Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Good Manager, etc, etc, ...

More Constructive, Less Destructive: Happy 2007. As a direct result of me wading too much through in the negative comments on InsideMS, I have been feeling the need to start the year focused on positive changes:

  • How do you call out the people (especially good managers) doing a great job to ensure they are successful?
  • How do you succeed at Microsoft by navigating the culture and systems to get the best job done for our customers & shareholders?
  • What waste do we have that we can eliminate to be more effective?
  • What new initiatives are succeeding and which ones should we pull the plug on sooner than later, where later usually means we're out a billion or more dollars?

Now, sure, if something bad happens I'll put my jesters hat on and snark away, musing accountability and such. But I want to at least start the year focusing on win-win, especially given that we finally have Vista behind us and the company is in the middle of change.

The Good Manager: as most Microsofties will tell you, Microsoft has bad managers. Usually poor schleps who were great individual contributors and found themselves, either through organizational need or career-advancement want, in a management position that just isn't a good fit for them. While the front-line folks aren't exactly grabbing the torches and pitchforks to mob the hallways looking for violators of work-place dignity and work-life-balance, there does seem to be a general consensus that we're overburden with a significant number of bad managers. And right now, I am worried that becoming a manager is going to become a dumber and dumber decision if it becomes the monster all the villagers want to kill. Usually, this killing is by ever increasing inane process and mandatory training.

So let's say you either fire the bad managers or get them back on the team-member individual-contributor track (or sprinkle them with pixie dust to make them good managers). What good have you done to prevent future bad managers? Is the next generation of managers going to be any better?

If you've got a good manager, you've got to shout it to the world. You've got to do your best to promote this manager and ensure this is the model of success you want to see spreading. When your manager does something great or important to your team, do you tell them? Most likely, no one else is going to. You appreciate knowing when you do something great, eh? Now, I know, you can wallow in the cynical mindset and say this is just kissing up and brown-nosing, but brief, effective feedback of what is working is good to hear. Positive feedback for positive change.

When I've let my managers (or up the chain) know in the past that they've done something well or positive for the team / product (or have done something to me that was really revelatory about how to execute exceptionally well), they really want to hear more and know why I feel that way and how it could be even more effective.

I think about the manager feedback coming up for the mid-year discussion. This is important stuff. If you have a good manager and want them to be successful and a model, don't just fill out the feedback clicking all the high-marks, but also fill in the text feedback as to why the manager has done such a good job, especially relating this to the competencies. This is how I do my best to ensure my great managers are on the leadership track. When good managers succeed, they provide an example of what it takes.

Be sure to include the alias of your manager in your written feedback versus pronouns lost in the roll-ups (because the roll-ups are read by the people who really count).

And while folks balk at providing tough, critical feedback for their bad manager out of fear of retribution, take time to replace the outright negative with giving constructive feedback on the key competencies that you see the manager needing to grow in. Again, with the manager's alias. This might make it clear that the manager is underperforming if there's a gap in performance over expectation and doesn't cloud your feedback with any sour-grapes. Keep the zingers for here or InsideMS.

Other ideas for growing and supporting the good managers and squeezing out - for good, as much as possible - the bad?

Other random going ons...

Five Things I Hate About You: Oh, Ms. Foley, no you didn't. One of the cool kids tagged me and my startled mental reaction was akin to spurting milk out mid-sip. OMG, P0N1ES! Sorry, though, I'm going to have to go with Mr. Macleod here. Dit and 'to. But I swear to you this promise: if Steven Sinofsky follows up with his five in public, so will I. In the meantime, I'm left pondering how it is that one of my five candidates to share overlaps with Frank Shaw so perfectly... in the other direction.

Zune: man, people went crazy and pressed the pause-button on civility when ripping into that poor Zune player. For some reason, it reminds me of the frenzy the press went over Howard Dean and that little scream. Anti-zune-yness even made Engadget and Gizmodo into overly biased Microsoft haters. I didn't buy a Zune, as much as I had intended. I got a little Sansa that does the job for me. When Zune adds sync over Wi-Fi and brings out a flash-based unit, I'll give it a hard look again. In the meantime, I think a positive-because-it's-so-negative result of Zune is that it added fire to the DRM debate, and whether we should start regretting how much of a DRM darling we've become. It's a complex situation, which I think we are unfortunately making more entangled than less.

Office Live: in the last post, a couple of commenters really ripped into Office Live for just plain not working well at all. I haven't used Office Live, and I realize the success of Office Live is pretty important to our future and for gaining share among small businesses. Joe Wilcox splashed some additional cold water Office Live's way: Why I Killed Office Live. Et tu, Joe? A comment from Richard on that page:

My experience has been very much the same. Advertised functionality missing. Programs to integrate that dont work. Customer Service people who send you to other customer service people.

The concept is fantastic. I had high hopes. I WANT it to work. To have a pivate and pulic network and share information across them is a great asset.

Perhaps Microsoft should give it to someone else to develop then buy it back later.

Sounds like the parts that aren't working are really sabotaging an otherwise great initiative. Hopefully those parts can be fixed quickly and Office Live will be praised rather than buried.


133 comments:

Anonymous said...

That "Office Live stuff":
Last fall while I was still a Microsoft employee, I foolishly accepted an invitation to one of those "getting to know you" lunches with an Office VP. After going around the table talking about ourselves, he went into a list of tasks that are next on our plates after we shipped. It was an impressive list, but it just didn't seem to match the trends I've been noticing outside in the real world. I already knew that I was not a good fit in Microsoft because after 10 years of hard work, I still didn't under stand that in Microsoft, it's not what the customer wants, it's what your manager wants (after all. he should have a better picture of what should be done, right?). I've been looking around and already had a feel of directions and skills other employers were looking for. Finally after a short pause, the VP said "Oh yeah, we have that Office Live stuff to think about." I realized at that point that Microsoft is not focused on the people who use the software, it's the people who hire the people who use the software (the controllers). I guess that makes sense but that is not where I want to focus my life on.

I really hope you can flush out the good managers and give them the credit they deserve. I left Microsoft the day after I discovered that every manager from my lead up through my GM was watching each others back and it is very impressive how they have their own goals turned into a science. My ex-manager knew that after reaching RTM there would be an exodous of good people. He cleverly turned it around to look like a program of cross-pollinating talent between departments which Microsoft supports (while at the same time promoting his 'shadows' so that they will stay around and support him). He will probably get a bonus for this from the GM that is watching his back. How do you beat this? I left to start my own business. I'm finally happy (poor, but very happy). My managers are probably thrilled I'm gone, so everyone is now happy. Unfortunately there are a lot of good people still there getting ready to leave because they want to be engineers, not players. Good luck Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Mini, your spiel on managers reminded me of a naive Glenda the good witch talking about the wicked witch of the west as if she was a victim of bad spinich.

From my thirty year vantage point of dealing with tech managers (outside MS) I would say you asked the wrong question in your quest for better management at Microsoft. It is not a question of management, but a question of wisdom behind the vision that created the framework in which they work and the vision that decided which products to build and the vision which put Microsoft where it is today. Those are the ones who need to be walked out the door with no severance. Get the vision right and the rest will follow.

Meanwhile the next ten years are going be be spent cleaning up the mess the last visionaries at Microsoft left.

Anonymous said...

The Zune got a lot of bad reviews? The original iPod was torn apart by a lot of people in the early days, but survived because it had fundamental strengths - all the marketing in the world wouldn't have made it so big if it wasn't actually a great product.

If the Zune has strengths of its own, it'll last. If not, it never deserved to.

It's not looking so hot right now though.

Anonymous said...

Here's my constructive suggestion for 2007.

Be on time!

This is something that's always bothered me since day one (for me, a long time ago). There's a constant sense of urgency, but never a sense of punctuality.

I think I can count the number of meetings that have started on time on one amputated stump. People just don't care about:

a) being on time for a meeting (or other scheduled obligation)

b) delivering what they said when they said they would

In fact, the presumption is that if you DO deliver on time or show up to a meeting on time, you obviously don't have enough to do or you would be late (like all the other busy people).

Ummmm and Vista was late because why, everyone was too busy? What's wrong with this picture?

Seriously, the sense of punctuality that is demonstrated at the micro (e.g. the meeting) level is reflected at the macro level. Maybe if we all showed up to meetings on time, software could be delivered on time? (what a novel idea). This wouldn't happen because of some sudden attraction to anal-retentive behavior, but from the clear and present message that the company wants to deliver on time whether it's your notes at a meeting or a major OS release.

Anyway, enough with the throwing of stones. From now on, my new-year's resolution is to be on time and start the meeting when it's scheduled. When I hear "Let's just wait a few more minutes before we get started..." I'm going to ask, "Why we should hold everything up for someone who can't plan their schedule better?"

Anonymous said...

I know that I would not be a good lead/manager at MSFT. I just can't drink that much Kool-Aid. Knowing this, I would never accept an offer for a role change to a lead, and this will probably limit my career.

I do feel I can be a good lead/manger. Just not at this company. Too much political BS. I have been a lead at other places I have worked, and enjoyed it. I like being able to help less experienced individuals reach their potential.

BizDog said...

"What is a good manager?" the pervasive question that lately seems to rank up there with "What is the meaning of life?" at MSFT. Is it BillG? SteveB? Sinofsky (SP)? KJ? KT? Jack Welch? Steve Jobs? How about those Google folks? Answer - none of the above. A good manager is a unique definition at any company. Granted there's a solid foundation that applies across the board, but to move a company into greatness requires a certain something that is unique to each company.

Our problem is we reward individual uniqueness, the hero effect, hail Mary in overdrive - all those things that are rarely repeatable by any individual let along a trait you can seek out in a larger population and train others to emmulate. Because of this manager capability is the most varied skill set in the company.

So how do we reward "good managers"? First we need to come to a common framework for what is a good manager at MSFT and drive commitments around this. And these commitments must be held by SteveB on down - every single manager, no exceptions, no buddy-buddy wink wink go around the rules, no excuses, no kidding. For some reason we lack the guts to do this probably because most of our execs are really awful managers and they'd actually have to work hard and improve a skill to keep their job. But in reality it's that simple.

But since that is unlikely to happen, what is plan B or the grass roots approach? Yes, tell not just your manager when they do something good, tell their skip level manager. The skip level is the one you want to know about what worked that way your manager's manager can't brush off your comments. Also remember in manager feedback at MYR to be balanced. We get so overly focused on what needs improvement or is bad - these things are important and should be called out - but few people are truly awful at everything so make sure to include what you like in your manager. That way you know that behavior is likely to continue.

Also the new review model, changing roles guidelines, interview guidlines and other myMSFT things are key resources to improve manager effectiveness and shine a glaring spotlight on the bad managers. If your manager doesn't play by these new rules; doesn't adhere to these guidlines; doesn't pay attention to the team then you have an obligation to say something. Don't settle. Don't cower in the corner, hide under your desk, or shake in your shoes. Stand up, be counted and be heard. What's the worse that can happen? They can't fire you for providing feedback that aligns to company policy no matter how much they don't like what you're saying.

I could ramble on about this all day. My reality is I'm in an org that doesn't give a crap about its people. My VP flat out told me to forget about WHI and drive the numbers no matter what the collateral damage. But I just can't let it go. Yes, I'm paying a price for this short term, but long term it will pay off. And if not at MSFT then somewhere else. If anyone has ideas on how to thrive in furthering people management skills in an evironment that completely ingores and penalizes people who focus on it, then I'm all ears. I've provided lots of feedback, but with no movement.

Anonymous said...

Where are the comments on Inside MS?

I've been begging for someone to post the URL of the internal site for a while now... can someone please oblige or clear my misunderstanding that there is an internal site?

Thanks much!

Anonymous said...

Let me say this about "Office Live": it was a dumb idea when SimDesk poured 150 million bucks down that rathole, and it's even dumber for Microsoft to try to copy a would-be competitor that FAILED.

Read all about it: http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Virtudyne_0x3a__The_Founding.aspx

Frank X. Shaw said...

Okay, I'm curious. Overlpaps in the opposite direction? :)

Anonymous said...

"So let's say you either fire the bad managers or get them back on the team-member individual-contributor track (or sprinkle them with pixie dust to make them good managers). What good have you done to prevent future bad managers? Is the next generation of managers going to be any better?"

The very first thing to do is study the hiring and promotion process and find out why it is putting so many people into managerial positions who don't have the abilities to manage well. And then fix that process.

Alas, I think you would find a whole ball of worms here. One key one would be that Microsoft has expanded so rapidly that it didn't have enough good people to put in management positions so it puts lots of bad ones.

Another problem is that the bad managment goes all the way up the hierarchy, and higher level bad managers promote bad people below them, partly out of an inability to judge good management talent, partly because they know that good people would see how bad they are and fight them, partly because they are looking for people below them who are more interested in helping them play political games than in doing a good job.

Replacing bad management with good management in a corporation that has gone bad is a ten year project, and then only if the people at the very top make a real committment. Alas, that doesn't seem to have happened at MS yet, so I think the present plague of bad management is simply going to continue.

Anonymous said...

Regarding managers, less is more in my opinion, and I'm happy to say that I'm seeing some managers fall by the wayside in my org. I'd like to see more managers do some internal examination of whether they're really needed and voluntarily move on to other non-managerial opportunities, or resign.

Regarding Office Live, I have a site with them, and I can honestly say that it was an awful experience 8 months ago, and has improved quite a bit since then. If they continue to show improvement like this, I think it'll become a hit with small businesses. It ain't there yet, though.

Who da'Punk said...

Where are the comments on Inside MS?

Go to the MSW home page and search for InsideMS or InsideMS blog. I do believe it's one of the more popular searches, too. Each individual post has a wealth of comments.

Okay, I'm curious. Overlpaps in the opposite direction? :)

Let's just say it has to do with measurement of accuracy using the same implement... but no right to brag. B-)

Anonymous said...

Microsoft simply has too many (incapable) managers and too deep bureaucratic hierarchies. The company now runs on top-down political hierarchy instead of bottom-up engineering innovation.

The cure is to cut management layer in half (from 10~12 to 5~6 layers), restore 70% managers (those weak ones) to IC role, and truly recognize and reward the IC career path.

Anonymous said...

Mini, I applaud your positive spirit, but the rank and file can't fix the bad management problem because the rank and file don't
decide how payroll money is spend.

