spending.
* Yahoo stock price down 50% this year---back to 2004 levels. $37B market cap
* SUN flat, flat. $19B market cap.
* ORCL mostly flat with 20% up in last 6 months (the Siebel deal?). $95B market cap.
* Intuit up 25% since 2004. $11B market cap.
* APPL 10X increase in stock price. $64B market cap.
* ADBE 2X stock price since 2004 - but buying MACR did it. $22B market cap.
* EBAY lost 50% of stock price in past year...back to 2004 levels. $37B market cap.
* GOOG infinite increase in stock price (started at zero) to $400/shr. $170B market cap. Revenue went from $1.5B in 2004 to $6B in 2006. Op profit 32%. $600M r&d spend.

So what does this all mean?
1. The Tech Sector stil sucks. While the S&P is up 30%, Tech (outside of GOOG) is very mediocre story: no significant IPO action, some stocks are up, some are down. The big one, MSFT, is flat.
2. APPL is iPod -- a case of firstmover advantage...but nothing that is sustainable & differentiable. I still want one device in my pocket not five; I'm waiting for Moto or Nokia or Samsung to get it right. Besides, value will not be the display but rather the SW to acquire & manage all the tunes and related info. APPL is making the same error it did in the 1980s thinking that the battle is HW and the enemy is IBM. Hah!! The battle is SW and the enemy was Microsoft. Hmm...'they're back!!"
3. The "kissing cousins of GOOG: ebay and Yahoo" are doing terrible this year. Both down 50%. Shareholders dont like that.
4. Microsoft added $4B in revenue between 04 & 06; Google added $4.5B. So MSFT basically added "one Google unit: GooU" in same period. Not too shabby.
4. MSFT is more profitable than GooG at 37 vs 32% OpProfit....MSFT is on a much larger 7X revenue base.
5. MSFT spends $6B/yr in r&d, GOOG spends $600M. Hmmm... MSFT is 10X bigger. The Law of Larger Numbers eventually must be true.

I'm not saying all things are pinot noir & apples in Redmond-- I'm the first to admit having thrown my share of Molotovs in this blog...but MSFT hasnt been performing that badly given the industry and market conditions.

Yeah APPL got a good move on iPod -- but it will be like the 1950 audio greats of Marantz, Scott, and Fisher -- roadkill when the market really gets going.

And GOOG has had a good run -- but it's a one-trick pony: online ads (which are about $10B out of $150B in USA advertising annually; so...even if just want to pursue advertising...there is ALOT more that GOOG hasn't even touched). And Yahoo today gave guidance of softening ad revenues...and I'm so damn tired of Google search results not really being that useful. When there's something better I'm switching.

Did I mention that all the Web2.0 stuff is just crap - look at the TechCrunch blog and you'll see many many companies getting their 15 minutes of fame with nothing more than science fair projects. Also, the annual salaries for VP Marketing has sunk back to pre 1998 values of $150-200K.

I do agree that there are efficiency issues at MSFT...what do you get today for $6B in r&d spend? But once StevenSi pulls Windows through the knot-hole and under control and the Office & Windows & Server Divs are run like his triad clockwork... then some of those Billions can be harnessed to really deliver new stuff.

I'm saying that MSFT still has the financials to be greater in the future. Now it needs leadership with a new vision and relentless focus on execution to be great AGAIN.

With Billg deciding to step aside, the baton has been passed to Ozzie. The question is he up to the task? I dont know him other than on a few phone calls. His track record has some brilliance muddied by other crazies in East Coast High Tech. So hard to tell from where I am.

I think this blog runs the risk of posing the wrong question: should we rif 1, 5, 10, or 20K people? --- but rather "who is the ONE" that pulls the sword from the anvil. He/She will be crowned king and the troops will follow into glorious battle.

Experience shows that "the one" is a product of time and place. I remain hopeful that HE/SHE will be found while there is time. I hope the BOD is doing something useful for a change and is testing Ozzie and others plus using every good executive recruiter searching for "the one" just in case.

