Sunday, November 26, 2006

Limited Round-Up, New Souls, and Old Problems

It's a holiday season copy-and-paste special!

Going back to the issues over Limited Scenario II, a couple of folks wrote in describing why it is the way it is and that it's a good thing. First: my main issue is with calling a good, solid person on your team "limited." L-i-m-i-t-e-d. I do hope you got that. Slapping a "II" on it doesn't make it better. And if you're okay with that designation, do you go and give them a head-nooggie right after reviewing their numbers? E.g., does repeating this - perhaps in an increasingly louder voice - make things better:

Limited II: "Consistent performer who has met expectations".

?

Seriously, though: I'd like to see what you think the text of such a message is like, as if you were delivering it to someone you was important to the team, solid, but not expected to advance to the next level and therefore Limited II. How do you deliver such a firm message that doesn't grind their motivation and morale under your heel?

The ever reliable Alyosha` has an interesting insight:

[...] But this sort of nonsense wouldn't happen were it not for Microsoft's corporate philosophy of differentiated rewards.

Differentiation creates winners and losers. And because it's nigh impossible to distinguish performance from potential, capability from visibility, and perceived performance from real performance -- some of those "losers" ought to have been winners, and some of the "winners" ought to have been losers.

You insist on differentiation, you get exactly this sort of crap.

You get rid of differentiation, you get a totally different set of crap. Some people start coasting, other people get offended because they consider themselves a unique special snowflake that deserves much more compensation than their base pay.

But you know what? Most people just take their COLA and keep chugging on. In the end, I'd be willing to bet that non-differentiation is the lesser of the two evils.

Alyosha`'s comment does make me wonder: what if we had unbalanced differentiated rewards: keep the high-end and drop the low-end? Continue to reward the super-contributors and people who obviously committed a lot of time and effort to get excellent results far beyond their peers. But drop the hunt for finding the Kims of the workforce. More time goes into protecting people who are solid contributors but at risk of getting zero or mediocre rewards. Why? Because we have a statistical need, it seems, to ensure somebody gets zilch. Because surely there are a batch of people in your team deserving of zilch. Don't make us statistically decide that people deserve the zilch. But reward groups who move on the obvious zilchie deadwood, Microsoft-mismatches, and low-contributors through-out the year. Otherwise, we'll continue keeping them around to ensure the bottom is properly zilch-padded.

Regarding Limited II, one commenter wonders if it's basically process-based age-discrimination :

Not only is it bad management, it's also ILLEGAL! It's a violation of both state and federal law to have management policies that favor younger workers over older ones. This is age discrimination, plain and simple. The higher level you are at, the more difficult it is to earn a level increase.

Notes From the Field has a great comment that starts off as follows (I urge you to read the whole comment - it's great and gives insight into what customers are responding to):

No, *I* am Kim.

Several people I've worked with for a number of years are Kim too. If I were to start my own business tomorrow, these are the people I would want to take with me to Kims Inc. These are the people that close deals and make customers and partners happy. These are the people that have instant credibility and know how to take control of a situation. These are the people that know their stuff, but don't need extra wide doors for their egos. Sure I would want some of the rising stars, but the majority of my company would be the strong performers with business maturity - the Kims.

If your in a dark mood reflecting over being a corporate cog, this is the comment for you. The teaser:

I'm probably missing a few other important notes here, but having said that, here's some guaranteed ways for you to get ahead at MSFT, if you have the balls to swing it [...]

In the midst of all of this, the Intel Perspective anonymous blog has a couple of posts up regarding their Intel Focal review process:

One thing that's interesting: Intel employees get what seems like a 360 review by recommending peers and stakeholders to their manager to get feedback on the employee's performance. An even worse political drama than what we have? Maybe. But I think team work might have to be elevated to some degree in order to get positive feedback (even if you both wash each others' hands, there might be some good for the company and customer as a side-product). I would at least like a system for year-around non-anonymous feedback open to anyone.

And, as always, I have to highlight any comment that is summed up as: let your resume set you free:

It should be obvious to anyone reading the internal blog and observing the changes over the last year that there is unfairness in our compensation system but nobody is going to do anything about it - if only because there is no fair system to correct the status quo.

If you have issues, don't whine, go jobhunting and post your success stories instead.

Elsewhere in the land of the letter J...

Jay and J: Jay Greene at Business Week has an edgy thinker J Allard focused cover story piece: The Soul Of A New Microsoft (strangely iTunes obsessed sound-cast also). This came out around the same time as:

Anyway. Props to J for the refreshing dose of determined culture and actually endeavoring to make a new image for Microsoft and probably cause Sony to shoot all of its toes off with platinum bullets. But how does the bottom line and results come up for J and Microsoft? So far, our new soul seems obsessed with blowing all of our money. Dividends? Buy-backs? Hell no. Let them play Xbox!

Nero's got a new fiddle.

More interesting to me in the article are the changes being called out at Microsoft. Snippet:

Lately, some outsiders who work with Microsoft detect signs that the culture is slowly shifting as well. "They're definitely in the middle of a strategy re-look," says Hewlett-Packard Co. chief strategy and technical officer Shane V. Robison, who chats with Microsoft brass. "It will be a fairly orderly evolution, but there's a lot of new discussion that I'm seeing."

Joel and the menu of doom: Joel Spolsky grumbles about the revised Vista shutdown options. Moishe Lettvin follows up with the more interesting post-MSFT inside perspective of what it was like to try and design some menu options: moblog The Windows Shutdown crapfest which is a more interesting read given that it discusses the meeting-cluster-flub Microsoft seems to be obsessed with. Or perhaps that was old bad bureaucratically obsessed Microsoft. Joel followed up on that. Even post-MSFT-Scoble followed-up with a big thumbs down / hard-to-dance-to all the Microsoft committees.

How to avoid that cluster-flubbing in the future? You've got to trust your individual contributor feature owners and let them revel in having the courage to make decisions on their own. And compensate them well for their successes. Plus, wipe out all those meeting obsessed management layers. This was a small dose of Philip Su all over again.

The small bit of Microsoft culture you have to figure out what to do with: our obsession with consensus. Maybe you've had success at avoiding it (like a new webcast a few of us watched recently by Microsoftie Josh Ledgard). How do you get it done right, Microsoft-style?


183 comments:

Anonymous said...

A few comments and suggestions in the spirit of positive discussions.

Stock awards is a tool to retain people. We give people stock that vest over 5 years with the hope that they will not take their bonus and jump ship. If we buy into this, then a 0 stock award is a clear signal that we do not care too much about whether you stay or go. I think it is completely bone headed to set rules that relate number of years at level to 0 stock award or a Limited classification. We do not promote people on tenure so why should we slap Limited rating based on tenure at a level? Besides promotion to the next level is predicated on 2 things: employee's readiness and the existence of business need. How screwed up is that unless it is a passive agressive means to cause attrition? But I do agree that questions need to be asked if someone is at a level too long. The right approach would be to ask direct managers tough questions on why a report is at that level this long and what is the plan to grow them up or out.

We as a company is now roaming the wilderness because we have forgotten what our purpose as a business is. Can any of you tell me what is our reason for being? A business cannot flourish if its sole purpose is to just make money. Without a clear purpose, vision gets foggy and we chase mirages like the Zune, Dynamics etc. So a request to our leadership = please define and articulate clearly our reason for being. By the way it cannot be "we change lives through innovative software" as it is not clear enough. Unfortunately we in mid-management cannot do this so we have to ask for your help. In the vacuum we are forced to make this one up and the company suffers due to lack of unity of purpose.

Accountability is completely missing. Look around how many people were promoted this year after they led absolute disastrous projects. Here is an idea for bringing it back. Split up the yearly bonus pool into Team Bonus + Individual Bonus. Teams (like individuals) who do not meet their commitments get 0 or low share of the team bonus. Within teams there are individuals who perform miracles even when teams do poorly. They should be able to get a high share of the individual bonus. This has the good side effect of creating an incentive for members of teams to question management effectiveness constantly. I often wonder whether there would have been more hard questions asked from within the team in WinFS if the team members saw part of their bonuses tied to the team's performance.

There you go mini. You wanted critical positive comments and you got some. I do not have all the answers but am always willing to engage in the debate and bring my ideas to the table to help my company flourish again.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini,

I read and enjoy your blog a lot by reading your perspective and insight into the problems MS is facing and potential solutions.

Now, here is a doubt. Its on the blogosphere repeatedly and emphatically, these days that the future is the Web. The role of PC is diminishing gradually in the Web 2.0 era. Now, if MS goes mini and reduces itself to two cash cows - Windows and Office, pleasing shareholders, we might be well off during the short term, but how does that futureproof the company, if we do not make investments in the technologies that many analysts believe will drive the software industry.

I do not know if you argument for slicing down MS involves giving up on MSN and Windows Live and many other teams that do not seem to be making any profit for now.

If microsoft goes mini, we wouldnt have xbox, zune or many other not so profitable products now, but have potential to turn out great, or atleast are inline with the direction the whole software industry is moving towards.

I do not know why, but suddenly, at as early as 5:05 in the morning, I feel that reducing Microsoft to Win and Office will be a great disaster for the company in the long run and will be very ineffective solution for any software company in the world.

Anonymous said...

re: "Limited Round-Up, New Souls, and Old Problems". I got Ltd II - yay! Got the 4% payraise - nice! Got 0 stock - not nice! Good job I only paid half on my National Lampoons Xmas swimming pool ;) Now, the Ltd II was a stomach churner when I first heard "limited". But, I went home, went through my last years' project status notes and chatted with folk - I wasn't such a bad person after all: projects ahead of time; initiated some new ideas and partners/customers loved me - aaaahhh. I took a knee-jerk move to another team, really for a sanity check. I saw two additional management layers and 3-5 emails a day to double-check that I really was using Three Kinds of Softness in the restroom. Oops, I was right, in five years at MS, things have changed. Oh! J Allard: your team wants to hurt you - I sat next to them at the Co. Meeting when you were on stage - they were shouting bad things at you - yikes! Now in rambling mode. 'Nuff said - taking a gig on the "outside" - one layer between me and the CEO, 50% pay raise and health benny's same as MS ('cept a $15 doctor vist co-pay).

H Bunny said...

I am concerned not only for the future of the company but for that of a generation of individuals that have to compete on a global basis.

The creation of Microsoft, IBM, Google, Ford Motor Co., have all been based of an entrepreneurial spirit that states if you work hard, have creative ideas, and contribute; then you will control your destiny and reap the rewards.

Everyone is so wrapped up in ancillary items that have nothing to do with excellence in performance and behavior. The greatest corporate cheer did not go out because Vista shipped, it is because towels came back to campus. The argument over Limited II is a discussion in “political fairness”; not in the creation of excellence in the organization.

I am attracted to this blog because it promotes the notion that we should be aggressive and competitive in our approach to the industry and our competitors. I am disappointed that it is getting dragged down into a discussion about the lowest common denominator.

I see a generation steeped in “what’s in it for me”. It feels so socialistic. It must be HR/management’s fault that I don’t have… Let those that work hard pay for those of us that don’t. It is “those people” that need to be pulled down to the middle to make sure that the have-nots feel better about themselves. Let’s not have winners and losers… we should play the game and not keep score. Can’t we all just get along??

No differentiation??? Why buy Windows or Office if there is no differentiation, Star Office is the way of the future. Get an IPod, not a Zune, what’s the difference.

“Microsoft has no differentiating value statement” --- Have Ballmer say that out loud and see what happens to the stock price…

The challenge is putting differentiation into the work force. How do you reward people that make things happen? You might give them larger raises and bigger stock grants. How about for those that do a good solid job?? Pay them a salary and thank them for the effort. Seems reasonable. Don’t like the term Limited II; change it… I am OK with that, but in our current state of political correctness, it might have to be “Solid Superstar that got screwed by co-workers, their manager and politics but we still love ‘em.” I would hate for anyone to get their feelings hurt.

Sorry to be blunt. Business is a game played by big boys and girls and the stakes are for all the marbles. I am OK if that game is not for everyone.

On the backside of Thanksgiving, I am pretty sure that the vast majority of our employees had a roof over their heads and food on the table. Not bad SteveB, thank you.

I want more. I am willing to work hard and let the chips fall out accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

The first thing to look for is: will the "Limited" ranking be "fixed" next year? Will there be accountability for the “limited” HR person that proposed such ranking and criteria like the one for “Limited II”?

In the meantime, a friend of mine was taken to HR by giving feedback that someone was “incompetent” when doing a certain totally work-related task. And HR made a case against him saying that he was talking about “personal attributes” when talking about a person. How is this consistent with your suggestion of "year-around non-anonymous feedback open to anyone"? (Basically incompetent employees are trying to prevent feedback by using HR as a new tool to silence people). Since when “incompetence” is a personal attribute?

Maybe when applying to HR positions at Microsoft you should fill-in a form:
Name:
Eye color:
Sex: [ ] Male [ ] Female
Competent: [ ] Yes [X] No

Better have the value pre-defined for Microsoft’s HR personnel!

Anonymous said...

In September I received a limited II.

The point made earlier that when MS stops giving you stock it's pretty clear that they don't care if you leave -- dead on.

If they want you to stay, they give you stock. If they don't care, they allocate the stock elsewhere.

I got the message. Thursday's my last day at MS... on to a totally new career running my own business. Gutsy or stupid, we'll see.

But at least when I look at myself in the mirror I see someone with hope and passion, not another drone whining about the system.

That's certainly something to be thankful for.

Adieu Microsoft.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

Further to your link to my Xbox post. I ran across this today and updated my blog story accordingly (link can be found there if interested):

"When asked how long it will be before Microsoft starts making money on Xbox, Bach replied, "To be clear, we have said that in fiscal 08, entertainment and devices makes money. That’s not exactly Xbox. We don’t break profit down by business. And there are parts of entertainment and devices that make money. Xbox doesn’t. Xbox has to make significant progress to enable E&D to get there."

In other words, even in FY 08 (7 years after launch) - despite repeated previous guidance - there still isn't confidence that Xbox itself will finally be standalone profitable and therefore able to at least begin paying back the $4-5B "invested" to date.

"However, Bach added, "We feel we are on track.""

Of course, the same guy figured payback would occur in less than 5 years, but is now backpedaling on whether even just sustained profitability will be possible after 7.

Anonymous said...

Not only is it bad management, it's also ILLEGAL! It's a violation of both state and federal law to have management policies that favor younger workers over older ones. This is age discrimination, plain and simple. The higher level you are at, the more difficult it is to earn a level increase.

You're only protected from age discrimination at age 41 and over.

I got "Kim"'ed at age 40 and decided to leave Microsoft.

It sounds to me like they are introducing the same system with new labels.

Does anyone know if they still have the annual firing of those not deemed worthy by the "curve"?

Microsoft reminds me of that movie called Logan's Run.

Anonymous said...

I think the team bonus is a good idea. I think the "individual" bonus is a bad idea. (heresy in the halls of Microsoft becuase there, you are an "Individual" contributor).

First of all, a team bonus for successfully delivering a quality product on-time and without bugs would focus the team on what's important (like making it work right the first time and shipping it when the customer wants and not when you're finally sick of looking at it). And then rewarding the accomplishment of that goal.

Second, it would provide a lot more accountability and visibility and somewhat less room for obfuscating the schedule or the reason for slipping. (it's YOUR schedule so YOU are late, maybe next time you won't believe all those impossible promises or take on a plan without a backup or contingency...you know, the things a good manager or lead dev thinks of and a bad one doesn't). Individual contributors simply need to find a scapegoat.

Third, why do you need individual bonuses on top of team ones? That just undermines the collective team attitude. Now dividing things among the team unequally is fine, if the team is the one doing the dividing, not some distant manager who is 6-levels removed from the project. On a team, you are all in it together, to succeed or fail. Whatever happens, it will happen to the group, not the individual. The excessively individualistic attitude is corrosive and counter productive in a team. (again, it's fortunate for me they don't burn people who speak heresy).

Finally, there's the ever-present "team bonuses just encourage the slackers to slack off and reap the benefits of the hard workers" excuse. That is generally presented by people who haven't worked on a healthy, well-managed team. On a well-managed team, the slackers either self-select out (i.e. they leave on their own) or they are peer-pressured out. Either way, if it is a problem, it isn't a permanent one.

Bottom line, individual bonuses just encourage the Machiavellian atmosphere you currently see. The people who win in the current system are those who are simply the best at gaming the system, they are not always the best people to "delight the customer." Because the "individual contributor" could give a rat's ass about the customer. They are individual contributors looking out for number one.

Anonymous said...

You might give them larger raises and bigger stock grants. How about for those that do a good solid job?? Pay them a salary and thank them for the effort. Seems reasonable.

Solid performers vs superstars is not the issue. Solid performers and superstars vs brown-nosing visibility hounds is the issue.

Anonymous said...

I think the team bonus idea is a great one.

I think the individual bonus idea is a bad one.

First, the team bonus will focus people on working together to achieve a common goal instead of encouraging people to focus on sucking up to the next level and make sure they are "visible."

Second, it will improve accountability and make the bad projects and/or project managers less able to hide behind a veil of excuses disguised as clever PowerPoint slides or Microsoft Projet estimates. As a team manager, if YOUR project is late, it's YOUR fault. Maybe next time you won't believe all those impossible promises from other groups or embark on a project without a "plan-b."

Third, I think individual bonuses completely undermine the team spirit. Now, if a team wishes to divide their team bonus up unequally, that's fine, but it should be the team doing the dividing (not the team's manager or the group manager, 4-levels removed). If you keep the individual bonus, you keep the need to suck-up to the boss and not just deliver the goods.

