Friday, December 22, 2006

Time Travel Around the Windstorm

Hi. How is it going for you? I'm off way away from Redmond, surrounded by wonderful people who think "Mini-Microsoft" is a derogatory term for an aggressive technology start-up and nothing more. It's wonderful.

This is a post I originally started writing on 10 December, and puttered with, deleted a discussion about that NYTimes Gambit article, and then as I was feeling good about wrapping it up Whoosh! our Dark December Windstorm whupped-up on the area and then power (forget indulgence in insufferable blogging) became our one and only priority. I hope that if you're in the Seattle area that all ended well for you and that you're warm and have power.

So, let's see, where was I... imagine the screen getting all wavy as we travel back in time a little bit...

do-da-lit, do-da-lit, do-da-lit...

Holy Shamoley, MSFT closed above $30.00 today. Cha-ching and Happy Holidays!

Clouds parting... heavenly voices singing... sun breaking through... criticism... waning, replaced with... deep desire to do... The Mexican Hat Dance! Olé! Hey Mary Jo - la da da - maybe you're - la da da - right (when we hit $40, you'll certainly be right).

But seriously, the last six months look pretty way better than anything else in the past five years. Positive stock price ascent! Well, of course, there was that whole plunge thing that gave us a nice hole to dig ourselves out of, so no joyous back slapping in the executive room, please.

Just a few random other things going on during this quiet time of year:

Town Hall meeting: last Friday's Town Hall meeting on campus was fine and dandy and enjoyable, for me. Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but nothing new stuck in my craw. It sounds like all senior VPs need to go on the college circuit so that they can get a dose of what hard questions are like. Too bad that seems to be the only source they can find such. I really value these meetings and the information they provide.

Udell, my Belle: +1 to Microsoft and Jeff Sandquist for hiring Jon Udell. In the self-Q&A in A conversation with Jon Udell about his new job with Microsoft regarding why he would join Microsoft at this point in Microsoft's history, Mr. Udell calls out specifically the personalities at Microsoft and the technology that they are working on: Ray Ozzie, Kim Cameron, Jean Paoli, Jim Hugunin, J.J. Allaire and then in a later blog post Tim Fahlberg, Dan Thomas, and Mike Frost.

That collection of technical leaders reflects the continuing change Microsoft is going through as new leadership steps up. Will Udell be the Scoble replacement? Well, no, not quite, in my opinion. Scoble is a prolific super-connector but he is in no way a geek's geek. I've often lamented our loss - well, total lack, actually - of mindshare in the Alpha-Geek demographic. I'm willing to go in the wrong direction with respect to employee growth if someone like Mr. Udell can come on-board and champion going after the Alpha-Geek and ensuring our ecosystem is the best, most delightful place to be to develop software and services that matter.

If anything, now is certainly the best time for Mr. Udell to be joining, if only to end up retelling of a time that Microsoft was in the middle of a great transformation.

(Okay, time-wavyness returns us to the present)

Patent Dis! Oh, the echo-chamber is not happy about United States Patent Application 0060288329, which would seem to patent the RSS platform incorporated into the IE7 technology. Mr. Dave Winer (aka, Mr. RSS [a designation that's always a good way to start a divisive conversation with the blogerati]) no-likey: "This should be denounced by everyone who has contributed anything to the success of RSS."

Clarity. That's what I like in a writer.

Personally, I've never liked software patents in a completely naive old-school sort-of-way. The granting of software patents was one of those moments where software development lost its innocence. So it's here. And as long as it is here, I recognize that it is a necessary evil to pursue every patent you possible can. I don't like it. But if you don't, someone is going to. And as long as you have your massive patent stockpile deterrent, you can avoid the business-world equivalent of nuclear warfare with other BigCos. "Hey, don't sue me, because I'll sue you for your infringements and then we'll all be clustered f'd up. How about we," (lean in seductively and refill their wine-glass) "cross-license?"

So that's why you see a patent like this. Do I think it has much intellectual merit to it? Nope. Do I see a strategic business need for it? Yup. It's going to lead to yet another set of junk patent cubes. I hate those patent cubes. But I hate being sued for bogus patents granted to someone else and technologically bent over even more.

Mr. Winer can at least take comfort that Microsoft can be shamed into doing whatever right thing he thinks is appropriate (e.g., freely licensing the technology or such). As long as software designs can be patented and until the Open Source world becomes as enthusiastic about getting patents, things aren't going to change.