The existence proof for success after the founders are out is very mixed: Intuit, good. SGI, bad. HP, bad. Adobe, good. SUN, bad so far, Apple bad until the founder came back.

The next 2 years at MSFT are pivotal. The "must dos" are clear: (1) beat Apple (again)with price, availability, and an SDK that makes Zune THE mashup platform:tunes, video, phone, game player, TV, radio, etc. (2) beat GOOG by focusing on the other $140B in ad revenues with delivery and immediate call to action with something better than search, (3) making SOA a reality for the apps that nearly 1 billion use daily (Office et al) and a new business model, (4) ensure that the other 3 billion in the world have a MSFT solution of one form or another, (5) all the while keeping the fabulous machine of MSFT Inc. cranking out the cash.

Inflection points are not inexpensive, but inevitable.

Regards
A Contemplative,
Silicon Valley Product Manager.

Anonymous said...

So you want particular examples of you blaberring? Why talk about Zune demo? Cant you get anything postivie about what they said on how they worked on it? I wont say it coz I will let the Zune team do that when they release it as it truly is something the team deserves for the hard work. Let the zune team bake in the limelight. They deserve it.

The ViewMaster! said...

Mini! U Edited-Out/Didn't Post My Comment of Last Night But, I Am/Was RIGHT...

Microsoft mulls free Web-based business software

By Daisuke Wakabayashi

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. said on Thursday it may offer a free,
advertising-supported version of its basic word processing and spreadsheet
software...

Anonymous said...

1. Didn't to to the company meeting...paid vacation as far as I'm concerned. I hate Kool-aid. So thanks for the update.

2. I don't see anything overtly confidential in your post. And even if there was, who the hell cares. Does anyone actually think that a little openness would hurt? Does anyone actually think that there is something in Vista that is really that fantastic that anyone wants to copy. Gimme a break.

3. Internal site for blogging? Can you say blacklist? Why bother posting there to draw attention to why you're unhappy.

4. MSPoll numbers are faked. First, the numbers are totally twisted to say what they want. Second, the Mulder in me says that I'm sure they're juiced. Has anyone actually audited these things? I wouldn't rely on them to give you any pulse. I will say again, WALK THE HALLS and listen to some IC conversations. The rank and file are using this forum (and Packet Storm and MSFT Extreme Makeover) and their venting...and they're not wrong.

5. Standing ovations at the company meeting? That's your proof of a healthy company? People are sheep, total mob mentality, not be be relied on. Get your own opinion. Look at what your review numbers were and GET ANGRY. And with that anger, take action, productive action. For Mini, that means blogging for change. For someone else, that might be coming up with something innovative and pounding down some executives' doors until someone says yes.

6. People Ready? What the F--K does that mean and can we get off these crazy ass marketing phrases. WE DON'T CARE!!!

And does anyone want to guess at the number of Zune's that the company store will have in stock for the holidays? 200? 300?

Anonymous said...

Having happily missed the company meeting (you can get a lot of work done when your Inbox is mostly silent for a day) I don't know what big, amazing "secret" Mini apparently revealed and then unrevealed, though I agree with him that most of what's referred to here I've known about for a while, and I don't even pay much attention. But if anybody thinks you can go tell something to 30,000 of your closest friends and then NOT have it get out, you're dreaming.

Besides, if Mini revealed something in Vista -- so what? What does Vista compete with? Nothing. It's not like Apple is going to rush some Vista-stolen feature into it's OS (ha ha, that would be ironic). I think the whole "secrecy" thing is silly anyway once you're reasonably close to a release of something. It's just a way for marketing people to feel important.

So we're going to get discounted Zunes? Umm... whatever. If they wanted to be really cool, they'd get Zunes made with Microsoft logos and GIVE a free one to every employee. What would that cost? 10 million? 15 million? Hell, Bill could buy them for us on his own dime. And besides, they'd make the money back because of all the songs we'd be wirelessly downloading and sending to each other or whatever it is we're supposed to do now that we know music is a "community" experience (dude, maybe at a Springsteen concert, but keep your damn mitts off my playlist, that's all I'm sayin').