Finally, there's the "team bonuses just encourage the slackers to reap the benefits of the hard workers" excuse. That excuse is usually presented by people who haven't worked on a good team. The transfer rules would need to be loosened so that people could run from a bad team (leaving the bad team manager left holding the bag) and people could flock to the teams that best fit their skills and work ethic.

Bottom line, a team bonus would encourage people to focus on "delighting the customer" by delivering quality products, on-time. The "individual bonus" just encourages the current, Machiavellian environment.

I guess this all gets back to what the goal of the company is as to what is really important.

Anonymous said...

According to Fortune, Microsoft's pay is among the highest paying companies in the tech world. A handful of tech companies pay more than Microsoft. But these companies are located at more expensive places too. Living expenses in the valley are easily 25 to 30 percent more than in Seattle. Account for this and Microsoft is easily the top paying tech company.

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/bestcompanies/pay/

Yes, Ballmer is doing a good job in putting food on our tables and a roof on our heads. On top of that he is doing a good job in putting flat screens in our living rooms and a sleek cars in our garages if we wish. Everybody in Microsoft with two pays can easily afford these luxuries.

Anonymous said...

"Let those that work hard pay for those of us that don’t. It is “those people” that need to be pulled down to the middle to make sure that the have-nots feel better about themselves. Let’s not have winners and losers… we should play the game and not keep score. Can’t we all just get along??"

You really, really don't get it. Who said anyone wanted to coast and get all the great bonuses and bennies? Nobody! The point is that the "worker bees" - who are not coasting, they are WORKING - are getting paid less and less (raises are < inflation every year) and being incented to leave (no stock to vest over time, given insulting labels for reviews). The POINT is that the message being given is: leave. If that's the message HR intended, then all is fine and dandy in MSFTland. People have definitely gotten that message and are leaving. Would be nice to get that message more straightforwardly, but hey, organizations (and certainly HR) are not perfect.

However, if MSFT actually needs worker bees, which is what many here are saying, then it is shooting itself in the foot by implementing Ltd II.

Is that clearer now? Your post is completely offbase and not what people here have been saying.

Anonymous said...

"I think the team bonus is a good idea. I think the "individual" bonus is a bad idea."

Individual performances matter a lot. So I do not agree with you that individual bonus based on my performance is a bad idea. Like teams, individuals need accountability as well. Making it clear what portion is tied to the team's performance and what portion is tied to my individual performance is the right thing to do. Teams that are not performing well need infusion of strong talent to turn it around. If there were no individual incentives, these teams would find it hard to attract talent and lose the few remaining good ones they have.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, this thing is just FLYING off the shelves. Unlike many, I agree that the XBox is a good investment. The ZUNE is a poor one (at least in it current iteration).

Can we EVER knock one out of the park on day one?

This kind of crap just reinforces our very own "halo effect" - that MS doesn't get it right until the 3rd version.

WSJ.com - Microsoft's Zune Falls Off Sales Pace For Media Players

If Microsoft sells close to the upper range of sales estimates of 500,000, Zune would generate about $125 million, a miniscule amount in comparison to overall revenue. In fiscal 2007, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expect revenue of more than $50 billion and earnings of $1.45 a share. Microsoft has said it doesn't expect to profit from this product right away.


http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB116467941732234076.html

Anonymous said...

It would be simply ** fascinating ** to see how profitable the "Entertainment &Devices" unit would be, if the MacBU were pulled out of the equation.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's pay is among the highest paying companies in the tech world

This is misleading. Microsoft officially pays 67 percentile. I have been MSFT for 9 years and my salary is $5k below the median salary according to salary.com (local zip code, similar years of experience).

Of course the average annual pay in fortune could be true given there are 900 partners and thousands of middle managers whose pay are way above the 67 percentile. MSFT is heaven for these people as majority of them can not get similar job offer at all in another company. However smart and experienced ICs are better off in other companies where there are less bureaucracy and management layers.

Anonymous said...

msftextrememakeover:

I think you should do a little research about the current xbox situation.Xbox 360 is not losing money anymore.

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/nov2006/tc20061116_736188.htm?campaign_id=rss_tech

"Sony's plan is much like that of rival Microsoft (MSFT): Take a loss on the console and make it back on the games. And that's exactly what Microsoft did when it launched the Xbox 360 a year ago (see BusinessWeek.com, 11/22/05, "Microsoft's Red-Ink Game"). At the time, the $399 Xbox 360 cost the software giant $470 to make, leaving a loss of $71 for each one sold.

But times change, and the prices of chips come down. A new iSuppli analysis of the Xbox 360 and the price of the components used in it reveals that Microsoft may be close to hitting the breakeven point on the Xbox 360. The console now costs Microsoft $323 to manufacture, leaving a gross profit of $76 per unit."

Anonymous said...

Of course the average annual pay in fortune could be true given there are 900 partners and thousands of middle managers whose pay are way above the 67 percentile

Not to rain on your tirade or anything but:
A) Executive management (including partners) doesn't fall under the salaried employees that this survey counts
B) Other companies have middle management and and the equivalent of partners too

I agree it's time to go someplace where there's less bureaucracy, but let's not spout BS.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft 42 $107,300

900 partners skew the compensation. They got paid $1 billion in special compensation. The partners regular pay package without special stock is 500K at L68.

Anonymous said...

Based on the brutal ZUNE launch and reception, Ballmer should spend some time reflecting (if he's capable) and reassess his belief in the ability and value for money of certain members of his management team. IMO, any randomly selected team of employees would have demonstrated more understanding for what the minimum product bar would have to be, and wouldn't have settled for anything less just to get it out for Xmas. Maybe the next project should pit a team of supposedly hot shit execs against a team of randomly selected employees with the stakes being each other's yearly bonuses?

Anonymous said...

If the awful comparison may be forgiven:

The Zune is like the war in Iraq, in that it represents the triumph of delusional thinking. It looks like a disaster, but if we just keep spending and keep believing it will work out in our favor through sheer will power and fortitude.

Anonymous said...

"The console now costs Microsoft $323 to manufacture, leaving a gross profit of $76 per unit."

It may cost $323 to make, but I'm sure we are still selling it to the distributors for less then that.

Anonymous said...

>>>>>This is misleading. Microsoft officially pays 67 percentile. I have been MSFT for 9 years and my salary is $5k below the median salary according to salary.com (local zip code, similar years of experience).<<<<<

This is not the first time, I have noticed that many commentators on minimsft have mathematical knowledge below high school level.

First, below median is not a evidence of 67th percentile. It is an evidence of below 50th percentile. Second, salary.com can't see whether your mathematical knowledge is below high school level.

67th percentile salary is a good number. It means Microsoft targets to pay more than 2/3rd of other equivalent employers. I do not think there are many other companies with this high percentiles of target salaries. Most companies target to pay at median. I do not know about Network Appliance, but Cisco does target at median (unconfirmed information from friends).

Why 67th perecentile is good. Because paying at 67th percentile is invariably going to put you at the top of the average as this survey shows. At individual level, a person may find a better salary elsewhere. But I bet you that most of the Microsoftees can't find a better paying job elsewhere. Note Valley's dollars are 25-30% inflated compare to Seattle's dollars.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the next project should pit a team of supposedly hot shit execs against a team of randomly selected employees with the stakes being each other's yearly bonuses?

Brilliant! Except instead of "randomly selected" let's make it Execs vs. a team composed entirely of Limited IIs. My bet is on the Kims.

Anonymous said...

"Xbox 360 is not losing money anymore.
...
The console now costs Microsoft $323 to manufacture, leaving a gross profit of $76 per unit."

Interesting that the units themselves are turning a profit now but it barely scratches the surface of development and marketing costs. If sales targets are being met, that means ~0.7M units are sold per month. Assuming a year of sales at this rate and level of profitability (which is ridiculously optimistic), that multiplies out to $651M. Didn't the initial 360 advertising campaign cost $500M?

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"msftextrememakeover:

I think you should do a little research about the current xbox situation.Xbox 360 is not losing money anymore."

The iSuppli numbers referenced in your post are estimates of manufacturing component costs alone and even then, self-admit to not including even all of those (e.g. no controller, cable, packaging, costs). See detail here iSuppli. Then you have the transportation, marketing, inventory, distribution, etc., costs associated with getting the box to consumers and of course operating and maintaining Live. So while the trajectory of component costs is encouraging, it doesn't change the fact that the business overall is still unprofitable (as you saw last Q, and as Allard confirms in the snippet I provided). Worse, as per that snippet, Bach now appears to be hedging on it being so even by FY 08 - despite repeated corporate guidance to that affect. Those, unfortunately, are the facts. Now, if someone wants to take those facts and still make the case for why and how it's a good investment -or even "one of the greatest creations of shareholder value ever" as Ballmer says, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Somone said, "900 partners skew the compensation. They got paid $1 billion in special compensation. The partners regular pay package without special stock is 500K at L68."

This happens at lots of other companies as well, most big companies today have highly skewed pay. So when you do the salary comparison surveys, remember MSFT isn't the only one with this problem and the survey results reflect it elsewhere too.

Anonymous said...

I think you should do a little research about the current xbox situation.Xbox 360 is not losing money anymore.

And:

But times change, and the prices of chips come down. A new iSuppli analysis of the Xbox 360 and the price of the components used in it reveals that Microsoft may be close to hitting the breakeven point on the Xbox 360. The console now costs Microsoft $323 to manufacture, leaving a gross profit of $76 per unit."

Key word: "gross" profit, not net. You still have distributors and retailers taking their cut of that $76 per unit before Microsoft sees a dime of "real" profit. That's why the article says "Microsoft may be *close* to hitting the breakeven point on the Xbox 360." It doesn't say what you claim it says.

Anonymous said...

HOT SHIT EXECS V. THE PROLETARIAT

This is one of the best ideas I've seen in awhile. I would even go so far as to make it work like a reality TV show (without the cameras). People apply for selection, but are chosen randomly based only on the need to fill certain skill sets. You get 1-2 people in each category: dev, test, PM, marketing, and ops, maximum of 15 people with none of them higher than L65. The group elects a leader that reports directly to Ballmer (and fills regular roles and responsibilites). The team has 1 year to build and market a product. The bonus is 50% of all profit, divided equally, for the first two years post RTM. No other bonuses or stock allowed.

In the Red Corner, we have the last three big bets, all headed by executives (no sense in throwing more money their way, just to prove a point).

I would wager that 10,000 people would apply for the opportunity. And while it may not be a $10B business in the first year or two, I bet it wouldn't lose money.

Anonymous said...

Someone said: "On top of that he is doing a good job in putting flat screens in our living rooms and a sleek cars in our garages if we wish. Everybody in Microsoft with two pays can easily afford these luxuries."

OK. So where is my MS-provided, MS-employed spouse? Because if that's what it takes to make compensation equitable, it should be a line-item benefit.

As it is, I'm a single person, period. Not even a non-MS spouse. I'm just barely holding onto my mortgage, what with no raises for 3 years and non-COLA raises for a couple before that (I am a "Kim"). If taxes and expenses keep going up like they have the last year, I'm going to have to get a second job or sell my house. Except--rental rates will kill me, and that doesn't solve the problem of rising cost of goods and services. And I'm not really into marrying just to make the mortgage, so I'm in a bit of a bind.

Regarding the "Limited" ranking, there is an article that discusses the effect words/labels/stereotypes can have on performance: http://www.slate.com/id/2154331/fr/rss. Wonder how many people will perform less-well this coming year, having been slapped with the label "limited." (It was bad enough being labeled with the other system, knowing your number could bear no resemblance to your actual performance, or being told there weren't enough of the 4.0s or higher scores to "go around." Now, "Limited.")

As soon as I can find a way, I'm leaving. But it's hard, because I can't take a pay cut just to jump ship--having no MS-spouse to take up the budgetary slack.

Anonymous said...

I think you should do a little research about the current xbox situation.Xbox 360 is not losing money anymore.

The console now costs Microsoft $323 to manufacture, leaving a gross profit of $76 per unit.



As I've said before, I am a fan of the XBOX business model, but the XBOX team needs to quit burning through the venture capital like it is limitless (although it appears that it really *is* limitless, so why should they listen to me?).

However, I disagree with your statement that the XBOX 360 isn't losing money. In fact, we're still losing a lot of money on each one.

The first point I would like to make is that your math subtracts an estimated cost from the full retail price. However, in the real world, the distributors and retailers get a little cut of the action, so you should really be subtracting from $360 ish instead of $399, which cuts your theoretical gross profit down to $37.

Note that that is "gross profit" and your statement says that Xbox 360 isn't losing money, which is net profit. Sorry, but the volumes don't even come close to making the Xbox console profitable on a 9% gross margin. We still lose money on every Xbox 360 sold - albeit not as much.

I think we may be close enough to begin making up for the console loss with games and Live. However, we still have $4B - $5B of seed money to repay (with interest), so the payoff isn't until next decade, which is *way* past the original predictions (which shouldn't surprise you - when was the last time we hit our first date? Our second date?)

I do give the Xbox team credit for building a valuable brand, franchise, and ultimately revenue stream (not to mention a kick @$$ system and games). I just wish they hadn't burned through so much of my kids' college tuition in doing so ...

nff

PS - Watch Sportscenter tonight. XBOX is the sole sponsor!

Anonymous said...

The contribution ranking simply misses the boat. It should be based upon an employee's long term value to the company, not to their own career. While the ability to move up is certainly a factor, there is no reason someone cannot stay in level for several years or more and still provide strong value to the company. There simply comes a point within any position when you cannot move higher. The whole company cannot keep moving up. This is, in essence, what our review system misses.

Mini you make a great point about consensus at MS. Consensus is used by management to avoid accountability for decisions. It also supports those who do not have substantive contributions on a team, by allowing them to contribute to the work of others. The more consensus in an org, the more people you have who do not provide real value. LCA is the quinessential example of consensus gone wrong. Try to get LCA to give you a decision on anything and you end up with a thread a mile long and no decision. It is an example of an org that has way to many people who are not substantive contributors.

Anonymous said...

Someone said: "At individual level, a person may find a better salary elsewhere. But I bet you that most of the Microsoftees can't find a better paying job elsewhere."

Most of the partners and majority of the middle managers can NOT find a similar paying job elsewhere. Majority of the solid engineers CAN find a similar or better paying job elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 9:54:21 AM might want to reread the comment he's critiquing.

Let's recall that Anonymous at Monday, November 27, 2006 10:18:57 PM said:

Microsoft officially pays 67 percentile. [But] I have been MSFT for 9 years and my salary is $5k below the median salary according to salary.com (local zip code, similar years of experience).

(Emphasis added. [But] added.)

IMO, one generally shouldn't assume that people who take the time to contribute to a conversation know less than you do. The all-too-common knee-jerk reaction to instantly respond with an insult rather than considering that perhaps the reader misinterpreted the post is unfortunate.

My $0.02.

Cheers,
Scott.

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT - but WTF is "squirting?"?! Please, that just does not sound right at all. Who comes up with these moronic ideas?

Ballmer: "I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That's a software experience."

Anonymous said...

I left MS earlier this year. Before I left, I was hoping the changes Lisa B would make would be substantial - didn't happen. I waited until reviews, was not bad - but I didn't get any feeling of enthusiasm from my manager.

I wrote to Steven Sinofsky, requesting an opportunity in his group, providing a reason for why I was looking to move from my group - I'd heard that he was one of the few people who were all for change. He replied, graciously saying I needed more experience - I think he meant - "at microsoft".

I quit - I am at one of MS's biggest competitors today, glad that StevenSi didn't offer me an oportunity. I am an equivalent of a L67, and also see clearly the discrimination I was being handed (being one who was not in the white-boy's only club that management is).

Have you seen the ratio of managers of various races, even though the asian and indian sub-continent populations have a significant presence at MS, I am surprised they haven't been slammed with a lawsuit yet.

Well, being my alma mater, I still hold fond memories...but hell, adios!

Anonymous said...

Poster 1 said: "Someone said: "On top of that he is doing a good job in putting flat screens in our living rooms and a sleek cars in our garages if we wish. Everybody in Microsoft with two pays can easily afford these luxuries."

Poster 2 said: "OK. So where is my MS-provided, MS-employed spouse? Because if that's what it takes to make compensation equitable, it should be a line-item benefit."

Thanks, poster 2, for saving me the trouble of composing a similar statement.

And by the way... it warms the cockles of my heart to find out that, having joined MS as an experienced dev and having produced since I arrived here 4 years ago, my salary is under the average quoted in this blog.

Does anyone know if certain parts of MS (cough, Windows, cough) just have a very small annual increase budget, or what? My stock award rocked the house, but although I outproduced the majority of my team and I'm underleveled, my annual increase was the same polite 4% that even some limited IIs have reported receiving in this blog. I did better last year, and I don't know whether it's because our pie got smaller, or whether some vocal new team members just got louder at self-promotion and got some of the points historically allocated in my direction.

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT - but WTF is "squirting?"?! Please, that just does not sound right at all. Who comes up with these moronic ideas?

Ballmer: "I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That's a software experience."



When Ballmer wants to "squirt" you a picture of his kids using his Zune, it means he wants to send a picture file via WiFi to your Zune.

However, "Zune" sounds like the French-Canadian slang for "penis".


Microsoft didn't create “Zune”

“Additionally, the Lexicon Research Network of 60 Ph.D. linguists in 39 countries was tapped to provide insights into the latest brands in music and video entertainment and to give us suggestions as to words, word parts, sounds and metaphors that might be applied to a next generation entertainment system,” Placek added.


Microsoft dismisses music player's linguistic lapse

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Montreal told CanWest News Service that ``it was pointed out to us'' during focus groups in the province that the proposed brand name sounded much like a French-Canadian term used as a euphemism for penis or vagina.