InsideMS: you folks who are passionate about following comments here have my respect. Man, I don't even try on the internal InsideMS blog. It's overwhelming. You'd think that everyone got their frustrations out once-and-for-all right here until you read through the quantity - and quality - of the comments within the InsideMS blog. What's LisaB going to do with all of this? There's still praise for her smattered amongst the comments, sure, but people are angry over just about everything you see right here... and then some. The cork is out of the pig, so to say, and the unhappiness is not just on some snarky external anonymous blog with dubious participants.

One non-linear suggestion I'd like to give after reading the latest "Pay" thread: bring back the full mid-year review. We go through just as much work as we ever did with the mid-year review except for the numbers. At least give people a rating and the potential for a bonus. Now that the major review has become an all-or-nothing gambit, we owe it to the employees to own up and say, "Bad idea not giving you a rating check-point." We already go through a stack rank. Let's just communicate to people where they currently are and divert some of that Partner compensation back into the workforce to reward people doing a great job.

Ups and Downs: this comment, which just came in as I finish this post up, has an interesting proposal about promotions and demotions:

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”)

I'd be very happy for Microsoft to embrace the concept of demotion... or... re-leveling or right-leveling or whatever you might want to call it.

Additionally:


40 comments:

Anonymous said...

You'd think that everyone got their frustrations out once-and-for-all right here until you read through the quantity - and quality - of the comments within the InsideMS blog.

There certainly seems to be no shortage of forthright opinions there. However, I'm still very concerned about the supposed anonymity. Those of you running Vista should notice how LoRIE pops up with Communicator being accessed. That should be at least a yellow flag in your mind, never mind that you're posting logged onto corpnet with your domain creds.

Anonymous said...

So with the releveling based on stack rank scheme: does that mean that you also *can't* get promoted unless you get ranked in the top 20%? Or does regular promotion also happen, but this is an automatic promotion process in addition?

If you can't still get a regular promotion then this new scheme would mean that anyone who never kills themself enough to get >= 4.0 (old rating) is never going to get promoted. Period.

If we ever went that route, prospective employees had better educated themselves very carefully about the implications of the promotion process or they are going to feel reallllly screwed.

Other than that: I think it's a fascinating idea. I hope the poster will re-post on the internal blog, since Lisa claims she never pays the slightest bit of attention to all this "noise" out here in the world. ;-)

Something else to add to the mix is all those folks who got promoted to levels much too high and now can't find anyone who will hire them because the kind of work they want to do is leveled too far beneath them. I guess this is just a variation on the Peter Principle, but for new jobs, not just the job you have that might not be appropriately leveled for you/your talents. I know several people who have gotten reamed by "You're leveled too high for the work you're doing (so we're giving you a 2.5) and/or for the job you're applying for (so you can't have it)." They begged to be releveled and were, of course (because this system makes no sense), flatly denied.

Clearly leveling is SO broken at MSFT, someone must be scrambling somewhere to untangle the mess. (Please? I hope?)

Anonymous said...

What a difference a stock price makes...love the blog but hate how easy it is for Microsofties to be lulled into compliance. As a former member of the MS cult, just a few thoughts: Does no one realize that it is the rester/investors who are doing reviews at MS? Everyone is limited due to the dead layer of management that festers in between the "executives" and the "individual contributors". If you perform too well, you are a threat. If you perform too poorly, you usually have job security because they know no matter how bad things get, a poor, limited performer won't replace them...and of course, if HR asks any questions, the stagnent layer of management has a level of managers below them who sign off on the reviews. If the heat gets too bad, they take the fall; which is usually a six month personal leave or rehab of some type. The names may change, the labels may be more nebulous, but bottom line, Microsoft will never change, it has only gotten better at playing at being nice for the press, government and special interest groups. The "Kims" of the company work long hours, execute the projects they are given, not only do they drink the kool aid, they make it, only to get mediocre reviews and more work to do. And after 3 or 4 years, the life has been sucked out of them and they no longer have much value to the organization...and at their level, they probably can't even pay the taxes on the stock 'gifts' they received. Microsoft pays poorly, celebrates failure when it comes from the old boys and girls, crucify the somewhat innocent and then send out patches to fix things. They should add a section to their non-compete agreement stating that they will be sucking the life and soul out of you and that during the year or so you can't work for anyone else, you won't mind because you'll probably be an inpatient somewhere trying to remember why the hell you went there to begin with. And to think all it takes to make it OK is when stock hits $30 or above...who says prostitution is illegal? It's just cheaper in Redmond to get screwed.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the windstorm, I am one of those folks still without power. I am really STRUCK by the fact not a single Microsoft exec (at least in my world) has seen fit to acknowledge this matter and the challenges folks are facing regarding this.