So we're getting an internal Mini site? Is it supposed to be anonymous or not? If not, nobody's gonna say nuthin. If so, c'mon, you really going to believe that? Who's going to take that risk? Not me.

Finally, boy am I glad I missed another one of Steve B's tiresome Sweatin' to the Oldies routines. Get a new routine please.

Anonymous said...

Happiest parts for me listening in on the live feed of the meeting were when they directly addressed the issue of stock price, and what'd make it go up, and just where it sits in the scheme of things. I don't think you'll get more realistic or direct answers than whatchagot.

I also liked the long-term view that was applied to how our products are doing and what's needed to really compete. This was the first meeting in YEARS where I felt like a truly credible, coherent strategy was being presented. If we keep going this way, we're going to be a truly fearsome company in about 1 or 2 years from now when we have all the Office 12 / Vista noise behind us.

Still disappointing to see Ballmer do his sweating-stomping-screaming routine. Does anyone outside of the sales force really get fired up by that nonsense? Let's see a bit of dignity and professionalism at the top, yo.

The giving campaign and charity mentions weren't nearly so cringe-worthy this year. (Though for some reason, Raikes' speaking style grates on me. It's like he's trying to too hard to be a regular guy, or something. Can't put my finger on it.) I think they're close to striking the right note on this topic without ramming the notion of giving back to the community down my throat, or making our paltry % of donations relative to our income out to be some great sacrifice, finally.

And to the first poster who noted that "work at home totally fits in our culture and our software" - tell that to Sinofsky. He's apparently not that big on telecommuting. Yet another thing that I fear about him and his Office cronies coming in to "fix" Windows, and why I'm glad I'm nowhere near the Windows org...

Anonymous said...

Yeehaw! Thanks for all the ultra top secret, eyes only, must burn after reading info. I'm going to change all my business plans immediately.

Not.

Anonymous said...

The big news of the Co. Meet was the efforts by the 900 to reign in Mini. Whoa to yo who dare criticize the incompetent and overpaid.

Quit now!! is shouted from the rooftops of Redmond. Hmmm. Personally, I have always considered Whoda to be the most successful HR/Partner pr scam in corporate history, but thats just my personal view.

So does Lisa really think people are going to fess-up on an internal blog where being watched is a probability if not a certainty? Naw. Lisa thinks it will help to quell the growing suspicions that Mini is a corporate ploy. Either that or its an excuse to allow Mini to gracefully exit stage door left.

I can see it now. Board room HPesque Dunnisms with windowless white vans with special antennae roaming the streets of Redmond, searching for that bad boy Whoda.

New motto of the 21st Century: I Think Therefore I'm Outed.

Anonymous said...

Mini, you have provided a great service to Microsoft and its share holders. You should get the 4 million SPSA not Lisa Brumel.

Anonymous said...

http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,1995,2019089,00.asp

Amazon.com has given Brian Valentine, who was head of Windows Vista development until he resigned recently, stock incentives worth more than $12-million at the current share price. The stock award was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and gives Valentine 400,000 shares which will vest between September 2008 and September 2012 at a rate of 20 percent annually as long as he's with the company. Before he resigned, Microsoft said Valentine, a 19-year veteran, would be reassigned as soon as Vista shipped, and the unit handed over to senior vice president, Jon DeVaan.

Anonymous said...

It's surprising how many eat up the bullshit and flush it down with Kool-Aid. Two of my coworkers sitting next to me not only haven't seen Playtable and Photosynth (even though you can download video demos of both from microsoft.com), they ate up the "car" demo and CRM demo, too. Needless to say, they were ecstatic about the "ads", too (even though most of them haven't used anything but Windows PCs), and gave a standing applause to Ballmer. Stock is down 50 cents in two days, by the way. Personally, based on speeches alone, I would replace SteveB with Kevin Turner. The contrast between them was startling. Neither knows much about technology, but Kevin struck me as a smart guy who is very customer and shareholder focused.