The French word "zoune" and the variant "bizoune" typically serve as a less jolting way of referring to male or female genitalia when addressing children.

Anonymous said...

Msftextrememakeover

The Xbox 360 was designed to break even over its life cycle.The original xbox was not.Last year it cost $470 to make a 360.Now it costs $323.Next year it may cost $223 to make.Thats a good sign.

The xbox team made an honest mistake on their first try with xbox 1 when they put in that built in hard drive.It was MS first try in an industry where they had no experience,no relationships and had a lot to learn.

Like Ballmer and Bach said it would had cost billions more to acquire Nintendo.They are going to knock it out of the park with Xbox 360.The xbox project was needed to show that MS was more than a 'copy' and 'aquire' company.That they could build a brand new business from scratch.People need to give them a break.

Anonymous said...

"But I bet you that most of the Microsoftees can't find a better paying job elsewhere."

Speak for yourself Bud. Unless you're a "partner"! I left MS last yr at level 66, making $160k with 20% bonus target after 10 dog yrs. Went to a smaller company for almost double the pay and way more stock options (almost 6 figures). And the company's stock price actually moves (up).

Don't forget many people who work at MS came from investment banks and consulting firms. I for one don't miss the MS BS -- whenever I feel a bit frustrated about anything at my new job, all I have to do is read this blog to remind myself of how screwed up things apparently still are at MS. The only word I can think of for how the company treats many employees, is abusive.

Anonymous said...

"Ballmer is doing a good job in putting food on our tables and a roof on our heads. "

So... You actually think it's monkey-boy who's doing that, eh?

Well, I guess the company indoctrination worked on someone.

Ihar Filipau said...

> You insist on differentiation, you get exactly this sort of crap.

Well, I work in classical European private company (not M$). We have that kind of employment system: non-differential.

Since I am not a writer, I would make the comment short.

The net result of such system: total ignorance. People just do not care, since they know that everybody is equal. And whatever they do - that will not change. There is no competition - nor amongst people, nor for ideas. Everything is done "somehow" just to fill blank fields in numerous bureaucratic forms with checks.

Differential is needed. Even if just to see who gets pissed. And the people who gets pissed are the people who care. And that's the people most valuable for your business.

Over here in Europe, people are just cogs. The worst: most people are Ok with that and never really want to have any responsibilities, last - to grow anyhow. Thus the non-differential system.

Differentiations are needed just to help people to be in check with company and its management. Of course, the differentiation itself has to be kept in check too. "Moderation" is the keyword.

Anonymous said...

> Based on the brutal ZUNE launch and reception, Ballmer should spend some time reflecting (if he's capable) and reassess his belief in the ability and value for money of certain members of his management team. IMO, any randomly selected team of employees would have demonstrated more understanding for what the minimum product bar would have to be

MSFT execs dont understand capital allocation. This includes Ballmer and Gate.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if certain parts of MS (cough, Windows, cough) just have a very small annual increase budget

From what I know, employees in Office and Windows advance much slower than in other groups. Now that we have level transparency, it's clear that even a few of the highest-regarded devs in Office are only getting promoted once every 4-5 years. I wonder how this squares with HR policy? Also, I expect the situation to get worse with the org chart flattening.

Anonymous said...

BLECH. Could we/whoever not come up with something less offensive than "squirt" to refer to sending someone a tune or picture from one Zune to another? It makes me cringe and want to cover my 5YO's ears. I saw this in a Newsweek column last week and just about gagged.

Someone PLEASE come up with something better, and FAST.

And please, please tell me that we didn't offer that as the word to use for this function. Please..??

Anonymous said...

This is not the first time, I have noticed that many commentators on minimsft have mathematical knowledge below high school level.

First, below median is not a evidence of 67th percentile. It is an evidence of below 50th percentile. Second, salary.com can't see whether your mathematical knowledge is below high school level.
...

Why 67th perecentile is good. Because paying at 67th percentile is invariably going to put you at the top of the average as this survey shows.


I'm not the original poster that you're replying to, but couldn't resist. 67th percentile refers to the range of companies (e.g. the NUMBER of companies), not to the aggregate salary range. So MS paying better than 67 percent of companies doesn't mean it is paying better than the middle point in the salary range. The other 33 percent of companies (that pay more than MS) may pay very high and skew the median salary point way up. I don't know whether this is the case, but wanted to point out a mathematical oversight, considering you're coming off with such an aplomb about high-school math.

Anonymous said...

>So... You actually think it's monkey-boy who's doing that, eh?

Stock's not plunging, no massive layoffs, no selling off of divisions, not many execs pulling on the ripcord to their golden parachutes, etc. I'd agree the other guy is justified in saying that the Ballmer and the execs aren't doing a terrible job. Limited II maybe but not terrible.

Anonymous said...

The contribution ranking simply misses the boat. It should be based upon an employee's long term value to the company, not to their own career. While the ability to move up is certainly a factor, there is no reason someone cannot stay in level for several years or more and still provide strong value to the company. There simply comes a point within any position when you cannot move higher. The whole company cannot keep moving up. This is, in essence, what our review system misses.

Bingo. This is what's insane about the policy of canning people who've been in level too long. It forces people to chase promotions whether they want to or not.

So, how about it guys? When the Peter Principle comes for you, what would it take to retain you at MS? Just a COLA increase and no stock award? Do you want to be rewarded with a bonus anyway just because? Or maybe the Peter Principle applies to everyone but you?

Anonymous said...

I said: "On top of that he is doing a good job in putting flat screens in our living rooms and a sleek cars in our garages if we wish. Everybody in Microsoft with two pays can easily afford these luxuries."

Somebody responded: "OK. So where is my MS-provided, MS-employed spouse? Because if that's what it takes to make compensation equitable, it should be a line-item benefit.

As it is, I'm a single person, period. Not even a non-MS spouse. I'm just barely holding onto my mortgage,"


My response: In spite of being a single, you are holding on your mortgage is a luxury. You chose your luxury to be a residence owner.

Microsoft does not provide you with Microsoftee spouse. All I meant is that in this country, it takes a family two salaries to afford luxuries. One salary does not even entitle you to live in your own house, unless you make sacrifices elsewhere.

You won't be able to afford luxury with single salary at another company too. Cisco's single average salary won't allow you to pay your mortgage. Yes if both husband and wife are working on Microsoft and Cisco kind of salries then they can afford luxuries.

Microsoft's stock can't grow exponentially. That's the fact. Earlier Microsoft's stock could have acted as the second salary and not any more. Microsoft's pay package is more than median (50 percentile) and if you know, point out a company which attempts to pay more than median.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"Msftextrememakeover"

Already agreed that the trajectory of costs is positive. Also agree that much of the problem comes down to mistakes made in round #1. Understand and am sympathetic to the cost of learning, but the result is still an overall investment-breaking $4B+ loss to date and no prospect of profit until '08 or beyond. Don't buy the Nintendo argument - sorry (see my post today if interested in why). Do hope you're right about 360 knocking it out of the park because the costs are now "sunk" from an accounting perspective - so making the most of it, assuming ongoing losses can be contained, is the logical best choice. Finally, I should point out that my questioning and criticism of the overall business decision in this case - as in most - is focused on senior management, not the many general employees who no doubt are busting their ass to make whatever decisions get handed down as successful as possible.

Anonymous said...

Individual performances matter a lot. So I do not agree with you that individual bonus based on my performance is a bad idea. Like teams, individuals need accountability as well. Making it clear what portion is tied to the team's performance and what portion is tied to my individual performance is the right thing to do.

It is entirely true that both individuals and teams need to be accountable, but when you keep the accountability of the individual within the team's realm, it is much more transparent and visible than when an individual has negotiated some private deal between him or herself and their manager/team leader.

For example, in the team-only bonus scenario, if I join a team and don't pull my share the whole team has a common interest to encourage me to keep up or trade me out. This is highly visible and if it is a problem, it will be solved quickly because EVERYONE on the team has a personal motivation in resolving it. In the other scenario, if I'm not pulling my weight, the other team members might grouse about it and complain, but since their individual bonuses are not directly threatened it really won't bother them as much if the manager doesn't do any thing (Has anyone at Microsoft ever seen this?) The problem with the second scenario is that, while some individuals might still get their individual bonus because they were stellar performers, if the team doesn't deliver for whatever reason, then that scenario rewards individual success but collective failure. Great for you, the IC, but bad for the company. In the team-only approach, what's good for the individual is good for the team and is good for the company.

Teams that are not performing well need infusion of strong talent to turn it around. If there were no individual incentives, these teams would find it hard to attract talent and lose the few remaining good ones they have.

Well that would certainly make the problem visible, now, wouldn't it. No way to hide under a deck of PowerPoint slides from that, if an entire team up and walks off the job. After a couple of those you'd know who could manage a successful team and who was just the brown-noser.

But, remember, the team can decide to distribute their award unequally. If you are on a team that needs a superstar to get your team bonus, it would be in your interest (as a team) to cut the new talent in for a bigger piece of the pie, if that's what the team and the superstar thought that the project needed.

Maybe you could add the following question to the Microsoft interview loop:

Which is more?
a) 20% of 0
b) 10% of 100


If you have 5 people on your team, and the team fails to deliver, everyone on the team will get (a). if you hire a superstar and give them 50% and the original 5 split the rest, (as an easy to calculate example), the original five will get (b).

In an example implied by this comment, it might seem fair to the 1 person on the team who, against all odds, does 90% of the work, but the team still doesn't deliver, should that one person get a bonus?

If you don't care about shipping a quality product on time, then sure! Why the hell not? But how long can that go on?

I don't expect Microsoft to jump on this concept any time soon because shipping quality on time and being accountable just don't seem to be valued there. Maybe someday....

Anonymous said...

>The net result of such system: total ignorance. People just do not care, since they know that everybody is equal. And whatever they do - that will not change. There is no competition - nor amongst people, nor for ideas. Everything is done "somehow" just to fill blank fields in numerous bureaucratic forms with checks.

What an interesting contrast from Ihar Filipau :-)
As a European in the US for 10 years (7 at MS), I have to say that the difference is stark - and the main difference is that in the US, once your skills become a commodity, you are toast. It's just a matter of time.

The antithesis of this could be (no offense intended - its societal) France. In Europe in general, folks are considerably less work-obsessed, and place far more important on family and/or that which is NOT work. Working there, I never felt any particular pressure or guilt from my work: I, like everyone else, did what was expected within societal norms *there*.

I'm not going to get into a discussion on the relative quality of life between the US and Europe, but this country is renowned for innovation and entrpreneurial spirit - and is a rough place for those without these qualities, regardless of the fact that the Kims of this world are absolutely necessary in all companies.

I imagine that the reason for stark differentiation (and those on the "winning" side truly know how stark it is), is due to a fear that any overt encouragement of Kims would discourage those who are the "superstars". From a supply/demand POV, what is the relative availability of "superstars" and Kims? I think that it is assumed that Kims are replaceable, whereas superstars are not.

(Note: What constitutes a superstar? In almost all software teams, it is a documented fact that there are one or a few folks whose contribution is consistently much higher than others)

Anonymous said...

As it is, I'm a single person, period. Not even a non-MS spouse. I'm just barely holding onto my mortgage, what with no raises for 3 years and non-COLA raises for a couple before that.

Either you have a ton of non-mortgage debt, have a million dollar hourse, or are not good at managing money. I'm single and have been Kimmed way longer than you. I've got no problems paying my mortgage and stashing away money for a rainy day, knock on wood. It's a pretty spartan life, but it's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

"Either you have a ton of non-mortgage debt, have a million dollar hourse, or are not good at managing money. I'm single and have been Kimmed way longer than you. I've got no problems paying my mortgage and stashing away money for a rainy day, knock on wood. It's a pretty spartan life, but it's good enough for me."

This is not the original poster, but I want to respond to this.

Maybe you've been Kimmed for so long, you bought before the real estate run-up, and the poster above didn't?

From what I've seen so far during a casual real estate hunt, if I am still maxing my 401-K contribution, I'd need half or more of my monthly take-home to pay a bungalow or 2BR condo mortgage in, admittedly, a safe area of King County. Yes, "safe" should not be expected to be a negotiable option, and please don't tell a woman who's been through an assault, burglaries while I was asleep, stalking and more in the more affordable areas of King County that she's worrying about nothing.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is assumed that Kims are replaceable, whereas superstars are not.

(Note: What constitutes a superstar? In almost all software teams, it is a documented fact that there are one or a few folks whose contribution is consistently much higher than others)


Sure the Kims are replaceable. But would you want a team in which the Kims constantly churn through because they are not valued and are treated as pathetic hangers-on? Sure, you get to keep the one or two superstars, because you reward them really highly. Well...maybe not. Because if they really are superstars and they realize that loyalty means nothing to MSFT (or any other big corporation), they will entertain all excellent offers from elsewhere and when they want to, they'll jump ship for something more cutting edge, or just to mix things up. Because they're superstars, they have a LOT more options then we Kim peons do.

So net result: You've marginalized your core team (the Kims) and you can't count on your superstars, despite throwing tons of $$$ at them.

Nice. Have a great time trying to put out quality products following this employment philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Sure, you get to keep the one or two superstars, because you reward them really highly. Well...maybe not. Because if they really are superstars and they realize that loyalty means nothing to MSFT...

Bingo.

See, I used to be a superstar. Frankly, I think I still am, but am hamstrung by the politics of making it past 64. Soo, four years in level (and that's really about average for 64) and now I'm officially labled deadwood and expect to be managed out. Good thing I turned down that interview with Google two years ago.

So all you L62 superstars out there - pay attention. If there isn't an official walk-back from this Limited II fiasco, and if you see L64s being managed out, think about leaving now on your terms, because the odds are if you stay you will be leaving on the company's terms in a few years.

Those are the wages of Limited II. MSFT HR and execs forget that they hire smart employees, and smart employees figure this stuff out. Limited is a two-way street, and a lot of employees are rating MSFT as having Limited potential as an employer because of this.

Collision Domain said...

Don't forget many people who work at MS came from investment banks and consulting firms.

Lordy, here's Exhibit A as to part of Microsoft's problems today. People whose only job experience is to extract weath from entreprenurial activities.

Maybe if we just shit-canned everyone at Microsoft who worked at an IB or consulting firm as thier last job before coming to Microsoft, we might be able to clear out a large chunk of our ineffective middle management.

I for one don't miss the MS BS -- whenever I feel a bit frustrated about anything at my new job, all I have to do is read this blog to remind myself of how screwed up things apparently still are at MS.

It's always so comforting to hear that alums make themselves feel better by comparing their current situation to how miserable things might be for those of us still willing to tough it out.

Anonymous said...

Notes From the Field

I think that it is assumed that Kims are replaceable, whereas superstars are not.

It seems that many people reading this blog believe that "Kim" and "superstar" are mutually exclusive monikers. I know plenty of Kims that are superstars. Maybe this is just a US Field thing, but so starts my rant ...

Remember that the definition of Kim is a promotion velocity of zero for an extended period of time. Many of us in the field have been at our level for a long time because there's not a business justification for a higher level and we're not willing to relocate our family. Most of the field based Kims I know are 64-66, so we've had moderately successful to very successful careers, but most of us could keep going if the opportunity existed without requiring a relo.

I personally know at least a dozen Kims that are absolute superstars, even though they know there's not a chance of promotion - ever. If Microsoft were headquartered in the city they choose to live in, they would be VPs today and I would work for them in a heartbeat. I was a superstar for most of my early career and many people still consider me a star. I must confess that I choose a better work-life balance (better being > 0), so I don't consider myself a superstar any more. I'm just not willing to consistently work 90 hour weeks, which is what it took for me to be considered a superstar. I'm happy being Kim, and Microsoft gets a good deal too.

The five year value proposition
I still can't understand the reasoning behind giving someone zero stock just because they haven't been promoted lately. As an example, take a solid performing L64 field sales person. They have been at the level for a long time and do a great job. The only reason they have a promotion velocity of zero is there is no business justification for the higher level. The Limited II scenario says that they are worth less to the company over the next five years than the up and coming L62. In other words, they are worth less over the next five years than the previous five years despite having managed to jump the L64 (or 65 or 66 or whatever) hurdle (which, from 1st and 2nd hand experience is *hard*). Sorry, I just don't buy that. It is one of the most moronic policies I've ever heard of. That's like saying a quarterback that led a team to a perfect season and won the championship is worth less because he can never have a better season. Rather, you're going to pay the rookie more as an unknown quantity because he has more potential. Even though odds are that the rookie will never reach the level the veteran is at today. That's not the way the "talent market" works. In fact, it's the opposite. Experience and wisdom and accomplishments are valued in a normal talent market. Not so sayeth the Limited II band.

Just to be clear, I totally agree that a L64 who will grow to a L65+ over the next 5 years is worth more to the company than the Kim mentioned above, and should be awarded more stock. However, there is no way that Kim's 5 year value is zero.

Yes, I hear the argument about salary and bonus being enough. However, for this scenario, the stock is a non-trivial portion of the total package and taking that to zero is enough to make a lot of Kims start looking elsewhere. It's also enough to demotivate a bunch of Kims and turn them into a bunch of just enough to get by clock punchers. Neither scenario is good for the company.

We're a team
In field sales, most of us already get a team based bonus as well as an individual based bonus. The RBI (commission) portion of the bonus is definitely a team effort, particularly if you're in the STU, but also if you're in the ATU. I'm pretty sure our bonus pool is adjusted based on landed revenue, which is a big team goal.

I agree with the comment that team goals drive some positive behaviors. I also agree that getting rid of all individual incentive would lead to least common denominator performance. Balance is good.