It really puts things in perspective for me and I will keep this in mind the next time these execs come around peddling their pet causes.

Anonymous said...

As a reader of and semi-anonomous poster on the InsideMS blog, I find
the comments to be very interesting to read.

It's not that I naively expect anything in the company to change in response to InsideMS posts, I mean the status quo keeps putting more and more money into executive pockets so why bother changing? But, reading the posts on InsideMS (as well as here, where it all began) is a great way to figure out what works when it comes to learning how to succeed at the 'soft.

Basically when someone is complaining about something (e.g. empire building, brown-nosing, emphasizing "show" over "go," etc.) they are just pointing out what's working for others. Why these whiners don't use these observations for their own benefit makes me wonder how they got through the "best and the brightest" filter but, whatever. That's their problem.

In the meantime, I'm taking notes and planning for maximum promotion velocity.

I admire mini for trying to make MSFT the lean, mean, coding machine that it once was, but that was then and this is now. To survive in today's MSFT, one has to adapt. I, therefore have gone from a lean-mean coder to a big, fat brown-noser. Hey whatever works.

If being a lean-mean coder at MSFT ever comes back into fashion, then I'll head down to the gym and go back to reading Inside Windows NT and Writing Solid Code while on the treadmill.

It's all about being flexible.

Anonymous said...

Basically when someone is complaining about something (e.g. empire building, brown-nosing, emphasizing "show" over "go," etc.) they are just pointing out what's working for others. Why these whiners don't use these observations for their own benefit makes me wonder how they got through the "best and the brightest" filter but, whatever. That's their problem.

Could the reason people don't employ these successful techniqes be as quaint as "integrity?" Just knowing that morally-reprehensible tactics pay off isn't going to coerce everyone to use them. Some people actually still think the company can be cleansed of this counter-productive poison which is ultimately responsible for everything that's wrong with Microsoft.

Others, like me, eventually give up and move outside the company rather than compromise their principles or continue to fight a losing battle. But I guess you can take comfort in the knowledge that there are more people like you and less people like me at Microsoft every day.

Anonymous said...

Basically when someone is complaining about something (e.g. empire building, brown-nosing, emphasizing "show" over "go," etc.) they are just pointing out what's working for others. Why these whiners don't use these observations for their own benefit makes me wonder how they got through the "best and the brightest" filter but, whatever. That's their problem.

Call me naive, but I prefer to do a good job and let my results speak for themselves without having to play some silly, intellectually dishonest game. The best managers I have had at Microsoft have encouraged and rewarded hionesty and the behaviors that honesty produces.

My worst managers have encouraged and rewarded "suck up" and "show" rather than "go" behaviors. As a result the team's output and performance reflected that.

Anonymous said...

Here are links to two very pointed posts on IT company compensation design. They sum up in a nutshell what is going wrong with Microsofts review system, and why. There is no proposal of a concrete solution, but the problem description is eerily accurate and readable by management types.

Salary negotiation

Addendum

I personally am not willing to post on insidems, but doing so might be worthwhile.

Anonymous said...


I admire mini for trying to make MSFT the lean, mean, coding machine that it once was, but that was then and this is now. To survive in today's MSFT, one has to adapt. I, therefore have gone from a lean-mean coder to a big, fat brown-noser. Hey whatever works.

If being a lean-mean coder at MSFT ever comes back into fashion, then I'll head down to the gym and go back to reading Inside Windows NT and Writing Solid Code while on the treadmill.


This company has died and only needs to fall over.

Anonymous said...

can someone please post the INTERNAL MINI site where people post comments? I have been unable to find it :(

Thanks much!
~IamKimToo.

Mr. Cynical said...

| Speaking of the windstorm, I am
| one of those folks still without | power. I am really STRUCK by the
| fact not a single Microsoft exec
| (at least in my world) has seen
| fit to acknowledge this matter
| and the challenges folks are
| facing regarding this.
|
| It really puts things in
| perspective for me and I will
| keep this in mind the next time
| these execs come around peddling
| their pet causes.