Anonymous said...

On
"Mini, I'm sick of reading confidential material posted here. Today you've posted at least one item that isn't intended for public disclosure at this stage"

You show a demo to 10K people
in a stadium and you think it's going to stay confidential? That's a nice theory, but anything they show they assume people will talk about

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I happen to know that lots of cool, unannounced demos were not shown at the company meeting because they feared bloggers (including mini) would leak it. I don't mind the blog, but that's one clear way that Mini (and others) have influenced what we show/say to employees. It's really too bad, but also a sign of the times.

Matt said...

I've always thought that the airing of the dirty laundry in public that happens on this site was bad for MS, but I agree with Mini - if this had all been internal and unavailable for the press, things would never have changed.

Mini, a couple of points on the meeting (my first company meeting):

1. I sat on level 100 and found those paper planes to be freeking annoying. Pieces of flying paper hitting people around me in the back of the head all day was an unnecessary distraction. Probably cool for the level 200/300 people though.

2. I find Steve's ra-ra-ra-locker-room-high-five-yelling-like-an-ape performance (and it is pure theatre) to lower my respect for the guy. There are ways of motivating people with denegrating yourself. People around me were just laughing at the guy like it was some kind of comedy act.

3. How cold is Safeco field! Can we please consider Key Arena or somewhere that is at least enclosed! I spose someone gets a kickback from using Safeco or something. Two people in my team are away today due to colds they picked up yesterday.

4. Overall I thought it was a well organized day. You can tell after doing this so many times the organizers have the logisitcs down.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I love about this compnay is that when you are "open and honest" about our policys, practices, or products you soon find yourself labeled as "bad for morale." But hey, what do I know, my team has only lost half of its people to google in the last year and the other half is suffering from a transfer freeze..

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's good news for Apple that Microsoft finds the need to needle it in a company meeting. For the longest time, Apple might as well have not existed. 10 years ago, they were DOOOMED, everyone would tell you, DOOMED. Now they're feisty- and historically, the days when Microsoft gets fat and lazy (and ships crapola for software) are the ones where they perceive NO competition.

Of course, it must make for some awkward "heh-heh" laughs in the Macintosh Business Unit- you know, the division of the company that actually DEVELOPS for the platform getting crapped on in videos during the Company Meeting.

But they're kind of used to never getting the spotlight and being the odd duck at MS. "OMG, you have an Apple laptop? WTF?!?!? How'd that happen?!?! You actually work here?" is the sort of reaction you see from non-MBU folks when they see someone carting around something with an Apple logo.

I've probably said this before...but the MBU should be the model for what Mini's talking about. A division of 200 people...shipping Office. And they all do it without being in the same company as the guys making the OS they run on, BTW. Yeah, they piggyback on the WinOffice team's work to some extent, but I bet you could cut the WinOffice Word/XL/Outlook/PPT teams to 400 people (and other teams commensurately) and still ship a damn good Office suite.

Anyway...keep up the good fight, Mini. I like seeing Microsoft getting lean and knowing it can't rest on their Windows and Office laurels...

Anonymous said...

What does "CRF" mean?

Anonymous said...

Just put in my 2 weeks notice. No, not because of the company meeting, but because there's a wider world out there. And in that wider world, I don't have to wait 3 months for political games to be played before my project can even begin.

--OverAndOut

Anonymous said...

I love this company. The meeting is just a reaffirmation. I'll work my butt off to get us to #1 in all the areas where we are not #1 yet.

We're not #1 in my division yet. Can I get your name so I can ask your manager for 50% of your time to work your butt off in my division? Who else needs help?! This poster is going to do it all! Yea team...blah, blah, blah. False motivation is so unflattering for a person and a company.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

I'm surprised you missed the weirdness in the LisaB presentation. At the beginning, she asked people to stand up, and then said that that was an indication of the progress that we have made.