Redmond or the field - let's make a deal
Mini - you should write a blog post about the pros and cons of the field vs. Redmond - I would love to read the comments. While Redmond definitely has a lot to offer (free towels!), my limited data suggests (and the MS Poll confirms) that we in the field are happier with our deal than our corporate brethren.

I just don't see or hear of a lot of the bad behaviors I read about on this blog in the field (we have our own unique set of issues to be sure). I'm sure they happen, but they aren't nearly as wide spread or blatant or something. Not that it's all roses, but there are a bunch of relatively happy campers in the field (including me). Certainly a higher percentage than this blog or the MS poll indicates in Redmond.

A big part of that, I'm sure, has to do with politics. The more people you get in a single location, the more politics you have. And I don't think it's a linear scale. Not that we don't have politics in the field - we definitely do, especially in the bigger offices, but it's nothing compared to what I read on this blog and some of the stories my Redmond buds tell me.

I still don't get why we don't move more jobs out to the field. We have the technology to make it work and we have the people with the desire and the skills. Microsoft is such a Redmond centric company that I don't think it will ever happen. (I know, it's *much* worse outside the US. The US field has it great compared to {insert subsidiary}). Make this one of your write-in comments on the MS Poll this year. Not that it will ever change, but it can't hurt.

Where can I find one of those jobs ...
Even though I'm mostly happy, I would consider leaving for some of the deals I've read about on this blog. I haven't looked hard, but I have casually looked, and I have only found a few deals that seem better than the one I have at Microsoft, and they weren't *that* much better. (Maybe the whole 67th percentile is working on people like me ... not a great deal, but good enough to keep us around?)

So if you're looking for top talent, remember that Microsoft has smart people based in most major cities around the world, so don't be shy to promote your company as an alternative.

I'm with her ...
I agree with Extreme Makeovers XBOX summary, and especially the part about the criticism not intended for those getting the job done, but rather for the exec leadership, Robbie and Steve specifically. The XBOX team has done a great job over the years, often despite your leadership. I believe in the model, but there is no other company in the world that wouldn't have pulled the plug by now (most out of necessity). $4B is real money, even to Microsoft. It's a deep hole, but it appears that we have stopped digging.

Dreaming ...
I talked to a guy today. He and a friend of his quit their jobs and started a small consulting business specializing in Office SharePoint Server. He has talked about starting his own company for years, and he finally bit the bullet. They have a handful of customers and a few other consultants working with them. They're making more money than before and having a blast.

How cool is it to work for a company that enables people to realize their dream of running their own business? That trumps free towels in my book.

nff

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft reminds me of that movie called Logan's Run."


Bravo! That's the best one line description of the abysmal state of MSFT I've read yet. One correction though, you are protected from age discrimination from age 40 on, not that it would have probably made a difference to the commenter. As a manager who who works closely with HR and LCA, I must warn your readers Mini that management is smarting up on not getting caught red handed with age discrimination by not waiting until an employee reaches age 40 and instead managing them out in their late 30s through bogus perf reviews. Some zero tolerance discrimination policy huh?

So my advice to those of you nearing 40, go to your local Blockbuster and rent a copy of Logan Run's and keep a lookout for guys in dark jumpsuits who may be disguised as HR generalists or your manager...

Anonymous said...

After having seen Zune prominently displayed this past weekend in post Thanksgiving sales, am I the only one who thinks it looks like an ugly turd that someone stepped on?

Microsoft may have scored a "cool" point or two with Xbox360 but Zune looks like, well ... shit. Granted, it has a nicer display than iPod but there are ZERO videos you can download. Have you tried using Windows Media to create a file for portable media playback - talk about a lesson in frustration and futility. No wonder DIVX and iMovies are so popular.

Anonymous said...

I quit - I am at one of MS's biggest competitors today, glad that StevenSi didn't offer me an oportunity. I am an equivalent of a L67, and also see clearly the discrimination I was being handed (being one who was not in the white-boy's only club that management is).


Good for you. Wasn't it just last year that Steve Ballmer said that in order to be successful we had to be as diverse as our customer? Well take a close look in the mirror Microsoft. Your customers aren't 90% white males, not even close. Yet, as much as HR and management talk up diversity, they have made no progress in the past 10 years in diversifying the ranks of management that I can see.

I read an interesting study on diversity at Microsoft by an internal group called DREAM (Diversity and Racial Equality At Microsoft). They actually went through the MS global address book of US employees and analyzed whether management positions were being fairly allocated among the various minority groups. The results were startling - Caucasian males held nearly 90% of all management positions at Microsoft. This came at the cost of every minority group. By far the most underrepresented are Pacific Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc). Their promotion rate was just 1/4th of that of Caucasians. Anyone who wants to check this out can go to www.dreamsft.com and read for themselves.

I for one am sick and fed up with the lack of diversity in management at Microsoft and hope there are more employees out there like me who want to send a clear message that this is bad business and clearly placing Microsoft at a competitive disadvantage. If you feel the same way, please SPEAK UP by posting something.

Anonymous said...

Somebody wrote: "Maybe you've been Kimmed for so long, you bought before the real estate run-up, and the poster above didn't?"


Increased real estate prices is not Microsoft fault (except Microsoft have started paying higher salaries to more people). The real estate prices have increased nationwide. Sorry that you were not lucky enough to buy it before the real estate boom. Real estate is as much a scarce resource as crude oil. Homing owning should not be taken as granted. Most of the world, including the western world, lives in energy efficient and cheap apartments.

If you can't afford a residence in Seattle area while getting Microsoft's salary, you will have even tougher time in affording a residence in Valley while getting Cisco's salary.

Do not blame everything on your employer. Blame something on your culture of inefficient living.

Anonymous said...

Something that J Allard, the Zune team and the Vista team do not seem to understand:

"Coolness" is intrinsic, not decorative. It's analogous to machine code, not high-level language. You cannot take an "uncool" object and make it "cool" by adding a layer of complexity or obfuscation atop it.

Altering your first name; wearing strange eyeglasses; using brown plastic; adopting youth-oriented language; "decorating" the user experience with aesthetic touches -- all of this will fail.

Porsche cars, Bauhaus architecture (and yes iPod and Mac OS X and all their attendant presentational/promotional material) function by stripping away, not by adding on. The defining characteristic of every Apple product (and advertisement) is that each feature had to fight for its life to make it into the product. It's not forced "minimalism" as a look (like Bang + Olufsen); it's legitimate simplicity, all the way down to the root characteristics of the item in question.

The Zune is like an ungainly person in carefully-tailored stylish clothes; the iPod is like a model in a bikini.

Anonymous said...

"Caucasian males held nearly 90% of all management positions at Microsoft"

It's not caucasians vs the rest of the world.

Try being from outside northern america and making a career and you'll learn that you can get just as overlooked being caucasian.

At least if you aren't a cauc, you got the diversity bonus working for you towards promo.

Anonymous said...

Re: Diversity

First of all, I'm also sick of the tall, loud, white, old boy's club regime.

Second, I'm also sick of people who declare that diversity is awesome and that we need more of it, as if there's a metric unit for diversity and if we just pour a few into a tank somewhere we'll be great. It's an oversimplification that cheapens any serious debate.

Personally, I've noticed that many foreigners at Microsoft (of all skin colors, including white) are not very comfortable with English and I assume this is a huge impediment to career advancement. Maybe Microsoft should offer ongoing ESL classes. Or do they already?

Anonymous said...

What if I am one of those 'white boys' you have so much contempt for and despite how capable I am, I don't get promoted past L64 because there is no business-justification (read: We are lookin g for a minority hire). What if I find myself reporting to less capable person just because I am a 'white boy'?
You don't know me and you also don't know if I really am a 'super-star', but is it not just another form of discrimination to 'look' for a certain kind of hire based on their minority status?

Anonymous said...

But reward groups who move on the obvious zilchie deadwood, Microsoft-mismatches, and low-contributors through-out the year.

Actually, I think the Zune comments point out that Microsoft might need more of the mismatches.

I heard that the dev manager from my old team went to Zune. He's a very bright guy, and very hard working. A good trooper who doesn't give management any lip and follows orders without question (at least externally). In conversations, he doesn't appear to think out of the box much, and doesn't seem to have any patience for it - he focuses on the task at hand. When management decides to include a product feature at the last minute that is obviously insane and illustrates that management knows very little about the feature, he doesn't complain until after the disaster that follows.

My thesis is that my old dev manager is the perfect Microsoft-match. But can you see how a group of people acting just like him could produce results that seem delusional?

Anonymous said...

"I read an interesting study on diversity at Microsoft by an internal group called DREAM (Diversity and Racial Equality At Microsoft)."

Oh lord, you're the fruitcake who kept spamming those emails to Asians about DREAM a couple years back aren't you? Go away, man. I'm even Asian and I don't support you.

Anonymous said...

$4B is real money, even to Microsoft. It's a deep hole, but it appears that we have stopped digging.

Ask yourselves how much money has Sony made from Playstation and Playstation 2 over their lifespans. Now consider how the money made in consoles is from the software, a area where might just have some modest claim to expertise. Then contrast $4B against the cost all of the other projects right now at MS that have less chance of breaking even.

We'd be better off killing the projects of a good chunk of the people reading this blog to provide funding to ensure Xbox succeeds than just about any other investment we could make.

(Disclaimer: I do not and have never worked on Xbox.)

Intel IT Guy said...

"Intel employees get what seems like a 360 review by recommending peers and stakeholders to their manager to get feedback on the employee's performance."

That's exactly what happens at Intel. You're usually asked to submit 3-4 names, and some of the people don't give feedback, or give feedback of such poor quality that it's useless. But it is helpful to determine if someone can find 3 people to say good things about their work.

There doesn't tend to be much hand-washing going on since the feedback is generally anonymous. Your manager may share some of the feedback with you, but they're not supposed to say who it came from.

Anonymous said...

>Nice. Have a great time trying to put out quality products following this employment philosophy.

Merely an observation of what seems to be - I didn't say I agreed with it :-)

Anonymous said...

I wrote: "Maybe you've been Kimmed for so long, you bought before the real estate run-up, and the poster above didn't?"

Somebody replied: "Increased real estate prices is not Microsoft fault (except Microsoft have started paying higher salaries to more people)."

Hold on there. Never said it was. I just took issue with the person who took issue with the original poster's comment that they were having a tough time making a mortgage. I didn't like the reply intimating the original poster was either insincere or a horrid money manager because the original poster's situation is apparently more financially challenging than that of the person replying. I was merely trying to add a reality check, complete with my own data points to indicate that the original poster may well have not been not joshin' ya. Remember that 107K is only the median. That means 50% of SDE's are below that, some more than others.

Me, I don't worry about putting food on the table, gas in my car, or paying my rent. I do worry about how I can effectively prepare for retirement without being able to accumulate equity in a home, and I own that worry as part of the price of living and working in the part of the country I most enjoy. If and when I decide something else is preferable, I'll take action in that direction.

Data point: I declined an opportunity in Mountain View (with you know who) for exactly the reason the OP cited re: Cisco. The cost of living is even higher there than it is here, and the increase offered wasn't enough to make up for it.

Oh, and I'm more of a semi-superstar in the office than I am a Kim, but I recognize that without Kims, we wouldn't ever ship another version of Office or Windows. I'd like my stock awards to be worth something nice in 3 years, so I stick up for my Kim-minded colleagues.

Anonymous said...

If the diversity/affirmative action regime gets its claws even deeper into Microsoft, it will be over for them. There is no pleasing these malcontents--nothing but numerical superiority for each and every conceivable ethnic and social group will be accepted, and for obvious reasons those numbers don't add up. Worse, the demoralization they provide through their rhetoric and endless banging make them more effective than unions at distracting people from the work and goals before them. Seriously, the ideologues will scavenge Microsoft's corpse and move on to some other corporation without a thought.

Anonymous said...

I'm the original poster with the mortgage issues. Well, let's see. First off, I'm not an SDE. I don't make anywhere NEAR $107K a year. Try less than $90K. BIG difference. Plus, my options are long gone--they are the ones that were horribly underwater. The $$ I got from the buyout went to pay living expenses because Long Term Disability denied my claim for the 5 months I was working part-time after being on Short Term Disability for the full term.

Secondly, I'm not a horrid money manager. I'm contributing the max to my 401k; I've paid off my debts early when I could. My car cost $12k BRAND NEW. But, you don't know all my expenses. Which are primarily medical expenses that Microsoft doesn't pay, or medical expenses I have to pay after I max out the coverage in certain areas. Had to recently get about half my fillings replaced because I'd ground and clenched my teeth so much in my sleep that I cracked the teeth and loosened the old fillings. And so I needed crowns. And guess what--they're expensive, and MS only pays half. So half of $10K is $5K. Up front. No payments.

Then, there was the dental device to try to present the problems. MS paid for the first one. But I cracked that within 6 months, and had to pay for a newer, more expensive one myself. It starts to add up. In the past few years, I've come very close, but not quite, to hitting the minimum out-of-pocket for medical expenses on the income tax refunds. And I haven't even been in the hospital; I just have a chronic condition that takes a lot to manage so that it isn't debilitating. And the time I was on medical leave, I had a lot of extra expenses not covered. You can burn through a lot of your safety net in no time then.

Then, there's the very real issue of taxes. My taxes are raised about $75/month every year on my mortgage payment. That's per month, so it's at least another grand. I don't mind paying taxes; I vote for some of them, even school ones (I have no children).

I have cut back on many things, and will be fine for a few years more. But if the cost of gas and goods and services keeps up, it's not going to be as many as it should be.

Honestly, if I'd have gotten COLA raises the entire time I'd been here even with no bonuses or stock, I'd have been quite happy with the compensation. I don't need to live extravagently, but I shouldn't have to scrape by and eat junk food just because it's cheaper than eating healthy food (eating healthy costs more, by and large, than eating healthy).

If you really want a reality check on salary stuff like this, try explaining our salary, raises, performance review system to people in their 50s who have been lifelong union workers.

1) The idea that you should work more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay or some other form of compensation (such as comp time) is bizarre. Most people in our line of work here at MS are college graduates. Over 40 hours, you're essentially working for free, or you're taking a cut in your hourly rate. (If you were making approximately $40/hour; however, if you worked 80-hour weeks, you are cutting your rate to $21 an hour.)

2. The idea that your employer has no concern that its employers are actually forcing their employees to take a pay cut each time they don't get a cost-of-living increase. If you're doing your job as spec'ed, and there are no complaints, you get a COLA.

3. The idea that you have to rank your employees on a curve, and you can't reward everyone for the work they've really done, you have to make the numbers on the curve match. Try telling them that you and your boss agreed you rate a 4.0, but your boss had to GIVE you a 3.5 because of the curve, that there is this debate about who is "more deserving" of the score. If you deserve a 4.0, you should GET a 4.0, in their mind.

4) The idea that your job is your passion, your life, and if you don't absolutely LOVE your job, live and breathe and die for it, you shouldn't be there. In their world, you are lucky if you can get work doing what you love; most of the rest of the world works at something to make the money so they can do what they want in their off-work time. It doesn't mean that an employee doesn't do their job really, really well while they're on the clock; many union employees are very dedicated. They're fully committed to doing their work while they do it, and then they go home and do something else.

5) Explaining the concept of "exempt"--that somehow, for certain jobs, you don't need/deserve overtime. (And try explaining that when you're an FTE, no overtime, but doing the same job as a contractor, and suddenly, you get overtime.)

Now, I know what the popular opinion of unions and union workers are. But that is not my experience. And I have a lot of it. 100% of my maternal family are union workers. A large portion of my paternal family are union workers. My entire immediate family were union workers (parents are retired; my brother and I no longer work in jobs that are union). They all worked hard, but when their shift was done, they went home. Did other things. And thought they had a good deal--a good-paying job, AND enough time and money to do the things they love. My father was a well-respected employee--he worked hard, worked thoroughly and diligently. He was an employee of the same company for his entire working life. People you'd meet who'd work with him raved about his work--they always wanted to work with him, rather than someone else.

There are times I wish I could go back to being a union worker (I was a grocery store cashier). I got regular raises, paid vacation, medical benefits. Yes, I paid union dues, and a hefty initiation fee. But I was making double the minimum wage by the time I was 19; by the time I was 21, I'd saved $10k for my last 2 years of college. I was 19 when I got my first week of paid vacation. I only needed to talk to a manager when someone had a complaint about me. I wasn't expected to LOVE my job; I was expected to do it well while I was on the clock. It was required that I be polite to the customers, but it wasn't required that I display a certain level of "passion" or "enthusiasm." There were remarkably little politics and ass-kissing; it mostly came into play around schedules; there were a few less struggles when I employed there because I wanted to work the late shifts, and no one else did. I happily took them, so no politicking needed.

Unions aren't perfect; nothing is. But I've seen more bureaucratic bullshit here than my father saw his entire life at the job he worked at. Kinda makes me think something's busted.

And to whoever posted about the appearance that late 30s are being Kimmed out--thank you for that thought, that had never even occurred to me--I'm nearing 40. Adds yet another interesting twist to the politics that are going on with me and my job.

Lazlo said...

Diversity isn't an end unto itself, and shouldn't be pursued to be used as a bullet item on a list. But it does give you some insight into an organization's culture, and a noticable lack of diversity in an organization says something pretty ugly about that organization. In this job market if a company doesn't just end up with a diverse staff in the routine course of doing business, it's because on some level they're actively trying not to.

Anonymous said...