You get what you pay for, and Microsoft has bad managers because it isn't willing to pay for good ones. It is willing to pay for (as someone else put it) individual heroics. It's willing to pay for developers who can write a ton of complex code. And it's (sadly) willing to pay for butt-kissing weasels who maintain high-visibility of some sort.

We are up to our eyeballs in the things we're willing to pay for. We don't have much of the things we aren't willing to pay for.

Good management takes time. That's time the good manager doesn't get to spend writing code, or writing specs, or doing any other IC work. But at review time, IC work is what gets rewarded. The only thing that gets rewarded. That old saying that mangement is volunteer work at Microsoft - that's true. Couple that with the curve (which as you've noticed, hasn't gone away) and now Limited II, and attempting to be a good manager at Microsoft is insane. It's not just volunteer work, it a punishable offense.

Until that changes, I don't know what good saying "Kim's a great manager" will do...

Anonymous said...

Sorry if this starts off a little off-topic. I promise I'll get back around to it . . .

Disclosure: I'm a Microsoft alum. That means that a while ago I resigned and I'm at a startup now. No - I'm not going to name the startup 'cause I'm trying to be anonymous here (we've had *wonderful* response to our Craigslist ads here in Seattle in case anyone is looking, though).

At the startup I spend a lot of time intereviewing folks. The ones who impress me most are the ones who understand what career path they want and how my company can help them achieve that goal. Most people seem fairly clueless. Some have a vague idea. Others tell me that eventually they'd like to "get into management". Those people don't impress me at all. Sorry - this was the mostly off-topic rant.

I look for the ones who can not only perform their jobs (as described very vaguely for us - we're a startup), but also go beyond that and help grow our infrastructure, our culture, and everyone around them. That includes a willingness to grow their management. I don't mean "fiefdom building" I mean actually building the skills that managers need to overcome conflicts, help define goals, and be sure that their employees get a "fair shake", while still communicating to everyone a sense of the "bottom line".

I've also spent a little time helping write up our HR docs for ladder levels, our review system, and how feedback is treated.

Ah - now to how this might relate to Microsoft . . .

Make decent manager feedback a review goal. In the same way that an interview should be not just about *me* interviewing some candidate but also about the candidate figuring out whether or not I and my company are a good fit, review time also shouldn't be a one way street. At Microsoft, unfortunately for both me and for the company as a whole, I felt it was. Open things up a little. Make regular 1-1s about the manager as much as it is about the managed. Give regular, *frequent* feedback in both directions. Help build both people involved in that relationship.

IMHO, the manager-managed relationship is a little too one-way at Microsoft. This is seen in the way that manager feedback happens vs the way that employee reviews happen. You 'softies know what I mean. 'Nuff said.

Make everyone more accountable. Not just on an ongoing weekly basis but also at review time. You're not willing to blow that whistle? Limited. You can blow the whistle on your boss but don't want to help solve the problem? Limited 2 (whatever that means). You can work with your manager to help find and solve team (or 1-1) problems? Ok, so maybe "achieved". You get the idea . . .

One of my goals in my current capacity is to have everyone involved in not only managing their own careers and those of their direct employees, but also to have ICs helping their leads lead better. I can only hope it works.

I could only have wished that Microsoft had been so brave when I was there. Making the *whole* team strong becomes a non-zero sum game, IMHO.

See a problem? Step up and solve it.

Overwhelmed by heirarchy and HR constraints? Figure out how to change the system to help the company. LisaB is going to listen if you can propose a way to make Microsoft a leaner, meaner (less in-fighting?) machine. Especially if instead of mere bitching she hears how to change *process* to make measurable commitments for y'all. Just like nothing exists until it happens in email, no change can be real until it is measurable. (Again - IMHO.)

Good luck , everyone! And keep in mind that my company advertises on Craigslist here in Seattle if you want to be in a place that wants an environment like I've proposed.

Sorry for the anonymity. That's not really my bag. I just wanted any flame war over my comment to be about its content and not about me or my current employer.

Comment. Too. Long. Must. Stop . . .

Keeperplanet said...

Mini Said: “In the meantime, I think a positive-because-it's-so-negative result of Zune is that it added fire to the DRM debate, and whether we should start regretting how much of a DRM darling we've become.”

Thanks Mini for at least mentioning that. Oh, gee, there might be a problem with DRM. Ya think?

Putting DRM aside for a moment, what I am responding to here is more about how Zune has become the poster boy of the Softie of Microsoft Low Expectations. Here is why:

1. Branding. If Microsoft has not yet figured it out, its brand value does not extend beyond the OS and even there it is so frayed that it would be a good idea to re brand the company altogether. (Note, I am however not a brand consultant).
2. Me Too. It is clear Zune was a me-too-real-quick-before-Apple-gets-more-market-share response to the famous failed Play for Sure Initiative. Instead of careful and deliberate innovative improvement to the market, through its partner music player manufacturers, Microsoft chose to create two negatives hoping it would be a positive (carryover from high school Algebra?), i.e., its own low quality hardware entry and increased restriction on built in DRM.
3. The Design (ouch). As a designed entry into the player business, it is a big negative in every way: color, form, weight, performance, detail, overall `gotta have it’ factor, copy of a copy, and functional features, and did I say color? Apple has raised the bar of the design factor very high. Don’t jump in if you can’t swim.
4. A virtual squirt gun? The now famous Balmer `squirt manifesto’ where he describes the three day use of songs squirted to your friends was such a poorly conceived concept that it is absolutely astonishing that it even got past the brainstorm white board list of possible features. Just ask any kid if having a song squirted to him or her has any value at all if they can't keep the song. As a company, Microsoft has to consider that this kind of poor decision making is out of control.
5. Blind leading the Blind. From other products I have purchased with the Microsoft brand it is clear that Microsoft tends to market products rather than design them. My guess is Zune was not designed by MS but purchased as a proposal from a third party, but that is just a guess.
6. Softie of low expectations. All this adds up to a perception from the outside of a company that is a disaster in process. Like I said, Zune is a symbolic representation of the company at large, even though I am sure there are a lot of talented people at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Keeperplanet: bravo, well done.

In a sane world (or a properly-functioning corporation), Zune would mean an immediate pink slip for J Allard (at the very least).

Anonymous said...

A poster said: "The very first thing to do is study the hiring and promotion process and find out why it is putting so many people into managerial positions who don't have the abilities to manage well. And then fix that process."

Here's the latest example from our group. A young SDET with impressive academic credentials, on his first non-co-op job out of school, talked a good game. He was given control of a half dozen UI test monkey CSG, because he happened to be there when the manager decided someone should be responsible for them, and he was looking for any opportunities to advance. Unit test grew to be a couple dozen CSG, and he laid claim to all of them as the group grew. It was a power hungry newbie's dream come true.

He didn't really do anything with them beyond point out to everyone that if they required a CSG resource, they needed to come to him so that he could balance the workload. The CSGs rarely saw him, he didn't answer their emails, he referred to them insultingly when talking to other FTEs, the CSGs laughed about him behind his back. However, since they were CSGs, and he was FTE, and he was popular with the rest of the team who didn't want to cross him, his word is what management heard.

Management became sure that this kid was a Star Manager waiting to be annointed, because they never checked with the managed to see if he was really doing anything other than talking big about having responsibility, and offered him a lead role. He left, and last we heard was chasing his fortunes at some mobile startup now. Therefore he turned it down, but if it was not for someone elses' willingness to hire him, we'd have one more bad manager.

Interesting that the lack of feedback from those managed is once again a contributing factor. Words of wisdom from this: Please, managers-of-managers, before assuming that someone you've let handle a few resources would make a good manager, and this is true particularly if they have almost no experience in the work world, chat with some of those resources for a reality check to verify your conclusions before forging ahead with a promo.

The above is valid advice only if you're looking for a manager with real people skills and managerial ability. If you're looking for a game player, disregard, and hire people just like him to run your teams. The ICs will hate their love of game playing and lack of competence, and you're going to risk ship dates and quality bars, but they'll watch your back just fine, I'd bet on it.

Anonymous said...

RE:
By Anonymous, at Saturday, January 06, 2007 10:19:25 PM

Erm... here you go.
http://insidems

Anonymous said...

Microsoft has some of the worst first line managers I've ever seen in my career.

Giving these folks the power to guide someone else's career is a tragedy.

The term Microsoft Manager is an oxymoron ... these folks should be taken to the door, in droves. Yes, it's too bad that there is not an effective management review tool.

Anonymous said...

OT: I have come to the conclusion that Microsoft is genetically incapable of creating legible web content.

I was delighted to come upon the new corporate home page. I carefully read the letter about how earnestly they all worked to fix it. "Good," I thought, "because for at least ten years it's been the most confounding, baffling, infuriating corporate site I've ever visited."

It's mildly better. I'll concede that...except, it's not.

It's still incomprehensible, because (like all Microsoft corporate communications) it never talks in straight lines; you can FEEL the site's navigation feinting and fencing, trying desperately to figure out in advance what you're looking for, get it slightly wrong, and then get you there by means of the vaguest possible language and in the greatest number of steps while providing the least accesible basic roadmap money can buy.

Why can't this company make a good website? In 2007? It can't be that hard. I see lots of them, every day.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering about something regarding management career track at Microsoft. These are the two things I commonly hear:

1) Management path allows one to get ahead (i.e. climb the ladder levels) faster. This encourages ICs to choose management path even though they have no passion to manage.

2) Management work is considered voluntary at Microsoft. Managers are rated based on their individual contributions during review.

#1 and #2 appear contradictory. If managers are rated on their individual contributions, as opposed to their management aptitude, why is it difficult for ICs to climb the ladder level as fast as managers?

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand will you people will get it.

Microsoft is no different from any other company. It is a company made of people who have families, houses, cars etc.

Once the millioniare money dried up for the non partners people started playing the game that happens at every company in the world.

Yes we make software but how can you possibly think people are not going to watch their back or the backs of people they like.

Stop bitching. Either get with the program or start your own company.

I'm 100% sure that any fortune 100 company you go to will be exactly the same.

The problem is you won't be able to identify the problem as easily.

I worked in a large company in 98 as a developer and made about $110k total compensation. My direct manager made $200k. My managers manager made about $300k. I know these numbers because I had friends on payroll who told me.

The point is the relationship between the have and have nots is the proportionaly the same at most companies. Also I later moved to another large company. This time I was the first level manager. After about 2 years my manager fell out of grace with the powers that be and he and I and 5 of my peers were all fired.

So be careful who you get to watch your back. It is not all it is cracked up to be.

I'm quite content being an individual contributor at MS. A little more money would be good but i'm happy.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the iPhone, what was Robbie Bach smoking when he commented about Apple not being capable?

All said and done, Microsoft's creative potential stinks, and that's why I quit last year after many years. Bach needs to be fired for just not seeing the truth.

Anonymous said...

Keeperplanet: nice summary. And while Microsoft tries to just barely catch up to the iPod with the Zune Apple announces the iPhone and jumps a couple of years past Microsoft. Given Microsoft's obsession with catching up to Apple (i.e the Garageband clone that wouldn't exist if Apple hadn't done it) I'm sure we'll see a poor iPhone clone by the end of 2008.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! I scanned thru the comments so far and I'm amazed at the general negativity of them all.

A few thoughts:

1) A number of the comments come from former employees. As a current employee of 10 years, I'm thinking that MSFT is doing better, and I like the positive spin that Mini is displaying.

2) I may be insulated since I'm coming off working as a Dev on the highly successful Office 2007, but I'm wondering if many of the complaints are coming from outside of the Office org (which seems to be doing well).

3) I think the Zune should be given a chance. My wife likes it better than her iPod. Sure, she isn't a gadget expert, and the lack of wi-fi capabilities suck, but the music service is very nice.

4) Microsoft still can still fix a lot (like the Windows org seems broken -- I'm disappointed with Vista). But at least there's work being done there.

C'mon folks, try saying the glass is half-full sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1/9/2007 5:21:16 PM said: "My wife likes it better than her iPod" and "the music service is nice." That's the problem with Zune. You don't tell us it's awesome or even that you like it. It's just another music player. Considering the money and brain power at Microsoft's disposal it's pretty sad that Apple has nothing to worry about.

Now look at the iPhone, which was just announced. Apple obviously put a lot of effort into making it a very unique and innovative product. I want one after seeing the demo online and after seeing Apple's stock jump a bit today I'd say a lot of people are interested. Wouldn't it be nice if that buzz existed when Microsft released a product? Apple is just as "old" as Microsoft but they find a way to innovate in a way that gets people excited. I think we can all agree that the blame has to fall on management since there seems to be no vision. And when a company that should be the market leader seems to be faltering and becomes a follower, but management gets huge financial awards (i.e. almost $1 billion in 2006) the employees should get angry.

And before someone replies, "Just leave", I'd like to comment that some people don't have the flexibility to leave a job and take a position at a startup or start over at another company that might have the same issues. Some of us have families and other responsibilities that are far more important. Some of us also want Microsoft to succeed because we've invested a lot in the company and we know the potential is there. That's why we're posting on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, the iPhone. Just spent some time looking at that baby. Dang, Apple has just made the Zune more laughable than ever, and they've put years and years of Windows Mobile work into the dust bin of history.

This is innovation folks, innovation. Thinking of genuinely new ways of designing things, of getting things done, not just cramming ten pounds of Windows crap into a five pound mobile bag. Windows is like the parasite on innovation. It sucks the blood out of everything around Microsoft, because everything must adhere to it.

Office Live? Oy. I tried setting up a site for a friend the other day. Long story short: it didn't work. Longer story: the types of failures involved are grimmace inducing. Really, it's a catastrophe. A grand idea: give the small business a free web site!! Except that, ummmmm, it doesn't really work. Go to Office Live and read the forums, read about how people signed up months before and still don't have a site that works. Sad.

Anyway, it was startling to look at the iPhone, how Apple innovated on so many levels, how they put out something that just stops you in your tracks to say "Yes, they did it, they moved the ball down the field." Impressive as hell.

Now I gotta go pay a contractor to do some work that any half-wit at another company would do on their own.

Anonymous said...

1) Management path allows one to get ahead (i.e. climb the ladder levels) faster. This encourages ICs to choose management path even though they have no passion to manage.

2) Management work is considered voluntary at Microsoft. Managers are rated based on their individual contributions during review.

#1 and #2 appear contradictory. If managers are rated on their individual contributions, as opposed to their management aptitude, why is it difficult for ICs to climb the ladder level as fast as managers?


Being a manager is a feather in your cap and helps in getting a promotion. You have more visibility, more access to people, and more opportunities to impress the people that matter when review time comes along.