Huh?

If she had said, "stand up if you think the new review system is a big improvement", then that would have been something.

As it was, it just struck me as manipulative.

Also, I though Bill's speech was the same one he gave the last three years.

Moe said...

I'm 5 + years at MS. COMTG is nothing more than a once-a-year way for management and the company to sell itself back to employees in a big and obvious way. We all get to see BillG and SteveB talk about why they love this company so much and then there are the usual product demos. A nice way to always spend a cold wet day shivering in the darkness of the Safe downtown.

But what of the substance? Yes, a good quote about "strategy without execution is hallucination", but what about substance at our company meeting? Why do we continually follow (iPod and Zune) and why is the money (live = ad money) so important above the simple act of innovation for it's own sake.

The barometer of innovation and impact that Microsoft will have on the world can be found in our patent numbers - and what we actually do with those innovations.

Finding a new way to click "start" or type a letter with five hundred cross references to a three-d spreadsheet is not innovation anymore, nor is providing people a forum (blog) in which to express themselves and share photos and music ten feet away from us.

Innovation, to borrow a phrase, is like pornography - you will know it when you see it.

Microsoft needs to start real innovation again. An operating system is not an innovation, and neither is a "walkman" device with a hard drive.

We are a big company milking the products from years and years ago without creating anything new.

I hope this changes quickly.

Anonymous said...

Two people in my team are away today due to colds they picked up yesterday

I can't believe you're smart enough to work at MS, and yet stupid enough to think you can "catch a cold" because the building you're in is cold.

Anonymous said...

You give a lot of lip service to a "MINI" microsoft, lean mean yada yada yada.

The Photosynth tech demo you saw:
WAS created by a small team
TOOK less than 4 months.
IS going to be shipping in less than a month.
HAS something we lack in a lot of other products: COOLNESS
and WE have a lot of other cool stuff brewing...

Wake up mini-blah the mini microsoft that you talk about is growing from within the company.

and YES I do work for the team that is doing Photosynth.

Anonymous said...

>> The barometer of innovation and impact
>> that Microsoft will have on the world can be found in our patent numbers

Try to find some innovation in our patents first. I see people getting patents for ridiculously obvious crap, just because there's a mandate to file a certain number of patents.

Anonymous said...

Okay...I have been working at MS for more than 8 years and I have been reading Mini ever since it started. I think it is now time to make some (random) observations...

1. People who complain here: Most of the times our decisions/feelings/thinking is based on our own experiences. So if someone has had a good review then he generalizes that that must be the case throughout the company. I have been guilty of that as well but guess what, this isnt true. I have learned this from my own experience lately. Believe it or not, there are some really bad mismanaged teams here at Microsoft.
2. Revealing confidential material: I am totally against it and I dont know if Mini is guilty of it or not. But there are a lot of blogs out there and to a large extent Microsoft encourages blogging. We dont follow the Apple model of holding information a secret until the very last moment. There are pros and cons to both approaches and it is not my intention to discuss that here. Now regarding whether Mini leaked info or not, I am inclined to believe Mini that most of what was revealed was already out there in the blogosphere. Mini seems like a guy who reads a lot of blogs compared to the average MS guy so I believe him more.
3. Company meeting: You can put the MS crowd in roughly two categories - the ones who cheer and stand up and are excited to touch Ballmer's sweaty hands and the ones who say that he should get a new routine. Nothing wrong with being in either group. The ones who are in the cheering group are usually guys are either fresh out of college or new employees to the company. The folks in the cynical second group are employees who have been in the company too long. Now, mind you that this is a crude categorization and there are exceptions to both groups. As I said before, I have been in the company for 8 years and I dont stand up whenever BillG or SteveB is on stage but I do go ever year. I didnt go this year though and yes, I have reached the stage where I too think that Ballmer needs a new routine. And please give me a break - ever year its the EXACT SAME routine!