To the "mortgage guy":

Please start looking for another job. I don't mean this harshly and my concern is for your own good. You're stuck on the MS rat-wheel and you don't have enough time to re-think or make plans for your future, but you'll have to make some because what you're doing isn't going to work much longer. I don't know what it is about working at MS, but it can be cultish in the way it makes you ignore other possibilities and cling to MS blindly. After some period of decompression for myself, I believe it's because I had so much stress and worked so hard that I didn't have time to consider anything else. In more than 20 years working in this business, I've only seen two people get up and quit right in the middle of the work day and both were at MS.

As far as unions go, if I had to stack-rank all of my employers, Microsoft would be at the top of the list for needing/deserving a union.

Anonymous said...

"If the diversity/affirmative action regime gets its claws even deeper into Microsoft, it will be over for them."

This moron is obviously a deep rooted red-neck with no fricking idea what damage crack has done to his medulla oblongata. You are one reason, MS is what it is becoming.

Anonymous said...

"Coolness" is intrinsic, not decorative. It's analogous to machine code, not high-level language. You cannot take an "uncool" object and make it "cool" by adding a layer of complexity or obfuscation atop it.

Damn, dude - can you please go immediately to J's office, throw all his stuff out in the street, and take over his job? You "get it". J thinks he "gets it" but he truly doesn't "get it".

You all want to know what J's favorite product is? Well, it's J himself. He's already proclaimed himself CEO, didn't you see the BusinessWeek article?

Anonymous said...

In this job market if a company doesn't just end up with a diverse staff in the routine course of doing business, it's because on some level they're actively trying not to.

So that's every IT company existence. Well spotted. Excellent logic.

Anonymous said...

This moron is obviously a deep rooted red-neck with no fricking idea what damage crack has done to his medulla oblongata. You are one reason, MS is what it is becoming.

Notice I wrote "them" not "us". I don't work at Microsoft. Try using more brain and less spleen next time. Someone might think you're a red-neck (sic).

On the union thing, I have first hand experience. I worked at Honeywell in the 90s, in their corporate office. You literally could not carry a computer from the 3rd floor to the 4th floor. That was union work, and you just had to wait to get your new computer, depending on when the unionized custodial staff deemed their schedule sufficiently open. Go ahead, unionize, if you think Ballmer isn't killing MS fast enough. I guarantee you'll regret it.

Anonymous said...

Secondly, I'm not a horrid money manager. ... But, you don't know all my expenses. Which are primarily medical expenses that Microsoft doesn't pay,

Oh, give me a break. Aren't you lucky that your mystery medical condition is expensive enough for you to complain about it on a message board but doesn't keep you from buying a house, a NEW CAR, maxing out your 401k, and shopping at Larry's. Your post, and your sense of entitlement, is making ME sick.

Anonymous said...

What lack of diversity are you guys talking about? Where I work, about 30% of people are Indian (we have a part of our team in India, too), 15% Russian, 15% Asian, and there are other minorities as well. In fact US-ians are in a relative minority. The gender breakdown is about 25% are women, and they're fairly represented in management. True, we don't have any African Americans, but then again, we only have a handful of _Americans_, and one needs to remember that African Americans are only 12.9% of US population and their college enrollment figures are way behind. Given the size of our team we're _statistically_ not likely to have them.

So there you have it. We have people for all over the world and women in management. Are we good? Or does "diversity" mean hiring African Americans and Native Americans only?

Anonymous said...

A union would be a disaster.

That said, MSFT will get itself one if the company continues with the big split between Partners and everyone else. "Workers" don't unionize if there isn't an us-vs-them feeling between management and everyone else. MSFT used to not have that feeling. It does now. The SPSA crap probably did more for unionization in one month than all of WashTechs pathetic mewling over the last decade.

Limited II will now chase out the old guard workers who felt an allegiance to the old MSFT and would never unionize. The new crop won't care, they'll be looking out for #1 because that's the type MSFT is unwittingly selecting for their workforce. Those people will vote to unionize if they think it helps them, even if it destroys the company.

Anonymous said...

diversity/affirmative action is all about expanding the pool of QUALIFIED candidates. Looking at some of the shitty groups and inept partners on the P plan - this is sorely needed.

The current crop of VP's sucks.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if a union would be a disaster or not, but for those that are interested, I'd look here:

http://org.teamster.org/org.asp#steps

Anonymous said...

To the Honeywell guy, go preach in some Honeywell board, moron - we don't need your troll here.

For us Microsofties, and ex's - there was a Hi-Potential employee program for a very long time, and in my 9 years at MS. I tried to push the ones that performed, given I had a lot of Indians, and Asians on my team (I am from South America) and had very little success...management would push back on things like - commnication skills are not upto par, presentation skills missing..blah blah...

Guess what - the program is called Hi-Po because the candidate has potential to perform, and can be trained to do better...not ESL. Fuck look at Orlando Ayala, I could hardly understand him in our many meetings face to face...didn't mean jack to me as long as he could execute.

Today, I work at GE where we have management employees from every possible country in a systems that absolutely rewards only performance. If MS were a performance oriented culture, minimsft would never have been created.


The problem with Microsoft is not its large size, its the way the company is being run!

Anonymous said...

To the Honeywell guy, go preach in some Honeywell board, moron - we don't need your troll here.

Tsk, tsk. Funny how the unionists resort to abuse whenever somebody points out when unions behave abusively. Might be a correlation, hmm?

Anonymous said...

RE: In field sales, most of us already get a team based bonus as well as an individual based bonus.

So, Microsoft does have a team and individual bonus program already. I wonder why that idea hasn't found its way back to Redmond...

Hmmm... Could it be that it might force (i.e. financially encourage) people to commit to a deliverable product on a specific schedule? Wow, just think how that would cramp the creativity of all the superstars.

Delivery. Pah!

Delivery is for Kims. Creativity and new ideas are best left to the Superstars! So what if the new ideas happen to come just before a previously planned delivery date. Besides, what is some Kim going to do? Question a Superstar?!

Yeah, right.

We've got Vista to create! (or was it ship?) Or was it SP1?

I must be a Kim because it's getting so hard for me to keep up. Anyway, it doesn't matter, I have stuff to deliver.

Anonymous said...

All this does not matter, folks. The company went too far, you can't fix it by minor changes. You can't even change the company clown. Vista is going to be the biggest fiasco, so go forward now before thousands of developers will start looking for a new job.

Anonymous said...

Don't have a sense of entitlement. I do my job, I expect to get paid--not a kick in the teeth and people trying to fire you, stabbing you in the back. That's the way it worked in the service jobs, that's the way it works at a lot of the jobs that aren't "professional." Somehow "professional" (i.e., white collar) means it's OK to treat the employees like dirt.

If you want to talk entitlement, let's talk about corporate's sense of entitlement. They think that employees should work insane hours without extra compensation in either money or time (getting 3 days off after a death march is NOT adequate compensation). They expect that you're going to be a rabid zealot, that your whole life is your job, that you are their slave 24/7. THAT is the biggest sense of entitlement I've ever seen in all the companies I've ever worked for--what you call entitlement in employees is a pittance compared to that arrogant corporate attitude.

Oh, and I don't shop at Larry's or Whole Foods or even PCC. Too frickin' expensive. Shop at Target and a neighborhood grocery store, clip coupons.

Got a new car because my old car had been driven into the ground (I had that car for 10 years--I don't lease, I don't trade in after 2 years). I did the math, and buying a low-end NEW car with a full huge warranty was CHEAPER than buying a used car with an unknown service record and no warranty. It's the smart move, doing the thinking for the long-term, not just the immediate satisfaction. If I was thinking I was entitled, I'd have bought a Mustang; instead, I've got a Hyundai.

(I would NEVER EVER EVER buy a used car in this area--I've heard too many stories of MS employees taking their new cars, racing them (on a track) hard and beating them to shit, then trading them in, and the next owner getting screwed over when the repairs started coming in fast and expensive.)

In light of the diversity component of this thread, I find it interesting you assume I'm a "guy". But then, if you're at all technical at MS, you're a guy, right? WRONG. I'm a gal. So not only do I have a non-PM or dev job, I'm a woman. Women DO get paid less than their male counterparts. (Triva for you: MS only started paying for birth control pills in 1999. You know why they started?? Women were complaining because the plan was covering Viagra. Nah, we don't have a problem with women...) We also get this whole set of personality double standards held against us. Ever have a manager call a guy "overly emotional?" Hell no, that guy's "passionate."

You make an awful lot of assumtions on little solid information. Not a smart move.

Anonymous said...

Guys, get it right. This company doesn't care what you think, whether you are right or wrong, stay or leave or are satisfied with anything. The PCs ship, the money flows in, the executive suite manipulates the stock to their advantage and its members look forward to retiring to ranches in Paraguay neighboring those of Sun Yung Moon and George Bush. You've been sucked in by a cult, like the Mansons only with a talent for producing extremely crappy software. No use talking about it. Cut your losses and leave. The guys I know who've woken up, realized they're dealing with a cult and just left have been the happiest Microsoft people I have ever met, apart from the overseas employees who know they are regarded as subhuman but enjoy being out of range of the twisted culture on the Redmond campus.

Anonymous said...

>Vista is going to be the biggest fiasco,

Bet you a dollar it isn't. Do you have a dollar?

Anonymous said...

Don't have a sense of entitlement. I do my job, I expect to get paid--not a kick in the teeth and people trying to fire you, stabbing you in the back.

It's one thing to say you're not being treated or compensated fairly. But you started this conversation by saying you're not being compensated ENOUGH--which is ridiculous. If you were under any actual financial strain, you'd be living in an apartment, taking the bus, and not saving ~$14,000/year.

The post you were replying to was gender-neutral, so it's "interesting" that you read gender bias into it. With your mystery medical problems and eagerness to spot persecution, it sounds like you should be talking to a psychiatrist about paranoid schizophrenia instead of posting to Mini.

(Oh, and regarding the pill--Viagra treats an actual medical problem, so why shouldn't health insurance cover it? I'm sure you could get a prescription for the pill before 1999 if you were, e.g., anemic. What problem is the pill treating when you take it for birth control? And why doesn't Microsoft pay for my condoms?)

Anonymous said...

I'm the original poster with the mortgage issues.

I'm the person who asked about your financial situation. After two posts, I'm inclined to come down on the side of financial mismanagement.

Try less than $90K....I'm just barely holding onto my mortgage...

Try less than $75k with less than $2k month direct expenditures as a single person like yourself. That's all it took for me build up enough money to get a 3+ bedroom house in a nice neighborhood within a few miles of MS in the early to middle part of the housing bubble without any funny financing tricks or even PMI. Even had extra investment money beyond the maxed out company-matched investments until I got the mortgage. It's a pretty bare existence, but I'm surviving.

I mean really, you're single and making more than the median income for a 4-person household in WA and, even with your medical expenses, somehow that's not enough for you. What makes you entitled to more than them?

but I shouldn't have to scrape by and eat junk food just because it's cheaper than eating healthy food

I know that somewhere, someplace, a home economics teacher is crying himself to sleep tonight, but personally I couldn't help laughing. Eating healthy is cheap and quick. If you're willing to put up with a little monotony, it's even cheaper. See a dietician for a start or read one of Rachel Ray's 30-minute meal cookbooks.

If you really want a reality check on salary stuff like this, try explaining our salary, raises, performance review system to people in their 50s who have been lifelong union workers.

In case you hadn't noticed, the non-service sector unions are dead or dying in droves thanks to foreign labor. Nobody today is going to be getting the same deal our parents did because China and South Asia are poised to do to software what Japan did to the auto industry.

Even if that weren't true, calling for unionization from a Microsoftie is out and out pathetic. Migrant workers risking death to cross the border to work long hours and live in squalid conditions for a pittance need a union, not flabby middle class button pushers like us. A lot of them even manage to save money to send to their families, something many Americans just can't seem to manage. Funny, isn't it?

Got a new car because my old car had been driven into the ground...I would NEVER EVER EVER buy a used car in this area

Finanical mismangement again. A person of your obvious intelligence shouldn't have a problem finding a used car that would be worthless for racing built by a foreign manufacturer with an above average reliability record. It might take a ton of self education, scouring ads, and a lot of false leads, but hey, nothing in life is free. Seems you feel entitled not to have to make the effort.

Aside from that, a car is a privilege not a right. It's possible to arrange to live without a car even with the crappy bus system in King county. Inconvenient, wet, and hard on the shoes maybe, but quite possible.

Don't have a sense of entitlement. I do my job, I expect to get paid--not a kick in the teeth and people trying to fire you, stabbing you in the back.

Maybe you are really a Kim, but everything I've read makes me suspect you're a Limited, without the courtesy of a II, that is being managed out. You need to figure out what direction you need to be headed with your career and your life, even if it's giving up on MS, and then get going.

And lose the entitlement issues. Good luck.

Azazelo said...

I read your blog...Yesss...Adieu Microsoft...

Anonymous said...

"The Zune is like an ungainly person in carefully-tailored stylish clothes; the iPod is like a model in a bikini."

I dunno. That's bordering on FUD. It's not an iPod killer, but the hardware as least as good as the other MS Portable Media Center devices on the market. Shore up the software, make it able to play podcasts, and take off the restrictions on the wifi, and then it would become a pretty good entry into the marketplace.

Really, what's the big fuss? I don't see Sony, Creative, or any of the others giving up on portable media players just because of Apple but here you guys are acting like it's the end of the world that Zune isn't as good as the iPod. I call BS.

Anonymous said...

I read the focalization pieces that Mini linked to on the Intel Perspective blog. Interesting to see that they have the same stack rank problems we have here.

I'm kind of torn on the 360 degree feedback thing. On one hand, a way for managers to more accurately assess who's doing a good job and who isn't by the words of the people who work with them every day is absolutely wonderful. On the other, given how much arm-twisting it takes to get people to write their own reviews and how little participation there is in the peer and manager feedback mechanisms we have already, the whole idea is a non-starter. People say they want to be evaluated fairly in relation to their peers but they don't want to do the work to make it possible and aren't brave enough to put down unfavorable opinions for (justifiable) fear of retribution.

Also from the same blog, some words about what happened when Intel lost their Kims in their recent layoffs:
Within the teams I work with, which includes IT and some business groups, I'm starting to see that a percentage of the people let go were doing undesirable, low visibility, but nonetheless critical work. Now that people are gone I'm asking their managers how these tasks are going to get done. The answer is inevitably "we're working on it." The high visibility, sexy, fun stuff is already covered, but some of the ugly work that requires heavy lifting seems to have been dropped. It some cases it appears that managers either didn't know anything about this work, or they didn't value it. The gaps I'm seeing now are largely mundane background tasks that just seemed to magically happen.

Not very comforting to know that the Kims will be missed when they're gone, but at least it's something.

Anonymous said...

Bet you a dollar it isn't. Do you have a dollar?
Yes, I have. I've sold all my MSFT stocks. I can be mistaken, but I can't imaging myself installing Vista at home. And I do not see any reason to do that, unless XP support will be cut.

Anonymous said...

The $$ I got from the buyout went to pay living expenses because Long Term Disability denied my claim for the 5 months I was working part-time after being on Short Term Disability for the full term.

Case closed. You want full pay for not working. Plus 60% pay for not working even over a longer period. Please!

but I shouldn't have to scrape by and eat junk food just because it's cheaper than eating healthy food

No wonder you needed so much dental work. You're rotting your teeth out. Good god my friend. Have you ever heard of Costco. They have plenty of (quality) pre-prepared meals for $15 or less that can feed a single person for multiple days. A roasted chicken is like $5; go get a 5lbs bag of frozen peas and you have a fairly healthy meal. Duh!

Based on this I question weather you are smart (or willing) enough to work here. I've seen enough of your type over the years to know you are milking the system for everything it's worth. Please leave and go get your union job.

Anonymous said...

Here is a story. A person on my team got Kimmed 3 years ago and left the team. The team replace the person with 4 developers. The management didn't have the vision, cut the wrong feature and the project took a detour. 3 years later the team is still scratching to fix the problem that the Kim had the solution/code 3 years ago. Why the person got Kimmed? Lack of visibility, self promotion and mismanagement.

The moral of the story, it is not obvious to understand the impact of a Kim until long after he/she leaves.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. That's bordering on FUD. It's not an iPod killer, but the hardware as least as good as the other MS Portable Media Center devices on the market.

I'm the original poster on this point. You're both missing my point and exhibiting it's accuracy. I was trying to say something about J Allard and the problematic approach to product creation that he embodies. I said:

"Coolness" is intrinsic, not decorative. It's analogous to machine code, not high-level language. You cannot take an "uncool" object and make it "cool" by adding a layer of complexity or obfuscation atop it.

This presupposes a desire for "coolness," which is not a frivolous desire for a company, since it translates directly into market valuation, sales and cultural penetration (which can be very valuable indeed). Allard etc. in turn constitute Microsoft committing resources to an attempt to become "cool."

The Zune is a middle-of-the-road Toshiba player, neither especially bad nor especially good, with a rushed, controversial new software gloss (controversial in its use or not-use of existing partner assets and existing protocols) and, most importantly, a layer of the aforementioned "decorative attempt at coolness."

My "model in a bikini" example is not about how the model is attractive so much as its about the model's intrinsic properties obviating the need for obfuscation and/or decoration.

Saying that "the hardware [is] at least as good as the other MS Portable Media Center devices on the market" misses the point. I'm not talking about the hardware; I'm talking about the precision and "suchness" (in a Zen sense) of the product and its identity. Microsoft's presentation of the Zune does not say "this is reasonably good hardware;" it says, "this is a new, special kind of thing that you've never seen before, with its own culture and excitement to match its unique capabilites," and that is precisely where Zune fails, because that's not actually what it is, and customers grasp this instantly.

If "Welcome To The Social" actually meant anything real or translated into a legitimate consumer desire, customers would happily overlook entry-level glitches in performance. But the product's "coolness" is not intrinsic, as I'm saying; it's pasted onto the surface and it blows away like smoke and you're left with a Toshiba player without a scroll wheel and with buggy software.