Doing actual people management work (developing people, coordinating schedules, removing obstacles, keeping a team focused and productive) is useless to your career however. It is not recognized as a valuable contribution, at least not one that is as valuable as writting a ton of code or writign vision docs or position papers and so forth.

So we have three typical MSFT managers.

Type 1 is The Incompetent Manager who, by being a good IC, got promoted to manager and tries to manage but simply has no talent for it. They mean well, but they really belong on an IC track. They occasionally make it to a 2nd level manager's job, but rarely go beyond that.

Type 2 is The Selfish Jerk who completely ignores their managerial responsibilities in order to focus on the IC work that will lead to their next promotion. These are the Empire Builders who consider the people reporting to them as status symbols. None of their team members have any idea what this person does all day, and may only see the person once or twice a week. They may or may not have any managerial skills, but no one can tell because they never try to use them. There is no limit to how high they might climb.

Type 3 is, to borrow Mini's title, The Good Manager, a.k.a. Limted II Kim. Kim was a good IC but, upon promotion to manager discovered the passion and skill for doing real management work. Kim puts effort into being a good manager, and typically has reports that are very happy and productive. At review time, Kim used to get a 3.5, maybe an occasional 4.0, but not very many promotions because, well, one of the ICs or one of the Type 2 Jerks did more of the work that MSFT rewards. Last year, The Good Manager probably got a LimitedII and next year will be gone, either left the company, left management, or sold out and became a Type 2 Jerk.

The good news: there is a group people inside MS who realize this is a problem that needs to be fixed.

The bad news: very few Partner's are in that group.

Anonymous said...

#1 and #2 appear contradictory. If managers are rated on their individual contributions, as opposed to their management aptitude, why is it difficult for ICs to climb the ladder level as fast as managers?

Two words come to mind: visibility and accountability.

Visibility: many ICs end up doing great work, but (unfortunately) don't get recognized outside of their group or other groups that have a dependency on that IC's output. Managers, by nature of their position, have output (collectively from their team, and their own) which "reverberates louder".

Accountability: An IC can cause a feature to be late or dropped. An manager can screw up a product or people's careers.

Anonymous said...

So Mini gets another step closer to his wish. I just gave my notice after 5 years here in MS. I have been a GPM< switched to IC and went back. As GPM I had a very hard time looking straight to the eyes of my guys and tell them “Do good job, the company will be better off and you will get paid better.” Too many times I have seen people getting up and more who shouldn’t. And even when I told myself I will not allow this, they were smart and got around me.

The changes are good, they are just too slow and life is too short.

In addition it was close to impossible to continue raising in the ranks beyond my level (64) without completely giving up on my family and friends – even now the travel was brutal and the hours were in the high 50s each week.

When MSFT get’s smaller, agile, aggressive etc. I may be back. I am somewhat confident that with my lifetime review score of 3.8 I can get back. For now it’s a startup world (I love working hard but want to lay hard as well and that’s what is missing in MS these days.) but I will miss the amazing people that make the core of MS.

Good luck guys

Anonymous said...

FACT: I have set up two (2) companies on Office Live.

FACT: With the exception of HotMail too slow and what I would call a "modest" learning curve, I have had zero (0) problems!

FACT: I changed and modified Premium databases.

FICTION: Microsofties, get your heads on straight. Criticize where critcism is due and provide FACTS where they are needed. If you have a problem with Office Live, give specifics and breadth of problem and let us be the judge of its inadequacies.

You're hurting the credibility of boondoggles such as Vista and Office.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a picture can say a thousand words... I left 3 months ago and it's amazing how little people talk about MSFT in the tech industry... it makes you really realize how most MSFTees still think we are living in 1997.

http://gigaom.com/2007/01/09/apple-microsoft/#more-7822

Keeperplanet said...

"Anyway, it was startling to look at the iPhone, how Apple innovated on so many levels, how they put out something that just stops you in your tracks to say "Yes, they did it, they moved the ball down the field." Impressive as hell."

BTW, I have not directly seen the new Apple cell phone, music player and web browser in one except I have read most of the press and seen the pics. To me that is not innovation, just a logical extension of Apple's iPod momentum.

A couple of things about the `innovation'. Touch screens have been around forever. I implemented one for a Fluke 32 bit 5 1/4 in bubble memory instrument controller way back in 1978. Also, glass touch pads that activate with skin contact have also been around a very long time on microwave ovens. The technology was abandoned for cheaper crappier membrane touch panels you see today. Time will tell how the Apple technology holds up and to be honest, I am not sure which they used.

The idea of the screen as total I/O interface is also not new, nor is the concept of turning the screen into the device--that has been a long time coming and has been tried a few times over the years. Trust me when I say there is very little innovation, just excellent product definition and implementation of the interface, software, etc. The Apple buzz will do the rest.

Building such a device is not the lesson here. The lesson is in a combination of product vision, significant attention to detail and a robust concinnous relationship of all the intellectual and physical parts to work together, to make it happen. For example, there is almost zero negative for me when I put cd library on my iPod. No visible DRM layer even though it is there, and I will never download a locked format song. And when I use my Motorola RAZR it is a very pleasant experience, from web to calls to bluetooth to extended features like using it as a modem. Excellence in developing customer driven products, listening carefully to your customers and make it happen for them.

Microsoft has a different product development structure that makes it impossible to create a customer driven product because of the strategic organization that tends to leverage a marketing plan instead of just giving the customers what they want.

When I try to play a movie on my XP home wide screen HP notebook however, it is a nightmare. I have to assume that MS does not want me to play my movies on my HP notebook but instead it seems they want me to perhaps play my movie on a video player or maybe buy an XBOX (which I don't want) and so on. Not my plan but theirs. Because the problem has been apparent for many years now since the implementation of MS DRM. Something else for another post is going on. Hint: think of it as a Longhorn cattle drive at least thats what it feels like as a customer.

The problem for Microsoft is that those customers have long pointy horns.

Anonymous said...

all MSFT cares about is internal MSFT. there is no sense of the real world or how the compnay is percieved by consumers. thats not going to change. its become a company about culture, not about marketplace reality. a shame, because most front liners really do care.

TheKhalif said...

Wow, it's been sevral months since I've actively viewed this blog and it seems like the same problems still exist.

I woul dguess that there would be some movement because of the internal "complaint" blog you guys have now.

I guess MS managers give a new meaning to "entrenched."

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"All this adds up to a perception from the outside of a company that is a disaster in process. Like I said, Zune is a symbolic representation of the company at large, even though I am sure there are a lot of talented people at Microsoft."

Agree, and think the iPhone put the crowning touch on this.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't get the excitement over the iPhone.

I definitely give Apple credit that the UI is slick. Very slick. The larger screen size is also nice, but it's also physically larger in your pocket.

However, there is nothing that iPhone does that Windows Mobile doesn't do. I hated my first PocketPC phone with just a soft keyboard - so did everyone else I know. I love my Palm Treo 700W with QWERTY keyboard.

I listen to music and watch video on my Palm all of the time. It's a good phone and a great PDA with auto synch with my e-mail, contacts, and calendar.

I surf the web every day with my Palm and am mostly happy. I will admit that the Apple demo looked better than my current experience, but I'm not sure how much of that is from comparing demo to daily use.

The Palm doesn't have wifi, but many other Windows Mobile devices do. The new HP also has built-in GPS including Pocket Streets integration. If I weren't on Verizon, I would get the new HP and have pretty much every function I want in one device.

You also have the Black Jack and Q that are very compelling in a very compact package.

I think Apple scored a major marketing coup. Short of UI candy, I don't really see a lot of innovation. Am I missing something?

nff

Anonymous said...

"The idea of the screen as total I/O interface is also not new, nor is the concept of turning the screen into the device--that has been a long time coming and has been tried a few times over the years. Trust me when I say there is very little innovation, just excellent product definition and implementation of the interface, software, etc. The Apple buzz will do the rest."

This seems to me (quoting Colonel Mandrake from Dr. Strangelove) to be "rather an odd way of looking at it."

In other words, the industry trend points a certain direction, towards a certain tacit goal state, so, when someone arrives at that finish line, they have not triumphed or achieved anything (or, have not "innovated") since the outcome was forseen.

When a sports car manufacturer finally manages to make a car that can go 0-60 in ten seconds, would you simply say, "Well, that was the next record waiting to be broken; no surprises here"?

Maybe that's a bad example, because it's not a qualitative evolution. But does the original 1996 Palm Pilot "not count" because "handheld devices with handwriting recognition were inevitable; where the industry was going, etc."?

Can you say the same thing about innovations in the fine arts, or in government, or anywhere that progress is measured by means of significant milestones? To "innovate" is to do something new, something that nobody has done -- not something that nobody has discussed.

Say what you want about how "inevitable" the iPhone platform is, but the fact is, nobody actually made one of those until now.

Who da'Punk said...

Administrivia: note to Microsoft vs. Apple commenters:

Given the comments in the iPhone, I'm worried of yet another quick entropy in comments due to Apple vs. Microsoft comments.

If you're adding anything deep to the discussion not found within the usual fan-boy noise, please submit your comment. But if it's not unique or slips into old worn out themes, I'm going to CRF-it.

Mini.

Anonymous said...

mini,

I'm the 6:55:34 PM anonymous commenter.

Rest assured I had not the slightest intention of forcing the thread's devolution into any X vs. Y territory. My apologies for veering dangerously in that direction.

I'm really just focusing on the semantics: I think that the specific meaning of innovation is very important to the topic (considered independently from any specific product or any one company except Microsoft, since discussing Microsoft is kind of the point).

Again, sorry for veering towards flame-war territory.

Anonymous said...

We need another blog post for iPhone.
Its pretty serious and the only way Microsoft is going to "get it" is when they see a majority of their employees carrying one. I'm getting one and so are most of us...

Same thing happened witht the iPod when it came out. Wasn't there a rumour that some VP's were getting sick at the number of ipods going around at campus and that our employees should be running stuff that plays media files.

Anonymous said...

"My guess is Zune was not designed by MS but purchased as a proposal from a third party, but that is just a guess."

The Zune HW was not designed by MS. It is a "re-skin" of the Toshiba Gigabeat which was already released using the MS Portable Media Center (PMC) bits - another lame product. All MS did was tweak the UI, enlarge the screen, and add WiFi which, unfortunatel, made the battery bigger and added weight.

Mice and Xbox360 are the only examples of great HW IDs I have ever seen this company produce.

Kyle McFarlin said...

Mini,

I think Zune looks great, I'm just reeling from the shock of discovering I can't take all that music I bought on MSN Music with me onto a Zune. I feel punished for being an early-adopter, which is especially painful as I function as a Microsoft apologist in so many circles.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"I think Apple scored a major marketing coup. Short of UI candy, I don't really see a lot of innovation. Am I missing something?"

Don't understate the value of UI candy - it's a main selling point for Vista as well. It's also the main interaction point for users and therefore a big determinant in their perception of the device's utility and (perhaps more importantly) desirability. WRT the innovation generally, certainly many of the features are not new (including the touchscreen/keyboardless nature), but then the same could be said for the Ipod - and we know what happened there. As you suggest, it was a major marketing coup. I would argue that it was that because they delivered a product that handily surpassed expectations. Whether the product will actually succeed is TBD (the price point seems too high to be a general threat, but they have a shot at making their 10M unit goal). However, the important point for MSFT (I'm a shareholder not a MAC fanboy) isn't what Apple did, but why MSFT consistently has so much problem doing likewise?

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the recent Fortune Magazine list of the 100 Best Places to Work? I don't have to tell you who is #1. What's telling is that Microsoft, a perennial frontrunner on the list, has dropped to a more reasonable 50. The ironic thing is that when Microsoft was a horrible abyssmal place to work it still ranked in the top 10. Thanks to the efforts of Mini MS, LisaB, etc, the work ecosystem at Microsoft is improving (healing?) and it has become, in my opinion, a much nicer place. The Fortune list doesn't indicate that, but something tells me they don't spend much time talking to the rank and file before making their list.

Anonymous said...

CEO accountability is coming?

Investors Sue to Block Former Home Depot CEO's $210 Million Severance Package

From the article:
News of the severance further enraged shareholders who had long argued that Nardelli was overpaid during his six years at the helm of Home Depot, whose stock underperformed smaller rival Lowe's Cos. (LOW) and the Standard & Poor's 500.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know how much MSFT spent in R&D on Zune in contrast with what Apple spent on R&D on iPhone. It would be sort of a meassure of how efficient management handles R&D. Its probably hard to get it right 100% since both Apple and MSFT has colaborated with other parties in the development, but it could be a loose indication.

Logically Apple would have spent at least twise or more on R&D on iPhone than MSFT on Zune. Otherwise something is really wrong the way MSFT spend resources around various projects.

By the way, anyone know why music bought on MSN Music doesn't work with Zune? Is it legal reasons, technical reasons, lock our customers up and don't share the cake reasons or just stupid management?

Anonymous said...

The iPhone right now, for all intents and purposes, is a triumph of marketing and hype more than innovation, just like Windows now is a triumph of distribution channel domination.

People are worshipping the phone....for what? Full screen input has been around (see http://www.engadget.com/2007/01/11/iphone-and-lg-ke850-separated-at-birth/ for just one example). It's just another example of "all things apple are cool and hip" clouding rational judgment. There are a ton of cool phones out there (check out the ones in Europe/Asia), and a ton of lifestyle phones (note Helo and Boost mobile) with similar features. The difference: It's Apple. Hence, this is the Jesus phone, as some have put it.

Is it a typically well-designed Apple product? Of course. Does it directly compete with our mobile offerings? Not really. We compete mostly with Palm and Blackberry.

The phone market is very different from the MP3 one. The phone maker is very beholden to the service provider, and some very large and successful players in place already. We'll see how well Apple will do in a year.

Anonymous said...

I think Zune looks great, I'm just reeling from the shock of discovering I can't take all that music I bought on MSN Music with me onto a Zune. I feel punished for being an early-adopter, which is especially painful as I function as a Microsoft apologist in so many circles.

My feelings exactly. Not only is it money down the drain, but I hate the whole "Microsoft points" thing anyway, particularly given the unnecessary except for the purpose of being misleading "exchange rate" between MS points and real money.

Things like this put the lie to the ongoing claims of being "customer focused."

Anonymous said...

Agree with the earlier commenter that the iphone is not all that innovative beyond the eye-candy ui they showed in the demo. They were able to package many existing features together in a way that gave it WOW factor.