Okay, this comment is turning out to be much longer than I anticipated. If you guys found this useful please do let me know (and maybe I will post a part 2!). And if you make me happy I will even reveal the bad team that you should never join as long as you are here at Microsoft!

Anonymous said...

>Why do we continually follow (iPod and Zune).

Did Ford, Chrysler, or GM invent the automobile? Did Walmart invent the concept of a store? Did IBM invent the computer? Did Dell invent the PC?

There's no shame in entering a market where others are already.

Anonymous said...

Well, I like Ballmer's speeches. If I had as much time personally invested in a company as he did, I'd get up on stage and shout my excitement at people too.

Hell, if he ever loses his voice, I might get up there and shout for him. Not because my job doesn't suck, because it does. Not because I like my co-workers, a lot of who also suck. Not because I'm well-paid, because that darned well ain't so. It's because I'm at the place where I can do what I do best and have it impact the most people, good or bad. That's freaking worth shouting about.

Anonymous said...

I like to try and balance the good with the bad.

Top 3 things I liked about the company meeting:

(1) I liked it that Bill Gates spoke at the meeting and let us know that he is still as much of a dreamer as he has always been.

(2) I was more impressed with Ray Ozzie than I expected to be. He came across as someone who didn’t have a hidden agenda and who was there because he truly likes the technology. I’m not sure how many people paid attention to his speech, but it seemed that he was actually trying to communicate something substantive to the audience and not just trying to appear cool or outdo the other speakers. I thought he made some good points, in particular in relaying the conversation he had with his CIO friend.

(3) I liked that Lisa Brummel acknowledged that there is more work to be done with improving MyMicrosoft and making Microsoft a better place to work.


Top 3 things I did not like about the company meeting:

(1) I especially hated the slide that Steve Ballmer showed talking about all the great people who were hired during the year. Every single person on the slide appeared to be a high level employee (partner). Steve, if you want to connect better with your employees, you need to get out more and realize that a person’s level at Microsoft does not mean much. Those people on your slide were just lucky enough to have not started their careers at Microsoft, to have advanced at their prior companies obtaining fancy titles, and then to get hired by Microsoft. For those of who have been at Microsoft a few years, we are not at that level primarily because of the draconian policies around promotions that were put in place. (Was that you who did that?)

(2) I did not like it that Lisa Brummel did not acknowledge and congratulate Mini for how much of an impact he (so we think) has made on the company. I know that I am better off because of this blog, which is why I am still contributing to it. Lisa, if you can come up with an internal blog that is as effective as Mini’s, then I am on board with you, but, for now, I know what works.

(3) I did not like it that the meeting organizers brought all those people on stage, who I am sure are all super nice, decent people, just to have a story in the news the next day. I hope all of those people at least got something in return for their attendance.

Anonymous said...

One more anonymous voice..

Telling Mini to shut up or get out is sort of like being told that disagreeing with government means that you're a traitor... In defense of Mini, he says he loves the company at least as often as he says anything else. If any of us can't use something like a blog to say what we really think, then times are very sad indeed.

I don't go to company meetings anymore because they always made me hate the company for a little while. All that empty rah-rah, and people on stage acting like pugilistic idiots and calling it "passion".

As long as I keep my focus well below the partner level, I love this company. Great people, wonderful energy, and a working environment that's mostly very supportive.

I'll never have an impact on the partners and the way they think, but then, they don't have all that much impact on me, either. We can, and do, pretty much ignore each other. Shake up at the top?? Yawn.
Where was I in that bug?

It would be very cool to make the internal transfer process better. No permission to interview, ability to change levels if you qualify, etc. It's insulting to have it the way it is, and too often forces good people out of the company.

It would be even more cool to train managers better, especially to make sure they get mentored. Even grade-school teachers have a required internship before they get certified.

LisaB seems to be genuine, so here's wishing her luck. Hard to move an organization this big.

Anonymous said...