Exsqueeze me, the Microsoft execs are on your sh*t list because they don't cry publicly because you don't have power? Methinks if they aren't busy worrying about their *own* power being off, the company is better off if they, say, spend more time figuring out which of their products are dogs and getting rid of them--not commisurating with you because you weren't prepared enough to buy a generator.

(Union troll? Sheesh.)

Anonymous said...

RE: Some people actually still think the company can be cleansed of this counter-productive poison which is ultimately responsible for everything that's wrong with Microsoft.

I hope some of those people are in upper management.

(Well, hey, it is Christmas, so I can wish, right?!)

Anonymous said...

Why the hell should a microsoft exec say anything about power being off!!!!!

What the fuck!!!!!!!

This must be the first job you had out of college.

Let me explain something to you and everyone else.

Microsoft is a corporation. The goal of a corporation is to make money! period.

If you don't like working at microsoft leave!!!!! Find another software company to work at!!!

If you don't like your level. PLAY THE GAME!

The game is not bad! it is about letting people know what you are doing.

There are way to many good developers to think that you will be noticed only by your code. You have to go out and tell people why your code is good. Why you are doing the things your are doing.

This is the same with any company.

Grow up and learn to deal with it.

In reference to InsideMS being anonymous/ not anonymous! Who cares!

What are they going to do fire people for bitching???

I don't think so.

GROW UP or GET THE FUCK OUT!!!

Anonymous said...

Could all this just be an occupational hazard of big hi-tech companies (Sort-of like falling overboard might be in the Navy?)

Thanks for the link to Intel blog. Reading it confirms my suspicion that stack-ranking, "Kim-purging," and all the other management issues seem to be a common theme, to varying degrees, in hi-tech companies. Sure, it could be better in the perfect world and the grass is always greener when you look at it through the solar-tinted windows of the other company's office building. Nevertheless, it seems to me that trying to change it (e.g. change the review system, send the rest-n-vesters out to pasture, hold the executive accountable, etc.) is like trying to dry out the oceans to eliminate the potential for drowning while at sea.

Rather than fight it, it would seem the best that us regular folks can do is either work within it or find some other line of work (e.g. self-employment). Working against it seems like a big waste of mental energy (unless you're in a position to change things but that would just put your position at risk by those who don't want to change).

IMO, the best thing you can do is find the place in the company where you like your job and like your manager and enjoy it. If you're not there, then you really have no one else to blame but yourself. Sure you can blame a variety of external factors, but the fact remains, you're still the one with the most direct control over your destiny.

It reminds me of when I was a system administrator. In that position, the more the staff and management saw of me, the worse I was doing (i.e. the system wasn't working correctly and I needed to fix things). If I was doing my job well, the staff and management wouldn't know I was there (because they wouldn't need to see me). When things were running well, I would get ding'd for not making as visible of a contribution to the company as engineering was. I could have made up lots of silly reports and shown efficiency, cost savings, etc. but that wouldn't improve the "gut" feeling of my "visibility."

Rather, I figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! I went into engineering and became visible.

Who managed the system? Who cares? that's no longer my problem (it ended up being lots of people and probably cost more money to do it).

Was the company better off? Probably not, but I was!

Did I get better reviews and career advancement after the change? You better believe it!

Did the company last? Oh, I think they are still around, but I moved on to bigger and much better things.

I recognized the company rewarded based on what they "wanted" not what they "needed." I see a lot of this sort of logic here. "Microsoft needs to change their review, pay, stock award, exec. mgmt, etc. but that's not what they want!

I think giving them what they want and not what they need is called "waking up and smelling the coffee."

Who da'Punk said...

D'oh, Christmas present delayed...

So I'm ready to switch to the new Google Blogger but the new Google Blogger is not ready for us. All the massive comment participation means we'll need to wait for a bit.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is a corporation. The goal of a corporation is to make money! period.

Well, yes... But you notice that Microsoft does LOTS of things that don't overtly make money, but that help the company make money longer term. Like, how does promoting the Annual Giving campaign directly generate revenue for Microsoft? It doesn't. How does matching donations generate revenue? It doesn't (in fact, on the surface, it negatively affects the bottom line). And so on. Microsoft does lots of things for "good will," and because it's "the right thing to do" that don't increase our bottom line directly on any way.