Notice, however, the day-after hangover in the blogsphere over the thing. Everyone went ga-ga over the damn thing until they took the time to realize that it, too has serious limitations.

I was impressed by it myself. It has WOW factor, no doubt, but I think most people who went head-over-heels for it also don't realize what the current generation smartphones are capable of. I've been watching recorded tv (yes, from my MCE) on my smartphones for nearly 2 years now! I'm neither gadget-head nor a complete geek, but I am impressed by leading edge technology. It didn't take any work at all to make it work, either.

The question is: why the hell aren't we aggressively marketing our stuff????

Udolpho said...

Hey, let's give the iPhone hoopla a rest until people are living and playing with these things daily. It wouldn't be the first device to get hyped to the stars in beta only to find a lukewarm market in the real world. $600 + Cingular lock-in? Already I see post-hangover reality checks in the blogosphere.

BTW, notice how Jobs sneered at Zune's 2% market share grab and then projected iPhone at 1% in TWO YEARS.

Do check that you are not operating within the reality distortion field. And IMO this product has little to no bearing on Microsoft strategy. Even if it is a huge success YOU DO NOT NEED TO BEAT JOBS AT EVERY TURN. Revenue for Apple is not revenue taken from your pocket. That mentality results in inane rivalries that tend to produce more chaos than consumer satisfaction.

And look at the upside: the AppleTV garnered a collective shrug. The living room is where the real $$$ is.

Lazlo said...

Short of UI candy, I don't really
see a lot of innovation.


Yeah, I get what you mean...the UI is only the place where every single user interaction with the device occurs. The fact that it manages to control a half-dozen wildly disparate functions in a way that seems well-integrated and easy to understand...seriously, other that that, what's the big deal?

Anonymous said...

The question is: why the hell aren't we aggressively marketing our stuff????

WM phones aren't "our stuff." They're our OEMs' stuff.

I think that's one reason we've got the Zune: a corporate evaluation that our hardware partners didn't get marketing/branding/positioning "right" and that we have to do it ourselves if we want a chance to beat Apple at the game.

Now that Apple is in the phone world, hmmm, I wonder what we'll do? Probably wait at least a while to see how the Apple-Cingular thing goes, but if they start really gaining on market share, I could see us creating a WM phone in-house (or, as in Zune, pseudo-in-house) and marketing it ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Folks who talk about innovation don't realize one thing. The objective of this release is three fold:

1. Release a smartphone that your grandparents can use
2. Design it such that it makes all other smartphones look old and retarded
3. Make it sexy

They've achieved all three. A year from now they'll release lower end models and up the ante on the high end, thus slaughtering Symbian, Palm and WinCE, as well as the entire PDA market.

Anonymous said...

BTW, notice how Jobs sneered at Zune's 2% market share grab and then projected iPhone at 1% in TWO YEARS.

Yeah, so?

He was talking about iPhone having 1% of the mobile phone market, not 1% of the much smaller portable media player market.

Anonymous said...

People use the term "eye candy" or similar to put down good UI design, like it's extraneous and unnecessary. Yet, they'll go home to their manicured lawns in their polished BMW or Land Rover. They'll expect their neighborhoods to be kept up to specifications, as well as their kids' schools. No "just good enough" there.

Good enough is not good enough. It's low-balling, average, beneath what could be. Good enough is your "low" salary.

Isn't it funny how Apple always comes into the discussion. Whether anyone likes it or not, they make the rest of us evaluate why things aren't as smooth-running as they "should" be at the world's biggest company. Innovation isn't invention necessarily. It's taking what exists and making it new.

On a daily basis-- who here does that?

bob said...

I move the question: returning to the original upbeat tone of the top line post, what initiatives do you see that are going well, or need just a little nudge to really take off? We're all so good at recognizing and communicating the crap, can we still recognize quality?

Anonymous said...

David Lynch didn't invent surrealism; Ernest Hemingway didn't invent minimalism. You can look at Thomas Edison or the Wright Brothers and point out how it's all existing components; ideas that everyone saw coming; merely the "popularization" or consolidation of existing components.

But they're all innovators, all inventors. It takes guts and vision to take the "idea in the back of everyone's heads" and turn it into a working, functioning product -- and then commit 100% of your resources to it without a back door or an escape hatch. You think it's easy to be the first company to sell a portable tape player without any speakers (Sony Walkman) or a handheld computer that you can't operate without a plastic stylus (Palm) or a consumer-level computer with no 51/4" drive (Apple, 1984) or with no disk drive at all (Apple, 1996), simply because minor feints were made in that direction by other, smaller companies without installed user bases, or (even worse) because your big ideas was covered already in somebody's written speculation about which way the indutry was moving?

I don't understand why so many posters are taking such illogical positions. It's nearly impossible to avoid the flame war, despite mini's admonitions that we do so. How can defenders of the Zune or of the practices of the company that made the Zune and Windows and Internet Explorer and Windows Media and the "Microsoft Mouse" and a thousand other products that are embellished retreads of other companies' ideas denegrate the iPhone as being "insufficiently innovative"?

I've never seen a PSP-style, movie-playing screen on a smartphone. I've never seen a buttonless interface on anything except third-tier universal remotes (certainly not on any performance-based $600 business product). I've never seen anything (except maybe a Radius monitor) that re-orients from portrait to landscape once you physically turn it sideways. So what if these ideas have been mentioned or tried elsewhere? It's making your flagship products dependent on these ideas that's innovative -- actually committing your products' basic functionality to them -- not merely the act of naming the ideas in the pages of BusinessWeek.

Anonymous said...

The few times I've posted here, I've done so by quoting someone else's post and responding.

I don't have that to do today.

Part of the problem I perceive is one of limited perspective. If your entire job experience is Microsoft, you haven't seen how other companies work, how things are does elsewhere, and how Microsoft differs so vastly from most of its competitors.

Microsoft's culture has a strange component where a sort of personal aggressiveness has been constantly rewarded. The facet of personality that causes some to develop an 'in your face attitude' has often been a ticket up the corporate ladder.

My guess is that someone has a misguided notion that someone this aggressive will be a real "go-getter". In fact, all it generates are managers that are interested only in their own well being (and personal advancement) and have irrational, confrontational styles.

Being a jerk won't make someone a good leader, or worse, a good manager.

I'd argue that those people promoted for this component of their personality make horrible managers, incapable of relating to their reports, and focusing on no more than how they appear to their superiors.

And there are a LOT of these in the managerial ranks.

Anonymous said...

Apple keeps coming up because comparing the two companies highlights some of the issues this blog routinely touches.

Apple has always been exceptional at Design and UI. But fifteen years ago, they were mostly incompetent at everything else. Their quality sucked, their marketing was myopic, their prices were terrible and their business model was archaic.

Meanwhile, Microsoft wasn't really exceptional at anything, but was good enough, for the times, at everything.

Over the last fifteen years, Apple has remained great at design, but steadily figured out how to do the other things well too. At Microsoft, we still do things pretty much the way we always have and the world is starting to pass us by.

Why?

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"I think that's one reason we've got the Zune: a corporate evaluation that our hardware partners didn't get marketing/branding/positioning "right" and that we have to do it ourselves if we want a chance to beat Apple at the game."

MSFT's strategy of many partners, while good for customers and MSFT, has been increasingly bad for the partners themselves (i.e. lower and lower margins). Unfortunately, MSFT was happy to ignore that until it impacted MSFT's fortunes. The challenge now, is to find ways for partners to get innovation which *they* can capture in some exclusive way (w/o impacting stadardization too adversely) in order to get some increased differentiation and margin. Otherwise, they're not going to put in the extra R&D required and will sell "me-too" products at commodity prices. MSFT can't do it alone, and recent efforts between MSFT and Toshiba (on the PC side more so that the ZUNE/Gigabeat effort) look promising in this regard. Dell also seems to be waking up to the need to do real R&D rather than simply assemble components.

Keeperplanet said...

"I've never seen a buttonless interface on anything except third-tier universal remotes"

here ya go (dated Feb 2003 and presented as a public image for all to see and use:

http://www.headstuf.com/headstuf/democellb.jpg
and here is an animation of the same thing (link bottom of page):
http://www.headstuf.com/downloads.htm

Who's your daddy baby?

It's not about innovation or whatever. It is about an organization and corporate culture that knows it when they see it, embraces it and pays a lot of $ for it from guys like me. Judging by looking at Zune, Microsoft is having difficulty, structurally speaking, understanding how to innovate, or even what it is for that matter.

Charles said...

What I look for in a "good manager":

Minimal ego: Someone who cares more about winning customers than winning points; cares more about taking market share than taking credit; cares more about team success than personal success... none of which is possible however if upper management is ego centric.

Jack of all trades (albeit master of at least one): Someone who can understand a wide range of technical, business, and personnel issues. Managers have to arbitrate disputes, they have to pick among competing recommendations, and it is critical to be able to uncover the merits of all recommendations, prioritize them against project goals, and choose the approach that achieves the greatest benefit with the least expense.

Leadership, not followership: They lead from in front rather than pushing from behind. Team success is most often keyed to the ability of the manager to facilitate their team, to run interference for them, to keep them focused on critical issues and to handle the nits themselves, to pick up the slack when someone stumbles, and earn respect and cooperation rather than simply expect it.

Delegation: Every team member should have the occasional and routine experience of standing-in for the manager, both to acquire management skills and perspective as well as offload the manager. This can be running meetings, preparing draft reports, plans, budgets, etc, and decision-making in the manager's absence. A good manager prepares their team for this, even to the point of having a designate who can step-in in the event of the manager's promotion, transfer or absence.

Mentor: Every employee has different strengths and weaknesses, and they need to be assigned the task for which they are best suited and yet nurtured to expand the scope of tasks for which they can become suited. Their successes need to be rewarded and their failures acknowledged honestly but accurately and with guidance to improve.

Multi-dimensional business sense: A desire to understand customers, budgets, costs, revenues, schedules, constraints and requirements and to understand that other orgs (sales, marketing, finance, legal, personnel, development and support) all have their job to do and depend on the manager "fitting in". A good manager can comprehend and even anticipate the business agenda of other orgs, and integrate into it.

Hiring: Translating the group's goals into experience, describing that experience, and then recognizing that experience when it walks through the door. Hiring people who are immediately productive to the current project, adaptable to other projects, and have a track record of delivering results, not excuses.

Organized: Every manager's style is different but every managers job is the same - acquire and direct resources onto assigned targets delivering results sufficent to gain customer acceptance at a profit, and do the co-requisite paperwork, planning, negotiating and herding. They may have messy desks and bad hair, but their communication is clear, concise, correct and current; their plans, budgets and status reports invariably have flaws, but the flaws are known, highlighted and accompanied with corrective action plans.

Track record: Experience that demonstrates progressive advancement in all the above.

Good managers tend to be like "Kims"; the invisible glue that holds everything together, focused and pulling the company along behind them. That's not to say good managers don't get the limelight, they do, they just aren't looking for it and tend to be a bit surprised when it finds them.

Anonymous said...

Who has a bigger impact on the company and employee morale? Managers [of ICs] or the executives who control company strategy and keep coming up with overly-synergized me-too product ideas (Zune, MSN Search, XBox, etc.)?

Only when the problem with the latter is corrected should we focus on the problem with the former. Who knows, once Microsoft starts making polished products that consumers get excited about, whatever problems there are with mid- to low-level managers may correct themselves.

Fred said...

"I've never seen a buttonless interface on anything except third-tier universal remotes"

here ya go (dated Feb 2003 and presented as a public image for all to see and use:

http://www.headstuf.com/headstuf/democellb.jpg
and here is an animation of the same thing (link bottom of page):
http://www.headstuf.com/downloads.htm

Who's your daddy baby?


You prove my point exactly. There is a crucial, vastdistinction between a blue-sky "product concept" (like the images you provide here) and an actual, shipping product. The distinction is so vast that there's an entire category sandwiched between "concept" and "shipping product"; namely "proof of concept" (wherein you demonstrate conclusively that your idea actually works: by making one (not, forgive me, a CGI animation but a functioning device).

If these distinctions did not exist, then all those posters who claim that the iPhone "is not innovative" would be correct.

But (as I argued in more than one "anonymous" post above) the distinction is crucial, for exactly the reasons most often discussed on Mini-Microsoft: The difference between a healthy tech company and a sick one is most clearly manifested in their clarity of vision regarding R+D of "blue-sky" projects through a rigorous pipeline and out the door as products, which requires vast amounts of business acumen that has nothing to do with the ability to make a .jpg of what "could" be built.

You don't judge an automaker by its convention "concept cars" -- you judge them by what they sell and maintain; what they put on the road. And phantom CGI products are even less ontologically valid than "concept cars."

Anonymous said...

Is it really that easy to return as a CSG after being fired? I saw someone recently that was "let go" based on some inappropriate email or web use(rumors). wtf??!? Crazy

Anonymous said...

What I look for in a "good manager":

Minimal ego: ... cares more about taking market share than taking credit; cares more about team success than personal success...


Harry Truman once said of Leadership "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."

A big, big problem with The Curve and the "compete against your teammates for promotions" is that Truman's leadership isn't fostered. Caring who gets the credit is, in Microsoft-speak, "super important." More important that what gets done.

Huh. Maybe that explains the problems.

Anonymous said...

What I look for in a "good manager":

Minimal ego:...


These are great ideals, but they are far, far above what I would expect for in a "good manager" here or anywhere. What you describe is a "hit it out of the ballpark" manager.

Like so many others here, I don't have anything close to a "good" manager, nevermind one who has a single one of the attributes that you describe in your post. Psycho manager might be a reasonable descriptor. Unpredictable? Contradictory? Punitive? Hot-and-cold? Yep, any of those would fit too. And many others...the list goes ever on. She's run out three great workers already (on a team of about six), and I'm itching to follow them. Then I guess I won't care anymore how she treats the souls who are left, or how she "manages" what was once a solid, useful product. (Guess I don't need to mention that it's not that anymore...)

So it goes. Sorry I can't be more positive, Mini. After I escape to a better place (cross fingers), I'll post again and praise whoever my new management is. They are BOUND to be better than this destructive dip.

Anonymous said...

JimAll's email

Harsh...

Anonymous said...

MS is just another big company.

These entities are primarily political fiefdoms run by amateur politicians. The real politicians go into the House or Senate - the amateurs go into large corporations.