I happen to know that lots of cool, unannounced demos were not shown at the company meeting because they feared bloggers (including mini) would leak it.

Well, maybe thats a loss to the humanity, but do you see the irony? It's high tech companies including MSFT that has made technology that makes blogging possible. To practise freedom of speech have never been so easy. Suddenly it works against them selfes (or so they think if they are paranoid enough). They are probably right, we should sit quiet at or desks, working and not complaining and questioning, like good little corporate citizens.

Sssshh!

Anonymous said...

About the "Lisa Turfed" CRF post.

The person who wrote that must be out to misscredit MSFT, not you personally. Otherwise MSFT got to have some really psycopathic narcisstic person employed somwhere. It's almost scary!

Charles said...

Did Ford, Chrysler, or GM invent the automobile? Did Walmart invent the concept of a store? Did IBM invent the computer? Did Dell invent the PC?

Don't hold up Ford, Chrysler and GM as some kind of role models or example to follow. They are near bankruptcy with their marketshare having been taken by the Japanese automakers who over 2-3 decades learned to better manage, better manufacture, better market, better service, and better innovate.

There are many parallels between MSFT and GM of 30 years ago. GM failed to pay attention and learn. Will MSFT?

Walmart knows more about supply chain management and IBM about marketing than MSFT will ever hope to know.

Dell never claimed to invent the PC. They claimed to cost-effectively customize a value-add PC to each users needs. If Dell built PCs the way MSFT builds an OS, the desktop would need to be 10x larger and it would be one huge monolithic chip which takes 10 years to (re)design and ship, and it would consume 10x the power. Dell's biggest cost component at present is MSFTs licensing - a problem they're working to fix.

There's no shame in entering a market where others are already.

Nor is there any profit in being a day late and a dollar short, perpetually playing catch-up to market leaders who set the pace and direction while reaping the lion's share of the profits.

Microsoft actually has a great many strengths, but management and strategy, to date, aren't among them.

Anonymous said...

>Don't hold up Ford, Chrysler and GM as some kind of role models or example to follow.

Yes, the big three are getting stomped by foreign competition today, but they also did the right things to get to the top of their industry even though they were not first to market, which was the point I was trying to make.

It would be plain foolish to think that MS, holding less than a tenth of one percent of the talent in the software industry, would regularly put out major innovations. Recognizing the innovations of others and attempting to improve on them is just as valid a business strategy.

The remainder of your post is completely irrelevant to what the original poster and and I were discussing, innovation, so I won't bother to quote any further. If you have anything on topic to contribute, you may feel free to reply.

Anonymous said...

We are trying to make this a good place to work just as much as we are trying to be successful.

motivating people is hard even if i can't always tell my subordinates what is going on. I have misused the old system, i had no choice. i was going nowhere fast.

dalena

Anonymous said...

About people being afraid to post on LisaB's internal Mini-like blog, I for one think she is genuine when she says it is truly anonymous. Even if she isn't, are they going to fire anyone over it? If you are a strong performer, you have nothing to worry about. I love working for MS, but if fired you could easily find another job with probably beter pay. Also, you would immediately talk to the press and/or post on Mini talking about how your post on the internal blog resulted in your termination. MS doesn't need that kind of press.

I think she is trying with myMicrosoft but change is slow and she cant help that not every division implemented according to the original spirit of the idea. Also you just cant make everyone happy.

Finally, about the Ballmer routine on stage, well I think most of us loved it when the stock was up. Now that the internal cynic switch has been turned on it does seem silly.

Anonymous said...

Hypocrites!

If you attended the Company meeting and applauded any of the LisaB strategies then you are a Hypocrite. If you are a manager of people or a manager of managers at Microsoft and you applauded or believe in MyMicrosoft you are a Hypocrite.

You have a lot to learn, look around you and see the disgrace that is the review system in Microsoft. Look at the performance of this company, look at the investment made by Microsoft in its senior partners and look at the R&D investment in products that never go anywhere.