Maybe you think that they shouldn't be doing that, but since they do - wouldn't it be nice (and look good and foster good will and improve employee morale and so on) if Microsoft reached out to the employees who were hit by this local disaster, just as it does to people hit by disasters and misfortune in other parts of the world? I think that's all people were saying. Not that Microsoft is some kind of "corporate parent" who should attend to all of our needs. Just make a "best effort" to look like they "care" (whether they do or not).

Anonymous said...

So I'm ready to switch to the new Google Blogger but the new Google Blogger is not ready for us. All the massive comment participation means we'll need to wait for a bit.

Is the new Blogger going to have the ability to RSS subscribe to the comments for a post? It's driving me nuts to have to keep checking to see if you've logged in and processed comments or not. (Yeah, I still do it - but I'd rather just find out in Outlook, where I "live" already. :-)

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with the poster who says who cares if Inside MS isn't completely, totally, bullet-proof anonymous. I'm already Limited. I'm already not getting promoted. My boss already wishes I were gone. What more can they semi-legitimately do to me if they somehow decide that they want to id my posts? Firing someone is dang hard, as we all know, and would it really be worth that kind of effort simply because I pointed out yet again that they screwed up with the whole Limited thing or whatever? I somehow think (hope!) that they don't really have that kind of time on their hands.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes... But you notice that Microsoft does LOTS of things that don't overtly make money, but that help the company make money longer term. Like, how does promoting the Annual Giving campaign directly generate revenue for Microsoft? It doesn't. How does matching donations generate revenue? It doesn't

Don't both of those provide a healthy tax break for Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

Well, yes... But you notice that Microsoft does LOTS of things that don't overtly make money

like, I'm thinking Xbox or Zune here.

Anonymous said...

What are they going to do fire people for bitching???

I don't think so.

GROW UP or GET THE FUCK OUT!!!


I have an (almost) overwhelming temptation to point out that a single exclamation point is sufficient - that two, three, or more don't make your arguments more valid - and I suppose I just did.

You're saying that you don't believe that there are reprecussions inside Microsoft for those with opinions contrary to those in power? Saying "What are they going to do, fire you?" is oversimplifying things to a fault. First, you're apparently somewhat sheltered. I've worked under quite a few different VPs at MS, and most do hold grudges and do punish those who have the 'nerve' to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. The punishment might be a lousy review. It might be continuous lousy reviews so long as you work for that VP. It might even be manuevering you into impossible situations and interpreting all of your actions in the worst, most negative manners. [I'm saying VP here, but depending on your level, you can insert 'GM', 'PUM', 'Manager', or even 'Lead' here.] Microsoft is not an evil company, but it certainly is not one where you're rewarded for honesty. Your experiences apparently have run contrary to this. I congratulate you for that. I doubt that will continue, should you rise in the company and/or change divisions/mgrs/etc., though.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with the poster who says who cares if Inside MS isn't completely, totally, bullet-proof anonymous. I'm already Limited. I'm already not getting promoted. My boss already wishes I were gone. What more can they semi-legitimately do to me if they somehow decide that they want to id my posts?

That stinks. It sounds like you've been railroaded. I don't quite agree with you, though. If there isn't anonymity, and you're already considered "easily replaceable" (irrespective of whether you truly are or not), your opinions will be mostly ignored or dismissed as a disgruntled employee. If there isn't anonymity and you're considered "irreplaceable", the ability to dismiss your opinions becomes much more difficult. Yet, the people that management are most likely to listen to are also those most highly rewarded and most likely to be very happy with the status-quo.
True anonymity removes the ability to filter responses based on who the responder is.

Anonymous said...

Heh, it's been a while. I just got tired of reading all the me posts about me and baout how Microsoft isn't serving me or paying me enough blah blah blah.

But I commend you Whoda, for the symbolic references to time travel and the storm. Here where I live, Christmas eve and day we received about 8 inches, and I live only one state down from WaWa.

It happens a lot. High winds every year, sometimes reaching hurricane strengths of upwards of 125 mph. No bull. Coast guard point has a windgauge that stuck in a failed state of 181 mph a few years ago...

And BTW, the power almost never goes out here, even with the high winds and storms. Now why is that?

Now here come the symbolic references: because the infrastructure (OS) is highly robust and is designed to take the hits and keep working. Instead of a culture of me, people here just do their job, understand that the powerlines (OS) are a public trust and utility and they just do what needs to be done instead of whiiiinnnnniiinnng about it.

Anonymous said...

True anonymity removes the ability to filter responses based on who the responder is.