Anonymous said...

Mass layoff in disguise?

I'm hearing from a lot of people that person A or B is being pushed out of Microsoft. The mechanics of that are being discussed exactly here: give them "limited" ranking, no stock optinos, put them in a position of certain failure, etc. Is Microsoft promoting a mass layoff in disguise?

There was so much noise about certain groups not growing, but the Live applications getting a lot of headcount. Nevertheless, after a while, it looks like even in the “Live” buildings a lot of people are just moving around or out, and the real headcount is not increasing. Should we see this as good news?

Obviously it is good if Microsoft if finally getting rid or unnecessary fat. But the problem is that this is not being done openly, and probably not being done correctly, and a lot of good people are probably being pushed out, while the usual “friends of the high-level people” are staying and getting promoted.

Anyone else also seeing this happens?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the majority is forgetting that there are many people that actually deserves the "Limited" label. Removing or re-wording the Limited rating does not change this reality.

Not everyone at Microsoft is spectacular, these people who aren't must be properly evaluated as Limited.

Anonymous said...

With your mystery medical problems and eagerness to spot persecution, it sounds like you should be talking to a psychiatrist about paranoid schizophrenia instead of posting to Mini.

HR tells you to get a medical accommodation if you have chronic health problems. Ask HR about it if you don't already have one. Managers often don't mention it.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone at Microsoft is spectacular, these people who aren't must be properly evaluated as Limited.

So apparently you haven't read anything that Mini has written about this, or you haven't absorbed what he and others on this blog have been saying. Sure, you can label everyone who isn't a superstar (aka "spectacular") as a Limited. But then you're lumping together a whole bunch of good, solid workers together with the deadwood, and basically telling them all "Thanks, but we don't really need your kind of service here anymore."

Do you really want a company with only superstars? If that's the direction that we really intend to head in, by Kimming all the worker bees, then I'm definitely outta here.

And that's the result we will end up with, if no one (LisaB, are you listening at all to any of this?) with authority 1) speaks up and says "Yeah, we blew it" and 2) FIXES IT.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the majority is forgetting that there are many people that actually deserves the "Limited" label. Removing or re-wording the Limited rating does not change this reality.

Not everyone at Microsoft is spectacular, these people who aren't must be properly evaluated as Limited.


trended 3.0, 3.0 ... Limited II, Limited ... What labels are next?

"Limited" [II] is certainly the most candid label so far. Before, they always gave you hope that next time your review score would be higher.

No respect either way.

At least now you know what they think of you.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget many people who work at MS came from investment banks and consulting firms.

Maybe if we just shit-canned everyone at Microsoft who worked at an IB or consulting firm as thier last job before coming to Microsoft, we might be able to clear out a large chunk of our ineffective middle management.

By Collision Domain, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 11:41:38 PM


I for one am one of those I-bankers, and for the three or four others w/ similar backgrounds at MS (Levels 63-66) that I know, I would say you're off base here.

Successful i-bankers are entrepreneurial by nature. Yes, they work in a larg org with a lot of capital, but i-banking is very much a push/get the assignment, analyze the issues, create a solution, and execute that solution - it's boots on the ground. If the execution goes badly or isn't done, it's a failure. That mentality of having to define the solution and implement it is actually something lacking in some of the longer-term MS folks I've met. Lots of spin around thought generation, strategy, ad-nauseum... but little focus on the actual execution. Spin, spin.

A better solution would be to shit-can everyone who dreams up ideas that can't or don't get executed, plus all those VPs who get lost in things like balance sheets and income statements and c/f statements. Of the VPs, I've met more than one who don't speak that language.

b-atcha!

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing from a lot of people that person A or B is being pushed out of Microsoft. The mechanics of that are being discussed exactly here: give them "limited" ranking, no stock optinos, put them in a position of certain failure, etc. Is Microsoft promoting a mass layoff in disguise?

It is more like a slow burn.

Management doesn't want to disrupt groups by doing a massive layoff.

7% RIF'ed per year the way you describe works best for them.

Anonymous said...

There was so much noise about certain groups not growing, but the Live applications getting a lot of headcount. Nevertheless, after a while, it looks like even in the “Live” buildings a lot of people are just moving around or out, and the real headcount is not increasing. Should we see this as good news?


We should see this as bad news. What's happening in the Live buildings is Blake missused the headcount allocation they got -- taking low cost labor market HC and using it in Redmond. (Basically, missuse of company resources, although he didn't get fired like Martin Taylor, although this is a whole separate matter.)

The changes in the Live buildings are purely aimed to plug that gap since Kevin wouldn't let him go on it. So, they've riffed a bunch of folks in non-engineering areas like child safety, customer focus, etc., to make up the "hole." The really sad part is proportionally, Blake has riffed lots more women than men (compared to the % of men vs women in Live/MSN). He couldn't even keep his chief of staff, who was a woman, who got smart and out of dodge.

Slimming down needs to happen, but when you ask entrenched management to do it, you end up not cutting the fat where it needs to be cut most.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone at Microsoft is spectacular, these people who aren't must be properly evaluated as Limited.

Why? You already grade them on a curve, if they are doing their job then what is the problem? If they aren't doing their job then you can push them out the door. Why are you in such a rush to push everyone through the meatgrinder?

Most people thrive and are more productive then they aren't stressed out within an inch of a cardiac arrest.

Today, I'd hire anyone RIF'ed or even PIP-Fired from MS. You are getting rid of a lot of great Kims.

On second thought, keep up the good work, I could use some good hard workers that don't spend all their time on self-promotion and managing up.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if the review rating really say "limited II" or just lmited?

Anonymous said...

> Try less than $75k with less than $2k month direct expenditures as a single person like yourself.

I am single with salary 75K. From this, I pay 7.4% FICA and 28% federal tax. Contribute 6% to 401k. I have a mortgate of 2K/month, pay car dues of $500, utility+home owner due of $400. I have very little left after this.

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing from a lot of people that person A or B is being pushed out of Microsoft. The mechanics of that are being discussed exactly here: give them "limited" ranking, no stock optinos, put them in a position of certain failure, etc. Is Microsoft promoting a mass layoff in disguise?


-----------

Yup .. its the tactics to downsizing and doing it in a way to not get "sued" ..

Collision Domain said...

Anonymous at Monday, December 04, 2006 9:10:55 PM wrote:

Successful i-bankers are entrepreneurial by nature.


In the same way that stockbrokers and insurance salesmen are, I'll grant you that. ;-)

Yes, they work in a larg org with a lot of capital, but i-banking is very much a push/get the assignment, analyze the issues, create a solution, and execute that solution - it's boots on the ground. If the execution goes badly or isn't done, it's a failure.

A serious question for those of us not in the IB sphere at MSFT: What are the ramifications of a) organizational failure and b) personal failure? Do we have accountability there?

Investment banks in general tend to be ruthless in managing out analysts/partners that don't perform; does the same thing happen at MSFT?

That mentality of having to define the solution and implement it is actually something lacking in some of the longer-term MS folks I've met. Lots of spin around thought generation, strategy, ad-nauseum... but little focus on the actual execution. Spin, spin.

Well, Microsoft and execution go together like a blind executioner and the French Revolution: lots of blood everywhere, and you're not quite sure where it came from.

A better solution would be to shit-can everyone who dreams up ideas that can't or don't get executed, plus all those VPs who get lost in things like balance sheets and income statements and c/f statements. Of the VPs, I've met more than one who don't speak that language.

I'd support that.

Have any openings in your org? It sounds like there's at least one bastion of rational thought.

Anonymous said...

I have been on several division wide review meetings. We gave limited (earlier 2.5) only when it was completely obvious that the person deserves limited. We always tried to give benefit of doubt or seek other reasons for the person to get a better rating. But some persons are adamant in getting limited.

Here is a test. Folks who got limited tells a colleague that they got achievied rating and see whether the colleague believes them. Most likely the colleague would go to the manager that if that slacker got achieved then why should she did not get exceeded.

It is easy to criticise when somebody got something poor. But then one must see that most of these folks deserved this. There are always exception. But folks who got limited can't even get a job. Lucky for them that Microsoft is at least giving them a respectable job. Most people who got bad rating more than once but did not actually deserve it finds a new job. That's the accountability part Microsoft gets. But for most other folks limited is true limited.

Anonymous said...

I'll repharase the other guy's words: There's still a bunch of deadwood ICs around that really do deserve a plain old Limited ranking, if not being fired outright.

You guys can take the people I'd RIF if you want them but I guarantee you'd regret it.

joe said...

>Yup .. its the tactics to downsizing
>and doing it in a way to not get
>"sued"

There are a couple of terms for what is going on: "Managing Out" and "Creative Dismissal" are terms for forcing someone to quit by changing the terms of their employment and making it very uncomfortable for them.

It is _not_ legal, it is however, extremely hard to prove in a court of law, and is hardly ever prosecuted.

Wal-Mart is probably the most refined at this technique, its legendary. It is employed at just about every organization around.

Good Thing that MSFT never cross polinated with Financial people from Wal-Mart otherwise, maybe Wal-Mart's organizational techniques could be applied to you.

Anonymous said...

I am single with salary 75K. From this, I pay 7.4% FICA and 28% federal tax. Contribute 6% to 401k. I have a mortgate of 2K/month, pay car dues of $500, utility+home owner due of $400. I have very little left after this.

I'm single with salary $85k. I pay $800/mo. rent and own a used car. No mortgage payments, no homeowner dues, no car payments. I buy nice things, eat at nice restaurants, take nice vacations, and save about $35k/year. I'm living the good life and have extra money coming out my ears. So when you're feeling tight on cash, remember, nobody forced you to buy that house on Mercer Island and brand new Mercedes SUV.

Anonymous said...

If you can't afford a residence in Seattle area while getting Microsoft's salary, you will have even tougher time in affording a residence in Valley while getting Cisco's salary.

Sadly true, but not necessarily for what I believe were your implied reasons. Silicon Valley is so expensive that it's mind-boggling. Even some of the mega-compensated people I know here in Redmond would find equivilent home ownership down south painful.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"Yup .. its the tactics to downsizing and doing it in a way to not get "sued" .."

Cutting headcount needs to be done (imo minimum 5% across the board) but reflects a failure of the management team's strategy and leadership over the past 5 years (not to mention ridiculous hiring last fiscal). Unless that strategy/leadership problem is addressed, downsizing isn't going to do more than provide a temporary respite for MSFT's LT problem. Unfortunately, listening to current leadership, they don't acknowledge that there even is a problem far less take any personal accountability for having created it or failure to avoid it. That does not bode well. By the time results force them to wake up (and that should already have occurred years ago), the resulting cuts are going to have to be twice as deep - or worse.

Anonymous said...

With your mystery medical problems and eagerness to spot persecution, it sounds like you should be talking to a psychiatrist about paranoid schizophrenia instead of posting to Mini.

Only an innocent bystander here. Although I agree that your post was gender-neutral, the suggestion of mental illness in an argument was beneath you. That was unnecessary and undermined your point of gender neutrality in the post in question.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be blunt. Business is a game played by big boys and girls and the stakes are for all the marbles. I am OK if that game is not for everyone.

Should I assume that you've never used the phrase "There, but for the grace of God, go I." ?

This response isn't necessarily directed at you: I don't know you. It is directed at those who've been very successful to date, and harbor disdain for those whose careers haven't moved as fast as their own.

Business is a game, but one where people don't seem to recognize that they owe a large part of their success to things other than their own magnificence until their career sputters and stalls partway up the corporate ladder. When someone is bathing in success, it's very rare for them to realize that they're seperated from the masses by a single factor (being sponsored by someone in a high-level position; ending up on the hottest of the hot (and visible) projects; not appearing as a threat to an equally successful peer, etc.)

Until that occurs, they tend to be overconfident, believing that everyone less valued by the company than they are simply are dumber, less clever, less brave, unwilling to work as hard, etc. than themselves. By the time they see how things actually unfolded, it's much too late.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to be employed by many companies, including Microsoft. For each super-star I've met in the entire industry, I've met at least four others who're equally skilled and talented, but lack the small touch of good fortune to send their careers soaring. Ambition, talent, education, experience all matter - but so does plain dumb luck.

Anonymous said...

We gave limited (earlier 2.5) only when it was completely obvious that the person deserves limited

But not due to any curve?

Are you sure?

Anonymous said...

Mass layoff in disguise?

Get real. As if a group as big as HR could manage to keep that big of a thing a secret or LCA would stand around and let them risk it.

We're still on the same old hiring binge over where I am.

Anonymous said...

I have been on several division wide review meetings. We gave limited (earlier 2.5) only when it was completely obvious that the person deserves limited. We always tried to give benefit of doubt or seek other reasons for the person to get a better rating. But some persons are adamant in getting limited.

Here is a test. Folks who got limited tells a colleague that they got achievied rating and see whether the colleague believes them. Most likely the colleague would go to the manager that if that slacker got achieved then why should she did not get exceeded.


I sure hope you weren't responsible for reviewing anyone this cycle, because you have confused two different review measures. "Achieved" and "Limited" are not two measures of the same thing. And those who used to get 2.5 were not Limited II's, in any case. They were "Underperformers," which corresponds to a rating I don't remember offhand that is means you did not perform satisfactorily.

Limited II for your contribution rating means you performed just fine, but that you aren't likely to ever get promoted or be successful in the future. Keep plodding along here if you must, but we don't think you're valuable.

And by the way, the peers with whom I shared my LII rating were *shocked*...until we found out that you get slapped with that label when you've been in a level for more than 30 months. Then it all made sense.

But doesn't mean we going to stick around. At least not in an org that clearly thinks we're dirt on the ground, to be walked on but not appreciated.

Anonymous said...

"Not everyone at Microsoft is spectacular, these people who aren't must be properly evaluated as Limited."

MSFT is a grinding machine. No one can escape from being crushed. Sooner or later you will get a limitted II, whether or not you get promoted. Be flexible. Don't take it personal. :)

Anonymous said...

>> I pay $800/mo. rent

Pray tell, where do you live? I can't find anything decent to rent below $1K.

Besides, $2K in mortgage is not exactly a house at "Mercer Island" (unless we're talking about an outhouse or dog house). Try Bothell or Duvall instead, and a fairly reasonable home even there.

Anonymous said...

> I'm single with salary $85k. I pay $800/mo. rent and own a used car. No mortgage payments, no homeowner dues, no car payments. I buy nice things, eat at nice restaurants, take nice vacations, and save about $35k/year

-
Can you give break down? Are you penny pincher to live on 20K per year?

Anonymous said...

I'm single with salary $85k. I pay $800/mo. rent and own a used car. No mortgage payments, no homeowner dues, no car payments. I buy nice things, eat at nice restaurants, take nice vacations, and save about $35k/year. I'm living the good life and have extra money coming out my ears. So when you're feeling tight on cash, remember, nobody forced you to buy that house on Mercer Island and brand new Mercedes SUV


You're a big idiot than the person you were attempting to mock. First off, let's say his car payments and your "eating at nice restaurants" are a wash. They are both “luxuries” that a lot of middle-class people can’t afford. Although, technically, he's spending money on an asset, while you just get the privilege of holding on to a steak for a couple of hours. You are both paying money towards a mortgage, he is paying towards his, but you’re paying someone else’s. While you are saving $35k/year, people with real property are making money. I made 50k/year over 3 years owning my house (and I sold it so it wasn’t paper profits). Not too mention he's contributing to his retirement while you are "buying nice things". Finally, last time I looked, the cheapest house on Mercer was $700k which would be a lot more than his 2k payment, so your dig scores no points there. I’m not arguing against you, because I think we all get paid pretty well, but you felt the need to attack this guy because of how he budgets his money when, IMHO, he’s got a better money management strategy than you do.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand this whole Limited II thing. AFAIK, there's only one ranking, and it's Limited, divided into two scenarios, as has been mentioned here.

Did people actually got the words "Limited II" on their reviews? Did some people get "Limited I"?

I got Achived/Limited. I got a 3% raise, 6% bonus, and about 200 shares of stock. Not sure what the hell any of that means, but based on the all the figures I've read on the blog, my numbers are very close to most A/S people. I have been at level for 31 months, so maybe that was the primary reason.

So, what the heck will happen next year? I'll then be at level for 40+ months, is that automatically another Limited, even if you have a decent year?

Anonymous said...

I find that people tend to take cheap shots like crying "paranoid schizophrenia" when they're losing the argument or feel like they don't have a leg to stand on. Otherwise, they'd be able to build a logical, non-inflammatory manner.

Very interesting who's crying mental illness...

One thing I find most frustrating at MS is this perception that there can always be upward growth/motion/profits in terms of what they expect, but they are quick to slap a label of "limited" on people. There is no tolerance of anything that disproves the "limitless" perspective that the superstars have, that everything's a candy store, and every release is a walk into a technicolor sunset. Every physical system has its limits. There can be no up without down. Inability to tolerate anything but positive, chipper, ever-increasing performance is scary, and a symptom of some deep-seated issues that will create a train-wreck.

The question is, are we watching the wreck occur, or is it just another near-miss on the way to the mother of all wrecks?

Anonymous said...

Ta-Da!!!

Just came back from the HR training. Guess what, in order to be eligible for the transfer a candidate should have for last 2 reviews rating not less then achieved.

I understand that this is extra requirement and only for our division today, but good luck to everyone, who have received Limited 2 rating this year.

Anonymous said...

... a symptom of some deep-seated issues that will create a train-wreck.

The question is, are we watching the wreck occur, or is it just another near-miss on the way to the mother of all wrecks?