Now, take a good look at the merit, bonus and stock awards given to the majority of staff in Microsoft. LisaB should be ashamed, as should SteveB and BillG.

As a manager of people and managers in Microsoft, I was ashamed to give the reviews to my team. I know how screwed up and flawed this company is and I experienced firsthand the lies and deceit that is the HR system in Microsoft.

I love doing my job in Microsoft, I work very hard / smart and I have given many years of great service. As a manager I have to look after my team. I cannot do this within the current system but like Mini and many others I will not walk away. I will fight my corner and make sure my team get the recognition they deserve.

Charles said...

Recognizing the innovations of others and attempting to improve on them is just as valid a business strategy.

No, it isn't.

What you cite as a "business strategy" is merely a prerequisite to corporate survival that all companies are forced by competition to acknowledge. If you can not better your competition, you will not survive. Improving on the innovations of others (legally) is necessary but not sufficient.

Neither your customers nor your competition are standing still. They are likewise improving on their (and your) innovations. Improvements help to keep pace, but they do not overtake and command market leadership, in absence of other differentiators like quality, cost, performance, and especially mission-critical functionality.

Microsoft's marketing error is its "fast-follower, embrace-and-extend" tactics. It provides no strategic advantage, does not position MS for market leadership, and does not differentiate MS from its competition (aside from the failures to keep pace) as all of MS competitors are following each other as fast as they can and embracing and extending whatever the market deems to be best practice or best of breed.

"fast-follower and embrace-and-extend" as a "strategy" is really just a euphemism for no strategy, it's purely reactionary tactics.

MS development is merely making lemonade from marketing's lemons.

Anonymous said...

re: leaked info from the company meeting


It seems no one ever remembers even though they mention it during the meeting... A bunch of the press are invited to the meeting, nothing there is assumed to be private. The execs are serving up the kool-aid not just to employees.

Anyone thinking their group decided not to show a demo because it would be 'leaked' doesn't know the true audience of the meeting. No point in accusing mini of leaking secrets. Before blogging exploded the press still reported what happened in the meeting, which spoof videos were shown, what was demo'd, etc.

Anonymous said...

Even if she isn't, are they going to fire anyone over it?
Of course.
If you are a strong performer, you have nothing to worry about. I love working for MS, but if fired you could easily find another job with probably beter pay.
It's still a huge deterrent to telling truth to power. And we've all seen how SteveB and most of the executives use their power.
Also, you would immediately talk to the press and/or post on Mini talking about how your post on the internal blog resulted in your termination. MS doesn't need that kind of press.
The press wouldn't matter, but you very likely could not divulge enough detail about your complaint to matter, unless you violate your NDA.

HR is not on your side. Lisa is not on your side. Someone on that internal blog pisses off an executive enough, she will find them and make sure they exit the company. THAT is her job.

Anonymous said...

Glad you noticed the airplane Mini. I also noticed the AMAZING amount of applause (seemed like this was the most applause we saw all day? Rest of applause seemed out of politeness or because they were talking about someone's group) for the paper airplane that made it to the foot of the podium.

I'm not sure the speaker understood why they were cheering either, since the cheering came at an odd point in the presentation and he had a puzzled look on his face.

The airplane was flying away from the stage and then made a sharp turn when nobody expected it to, and landed right at the speaker's feet!

I think our executives could learn from this. We gladly cheer seeing the result of successful execution of an innovation on a tried and true idea from somebody else that overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds and does the improbable when you least expect it.

This is the kind of execution that delights our employees, and this is how Microsoft should work.

Take existing or new ideas and make them better, make them do things nobody ever expected possible for the cost, and SURPRISE people with success.

Anonymous said...

"attended the meeting and got a cold the next day?" Is this the kind of critical thinking and analysis that goes on at Microsoft now? A cold is a virus and does not exhibit itself in symptoms immediately. It takes 3 days for one to show the symptoms of a cold. Those people on your team that are out with a cold caught the virus two days before the company meeting.