And it also allows someone to invent any sort of motivation for the posting. If the blog-owner agrees with the statement, the post is proof they are right. If they disagree, the post is clearly that of someone who doesn't understand or was individually cheated out of something and not a representative sample of the overall group.

Anonymous said...

If there isn't anonymity and you're considered "irreplaceable", the ability to dismiss your opinions becomes much more difficult. Yet, the people that management are most likely to listen to are also those most highly rewarded and most likely to be very happy with the status-quo.
True anonymity removes the ability to filter responses based on who the responder is.


Very good point. I guess I'm pretty cynical about any of our individual comments being taken to heart. But am hoping that if there are overwhelming numbers of us saying similar things, that the numbers will overwhelm the bureaucratic inertia and resistance to change.

That said, I think there have been some really great suggestions on the blog. I just don't feel optimistic that the upper-ups really want to fix things. They'd rather placate the masses by whatever quick-fix they think will work...then do it again if/when the masses get restless because there was no longer-term, real change.

BTW, thanks for the sympathy. The bottom fell out of my world when a new manager took over early this year, and you can be sure I am actively looking for a better place to be, inside or outside MS. Having been considered a solid performer for many years, here and elsewhere, I don't believe my boss that I'm am suddenly excrement that somehow got tracked in the door on someone's boot. Really brings home that what matters is not the system, the policies, or anything else, but only who has the power and how they decide to wield it. The rest is just our own desire and commitment to try to do good work.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic but it seems that its something that has put a thorn is the side of alot of people

This is the definition of Limited 2 posted on hrweb:

Situation 2
Consistent performer who has met expectations
Most likely to remain at current career stage; minimal opportunity to broaden one's role or to advance
Competencies typically are at expected levels
Past performance suggests consistent contributions


//********
Hmmm; doesnt that seem to fix the description of every VP in the company? Yet we dont slap them with 'limited 2' and little or no stock, in fact its just the oposite.

If there is one thing i learned in my stint in the military; if leaders are going to talk the talk, they better walk the walk. Otherwise, the soldiers will loose confidence very quickly. However that doesnt seem to be the case. Products ship years late, Deadlines are not met, etc etc etc, yet BIG BIG BIG grants are doled out any way. However if Joe Regular misses a target by a 1/2 a percentage point, or has been in a position for X amount of time... well sorry to bad, they are screwed and labled "under performed" or "limited 2"...ok im starting to rant

Back to the limited 2: The fact that you are not constanly being promoted doesnt mean a person should be limited. In fact the irony here, is that giving them that label simply because they have been in a position for a long time, will preciselly acheive a limited contribution from that individual from that point on.

Anonymous said...

If there is one thing i learned in my stint in the military; if leaders are going to talk the talk, they better walk the walk.

Contrary opinion here:

If there's one thing I've learned from business, it's that good leaders are worth their weight in gold and are paid accordingly to keep them. A larger business means more and bigger competitiors, higher stakes, and more of the "me me me" subordinates, like some of the people here, spinning things to advance their own agendas and get their piece of the pie. Even managing not to crash a business is something of an accomplishment at times.

Armchair criticism is easy. Any of you oiks that feel you're up to a VPs job can head on out the door and start up your own business and reap the rewards.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing I've learned from business, it's that good leaders are worth their weight in gold and are paid accordingly to keep them... Even managing not to crash a business is something of an accomplishment at times.

Shouldn't managing to not crash a business be something like a basic requirement, not something for which the big cheeses get mega-bonuses?

And by what criteria are you calling our leaders "good" and "worth their weight in gold?" If you'd like to back up those statements by something more impressive than "managing not to crash (the) business," let's hear it.

Anonymous said...

Contrary opinion here:

If there's one thing I've learned from business, it's that good leaders are worth their weight in gold and are paid accordingly to keep them. A larger business means more and bigger competitiors, higher stakes, and more of the "me me me" subordinates, like some of the people here, spinning things to advance their own agendas and get their piece of the pie. Even managing not to crash a business is something of an accomplishment at times.

Armchair criticism is easy. Any of you oiks that feel you're up to a VPs job can head on out the door and start up your own business and reap the rewards.


Third party here. You depict large businesses very accurately and realistically. You're especially right in saying "not crashing" is often an accomplishment. I've been in situations where execs were rewarded for soft-landings on failed startups (rather than allow them to crash to terra firma at warp speed).