Wherever you find the larger rewards in a company, you will find a higher degree of politics - these amateur politicians are all drawn to the areas of greatest reward. They build organizations made out of their cronies and focus on self-advancement and loyalty.

This is pretty much how it works, folks. High levels of rewards, minimal accountability and little risk (of losing one's job) drive these players into the ranks in the world's largest companies.

Sad but true. If you don't like it go to a startup or something. Or start climbing the ladder and figure out how to change it from the inside.

Anonymous said...

"Good managers tend to be like "Kims"; the invisible glue that holds everything together, focused and pulling the company along behind them. That's not to say good managers don't get the limelight, they do, they just aren't looking for it and tend to be a bit surprised when it finds them."

Oh, if it were only so! Thank you, Charles. You've given us the inside leaf. Now, how about the instruction manual?

Each of these attributes can be taught and expected by Microsoft to be present in all managers. Therein lies the problem: The Top.

Bill, Steve et. al. don't behave this way. How can the rest? No, it must start at the top.

Good Luck with that!

Anonymous said...

>> Harsh...

Someone wise said "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it". At least he's got the balls to admit it.

Most MSFTies have their heads firmly in the sand, though as far as non-MSFT products are concerned. They don't have any idea of what's going on out there on Mac and Linux platforms. And a heck of a lot is happening right about now.

This, Jim, is why Microsoft has lost its way. It's intellectual inbreeding in its purest form.

Let me adapt a joke to the situation at hand: I worked some gigs in the Northwest ... Redmond ... You talk about Darwin's waiting room. There are guys in Redmond who are their own father.

Initially he joke was about Alabama, but you get the gist.

Keeperplanet said...

Fred said: "There is a crucial, vast distinction between a blue-sky "product concept" (like the images you provide here) and an actual, shipping product."

Fred and everyone else: If you look back through the rest of my posts here, you will find a theme of trying to help Microsoft see a path through the woods.

I also said (about iPhone) "Building such a device is not the lesson here. The lesson is in a combination of product vision, significant attention to detail and a robust concinnous relationship of all the intellectual and physical parts to work together, to make it happen."

Apple most likely did a huge amount of work up front so their offshore vendors (who do such a great job at expanding the trade imbalance in the US) could manufacture a product as specified. Apple even distributes specs and lets different manufacturers quote delivery of the designed product.

Maybe I should try again. Here are the correct steps to developing a product. With project funding. Remember, the hardest part is getting the definition correct, because a slightly `off' product definition will magnify itself a thousand fold in production. Steps one and two may be more successful being performed in a special skunkworks facility designed to create such success stories.

1. Product definition involves divergent thinking and employing creative resources to explore and come up with an idea cloud around a general theme, such as `music player' or 'umpc'. Danger Will Robinson: Getting the vision right REQUIRES a product visionary (and a host of talented designers), just as playing a concerto REQUIRES a talented conductor (and a host of talented musicians). The difference being that the designers are creating content as they go along while the musicians are interpreting content.

2. Now that you have a pile of ideas, the sifting process begins. Funds are released to develop possibly successful ideas. More than one, so they can later be put up against each other in focus studies. Considerations need to be taken into account for serendipity to allow discovery all through the creative process as on discovery may morph into another better one or acquire three others to combine and make an even better product. The UMPC is something like that, which is what the iPhone will eventually be called. Its a little computer, a video player, a phone, a camera, etc. Danger Will Robinson: be careful here that you do not imitate Rube Goldberg. The Visionary needs helm control at all times to insure success and an unpolluted vision realization.

3. An idea is finally selected for functional build (proof of concept). This functional build (and sometimes two or three others) will be roughly engineered and produced for user evaluation, i.e., focus studies. First internally, and completely separately and not associated with the internal review an external review using real targeted market consumers should be carried out. The two results are combined and compared by the visionary always looking for several defining factors to indicate a winning product. In the MS product arena, this will include hardware and software interfacing and careful integration.

4. Ben Franklin said details are trifles, trifles make perfection and perfection is not trifle. You get the idea.

5. Product selected for preproduction build with your winning contract vendor. If it is a high volume consumer electronic product, you can assume massive contributions to America's trade imbalance.

6. Delivery is taken of the preproduction build and approved or modified for volume manufacturing, set to be in stores no later than Halloween. Boo.

7. Note, all of the above is how you create new, not copy as me too.

Keeperplanet said...

What I look for in a "product visionary":

Huge ego: cares more about taking market share and has no patience for sycophant bureaucrats who would suck the life out of someone with a natural talent for invention. Is very protective of his or her own vision and resulting invention as the world is filled with those who would claim everything you ever of value as their own.

Does not assume anything about anything and keeps current by spending a couple hours a day boning up on current technologies, net articles, blogs and component pricing trends. Has tremendous technical ability to walk the walk.

Someone who thinks Charles is frozen in the 20th century, and boring someone to death is not the same as leading someone to success.

Could care less about leadership or other non-sequetors to justify a phony claim on a phony right of passage as a manager.

Leeader and Mentor: Someone who knows talent when he or she sees it and is infinitely an encourager of acquisition of knowledge, curiosity, creativity. Is more than willing to let others of similar talent learn to shine. Someone who will empower those who understand the process and who are free of nasty leanings toward dishonest behavior.

Multi-dimensional business sense: i.e., knowledge and understanding that a million dollar a year bonus will cause a normal person to slit your throat, corportely politically speaking if they think you are in their way or are a threat to them. And, knowing full well how destructive this is to the process of invention.

Hiring: has only enough time to encourage the talented and reject the incompetent.

Organized: Recognizes that a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, so he or she will avoid externally obnoxious power freaks bent on making you something you are not. But is capable of organizing in his head a vision of what the end result should be and is able to diffuse those who would lead a program astray. Can visually watch machines work in his or her head (a required trait to keep focus on the vision).

Track record: will have been fired at least three times from previous positions and understands that to get anything done that is any good at all you have to be quite obnoxious to an anal fixated orks who wield an electric cattle prod.

Good visionaries tend to be loners who disrupt most normal sedated dying corporate environments, and naturally cause a rebirth and renewed direction to companies that are headed for the blocks.

Charles said...

These are great ideals, but they are far, far above what I would expect for in a "good manager" here or anywhere. What you describe is a "hit it out of the ballpark" manager.

Indeed, but the standard is not quite as lofty as you seem to imagine.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of talented, resourceful and hungry competitors out there. One of them will "hit it out of the park". Show me a company that targets second place and I'll show you a company destined for last place. "good managers" (like "Kims") are the ante to stay in the game. What I look for in a great manager, ie, executive material, is all that and much more.

When good managers, if not great managers, run the company, it is easy to be (and recruit) good managers in the middle and lower tiers. But as has often been noted, Microsoft senior management emulates Gates and Ballmer (not surprisingly) who themselves seem to have few clues about effectively running a company the size of Microsoft or developing products as complex as an OS or RDBMS, let alone turning it around.

Each of these attributes can be taught and expected by Microsoft to be present in all managers. Therein lies the problem: The Top. Bill, Steve et. al. don't behave this way. How can the rest? No, it must start at the top.

Yes these can be taught, even learned if the attitude is present, but a corporate culture conducive to being a good manager is a critical corequisite, including good role models and mentors "at the top". I would add that Microsoft does not have the luxury of "starting" at the top or fixing any one problem first. There are several company-breaking problems looming (IMO) that need fixing concurrently. It not a job that any of the senior team seem even cognizant, let alone suited.

Anonymous said...

I'm just a former 'longer-than-average-burnout-time' FTE, now just a trash badge, but paid more, and treated better. Yeah Lisa, I'm treated better, and I'm not force-fed the HR drivel and review charade.
I have a good manager. Scratch that; I have a manager who's a good leader. There's far too few of those, and far too many managers,bosses, bureaucrats, 'Kenny-Killers' and their ilk.
We're a small team in a division which has legions of PMs. We've shipped more in less than a yr than several related teams combined. Given the politics in our division, that is significant, because going to the restroom almost requires a committee consensus.
Why is he a good leader and efective manager?
It could be that he doesn't care for the 'Microsoft way' unless it actually produces something.
Maybe it's because he's not one of the inbred PMs who've never worked outside of our dysfunctional halls. He's 'new' to MS, but well experienced, and (gasp) actually qualified.
Maybe it's because he doesn't just accept the word of some bureaucrat in test that automation = real testing. Maybe it's just because he's a nice guy. Will he be assimilated and corrupted by the culture? I doubt it. He doesn't like KoolAid.

In nearly 10 yrs, I've had good 'leaders-not-managers' at MS. Except for one, they've all left MS. I've had the evil under-the-bridge troll mgr, who somehow manages to hang on to her job year after year. I've had the mgr that has not promoted a single person in 6 yrs. I've had the mgr who's well-known for people quitting MS under him. There was the manager who conducted his own witch hunt to find out who made what comment in his feedback review.
I've even had a manager who 'creatively filtered' test data before it went upstream. That last one was a meaningless project that got killed anyway.

I, and others, reported the above problems, repeatedly, to HR. Nothing happened. Surprise.

Why did I come back? I need a few more bucks of seed money before I start my own biz. We want to wait until the kids are out of school and (as they say they want) in uniform serving our country.

I actually feel like I can make a difference where I'm at now. I had lost that feeling at MS. Life as a trash-badge is great. C'mon, give it a try. You even get a great 100 day vacation out of the deal which allows you more time with your family. It's better than being a teacher; You make more, you don't have unions to dela with, and reviews are something you read about a movie.

Anonymous said...

@Keeperplanet

Dude, your process is how you produce groupthink. Apple doesn't even USE focus groups and user studies. Users don't KNOW what they want until they experience a heavy dose of RDF and peer pressure. They just build what they think is right and do it in such a way as to be proud with the end result.

This works.

Anonymous said...

First, let me start with comments directed at other posts:

"Be on time!"

AMEN! I also see too many meetings scheduled that don't have clear agendas. If you're scheduling a meeting and YOU don't know the reason we need a meeting, why should I attend?

"They can't fire you for providing feedback that aligns to company policy no matter how much they don't like what you're saying. "

You must be a new employee BizDog. The reality is they can fire you at any time for any reason. Try providing this sort of feedback to the VP for your group every month or so and let us all know how long you last.

"all MSFT cares about is internal MSFT. all MSFT cares about is internal MSFT. there is no sense of the real world or how the compnay is percieved by consumers. thats not going to change. its become a company about culture, not about marketplace reality. a shame, because most front liners really do care."

Uh...what blog are you reading? It's clear from the majority of these posts that internal MS does NOT care about the rest of MS. :)

BTW, if you're a front liner, then it's YOU that the customer interacts with on a daily basis. If customers have a bad opinion of MS, you share some of the blame.

"Is it really that easy to return as a CSG after being fired? I saw someone recently that was "let go" based on some inappropriate email or web use(rumors). wtf??!? Crazy"

That isn't supposed to happen. You should let your HR person know about it. If they don't fix it, find the HR person for the new group the CSG is in.


Now some of my own rants:

As much as I dislike the Zune (incredibly crappy software, and the project killed off a successful effort in PFS), I do give the team kudos. They got the record companies to unbunch their panties and allow people to share music (gasp!) LEGALLY. I do not understand why Zune gets reamed in the press for this feature, since it is an effort that has gone far beyond anything that Apple has done. The playback limits aren't ideal, but they are a good start. If we can turn down the suck a little on the next iteration, this could help them sell more music.

I also don't get the continued "DRM is evil, and MS is evil because it implements/supports/pushes DRM" rants. DRM is NOT evil. The vast majority of people seem to be ok with games and other software having copy protection restrictions. But it seems to be a much smaller group that accepts today's limits on music and movies. People want to play content that they "own" on any device, at any time. In order to do that, there HAS to be some form of DRM.

If you don't like the DMCA, talk to your congressman. Get some sort of "fair use" requirements implemented. When this happens, we'll all be able to rip DVD's to leave on our new Microsoft Home Servers. But we'll still have DRM.


To answer some of the original questions:
1) Identify good people - There's no good way to do this today. MSPoll generally only cares about your division leadership or your direct manager. So it's clear that Microsoft doesn't care what I think about my skip level manager or anyone above him. If the managers above your manager are complete morons who sacrificed the team to help themselves get ahead, there's no anonymous way to voice your complaints. MS Poll really has no use anymore. Nobody cares about the results. Managers aren't fired/promoted based on the numbers. It's time to retire this system.

2) skipped on purpose. When Steve figures out how to please shareholders, I'm sure he'll tell us all.

3) Waste - I just got a full color poster in my mailslot for some charity race. I, like many others, just tossed it in the trash. It would've been a much better idea to just give the money to the charity.

Most of these internal posters aren't needed. I wonder how much we spend on these things every year.

4) What new things are working/not working - It's easier to start with the negatives first. How many innovations are coming from MSR? They seem to do a great job of self-promotion (lots of interesting videos, a multi-day tech fest), but the fruits of their labor don't seem apparent in anything we do. I think that most of the MyMicrosoft effort has been a bust. Lots of effort into promoting what are mostly tiny changes that impact a minority of MS employees (like towels).

As for a good thing, I like Lisa's blog. It's generating some interesting internal discussion. But it doesn't look like she's going to do anything with this info. She's just letting us blow off some steam. She doesn't follow up on any of the posts and ask additional questions, and nobody is moderating to make sure the discussions are staying on track.

Charles said...

Keeperplanet vigorously defends "product visionaries" against an attack I did not make, paralleling my points for a "good manager" with his own counterpoints.

However, overlooked in Keeperplanet's parallel presumptions is that (except in Development and sometimes Marketing roles) "Product Visionaries" tend to be useless in Sales, Distribution, Manufacturing, Finance, Legal, Support, etc., whereas "good managers" (about whose attributes I opined) are still needed across the board.

But even in Development it is not unusual for "Product Visionaries" to suffer from tunnel vision; that valuable focus they have on technology and its application, translates to myopia when discussing responsibilities in which they are less interested. Keeperplanet illustrates this himself:

Good visionaries tend to be loners who disrupt most normal sedated dying corporate environments, and naturally cause a rebirth and renewed direction to companies that are headed for the blocks.

and earlier:

Maybe I should try again. Here are the correct steps to developing a product. With project funding. Remember, the hardest part is getting the definition correct, because a slightly `off' product definition will magnify itself a thousand fold in production. Steps one and two may be more successful being performed in a special skunkworks facility designed to create such success stories.