The train wreck is already in progress. It's been going on for a while already. Thing is, with all the financial momentum MSFT had going into the train wreck, it will be a while before the wreck hits the ground.

The frantic scramble for more profits to fuel the stock grown caused the company to make bad bets and take on more growth than it could manage, leading to a bunch of people in leadership positions who are, to be frank, not qualified for their jobs.

Things like Limited II and the SPSA grants are just indications that the company doesn't know how to soften the landing. All they know how to do is double down on the same bad bets that caused the wreck in the first place.

It will leave a whopper of a crater when it's over.

Anonymous said...

After reading all of the comments about the new review system, I'm beginning to wonder...

Years ago the FAA did a study and realized that most pilots did not remember the airspace regulations very well. In those days, the different types of airspace were designated with mnemonics such as TCA for Terminal Control Area, or ATA for Airport Traffic Area. Each type of airspace had it's own set of regulations that pilots were not remembering as well as they should. So to simplify matters, the FAA tossed out the mnemonics and replaced them with Class A, B, C, etc. The underlying regulations remained the same however, only the names changed.

Anonymous said...

Can you give break down? Are you penny pincher to live on 20K per year?

The $85k doesn't count bonuses, stock awards, or interest on money I've already saved. If you save $100k and put it in a high-yield savings account, you're already making $4k extra/year. (BTW, the $35k doesn't include money I make on the stock market or with other investments.)

You're a big (sic) idiot than the person you were attempting to mock. ... you felt the need to attack this guy because of how he budgets his money when, IMHO, he’s got a better money management strategy than you do.

I'm not mocking the guy because I think real estate is a bad investment. I'm saying that if you spend all your money, you don't get to complain when it's all gone.

As for which money management strategy is better, I prefer the strategy that allows me to enjoy my high salary with zero stress. Maybe you can make more money at the end of the day playing the real estate game, but it's not like I'll be poor.

Anonymous said...

You're a big idiot than the person you were attempting to mock."

In case you forgot, it's "buy low, sell high", not the other way around. It doesn't get much higher than it is now.

Who's the bigger fool, the guy who buys during the housing boom and whines about mortgage payments or the guy who rents cheaply, waits for the next housing lull, and builds up a bigger down payment to reduce the mortgage payment?

This guy is doing the right thing at the moment and at $35k a year savings he'll be living on Mercer Island in no time.

Anonymous said...

Just came back from the HR training. Guess what, in order to be eligible for the transfer a candidate should have for last 2 reviews rating not less then achieved.

In the old system, people with a 2.5 were not allowed to interview for a transfer.

Limited sounds more like something between 2.5 and 3.0.

Anonymous said...

Just came back from the HR training. Guess what, in order to be eligible for the transfer a candidate should have for last 2 reviews rating not less then achieved.


In other words, no, you can't go find a new spot in which you can grow/succeed at MSFT - you do actually have to LEAVE and then come BACK if you want to keep working here but in another capacity.

Boy, this sounds awfulllllllly familiar.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I posted the link that average salary at Microsoft is reasonable.

Somebody then posted a reasonable response that it is not according to his/her situation.

But after that the follow up comments have nothing to do with Microsoft. They are all talking about personal finance management skills.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Would all of you money management experts take that thread someplace else? Where else could you go? To quote Mr. Butler - Frankly, I don't give a damn.

Anonymous said...


Just came back from the HR training. Guess what, in order to be eligible for the transfer a candidate should have for last 2 reviews rating not less then achieved.

I understand that this is extra requirement and only for our division today, but good luck to everyone, who have received Limited 2 rating this year.


You're stupid. "Limited" is the contribution rating, while "Achieved" is the commitment rating. You can have 2 years of Achieved/Limited reviews and be eligible for transfer (although it won't be easy).

(Btw, I hate the "Limited II" name, but I also hate people who don't know what they are talking about).

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Very interesting. While I feel bad for having missed[you may say avoiding] company politics from an external/internal view, most of the issues you have discussed here sound very familiar to me.

Would you believe I have been focused on my job so madly that until now I amn't aware of this issue as global? Fortunately or unfortunately I have been recently terminated saying I'm limited.

Not that I questioned the rating(different organization have different scales.. some organizations may weight the weight tackfully instead of the mass and blame it on geographic locations... (forgive my physics analogy here).. but what I question is how do you raise someone to leads you if people cannot trust the leader and their policies.

Having heard of the popular saying which goes "Simple minds copy ideas, great minds steal them", how can one expect honesty and that too in an integrated environment.

This time, stealing has gone even farther with hacking and modifying data with/without tools with important mails and working machine data as well in order to support the limited rating.

Bureacracy, that is another interesting aspect. I remember having noted this in my very first review. I had made up my mind that if the management does not work on this I would leave immediately. And we were happy that our regional management worked on it beautifully by flipping managers.

While I'm happy I'm able to exit gracefully, I'm concerned what next.

Anonymous said...

"it was pointed out to us" during focus groups in the province that the proposed brand name sounded much like a French-Canadian term used as a euphemism for penis

Well, I guess that explains this (presumably) viral ad. An LJ friend saw that and said, "Welcome to the social. Now squeeze your damn buttcheecks together and give the little penis an eye!" Confusingly enough, that's a fairly literal description of the ad. No, really. Clickie. You'll see.

Honestly, viral marketing really should leave an impression behind other than a vague sense of disgust, shouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but still relevant.

Have any of you seen the most recent “Hard Code” posting by the self-proclaimed "development manager at large" Eric Brechner on our competition with Google? Up until now my views on EE, TwC and such were somewhat neutral. Some good, some bad, some real things, some blah-blah-blah... Not anymore. I don't know to what extent Mr. Brechner's column represents the views of numerous orgs that claim to be responsible for improvements of our engineering practices, but I assume that someone titled "Director of Dev Excellence" is a voice to be heard. And that kind of voice, that kind of thinking is exactly what's been killing us! It's this attitude of "We're the kings, everyone else is a pathetic moron" that’s been causing so much harm to the company.

At first I thought that was a joke. After reading the whole article I realized it was sad reality. If people like this are empowered to define how engineering supposed to happen, we're doomed. It's such an amazing mix of ignorance and arrogance. In his article Brechner does two things: calls Google stupid in variety of ways and proclaims that we’re great, hence invincible. Why is Google stupid? Because “Google wants to empower every person with software, but not every device”. Why are we great? Isn’t that obvious? Because “we haven't forgotten who we are and what we do”.

Once you get through lines like “Just because Google has doomed themselves” and “clueless competitors like Google are giving us the chance” and read all the groundless proclamations of our superiority you don’t know whether to laugh or puke. It would’ve been funny if it wasn’t so sad.

And now after quite a few negative posts following the column, we’ll probably see the post silently removed or even better, proclaimed a juke and a test for the engineers who take things too seriously.

But I’m too bitter here. At least now I can have a piece of mind and know that no matter what we do and no matter what Google does they’re doomed and we’re the One.

Anonymous said...

miniMSPOLL:

The guy who asked about when "Gear War" (sic) would finally be at the Company Store:

1. Audience plant for Robbie
2. Just clueless about so many things

Unlike most teams, we should be able to see the results of this poll.

Anonymous said...

Under the category of "Old Problems", people should read the article in New York Times on Microsoft's online strategy problems. Berkowitz is the new guy Microsoft hired:

Microsoft lost its way, Mr. Berkowitz says, because it became too enamored with software wizardry, like its new three-dimensional map service, and failed to make a search engine people liked to use.

“A lot of decisions were driven by technology; they were not driven by the consumer,” he said. “It isn’t always the best technology that wins. It is the best experience.”


It also talks about some of the other problems that have been discussed on this blog before.

Check out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/09/technology/09msn.html

Anonymous said...

Pasty-faced white boys that are Individual Contributors, with families, nearing 40, better watch out, because regardless of your review score, YOU'RE next to be constructively terminated before the magic 40-year-old, protected-worker status.

I'm looking over my shoulder and just spotted the Grim Reaper (see below).

I just walked past a meeting room yesterday and spotted one slide of my skip-level manager's PowerPoint to my boss-and-peers about how MY team is going to get phased out ("[product/service] FY 2008 end-of-lifecycle").

Nice way to find out my team and I are gone, huh?

Also a good clue to the rest of you as to how far in advance they plan the org changes.

Time to polish up the resume.
The Limited review you just got should be your first clue that it's time to clear out of Dodge City. Make your plans now.

I fully do not expect my boss to say anything to me because I'm pretty sure in the confines of that meeting she just had, she's been told NOT to. THAT's how the secret of the near-40 terminations is being kept, in response to an earlier poster.

Anonymous said...

> just walked past a meeting room yesterday and spotted one slide of my skip-level manager's PowerPoint to my boss-and-peers about how MY team is going to get phased out ("[product/service] FY 2008 end-of-lifecycle").
...
>I fully do not expect my boss to say anything to me because I'm pretty sure in the confines of that meeting she just had, she's been told NOT to. THAT's how the secret of the near-40 terminations is being kept, in response to an earlier poster.

Yikes! Not pleasant.

At a guess, I'd say that these decisions are kept quiet for a while so that the folks capable of transitioning the product to SE don't all leave.

Not sure how this planned end-of-life for a product relates to approaching 40, however, unless all of your group are in that position age-wise.

Anonymous said...

"...about how MY team is going to get phased out ... THAT's how the secret of the near-40 terminations is being kept..."

So, you're team is being disbanded and that somehow translates into some policy against over-40s? Pass the bong, dude.

Anonymous said...

Pasty-faced white boys that are Individual Contributors, with families, nearing 40,

Hey, I resemble that remark. Especially the pasty-faced part, since I spent all summer busting my butt to ship Vista. And yes, I got a "Limited II" and am currently planning my departure on my own terms.

Limited is a two-way street, and I've evaluated Microsoft's future potential as an employer to be quite Limited.

That's okay, I got quite a bit out of them already, since I did manage to join before the partners started hording all the dough.

Anonymous said...

I fully do not expect my boss to say anything to me because I'm pretty sure in the confines of that meeting she just had, she's been told NOT to. THAT's how the secret of the near-40 terminations is being kept, in response to an earlier poster.

There are no secrets being kept from anyone. However, the policies are framed such that it will be very easy for IC's nearing 40 to be phased out without risking law suits.

Anonymous said...

>> Microsoft lost its way, Mr. Berkowitz says

Mr Berkowitz is talking out of his ass. Local (including the 3D incarnation of it) is hands down the best service that MSN (oh, sorry, Windows Live) currently has. Web based version is about a year ahead of Google and that in itself is a notable achievement since they've started later (as usual, because people at Berkowitz level are only wise in hindsight). What we need is a decent e-mail service. Three years after Google released GMail we're still stuck with retarded Hotmail that looks like shit in anything but IE and doesn't look that great in IE either. The problem with search is pretty apparent as well. Try to search for Firefox for example. Both Yahoo and Google turn up the download page. Live does not. It also has too much (unneeded) chrome because of which the actual search results start somewhere in the middle of the screen.

I could go on and on about this, enumerating pretty much every MSN service EXCEPT Live Local. Let's give credit where credit is due - people there are doing outstanding work.

Anonymous said...

Live Local might have some bullet point features that make it great, but as a consumer web site it's not so hot IMHO. It has two separate search boxes (confusing!). The new Christmas list opens a new window (what's wrong with the current one??). It is cluttered and busy and doesn't render properly in Firefox (one horizontal bar of too many choices overlaps the other horizontal bar of too many choices). There's a bunch of potential, but Google Local is a pleasure to use, something that Live Local still needs to become.

Anonymous said...

Interesting podcast - Marissa Mayer at Stanford:

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=80867514&s=143441&i=5485705

She has a retarded laugh, but other than that she's freakin' brilliant. I mean, I can't recall one MSFT executive that would not sound like buzzword-galvanized zombie every time he/she opens his or her mouth.

She actually sounds like a live (and very fast-talking) human being and provides an interesting insight into how Google works. I wish we could adopt a couple of things from there in particular:
1. Flat management structure, not to Google levels, but to GE levels - 12 reports per manager.
2. Data driven approach in decision making. PMs and managers should stop making up BS to promote themselves.

Anonymous said...

Today I was reading InsideMS (our internal blog) and I read a wonderful comment about payment versus the way that (unfair) managers decide who are the outstanding performers.
I'm going to reply this post (it is in the PAY article) because I see the same thing in my team!
I advice you to read and reply it so we can reinforce the point from the post. I'm not posting the content here because it is from our internal blog but it is a good subject for a new discussion.

Anonymous said...

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9005873&intsrc=hm_list


Windows development chief: 'I would buy a Mac if I didn't work for Microsoft'

Microsoft's James Allchin made the comment in a 2004 e-mail to colleagues...

Anonymous said...

Anybody ever look at on10.net?

Forgot Zune, how much money are we dumping down the toilet on this? Much rather see this redistributed to bonuses and salary for viable ventures.

Channel9 I get. on10? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

>Windows development chief: 'I would buy a Mac if I didn't work for Microsoft'

And?

It might be surprising to others that many MS employees - including myself - have not one but multiple Macs (writing this on one), as well as systems running Linux and who knows what!!

Having an affiliation with > 1 OS is not a crime to a geek - its only a crime to the fanboys for whom having that "one and only" affiliation is a fashion statement.

If you're truly interested in technology (as opposed to peer pressure), using multiple platforms is an interesting contrast, particularly when your day job is software in general, and OS design in particular.

Anonymous said...

"Windows development chief: 'I would buy a Mac if I didn't work for Microsoft'"

Big fat hairy deal. I happen to like BSD type Unixes myself but I'm not religious about it.

You should've quoted the bit from Allchin that's actually worth discussing here:

"I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems our customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that does not translate into great products."

We'll see how Vista actually does on it's release to find out whether or not the Windows team managed to change course away from that in the last two years.

Anonymous said...

So far from what I've read and heard in Webcasts, Berkowitz looks like the latest no-op to run MSN. Blah blah blah "promise of the Internet" blah blah blah "social connections" blah blah "human behavior." What a crock of 1996-era bullshit. (I guess he missed it the first time around, as he worked in book publishing back then.)

I agree with the poster who praised Live Local. Apart from its lack of Firefox support (the online team should be FLOGGED until they start launching IE/Firefox simultaneously) it is way better than Google's. User annotations, more detail in 3d maps, traffic. Google launched and immediately stopped innovating, as they do wiht all their services.

Agree also that Hotmail is retarded. Windows Live Mail (beta) is better, but still not great. But Gmail is slow as a glacier these days, so no great shakes there.

Yahoo's got the best services, but everybody ignores them. Sad.

Long and short, Berkowitz is pissing all over the people who came before him. Standard executive practice when starting at a new company. I give him 2 years, tops.

Personally, I was hoping the other Steve (not Ballmer, Sinofsky) would take over...

Anonymous said...

Having an affiliation with > 1 OS is not a crime to a geek

Take the comment in context. Allchin wasn't giving us a shopping list. He wasn't saying, "I'd buy a Mac, a sweater, and a pony." He was saying, "Windows sucks to the point that I'd rather use our competition's OS." Also, we're not talking about a random geek here, we're talking about one of the key guys responsible for making Windows.

It's interesting that he's complaining about "our teams." Which teams was he talking about? Didn't he have control over some/all teams? Shouldn't he have been able to correct whatever problem he was seeing by himself? Why/how did things get so far out of his hands that he had to go complain to Bill and Steve? I've never worked in Windows so maybe I don't understand the organization but it seems odd that this would happen.

Anonymous said...

> Anybody ever look at on10.net?

Looks like another attempt at being cool.
Perhaps soon, MS will require all employees to ride Segways?

Videoblogs are so yesterday.

Anonymous said...

To the folks talking about salary:

I am a Database engineer. I left Microsoft about 8 months ago to go contract. I left simply because the hours were awful and it was taking a toll at home. PM had eyes only for product features instead of fixing the problems in Production, requiring Operations to put in 80-100 hour weeks. The final straw was when a PM started talking about the “business” trip they were going to take to Belgium to hawk said features. Its common knowledge that “business” trips to EMEA or India include day-long “layovers” in Amsterdam or London (didn’t you know?). I made a comment that it would be nice if Engineering could go on such a trip, to which the PM replied, “Well, there are show horses, and then there are work horses.” Guess which one I am? Two weeks later, I put in my notice.

Contracting, I make well over two times the income I did for working twice as hard at Microsoft. When I put in the extra hours, I see tangible financial results, instead of hoping that a manager will notice and remember come next review. The irony is that, while I have a few years of experience under my belt and like to think I’m good at my job, I am definitely not a SQL superstar like some of the folks I worked with at Microsoft.

The market demand is insane, and there just simply aren't skilled engineers out here. I can't tell you how much better my life has become since leaving. Even with my own corporation, I find it's not that complicated; I just subcontract for technical recruiting firms almost the same way I did when I started in the industry. The difference in doing 1099 is the added benefit of weeding out the worst of the bunch: meat markets like Excell or Volt. The extra effort is only in keeping books and paying for your own benefits, and Microsoft Money H&B 2007 does the bulk of it for me.

If you are a "Morlock" who does actual work (i.e., not Project or Program Management), the market is hungry for you. I know a lot of people still at Microsoft who can’t break free of the idea of “benefits” and “steady job”, and I just can’t convince them to leave. But trust me, they and you are getting shafted.

Open your mind to the possibility of offering your services to the highest bidder. You’ll be glad you did.

Anonymous said...

So how about that google and their move to enable the auctioning of options? While we wait and watch in pain our under water options expire, google is finding another way to retain and keep there employees happy. (sigh)

thoughts?