I don't agree with you on the 'armchair' comment, though. Telling people to go do it themselves isn't a realistic response. To start a company today and receive even initial funding, you must know the right people. Most Kims have neither the Microsoft Executive Visibility nor the Venture Capital contacts to get something initially funded.

To be fair, I've met a few VPs at Microsoft that were top-notch. They understood people, and knew how to encourage, empower, rally, and otherwise lead a division to success. However, most of the rest seemed to be far from competent at tasks that you'd normally associate with a Vice President. Most of them would crater a startup in record time.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing I've learned from business, it's that good leaders are worth their weight in gold...

Agreed. But this is a MSFT blog, so I'm not sure what "good leaders" has to do with anything around here.

...and are paid accordingly to keep them.

Usually, yes. But the reverse isn't always true. Not every well-paid exec is a good leader.

Even managing not to crash a business is something of an accomplishment at times.

Yes, but again, what does that have to do with anything here? The Vista delays, the unimpressive final product, the Limited II fiasco, the runaway headcount, all of these are bad signs. The money coming in today is the result of the work people did five to ten years (or more) ago. Nobody has been doing the heavy lifting over the last five years to earn the future revenue stream. Right now, the company is a ferrari looking for a lamp post.

Armchair criticism is easy. Any of you oiks that feel you're up to a VPs job can head on out the door and start up your own business and reap the rewards.

Doin' just that, old chap. Thanks for the encouragement. One thing I learned in business is, don't work for idiots. You can't fix 'em if they sign your paycheck.

Anonymous said...

>> Any of you oiks that feel you're up to a VPs
>> job can head on out the door and start up
>> your own business and reap the rewards.

The question is, how many of our 150 VPs would even survive if they started their own businesses? I'd bet a good deal of money that the percentage would be pretty low, because out there you can't piss away a hundred million dollars of someone else's money and still keep your job (and get millions in stocks an monetary compensation).

Microsoft, missing the soul said...

Years before I knew that I wanted to have a career in software, I read Tracy Kidder's book: "The Soul of a New Machine".

That is where I wanted to work. That is what Microsoft once was for me.

Excitement, a cohesive team, belief that you can do the impossible, self-imposed pressure, freedom to work in any way that you work at your best even if it isn't in the office, pressure release valves, secretaries that scrambled to make sure you had pencils and paper to do your job, and managers that silently handled the details like the design of the power cord that isn't sexy but is still required.

There are great insights into managing techical teams in that book that still apply today.

When they built cubicles that gave tenured engineers a few inches more space, it hurt the cohesion of the team.

Maybe stack ranking and leveling is the ideal american dream work ethic compensation system. Teams create products. Products create revenue. Do compensation systems build or sustain healthy teams?

I have found the soul of a new software project again. This soul is not at Microsoft. Managing is hard to do. I don't to it well and I am blessed to work with some that have the aptitude to do it well.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing I've learned from business, it's that good leaders are worth their weight in gold and are paid accordingly to keep them.

No one, civilian or military, is going to argue against that. I think, however, that what is being questioned most often here, is the definition, or at least the measure, of good. Simply holding a title of "VP" (or "Partner" or whatever) does not, in and of itself, imply any degree of management skill (political skill, perhaps) any more than the title "Prince" implies ability to lead a country. Those titles should, however, hold the person accountable to a higher and more rigorous standard of expectations.

A larger business means more and bigger competitiors, higher stakes, and more of the "me me me" subordinates, like some of the people here, spinning things to advance their own agendas and get their piece of the pie.

First of all, a larger business does NOT imply more competitors (for example, how many other desktop OS's are there today compared to 20 years ago?). Nor does it imply higher stakes. Bigger numbers and more serious competitors (if they can survive to share the same market), to be sure, but the risk of any one venture is reduced by the size and diversity of the corporation. So, in that sense, the "stake" (as characterized by "what have you got to lose") that is posed by any single project is actually reduced in a large company.

Take the X-Box, for example. For Microsoft, a division that is a "loss leader" to the tune of $4B (or more) would have killed most other businesses long before it ever got to this stage. To MSFT, it's merely a footnote.

The increase in "Me! Me! Me!" subordinates sounds perfect for individual, self-advancement, but what other people (such as shareholders and customers) object to is when self-advancement comes at the cost of corporate advancement.

I would, however, argue that if self-advancement comes at the cost of corporate advancement, then the incentive and reward system is broken. The corporation owes it to itself (and it's shareholders) to fix that before the self-advancement goes from growth mechanism to cancerous tumor.