There are indeed good reasons for skunkworks; for providing a padded-cell environment in which bright loners can otherwise productively function without the distractions and demands of the mundane real world, for providing the funding they couldn't generate themselves, and shoving product requirements under the door to them.

Recognizing the special needs of genuine product visionaries is what good managers do; facilitating and protecting their skunkworks is what good managers do; executing on their product design across the company is what good managers do; giving them credit and space to vent is what good managers do; even firing clueless wannabes is what good managers do.

Track record: will have been fired at least three times from previous positions and understands that to get anything done that is any good at all you have to be quite obnoxious to an anal fixated orks who wield an electric cattle prod.

Being fired at least three times is *not* a laudable quality, for anyone. Rage against the machine all you like, but being fired, repetitively, at best bespeaks an inability to evaluate compatible employment, inability or refusal to take responsibility and change to more suitable employment, obstinately delaying the inevitable and forcing others to terminate. At worst it indicates incompetance. But in no case does it indicate "product vision". Anyone who repeats the same mistakes (whatever those mistakes are) is obviously not learning from them and demonstrates little potential to avoid those mistakes again.

A career including multiple terminations for being a "product visionary" suggests yet another repetitive failure will ensue were they to be hired into similar environments.

It matters not one wit how brilliant or visionary someone is, if either:
a) they are too eratic themselves to effectively convey their vision to others; or
b) the companies in which they work lack "good management" to listen or execute on their vision.

If one lacks the vision to anticipate the reaction of people with whom one works, one lacks the vision to likewise anticpate the reaction of people to whom one sells the product.

Anonymous said...

Life as a trash-badge is great. C'mon, give it a try. You even get a great 100 day vacation out of the deal which allows you more time with your family. It's better than being a teacher; You make more, you don't have unions to dela with, and reviews are something you read about a movie.

I'd love to. I assume your spouse has medical benefits that continue while you're on your 100-day holiday. Can I join your family when I'm on mine? Otherwise, my kids and I won't have any (I don't have a spouse to fall back on). Guess I could get Cobra for every break in service but - hmm - that'd get just a tad bit pricey. Could eat into all that moolah pretty significantly.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft I know where it's CUSTOMARY for the CEO to YELL at his subordinates in ALMOST ALL meetings - and it almost becomes a badge of honor to have survived it.

Mind you, the subordinates who attend these meetings are MANAGERS of departments - who in turn, leave the meeting, carry the baggage, then either directly or indirectly pass on the stress to people below them.

Microsoft is the only company I know where RE-ORGS HAPPEN EVERY 3-6 MONTHS. It's like a constant state of shifting identities and shifting visions. Managers and people get displaced, transitioned on, etc. and THINGS FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS.

Is it any wonder that this company - unlike other companies like GE and others - breeds fewer good managers than its reputation asks for?

Where else do you find an abundance of managers who write "cover my pass" or "cover your ass" emails, reviews, memos, etc. just so when the axe comes down, their heads get spared?

Anonymous said...

"I also don't get the continued "DRM is evil, and MS is evil because it implements/supports/pushes DRM" rants."

I don't know about evil. Stupid maybe. I have about 225 DVD movies purchased legally and legitimate. The only ones I can play on an MS Home wide screen notebook are the older ones that do not have the newer copy protection schemes. This is the case for all my MS home operating system machines. I have never copied a dvd movie ever, or ripped one or whatever.

You are living in an insulated place where if you had anything at all to do with Microsoft's current DRM scheme, I would recommend you be fired immediately for such an idiotic and uninformed viewpoint.

Customer.

Keeperplanet said...

"Dude, your process is how you produce groupthink."

Yeah, maybe, at least for Microsoft, which suffers from a much more severe problem of confusing managers with visionaries and letting managers implement their own lame vision. But in order to ween Microsoft off of its self destructive crack habit of letting the mundane rule, you have to start somewhere. Just read Charles' response below if you don't believe me.

The format provided was intended to show a methodology that could be adopted by such a top heavy organization with immediate results.

So tell me more about the Apple system. Are you saying Jobs is the only visionary and all the rest are minions of implementation? Understanding that others outside Apple created just about every technology they have adopted is an indication to me that Apple has a mechanism for finding and quickly adopting good ideas even if they did not think of them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote: "How many innovations are coming from MSR? They seem to do a great job of self-promotion (lots of interesting videos, a multi-day tech fest), but the fruits of their labor don't seem apparent in anything we do."

My answer:
There is not a single product in the company which does not have MSR contribution. Since the same anonymous praised Zune, a good example is the Zune itself. A Zune type device was demoed the last tech-fest, even before J. Allard and his team was given the mandate to create one. If MSR was involved in the self promotion then you would have known MSR contribution in every product. MSR works hard to communicate the technology to the right product groups. It takes more than three months to prepare for tech-fest. The reason is to find partnership and not beat the drums. One outcome of this hardwork is Zune. Zune is good in concept but not yet equally good in implementation. So the MSR part is right on spot. Eventually, even though the product group part is hard to achieve, product group would get its implementation right too.

Anonymous said...

Mini,
Great topic!
Work space dignity and work life balance seem like politically correct terms. Unfortunately this is not how most people who want to and know they can get what they want. Freakin politics can kill anyone anywhere if those above the process don't/doesn't listen to their customers.
There was a recent article on Vista developement that included 50 families as testers. This must be an actual first or first admission of "what the user wants" in Windows. Will these testers be included in advertising for Vista? If not your ad company sucks big time!
Tested Office Live from the basic beginning with an Essentials account and am damn happy so far that my subscription has not been "transfered" to Premium so far. Do you guy's read any of these posts by users?
http://officelivecommunity.com/default.aspx
At least I still have access to my domain... albeit without the features of v 1.5. Major malfunction here for the majority of users.
Great product offering but want to use this to actually SELL products/services (without using Ebay)when I go to a opportunity/job site then update my MS accounting software Amazing that this was not included from day 1. You guys could be making so much money with for yourselves or your shareholders its amazing that this was not included from day 1...

Anonymous said...

You are living in an insulated place where if you had anything at all to do with Microsoft's current DRM scheme, I would recommend you be fired immediately for such an idiotic and uninformed viewpoint.

The objective fact remains that it is the studios that have demanded the inclusion of DRM to allow the use of their media, not Microsoft. Like the digital TV providers and consumer electronics manufacturers, MS is in no position to defy their will and there is nothing to be gained by it even if we did.

You can blame MS all you want but it just makes you look silly.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:
I also don't get the continued "DRM is evil, and MS is evil because it implements/supports/pushes DRM" rants. DRM is NOT evil. The vast majority of people seem to be ok with games and other software having copy protection restrictions. But it seems to be a much smaller group that accepts today's limits on music and movies. People want to play content that they "own" on any device, at any time. In order to do that, there HAS to be some form of DRM.


Um, yeah, this is why I have a dozen software packages that I can't use anymore. My CD and the %$(%@*(#$% product key have gotten separated from each other.

This is why I have a couple songs that I purchased from a Microsoft endorsed online site that I can't use ANYWHERE!

Bean counters try to optimize for profit, but from what I can tell they often ignore variables like customer satisfaction that are harder to quantify and make more difference than anything else.

I just want it to work. I can always rip a cd and put it on a MP3 player. I can't buy DRMed audio and take it between my computers at work, my home computers, my MP3 player, and my stereo without a lot of pain.

In the end, DRM still doesn't work. There is always the analog hole, the space between the headphones and my ears, where I can stick a recorder.

Even if it worked right, the whole point of DRM is to limit what I can do, which makes it harder to do the things I am legally allowed to do and want to do. If it isn't absolutely transparent and reliable, DRM might as well be betamax.

I clench my fists every time I mis-type a product key, every time I can't find a product key, and every time I paid money for something that doesn't work.

...so where do I go to get my money back for that DRMed music that won't play on Windows Media Player?

So many Microsofties are so arrogent, so clueless about the real world, and so lacking customer empathy that I hate using your products...and I used to work with y'all.

Anonymous said...

Office Live - Hmm ,from a users standpoint it's not alive. It's O "Live" (officeStein). You may want to take a look at what I mean here: http://artotems.com/officestein.aspx

A previous comment discussed the poor sad folks on the boards begging for help. Yes, it's true and it's sad. And no one is there to help. Why?
Office Live is a loud exclamation from MS that something is seriously going wrong with the company. It's a complete and utter mess. It had the potential to be incredible and that potenital may be lost at this point as far as the majority of current users are concerned. It makes no sense to put out something as flawed as Office Live and then top it off with no support and absolutely no sign of concern for users.
This is a text book example of bad business.

Anonymous said...

"You are living in an insulated place where if you had anything at all to do with Microsoft's current DRM scheme, I would recommend you be fired immediately for such an idiotic and uninformed viewpoint."

I wrote the earlier comments on DRM.

No, I didn't have anything to do with our implementation. But unless you're using Vista, your complaint seems to be more with the people who provided your DVD decoder or the content providers (and AFAIK, NONE of the DVD's you can purchase today use any MS DRM). Nothing in your post leads me to believe that DRM or the MS implementation of it is to blame.

"There is not a single product in the company which does not have MSR contribution."

I can't tell if this is supposed to be a positive or a negative.

"Um, yeah, this is why I have a dozen software packages that I can't use anymore. My CD and the %$(%@*(#$% product key have gotten separated from each other."

User error. Post it notes are cheap. Write the key on one, put it inside the CD case/sleve, then put a few rubber bands around it to make sure it doesn't fall out. This isn't rocket science. :)

Figure out a better anti-piracy scheme and you can license it to the software industry for millions of dollars. The vast majority of users do NOT have problems with this.

"This is why I have a couple songs that I purchased from a Microsoft endorsed online site that I can't use ANYWHERE!"

My understanding from the MSN Music email I got was that there was a solution to this, but I think you had to respond within a certain time frame (IIRC, the mail gave you a head's up about 60 days before that happened). Is this incorrect? Have you sent email to the MSN Music/Zune support folks to get an answer to this? I don't think they'd leave you completely twisting in the wind on this.

"Bean counters try to optimize for profit, but from what I can tell they often ignore variables like customer satisfaction that are harder to quantify and make more difference than anything else."

Yep, completely agree. I hate bean counters too.

"So many Microsofties are so arrogent, so clueless about the real world, and so lacking customer empathy that I hate using your products...and I used to work with y'all. "

Since I wrote the DRM comments, I assume that's directed at me. It's not me being arrogant. We all have family members that we have to support, so we understand some of the big pain points for users. DRM is a problem area, but there's also some user education that has to happen. The recording industry hasn't done a good job, and neither has the software industry. Very few end users take the time to get even a basic understanding of how DRM impacts them. So there's plenty of blame to go around here.

Anonymous said...

"MS is in no position to defy their will and there is nothing to be gained by it even if we did.

You can blame MS all you want but it just makes you look silly."

Why not defy their will? Microsoft is trying to justify selling software that does not perform as advertised and therefore your EULA is invalid by a failure to provide reasonable use of a purchased product. Movies are a part of that expectation. What looks silly is the insane failure to take responsibility for media playing products by everybody--the RIAA, MPAA, studios, computer manufacturers and yes Microsoft.

So far however I have not had these problems with Mac Products.

Your customers generally do not have the funds to challenge the legality and validity of the Millennium Copyright Act and interpretations by MPAA and RIAA which have led to losses to your company due to unrealistic restriction.

In addition to that Microsoft is really doing its customers a disservice by placing blame on its inability to provide software that plays ALL music and movies first time every time without glitch, delay or irritation to its customers. Your customers could care less about these whining excuses. Anything else is perceived by customers as harassment and attempts to force more expenditures or purchase of additional devices or additional software to make something function that should already work.

Anonymous said...

>> confusing managers with visionaries and letting managers implement their own lame vision

That I agree with. I also don't understand why groups hire PMs and then give them feature areas to spec irrespective of their expertise in these areas. It's like someone hired a guy from the street and gave him a trailer truck to drive - it's a disaster waiting to happen. Or worse yet, PMs who have previously screwed up things in previous products get the same things to screw up again. Product groups are lucky if their Devs are experts in the area (which they quite often are, since hiring is more stringent for devs WRT their previous experience).

Anonymous said...

>> This is a text book example of bad business.

This is an example of the product rushed out the door to meet arbitrary deadlines.

Another such product is Vista. You'll hear about that shortly.

Anonymous said...

I left MS 9 months ago. I came back to read Mini and the problems at MS are just as bad as they were. As someone said, "life is too short". It'll take years and dramatic changes to fix the company. My suggestion is to go work for Apple, or Google, or simply start your company. It's really better out there. To the person who said:

"I'd like to comment that some people don't have the flexibility to leave a job and take a position at a startup or start over at another company that might have the same issues. Some of us have families and other responsibilities that are far more important."

These are just excuses and you know it! You just need to face your fear. Will your families be taken care of if you find a job at Apple/Google? Even if you're waiting for your green card, you'll have no problems getting one at apple/google. It might take longer but you'll be well compensated for financially and you'll definitely enjoy your work more.

ex-microsoldier said...

I think that the people developing Zune did not do their market research. My example backing this assertion is from the Penny Arcade site, a local webcomic + blogger, included in the Top Ten most influential gamers of 2006 by MTV Online. In other words, a well known member of the Zune's target demographic.

"The two times I had an opportunity to share files were interesting - once on the floor itself, and once in the plane on the way back. In both cases, my offer was rebuffed. This actually feels terrible when it happens, because you're trying to show someone something that is important to you and they don't care. But let's be clear: when someone is listening to music, that's private. They are actively eschewing the outside world, and here you are - with some song they've never heard of - interrupting their lives. Let me also state that your music stops when doing this - even for someone that buys into the device philosophically, I mean... Jesus Christ, guys.

The iPhone has the hardware to make file sharing possible, though I doubt their arrangements with license holders allow for it. Even so, I doubt they would investigate this. My experience argues aggressively against it."
(http://www.penny-arcade.com/)

In other words, the guys at the top who can write 300 million dollar checks aren't doing real market research + consumer choice testing before commiting huge chunks of money.

I assume that somewhere there was an employee who knows consumers who wanted to say - "Song squirting is a stupid idea" who was smacked down for being a naysayer, or even worse, someone who knew this was a bad idea that was smart enough not to tell his boss's boss this was a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Vista Ship-It Gift SUCKS!