Anonymous said...

|>"...about how MY team is going |to >get phased out ... THAT's how |the >secret of the near-40 |>terminations is being kept..."
|
|So, you're team is being |disbanded and that somehow |translates into some policy |against over-40s? Pass the bong, |dude.

Our team members are aged 34 to 40. You erroneously mis-translated that into over-40s.

Sounds to me like you're already holding the bong, son. Get your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

THE STARS COLLIDE: MICROSOFT MEETS SESAME STREET

Before reading, I would like you to know that I am HUGE fan of Sesame Street and think that the show does a wonderful service to this country by teaching children valuable lessons about the alphabet, numbers, diversity, kindness, and respect. I am hoping (in vain perhaps) that, by showing the issues that we face at Microsoft in the dialogs of Sesame Street characters, it will prompt the “adults” in charge of our company to see things differently. Thank you Sesame Street for the inspiration!

A: Age Discrimination
Cookie Monster: Why does Microsoft not like people over 40?
Mr. Hooper: Microsoft executives want to continue to make a lot of money, and, to do this, they need to have lots of people working for them making considerably less money. Therefore, the executives want to manage out non-executive employees over 40 rather than give these employees pay raises based on experience and performance.
Cookie Monster: Oh, I see. The executives want to keep all the cookies and not share.

B: Bill
Oscar the Grouch: So, why is Bill Gates leaving Microsoft?
Gordon: Bill is not really leaving Microsoft. He wants to spend more time working for charity, but he also wants to continue to work at Microsoft part time. I don’t know what his reasons are for wanting to continue to work at Microsoft part time.
Oscar the Grouch: Ahhh, kind of like how I would like to go on a mission in Jamaica, Hawaii, and the south of France but still earn a paycheck.

C: Curve
Ernie: What is the curve?
Bert: Well, I think this is how it would work on Sesame Street– You, me, Grover, Big Bird, Elmo, Harry Monster, and Snufalufagus would be put on a team to do something and then Bob would have to decide which one of us he thinks did the best and the worst, even if we work as a team and add our respective strengths to the project.
Ernie: But then we would just end up competing with each other!

D: Diversity
Elmo: What is diversity?
Maria: Well, diversity is about giving everyone equal opportunity and respecting differences. It’s kind of like how on Sesame Street we have people, animals, and monsters of all ages, colors, and backgrounds.
Elmo: Do you think I could get hired at Microsoft even though I am a red monster?
Maria: You might get hired at Microsoft, but how far you could go at Microsoft is based on some silly unwritten rules. I don’t recommend it.

E: Entertainment & Devices Division
Harry Monster: So I hear that Microsoft has set up its Entertainment & Devices division as a non-profit organization kind of like Sesame Street.
Grover: That is what I heard too. I don’t think there are any plans for a change in the future either.

F: Field
Big Bird: Elmo, did you know that there are Sesame Streets in other countries with characters who do the same things we do, but in different languages?
Elmo: Wow, really Big Bird! I always thought that our set in New York was the center of the world. I wonder what it’s like in these other locations.
Big Bird: From what I hear, the pay is not as good, the equipment is lacking, and the management in New York doesn’t care.

G: Google
Ernie: So I got on the Internet and googled the term “Rubber Ducky”.
Bert: How come you didn’t try the new Live Search from Microsoft?
Ernie: I suppose that I have not “lived” until I “lived” the term “Rubber Ducky”, but I found what I was looking for on Google anyway.

H: HR
Big Bird: What does HR stand for?
Cookie Monster: Horse Radish? Head Remover? I dunno. I just know that I am supposed to stay away from it. I read that on a blog somewhere.

I: Inside MS
Bob: I heard that HR is setting up an internal blog for the monsters to share ideas about how to improve Sesame Street.
Maria: Do you think the monsters’ ideas will be taken seriously?
Bob: Perhaps, but somehow I just don’t know given that the same people who turned bad ideas into action are the same ones evaluating the monsters’ ideas.

J: J
Elmo: What is J. Allard’s real first name?
Oscar the Grouch: How should I know? What is he trying to do? Copy our gig of sponsoring letters? This Zune was brought to you by the letter J. Ha! Ha! Ha!

K: Kim
Grover: Who is Kim?
Harry Monster: I heard that she is someone kind of like Mr. Hooper who works really hard and does great work, except that management has something against her and wants her to leave.
Grover: That’s not very nice.

L: Limited
Big Bird: I can’t fly. Do you think this will end my career at Sesame Street?
Bob: Well, at Sesame Street, we recognize that you add immense value to the organization anyway. So, no, not here.

M: Mini
Elmo: Who is Mini?
Oscar the Grouch: Mini is a hero of mine. He speaks his mind, can’t stand hypocrisy, and upsets the fruit basket. Kind of like me, heh heh.

N: NEO
Kimita the Monster: Hi, today is my first day on Sesame Street. I just completed new employee orientation.
Grover: Very nice to meet you Kimita. How was orientation?
Kimita the Monster: It was great. I hope that everything I was told in orientation is true. I want to have a long, rewarding career here at Sesame Street.

O: Overcrowding
Big Bird: I heard that we are going to have to share space with the Muppets and the puppets from Fraggle Rock until more space is added.
Snufalufagus: Oh, that is not fun Big Bird. There is only so much space available. I spend more time in a crowded room with my coworkers than I do with my wife and kids.

P: Partner
Ernie: Do you know what a Partner is?
Bert: Hmmm…I have heard the expression “partners in crime” before.

Q: Quitting Time
Grover: I remember the old days when we used to work long hours. Now it seems like everyone leaves at 5:00.
Harry Monster: That is so true. I used to be motivated by the challenge and the excitement, but these 2% raises have really gotten me down. I feel like I get a pay cut every year given the cost of living in New York.

R: Reality
Elmo: I think I want to be a developer when I grow up. I am really interested in computers and I want to learn how to write my own programs. Do you think I should try to get a job at Microsoft?
Oscar the Grouch: Oh, you have got to be kidding kiddo. You would just be in a position where you work your socks off making someone else rich. No, you need to get a business degree and go to networking events like crazy if you want to make real money at Microsoft.

S: Steve
Bob: Did the CEO of Microsoft really jump around on a stage like a monkey screaming at the top of his lungs?
Gordon: Yeah, maybe if he gets booted out of Microsoft, we can hire him as a character voice. He would have to follow the script though so he says something more than “I love this company!”

T: Towels
Ernie: So I heard that the towels were removed from the Sesame Street dressing rooms?
Bert: Yeah, but I also heard that someone is setting up a blog on the Internet to complain about it. For me, I would rather have a decent raise than towels in the dressing room and the other frivolous stuff. How much did those Starbucks machines cost anyway?

U: Underleveled
Big Bird: I have been with Sesame Street for decades now, and management just hired someone who makes more money than I do in an entry level position. I wouldn’t be upset except that the new character has fewer lines than I do.
Bob: Well I am sure it was just an oversight. I will tell you what I will do. I will talk to management on your behalf and get it fixed.
Big Bird: Thanks Bob. I am glad to see that you are willing to do the right thing.

V: Vista
Elmo: Why did it take Microsoft soooooo long to release Vista?
Gordon: I think what happened is something like what would happen if we were to ask the Sesame Street team to put the letters of the alphabet in order, but with the Russian alphabet and without a Russian dictionary.

W: Windows XP
Snufalufagus: I am not sure if I want to buy Windows Vista. I am happy with my Windows XP.
Big Bird: I would have to buy a new computer to get Windows Vista. That’s more than I want to pay right now.
Snufalufagus: I think I will wait another year and then decide.
Big Bird: Me too. G’night Snuffy.

X: Xbox
Ernie: I am thinking of getting one of those new Xbox’s.
Bert: That’s great. You might want to sell your Microsoft stock to pay for it before the stock is worthless.

Yes Man:
Gordon: Cookie Monster, do you like cookies?
Cookie Monster: Yes (munch, munch, munch…)
Gordon: Cookie Monster, do you like sunshine?
Cookie Monster: Yes (munch, munch, munch…)
Gordon: Cookie Monster, would you like to be tossed around by a tornado?
Cookie Monster: Yes (munch, munch, munch…)
Gordon: Cookie Monster, would you like to spend the night in Oscar’s garbage can?
Cookie Monster: Yes (munch, munch, munch…)
Gordon: Cookie Monster, I think you would have a successful career at Microsoft.

Z: Zune
Ernie: I am thinking of getting one of those new Zune’s.
Bert: Ok, but don’t come crying to me asking me to buy one too just because you want someone to send songs to.

Anonymous said...

A..Z excellant. To the point, comprhensive and humorous!

Anonymous said...

THE STARS COLLIDE: MICROSOFT MEETS SESAME STREET

Mini, how does this stuff get through? How is this any more relevant or thought-provoking than the Linux IP post? Brain-dead ABM drivel. I'll bet there's slobber dripping from his monitor.

Anonymous said...

"Our team members are aged 34 to 40. You erroneously mis-translated that into over-40s.

Sounds to me like you're already holding the bong, son. Get your facts straight."

Pretty much the sort of fact free non-answer I was expecting. Sorry, you lose. Better luck next time.

Anonymous said...

"Which teams was he talking about? Didn't he have control over some/all teams? Shouldn't he have been able to correct whatever problem he was seeing by himself? Why/how did things get so far out of his hands that he had to go complain to Bill and Steve?"

Yes, those were my questions when I read it too.

Anonymous said...

THE STARS COLLIDE: MICROSOFT MEETS SESAME STREET

All I have to say is that if you guys here put as much energy into your job as you did your cynicism, you might actually manage be successful at MS.

Anonymous said...

Are you wondering why MS pays in the 67th percentile?

Sorry to be the guy to tell you this, but the most widely-practiced programming skills are the least valuable. VB, C++, and .NET programmers are worth about the same as Java coders. You people are interchangeable.

Compare to those who specialize in Linux drivers, OpenGL, image processing, medical imaging, trading-floor systems, or any of the other niches where the people they need aren't a dime a dozen.

You want to make the big bucks? Specialize, and differentiate. As long as you're working on Windows, you're lucky to be making more than the 50th percentile of salary.

Anonymous said...

Never hire a Microsoft middle manager, recently two fucking mgrs headed to GYI two years ago were laid off and they did horrible jobs there --- the only thing they were proud of was that they always stood up to protect each other when facing arguments with others, most of the time they were completely ridiculous and insane.

Paulsc said...

The age discrimination posts are just so much foolishness. Microsoft values intelligence, capability and commitment regardless of your age. I'm 50 years old and was hired eight months ago as an SDE in Windows. I'm the oldest SDE in my group and have no doubt I'll be promoted.

Go spread your FUD elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

Are you gonna post anything new? How about your new year resolutions?

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if anybody noticed. Microsoft stock quitly incremented its MSD.

Anonymous said...

need advice.
My leads changed 3 times in last 3 months (re orgs). I am not getting promotion for last 2.5 years. I am planning to change job unless I get promotion in the mid year. Should I inform this to my latest lead or should I get a job outside first then inform to the lead? Any ideas on which one is better?
Getting outside job process takes atleast couple of months, do you think it is too late because mid year reviews might be complete?
Thanks,
Ravi

Who da'Punk said...

Well, blow me down!

Literally! Woof!

Yes, I have another post, but it's rough and I'm leaving town for a week so it's going to have to get stale and wait.

"See you next Wednesday."

Or so.

Mini.

Anonymous said...

Any ideas on which one is better?

Talk to your lead now while also searching for a job outside at the same time. If you have your green card its very easy to get a job outside.

Anonymous said...

There is a potential engineering-like lifecycle solution to this; but first we simply need to accept the concept of the stack-rank; I know it’s a pain, but somehow people need to be compared to others. Yes, ranking by bad managers will result in unfair results, but in the end of the day, this is a game - and as an employee you either learn to play it "enough" of the time or you don’t go very far.

So your trusty management ranked the entire team (don’t trust them? Simply move, and fast, to a different group) – even if they don’t think they do it - they do it anyway, regardless of the ultimate system involved – because they have to make some people LIMITEDs and others don’t, so there is a band, lets just call it that and not play games; we are being compared, bucketed, etc, and that’s a basic part of any corporate machine. The areas that need serious improvement at MS is how to correlate personal achievements/results to the band (which I am not discussing, simply go find good managers, they DO exist and there are more and more every day, don’t let the bad managers scare you into staying) and what to do with the band results (here goes).

Now instead of the current silly system simply do the following. If you made the top 20% of the band, you automatically get promoted to the next level for minor-step levels (what do you call 63 to 64 Vs. 64 to 65? ). Now you get the bonus, salary and grants of the NEXT level, not the previous. To make the major leap (64 to 65 for example) you need to be in the top 20% for 2 years, and if you are, it’s automatic. No questions asked, no GMs/VPs to approve anything, in fact, they can’t stop it - they can only influence the band. But you don’t get ranked in your new band yet, only next year.

What happens to the bottom 10%? They automatically get demoted to the next lower level (this insure no resters&vesters get a rest), but then they automatically get ranked at their new lower group (as management is essentially saying “you executed at the lower level”); this has an interesting impact – lets say you were a new 65, ranked against long-term 66 and 67s and got screwed (this applies just as well to new 62s compared to long term 63s and 64s, does not matter) – If you get ranked in the bottom 10%, you automatically get pushed down to 64… but as a 64 you have a new peer group, and your rank in this new group may be MUCH higher now, so you are no longer a LIMITED at all, and thus more bonus/grants to you (a top ranked 64 makes MUCH more then a bottom ranked 65). No, you don’t get bumped to 65 again, you have to wait your term and get promoted again based on merit, but you are also not being called a LIMITED while you are doing it.

People tend to look at down-leveling as something horrible; but I heard a ton of new 62s or new 65s super surprised at how their world changed and the competition got that much harder, if we make it less painful to get down-leveled (that means == don’t call me silly names or pay me less money) it may just be tolerated and become an acceptable part of the game.

I don’t know if a 20/70/10 split is right, maybe 15/70/15 is better, maybe 20/60/20 is better – whatever, what matters is to cancel out the Peterian principle at play here, to make resters-and-vesters have to work for a living, and to make promotions DIRECTLY related to peer-compared performance, not some random decision by some random manager that happen to randomly like you today; we spend so much time developing better engineering practices, why don’t we do the same for career development?

Finally – this also applies to 68+ - so you are a partner and got ranked at the bottom 10% (or whatever “bottom” is set to), wave goodbye to your giant grant, some 67s are coming over to replace you! You are a L80 VP? Same thing. Some partners want to prove they can do your job better, let them try and either they make it, or get pushed back down.

Anyway – any system is either dynamic or static; this example is how to make a dynamic system more open, visible, fair; or at least more so then today. A static system is not something competitive companies want to move to, it’s essentially like a Union, and we really don’t want that for MS, that will result in TONS more resters and/or vesters.

Stupid? Crazy? Maybe so - but at least not RANDOM STUPID the likes of what we have today.

A few more random thoughts…

* If enough data is collected on promotion/demotion/ranking trends year over year it’s possible to mine and detect bad managers.

* maybe someone can also think about how to apply this concept to non-level promotion/demotion lifecycle, e.g. from IC to LEAD, from LEAD to GROUP X etc.

* We can consider bands that relate to business unit success (more users, more money, more innovation, whatever we define success as) – if a business unit is doing great work, give them a 30/70/0 band. If they are terrible and losing money/share/whatever, give them a 0/70/30 band, in a world where compensation/ability-to-influence == level, this makes a lot more sense to me.

* Another question is what to do with the mid-band; do you demote them after a few years instead of the LIMITED II insanity... I think we should do nothing as long as they continue to produce mid-band results; we need them to keep doing what they are doing – the super-stars alone cannot carry the work needed to produce at Microsoft – and they will naturally get pushed up or down over time, as OTHER people will fluctuate.

Anonymous said...

Individual Bonus vs Team Bonus

I'm all for team bonus as part of total bonus package, but to not identify individual contribution is pretty silly, especially in light of the arbitrary way teams are defined by management.

I'm a Services Programme Manager in the UK. I work with Services Sales folks to close deals, scoping and negotiating contracts with customers.

So explain to me why Services sales gets a revenue-based incentive, paid quarterly, yet I don't? Services couldn't close deals without me and my kind and certainly couldn't delivery any of them or forward-sell any Services engagements without us.

Heck, yes, give us a team-based incentive, but make sure please that it's the whole team and not just favoured of management that get the bonus and that it's one that works for the field as well as the Ivory Tower-types in Redmond; after all, how much software do you reckon you'd sell to the Enterprise wihtout a few of us to help sell it and help them install and configure it?

Oh, and since I'm playing 'CEO for a day' I'd fire the idiots who demanded as well as agreed 25% Services revenue growth targets for the first half of the fiscal year but didn't bother to put time into the plan to increase delivery teams (since the existing field services teams were pretty close to 100% utilized) or time to create a richer pipeline of projects before demanding instant results. That should kill off some partners' bloated bonsuses and free up more money for the "Limited Kims" who are keeping this bloody company afloat anyways.

But that's a whole 'nother topic entirely.

Anonymous said...

I am proud to be a a Kim. I just wish my management would accept that even though I'm not fast track promo-type, I am a solid performer working a full grade below all my peers.

I'm a 60. I've been a 60 for 5 years now. I've been doing a 61-63 job for the past 2 years. Why oh why am I considered 'Limited II'. Doesn't a solid performer a full level below his peers meeting the requirements of a higher-level job automatically deserve a promotion? Doesn't that mean that if I am achieveing I am achieving at a 61-63 level and should be promoted?

I guess I just don't understand. Or else I'm getting screwed by not being political enough. In any case, I'm a bit tired of being treated like Kim's little brother, yet expected to perform at Kim's dad's level.