Unfortunately, by the time it reaches "cancerous tumor" stage, the people who are in a position to change it are often the very ones who would suffer from the change. As a result, change often comes only after a severe shock to the company.

Even managing not to crash a business is something of an accomplishment at times.

Indeed, however, that is not the criteria for "success" for a company I'd want to have in my portfolio.

Armchair criticism is easy.

No argument there, but sometimes it's easier to see the field from the armchair than it is from behind the center. So, it might behoove the quarterback to not tune out comments and suggestions simply becuase they came from an armchair critic.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I guess Blogger is hacked. Most of the link at the end of this post are linking to some set of hacked travel websites.

Anonymous said...

Mini, since you have not yet corrected the links, I realized that I was not entirely clear. The links in the "Links to this post" section are hacked. You also have several links at the end of your post. Those links are okay.

Anonymous said...

This comment has nothing to do with anything, really. On the other hand, it has everything to do with a lot of what Micrsoft is trying to turn into.

Yah, I just tried to setup my girlfriend with a "free" small business website at Office Live. And I gotta say, the team over there really takes the old adage "you get what you pay for" to heart, because their offer is an unmitigated disaster. What a pathetic joke. First, it craps out halfway through the signup. It gets you far enough to establish a domain name and a password, but not actually an account.

So now, I have an user name and password, and a domain, but no way to login and finish signing up for them. It logs in and tells me I'm not actually signed up. Well duh.

Then, I got kicked out for too many bad logins (even though it, you know, logged me in each time). So it gave me the option to do a password reset, but then it EMAILS YOU THE INSTRUCTIONS to an email address YOU CAN'T ACCESS!!

Yeeee hah. The wonder that is Passport. The wonder of Windows Live.

Anybody know some other place to get free websites? You know, that you can actually use?

Who da'Punk said...

Most of the link at the end of this post are linking to some set of hacked travel websites.

Just splogs, linking to here, to make you look. And hopefully click. Not a real high priority for me to clean-up but I just took a couple of minutes to do so.

Anonymous said...

>> By Anonymous, at Tuesday, January 02, 2007 7:51:18 PM

Have you entertained the idea of actually submitting a bug report to Office Live? Bitching here won't resolve your problems, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Have you entertained the idea of actually submitting a bug report to Office Live? Bitching here won't resolve your problems, I'm afraid.

I agree that complaining here isn't going to help. But submitting a bug report to [anyone] isn't likely to help either. I have an incorrect Live account attached to my MSFT alias and nobody can bother responding to tell me how to fix it so...I too am stuck. :-( Meaning that I just don't use any of the Live services (not that it's a big loss for me - but annoying).

Anonymous said...

I too tried to sign my company up with Office Live. I also tested out some competitors - HyperOffice, WebOffice (from WebEx) and others.

The Live was unbelievably horrible. My experience mirrors that of the commenter above. I did try to submit bug reports - that was broken too, and in typical MS fashion a direct e-mail link was nowhere to be found. I eventually found one after much digging, and sent in a note with my experiences and asking for my credit card not to be charged.

Listing the litany of what's wrong with Office Live would take thousands of words. Suffice it to say it's inflexible, awfully designed, totally intolerant and customer-vicious, arrogant in its absence of contact info, head-in-sand for insisting on establishing a domain name when I might already have one, broken as shown by its everything-is-broken experience, and much more. Words simply could not adequately express how bad it was, and my company is now a paying customer of another product. Every competitor was also far easier to contact with questions or comments, and (unlike MS) also responded to my questions.

I'm not usually one to heap abuse on something someone clearly worked hard on. But frankly, if this is the level of quality from Live, you guys need to do some very serious house-cleaning, rethinking, and involve real world people who might actually use the clunkers. It mirrors my experience with Live search: slower than Google, less relevant results, even when it comes to searching through MS' own sites.

Reading through the puff pieces in the WSJ (e.g. today 1/5) about your supposed executive wunderkinder, one can only snort in disbelief that these people can still spew out the approved MS words (is "super" still required to be a part of every sentence?) while the real-world experience of not just one person out here is what it is.

Apologies for the off-topic nature of this comment, but seeing the sometimes vicious "you're not from MS, and there's only one of you, and we're smarter" tone I wanted to add a little "me too" to the previous commenter on Live. Thanks Mini for this blog, it continues to be a nice source of extra info to what gets put in the business and IT press.