One of the lousiest gift I have ever seen. A plain black 5$ fleece jacket with not even a single color streak on it! Its almost an insult. This is the appreciation they show for the effort we did over all these years. What a shame. They spend millions of dollars on arrangements and parties at CES and it goes waste and they are stingy in spending 100$ for the employee who slogged hours, put up with all the unpredictablity, extended move out date, passionately pursued so that Vista ships high quality and they reward it with a 5$ stupid fleece! I wonder who approved it. No wonder everybody is either leaving Vista or Microsoft in general.

Anonymous said...

Why not defy their will?

Well, in the case of video, it's part of the licensing agreement for implementation of the CSS and AACS standards used to encode DVD and HD-DVD/Bluray discs.

The AACS interim license agreeement at least is public; you're more than welcome to wade through the legalese to confirm it: http://www.aacsla.com/support/

Microsoft is trying to justify selling software that does not perform as advertised and therefore your EULA is invalid by a failure to provide reasonable use of a purchased product.

All I can say is that I'd advise consulting an attorney before attempting to advance that argument in a court. Good luck.

So far however I have not had these problems with Mac Products.

Apple has pretty generous terms on their DRM, for which I applaud them. However if you read this article from Businessweek, it may not last forever. The studios hold all the cards in this game and it's not at all clear that Apple would be willing to risk having iTunes shut out from new releases.

In addition to that Microsoft is really doing its customers a disservice by placing blame on its inability to provide software that plays ALL music and movies first time every time without glitch, delay or irritation to its customers.

The indisputable fact still remains that it is the various studio require DRM before they will allow their content to be released, not MS. Most reasonable people will understand where the responsiblity lies once this is explained to them.

Anonymous said...

User error. Post it notes are cheap. Write the key on one, put it inside the CD case/sleve, then put a few rubber bands around it to make sure it doesn't fall out. This isn't rocket science. :)

and

...but there's also some user education that has to happen...

You. Don't. Get. It.

At all.

Users don't want to be educated. Users don't want to write 26 letter sequences on a post-it note so they can use the stuff they paid for. Users don't want to jump through hoops to prove, to their own computer or music player or T-freakin-V that they paid for the stuff they want to use. It is what's technically known as a sucky experience.

And you say "tough, they'll have to learn to live with it if they want to use our stuff."

To which the user (also known as the paying customer) says "no thanks" as soon as they have an alternative.

You can't foist bad experiences onto users forever or they will vote with their wallets for something else first chance they get.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I been hearing alot of great things about MS and bad things from MS, I guess I want to add another bad thing. Hey, what happened to that GREAT product ORIGAMI? It was hyped and touted as the next big thing in mobile/wireless communication. Its been less then a year and boom its off the map.

And then the ZUNE. The ZUNE is what the IPOD was 10 years ago. Hey I bet all of you are thinking the IPOD was not around 10 years ago. That is my point exactly. The non-existent IPOD was better then ZUNE. Its big to-do is that it has WI-FI, big freaking deal. Have you guys seen the new IPhone? Now, people are thinking, no one is going to pay $500 for a phone. Maybe true. But look at the Treo or Blackberry, when they first came out they were pretty expensive too. And plus, I would think that S. Jobs is smart enough to pack some of the features on the IPhone into the next IPOD.

Now, I bet all you guys are thinking I am just another one of those MAC dorks but I am not. I been using PCs all my life. But now I am going to switch once the new MAC OS is out. I am just tired of using products from Redmond that just doesn't work. The products have all these bells and whistles but no one cares about it. People just want things that make life easier and works. Of course, now everyone is probably thinking well this guy is not really a computer guy or tech head and yes you would be right is saying that. And that is my point exactly, most people are NOT tech heads. We will use the simple features (10%) in Word and Excel for our jobs and use the pc at home to surf the net. Download music. Maybe make X-mas cards. Simple stuff. Why do we need Office 2007 or Vista. And same thing with corporate america, everything is about cutting cost. How many companies are really going spend the money to upgrade to a "iffy" product when XP works just fine for them.

Anonymous said...

RE: "I'd like to comment that some people don't have the flexibility to leave a job and take a position at a startup or start over at another company that might have the same issues. Some of us have families and other responsibilities that are far more important."

I can say from several personal experiences that to stay in a job you hate costs much more than working in a job you love. The costs not only come out of your checkbook but from your very soul. Leaning on the "I have to support my family" crutch is just an excuse to avoid the change. But what good are you to your family if you are never home and when you are, you are never happy? That's no life for you or your family.

If you want to go and do a startup, if that's what will get your blood moving, you actually owe it to yourself AND to your family to go for it. You might have to give up on the Pro-club and trade the Range Rover for Jeep Liberty but, trust me, you won't miss them becuase you'll be so caught up in your new job and your new life.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, maybe, at least for Microsoft, which suffers from a much more severe problem of confusing managers with visionaries and letting managers implement their own lame vision.

Well said.

I can think this instant of a visionary (one that I admit that I haven't exactly always gotten along with) that pushed very hard in an environment under a VP whose patience and attention span rival those of a toddler. The result? Product shipped, didn't make $100,000,000 in first year, visionary slapped around a bit, VP now guiding the boat himself. Each day, the boat changes course. His GMs are following loyally, but seem to be in a fog of confusion, unsure where they are, how they got there, and how anything is supposed to work. The entire division? Grab 5 ICs at random. Ask what the division is doing now. I promise you'll either get five different answers or mere shrugs. Anyone with any vision has no incentive to present it. The VP has no taste for anything that even rhymes with 'risk'.

How many divisions do you think this applies to? (Hint: More than one.)

Anonymous said...

Regarding lost product keys and user education: The Microsoft poster is way off base saying that legitimate (maybe common?) user problems are "user error".

Our job at Microsoft is/should be to find innovative solutions to solve these types of problems. The "digital locker" functionality built into Vista is one example of a much better solution: Safe online purchases tied to a passport / hotmail account, with product keys and installers stored for you on a Microsoft web service.

Doing cursory testing myself, I found it quite easy to reinstall software I'd bought on another machine knowing just my hotmail login info.

The Microsoft poster who says DRM stuff is foisted on MS by content providers is spot-on. But, we're not completely powerless as a company (far from it). We should be putting pressure and demonstrating innovative and consumer-friendly alternatives to the content creators. I do think that companies like Apple put more pressure on studios than us. I bet studios get very scared when the 800 lb gorilla tells them they need to let us sell their music and movies online with lenient licensing. Apple can (or at least could) get away with that a bit more easily.

Not sure if we're doing this enough now to try and make DRM more consumer friendly or not. One example of a "win-win" possibility is subscription and rental services: DRM is much less odious for a $15/month all the music you want plan, and $4 movie rental, than it is for purchased music or movies. Subscription and rental are also better for "acceptable" DRM because they have much less "lock-in" to a specific device or technology provider than a collection of DRM'd purchased content that is useless if you want to switch technologies.

Anonymous said...

You. Don't. Get. It.

AMEN!!!!!

I too was struck by the total arrogance of the poster who basically said MS will do whatever it wants, if the users can't keep up too bad.

"You can have it in any color you want, so long as that's black."

I was reading through some MSDN forums, with lots of MS people posting, the other day. They were talking about the stuff they were going to pack into a particular product release (I won't say more since I am working with a team to offer a simpler, easier-to-use alternative). It was mind-boggling; I walked away thinking these guys have lost all perspective of the real world. Kitchen sink++ and be damned to you if you can't handle the alphabet soup of acronyms, and uber-release vNext (incompatible, BTW) that makes current release a waste of time due in... three months. OK, Vista-style, probably 2009.

Keep it up MS... the old axiom that once MS entered a market, however late, the other players were in serious trouble is no longer true. As a working-towards-being-a competitor, thank you!

Oh, that reminds me: take people like Mr. Bach (I think it was he), who came out the day iPhone was demoed to say it was doomed to fail etc. sour grapes bla bla bla, and please promote them and pay them very well, and make sure they keep using the word "super" in every sentence. As a competitor, I appreciate it - thank you! Heh heh.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous at Monday, January 15, 2007 9:46:05 PM

You responded to me with "You. Don't. Get. It." But you weren't paying attention to my post.

You complained about the "dozen software packages" that YOU couldn't use because YOU lost the key. That's not a fundamental DRM problem, that's just user error. If you lose the keys to your house, your car or your safety deposit box, you can't use it until you follow the correct steps to get the keys replaced. As far as first time use, think about what you need to do to activate a new credit card. It's the same concept.

So I offered you a solution to your problem. You're painting this as a huge problem, but it's not. Typing in a 26 character code ONE TIME per PC is hardly an incredible burden on a user. It's not the best user experience ever, but since it's one that the vast majority of users will hit only one time, it's not at the top of the list for getting a major tweak.

Oh, and by the way, the experience for Vista IS somewhat improved in this area. You don't need to provide your key at install time (so if you had a hardware crash and kept an electronic post-it note on a hard drive, you'll be able to reinstall without the key). You may also be interested in the Key Management Service available for some versions of Vista (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/plan/faq.mspx).

Would you prefer a solution that involved a physical key, like many high-end software programs do? Would you give up one or more USB ports for this? If not, what sort of a solution would you propose?

As far as the "user education is needed", that comment is about DRM related to music and movie content and NOT about losing your product key.

I completely agree with you that users do not want to be educated. They want everything to work perfectly all the time. I don't know what planet these people live on, but it's simply not realistic. That's not just for PC's, but for ANYTHING. You wouldn't expect to be able to drive a car or operate your digital alarm clock without some sort of instruction. Why do people expect PC's to be the same way?

Yes, I am saying there are uninformed users out there. There's nothing wrong with knowing your audience.

I agree that some of the full experiences related to DRM are sucky. But this is not something that Microsoft has total control over. Apple has slightly more control over this because they produce both the hardware and the software. But they also don't control the licensing of someone else's products (like DVD's or CD's).

Can the DRM-related experiences that Microsoft DOES have control over be better? I'm sure there's room for improvement in many of the scenarios. One big problem is that when a user DOES hit an error, we give them some random string of numbers and expect that to mean something to them.

But I did NOT say "tough, they'll have to learn to live with it if they want to use our stuff".

Another comment from your post: "You can't foist bad experiences onto users forever or they will vote with their wallets for something else first chance they get"

I would definitely encourage people to vote with their wallets in all areas. Get crappy service at a restaurant? Don't go back. CSR for your wireless company gives you the runaround? Change when your contract is up. If the included basic apps don't provide what you need, get a more full-featured app. If you are really just completely fed up with Windows, go purchase something else. But make sure you know who to blame here. Microsoft generally gets all of the blame for any problem related to PC's. The reality is that there's plenty of non-Microsoft software on your PC too. Not every bug is Microsoft's fault.

Anonymous said...

Mini,
Thanks for including my comments. Noticed that reading thru all the posts that the infighting/negativity is still the majority here. Damn shame!!! Seems that there are no real managers there who have the balls to say "if your good enough" apply to my team, or the opportunity is not there. This is the real shame.
Politics is best left to governments that in some places can be voted out.
Business is business and the sooner you people learn that the more money you'll make. It's a very simple concept out here in the real world.
Back to the Office Live "stuff". Lamentations of support by users being charged for a service with no resolution in sight is another matter. As well, apparently/currently there is no way to cancel this service charge to the cc account required by you to sign up for a free beta test.
Noticed that there was no "were working on a solution" or no general managerial comment that would point to a solution being worked on. Not even the slightest positive comment.
Oh well, we will keep working on it in our spare time while you'all do it for a living...

Customer

Anonymous said...

>Users don't want to be educated. Users don't want to write 26 letter sequences on a post-it note so they can use the stuff they paid for. Users don't want to jump through hoops to prove, to their own computer or music player or T-freakin-V that they paid for the stuff they want to use. It is what's technically known as a sucky experience.

Yeah, just like having to show your ticket to get into a theater or keeping track of receipts for your tax return. Gosh, what sucky experiences. However do people manage to cope with the monumental task of keeping track of one slip of paper? It's sooooo unfair.

Or maybe people don't get it because there's nothing there to get.

Anonymous said...

""Why not defy their will?"

Well, in the case of video, it's part of the licensing agreement"

To quote Matt Damon's character in Ocean's Eleven: "Well Duh"

That does not change the fact that Microsoft has denied use of media content I purchased for the purpose of viewing on my notebook. It is still failure to provide reasonable use of a purchased product. The way that usually works is your customers sue you, you sue the MPAA et al., to recover losses. Unless MS steps up to the plate and starts serving its customers again.

You attorneys are so transparent. Of course the AACS license would prohibit my viewing products purchased to view on my notebook. I am sure when they feel they can get away with it, we will pay Microsoft and the studios every time we wish to view a film and the old days of dvd's to buy and view as many times as we like will disappear.

Obviously Microsoft has elected from day one to not support its customers in fighting these unrealistic restrictions on media use. I am sure your customers will be flocking to buy your products in droves. Good luck with that. As for me, I won't be buying any MS products until it becomes a customer driven company again.

Anonymous said...

Re: Vista Ship-It Gift SUCKS!

How about the ship-it plaque? Traditionally, you get a piece of engraved metal that has the product name and ship date. The Vista one is a piece of metal with a clear sticker on it. Several people removed the clear sticker, thinking it was just a protective covering as in the past, and ended up with a blank piece of metal. I guess bringing back towel service meant that cuts had to be made elsewhere.

Who da'Punk said...

Reality check for commenters: folks who want to use the comments as a place to just dump on Microsoft / Microsofties need to indulge their writing passion elsewhere.

And there are plenty of welcoming places for that.

E.g., saying something sucks or is doomed or that I need deprogramming does not leave much room for a productive engagement or enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

If you are really just completely fed up with Windows, go purchase something else.

Except, a large majority of people fed up with Windows *can't* purchase something else; they're using the hardware/software mandated by their employer. The home user is *not* the only use fed up with these crappy experiences. Plenty of people who use computers every day at work are.

And it's usually not just a one-time deal with the install/key. I know people who have to reformat their hard drives and re-install everything twice a year, because it just gets so corrupted/whacked out.

Someone mentioned needing a manual for digital clocks, and how we just have to "live with" technology being so arcane. I question WHY do we have to live with it? Why shouldn't the makers of software/hardware/applicances make it as easy as possible? Why should everything be a struggle?

Someone mentioned driving a car being difficult; yes, and every year, the design improves to make things easier. Think about this--most people don't buy manual transmission cars because they want the easiest use experience--they get automatic transmissions. This pressure for ease of use means that the newly redesigned Ford Thunderbird did not even have a single model that had a manual transmission (sucks for those who like to drive a manual tranny, but lovely if you didn't).

We have so much to do in our daily lives, and so little time. I am loathe to spend extra time on anything, and do get upset when I have to waste precious time figuring out something that should have been made easier from the start. Computers are no longer just for geeks who like to spend hours tinkering and dealing with this stuff; the vast majority of computer users view it as an appliance, and want to just use it and go on with their lives, rather than devote even more time to it.

To tie this to the theme of the original post--good managers will recognize these facts (users just want to get on with their lives, not devote themselves to learning the computer's arcane ways). They will work to see that this vision is implemented. Bad managers just want the coolness factor, because they're of the opinion that everyone is like them and wants these hard-to-use experiences.

Arnold Ziffel said...

My car keys and house keys exist for MY convenience--to control access and use of things I own.

MS's and other software manufacturers' keys exist to exert control over products they've sold to me. They don't exist for MY convenience.

Imagine what our lives would be like if we had to use keys to make coffee in our coffee makers, to use dishwashers, air conditioners, heaters, hair dryers, and the like. Sounds like Big Brother-ville to me!

Keeperplanet said...

First, my deep apologies for the too-long did'nt-read post below, but it kind of is an integration of many of the topics of this thread and I think important to discuss.

I have to give Kudos to Mini for fostering a real debate for Microsoft to consider. To me, all these issues are interrelated, i.e., DRM, visionary vs manager, success vs failure etc. My earlier comments about vision were referring to hardware and designed products, but several of the Redmond posters have indicated it applies corporate wide because the software experience requires astute vision just as much as the hardware experience. I picked the following four quotes (comments added after each) from different posters over the last ten or so posts on Mini:

1. "Can the DRM-related experiences that Microsoft DOES have control over be better?"

I think what your customers are saying is Microsoft should exercise visionary influence over that which it does not have control because Microsoft is in the center, being the host control of the intellectual property usage experience. Think of it as a task to implement the following spec:
'All customers of Microsoft will be able to use any media they have, whether from Apple, Walmart or the Zune store or any physical DVD etc. without the current obvious built in glitching that causes DVDs or CDs to not work or to work erratically in computers.'

How would you get there from here? Management first has to decide if it wants to embrace that vision. If not, your customers will go elsewhere. Have you asked them?

Other Microsoft choices like buying an XBOX or not playing DVDs on a computer or downloading limited use media over the internet won't work for everybody because the majority of your customers do not want those choices.

Clearly, resolution is going to require cooperative instead of competitive interaction between the studios, MPAA, RIAA, Linux authors and computer manufacturers to come up with a customer desired solution. It would be better for everybody but it would require significant conversation and negotiation with all of the parties involved, especially the copyright owners. This would probably be in the form of a mutual neutral regulating body formed from the industry players with the primary directive in it's charter to be to give the customer a seamless positive experience to media used on computing devices.

The fact is, no one involved has asked the customers what they want or at least listened to and embraced their responses. It is pretty obvious they do not want what is being offered. Standards regulatory bodies are not anything new, just something that has worked very well until everybody started getting greedy.

I am talking about a standards governing body. If this is not done, havoc will continue and so will media sales continue to drop and the providers will continue to be looked at as 'evil' by their customers. Choices like allofmp3.com and emusic.com will continue to gain advantage and the industry will be left with their unrealistic TOS and EULAs that nobody will accept. Microsoft customers do not accept being stripped of access and use of the entertainment media. In addition to their vote with their wallets, they also have some cultural and corporate claim to the content just for being part of the culture that is the source of the content. This 'mutual ownership doctrine' cannot be ignored and at the very least implies reasonable access to the content. The intellectual property owners need to understand they do not hold all the cards in this matter.

2. "Not sure if we're doing this enough now to try and make DRM more consumer friendly or not. One example of a "win-win" possibility is subscription and rental services: DRM is much less odious for a $15/month all the music you want plan, and $4 movie rental, . . "

The subscription model has already demonstrated failure because customers have figured out that it is just a ploy to get them to buy temporary use of the media. This is where you really need to use focus evaluation or common sense to understand that your customers want.

The idea of downloading all media is a long way away, as there are still hundreds of millions of customers who cannot afford it or do not have this option available, nor would they want it in the first place if it was available. The DVD buying customer base will not give up their preference to purchase a disk and play it as many times as they want.

3. "The "digital locker" functionality built into Vista is one example of a much better solution: Safe online purchases tied to a passport / hotmail account, with product keys and installers stored for you on a Microsoft web service."

Has anyone really asked your customers if this is what they want from Microsoft? Personally, I do not want to use hotmail or passport, both of which I consider too cumbersome and too intertwining with my OS supplier. If forced to go this route, I would just switch OS manufacturers and dump MS altogether. There are dozens of other more reasonable integrated solutions that Microsoft has not yet explored or has not been willing to invest R&D in.

4. "Grab 5 ICs at random. Ask what the division is doing now. I promise you'll either get five different answers or mere shrugs."

Just another indication of a ship without a rudder. Lack of vision or visionaries to steer the ship. If you were to ask your customers, you would find out that the lack of customer driven direction has really stifled their (your customers) wlingness to purchase more Microsoft products.

Anonymous said...

"That does not change the fact that Microsoft has denied use of media content I purchased for the purpose of viewing on my notebook. It is still failure to provide reasonable use of a purchased product."

It's a big leap from "I can't get my DVD's to play" to "Microsoft has denied my use" (and since you mention AACS, I assume you're only talking about DVD's here). That's quite an accusation, which I assume you will back up with proof very soon.

Anonymous said...

Mini, you may not post this, but I think this speaks volumes--

In response to:

Re: Vista Ship-It Gift SUCKS!

How about the ship-it plaque? Traditionally, you get a piece of engraved metal that has the product name and ship date. The Vista one is a piece of metal with a clear sticker on it. Several people removed the clear sticker, thinking it was just a protective covering as in the past, and ended up with a blank piece of metal. I guess bringing back towel service meant that cuts had to be made elsewhere.
By Anonymous, at Tuesday, January 16, 2007 11:10:47 PM


This reminds of "There's no there there." It's the appearance of something that isn't exactly what it seems. This isn't a slam against Microsoft, but if you don't see the obvious connection, you guys are in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Should have mentioned that Office Live is a great concept/product/service and have enjoyed testing/using this "live" while we manage our main site. Hopefully we will be able to transfer to OL when the bugs are worked out, then deactivate our current expenditures. The offer is worth the $ spent for the service and current interopability with or desktops and mobile laptops vs our current provider. Great job so far!
Lamentations aside...

Customer

Anonymous said...

>>Vista Ship-It Gift SUCKS!

>>One of the lousiest gift I have ever seen.

Wow! What group are you in? We all got jet skis. I'm reaaly pissed about this - I wanted a fleece.

Anonymous said...

>>User error. Post it notes are cheap. Write the key on one, put it inside the CD case/sleve, then put a few rubber bands around it to make sure it doesn't fall out. This isn't rocket science. :)

and

...but there's also some user education that has to happen...

You. Don't. Get. It.

At all.

Not the original poster here, but I assume you wouldn't whine to Ford cos you lost the key to your Escort and couldn't drive it.

Anonymous said...

>How about the ship-it plaque? Traditionally, you get a piece of engraved metal that has the product name and ship date.
>

Except the one for XPSP2. It was like a little piece of cardboard.
That one really pissed me off. Seriously, someone actually decided to save 50 whole cents on the thing after we had worked for years on the product. I even sent mail to the shipit people and complained. Sure it's a trivial little thing, but it says so much when they won't even give you that.

Anonymous said...

These are just excuses and you know it! You just need to face your fear. Will your families be taken care of if you find a job at Apple/Google? Even if you're waiting for your green card, you'll have no problems getting one at apple/google. It might take longer but you'll be well compensated for financially and you'll definitely enjoy your work more.

Fact check - its not easy to switch jobs during the green card process. For one, you may have to start all over again (we are talking years of time wasted). If you have maxed out your 6 years on the work visa, then you simply cannot leave your current job.

saltay1974 said...

I couldn't agree more with what former MS employees are saying about the typical "successful ladder climber at MS" being deceptive, Macchiavellian under-achievers skilled simply in the art of knowing with whom to align. In my years there (DC office, marketing), I saw a LOT of smart, decent people get thrown under the bus for no reason other than it served their manager's upward mobility interests. Many VPs have never worked anywhere else, so the NOT INVENTED HERE mentality prevails. Outside ideas are seen as threats and dealt with accordingly. When I saw my manager's utter dearth of integrity in action for the umpteenth time (and saw HER manager condone the behavior) I took my toys and left.

It all comes from the top down, I'm afraid. Nothing's going to change unless Bill's successor cleans house of the dead(ly) wood on every branch.

Anonymous said...

It's a big leap from "I can't get my DVD's to play" to "Microsoft has denied my use"

Oh, who cares, he's just another Slashdot fanboy who has found a Microsoft-related comments section to crap all over to make up for his own inadequacy at life. The filter is getting a little looser than it should and we are seeing tons of off-topic BS whining. I mean, complaining about things like CD keys and basic content protections...these are time wasting topics and only time wasters enjoy discussing them.

"Well it symbolizes how..." (they think). It doesn't symbolize squat. It's a petty gripe from someone who isn't getting enough attention at home. You could fill any discussion with similar petty gripes about Linux, Apple, Dell, Sony, etc. Doesn't move any discussion of value forward. It just keeps attention focused on the whiner. Seriously: go to hell, whiners. I swear to God if I hear one more geek bitch about DRM I am going to go Columbine in the motherboard section at Fry's.

Anonymous said...

For got to mention that I'd really like to access my Outlook mail addres while on the road via my Office Live scrip then back at the office recieve these mails regularly. Calendar works but not email. Another damn shame missing revenue source for you guy's...

Customer

Anonymous said...

At least you get real ship-its. In MSN, we used to get blanket ship-its on a irregular basis, regardless of whether we had anything to do with that release. Actual project releases receive nothing.

Message to leaders: When giving out recognition, do it right or do nothing. Half-assing it basically says "I don't really give a **** about what you did and, on top of that, I'll insult your intelligence by faking it in front of everyone."

Anonymous said...

"Well it symbolizes how..." (they think). It doesn't symbolize squat. It's a petty gripe from someone who isn't getting enough attention at home. You could fill any discussion with similar petty gripes about Linux, Apple, Dell, Sony, etc. Doesn't move any discussion of value forward. It just keeps attention focused on the whiner. Seriously: go to hell, whiners. I swear to God if I hear one more geek bitch about DRM I am going to go Columbine in the motherboard section at Fry's

Well, that just about sums it up. In one short paragraph you have captured everything that is wrong about Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

A nice softie said, "Oh, who cares, he's just another Slashdot fanboy".

Mini, how do you know I'm a he talking about DRM? Besides DRM is being ABMed by about a dozen other posters here talking about DRM. And, well your anti-DRM customers are Pennywise and thrifty wondering 'Is Anyone Listening'? DRM is DRM after all, and without DRM we would not be here talking about DRM at all. Balmer thinks DRM's the best thing since slip n' slide. Hey, Mr. B. you might as well rename Zune the Super Soaker.

And the same nice softie said, "Seriously: go to hell, whiners. I swear to God if I hear one more geek bitch about DRM I am going to go Columbine in the motherboard section at Fry's."

BTW, you all ought to know, Fry's is just a junk hardware outlet, selling predominately obsolete, refurbished and formula failed production lots. You would be advised to steer clear, especially since Mini is about to pull his AR out of the closet.

So, as the DRM Dog is backed in a corner at the local ABM store he knows he's committed now and its looking like a last ditch FUBAR scenario; but the Slashdot Animal Control officer is ready and waiting with her trusty tranq squirt gun waiting for the call. Meanwhile, she's laughing her arse off at what softies are really concerned about: Starbucks mochas in the lunchroom, crappy ship gifts, free towels, and weeks and weeks of limited 2 Kim. Oooooh.

Anonymous said...

Ship it stuff.

LW6, basic plaque with a couple DVD's on it saying thanks.

Manager passes it on telling me how I was recognized for all the hard work I did.
Co-worker got the same plaque, I am sure with the same BS, though he sat and surfed the web through the LW6 period.

Oh I feel so special....

Anonymous said...

>BTW, you all ought to know, Fry's is just a junk hardware outlet, selling predominately obsolete, refurbished and formula failed production lots. You would be advised to steer clear, especially since Mini is about to pull his AR out of the closet.

Your finger slip, Mini?

Anonymous said...

Going back to this because it's still in today's news:

>>JimAll's email
>>By Anonymous, at Friday, January 12, 2007 9:48:47 PM

Jim Allchin refers to Longhorn as a "pig" and says if he didn't work for Microsoft he'd buy an Apple computer.

Nice that Jim's putting that in writing for all the world to see when it becomes evidence in court (as all embarrassing Microsoft employee emails seem to do).

Clearly he's one of those "Good Managers" who is deserving of millions of dollars in bonus money.

With execs like JimAll and the crowd that promoted him to senior VP status, who needs competitors.

Maybe Jim will join Apple Inc. now that he's no longer delighting Microsoft's customers.

Anonymous said...

I respect Allchin quite a bit more after that email. At least his head is not up his ass and when he sees BS he calls it BS.

Case in point: http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/library/PX08636.pdf

Anonymous said...

"Your finger slip, Mini?"

At least one person at SoftieLand has a sense of humor. Right Whoda?

"I respect Allchin quite a bit more after that email."

Amen to that. At least Alchin realizes there is a problem. MS can't fix a problem unless it knows it exists.

Anonymous said...

>At least one person at SoftieLand has a sense of humor.

If incomprehensible blithering is funny, then, yeah, I guess your post qualifies as humor.

Anonymous said...

>> Maybe Jim will join Apple Inc. now

Maybe he will. And your assumption that he will do no good there may in fact be dead wrong.

You know I read Sinofsky's blog from time to time and I can't help but think that the worst times are ahead for WinDiv. Sinofsky is a process demon from hell. Even his blog posts are bureaucratic in tone. Good god I feel for you folks. You're about to get IBMed.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he will. And your assumption that he will do no good there may in fact be dead wrong.

Holy cow! I guess anything's possible, isn't it, but is it that likely that the guy who steered Vista into the infamous reboot is going to make a brilliant name for himself elsewhere? Microsoft should build a light rail system just for Jim that takes him straight to One Infinite Loop, no stops! You should be so lucky.