Saturday, January 20, 2007

Thinking About the Microsoft 2007 Mid Year Career Discussion

The 2007 Mid Year Career Discussion is here. And it's new and shiny. Well, retooled. Here are some thoughts about MYCD, and I'd like to hear what you think works well around managing the discussion, too, but I've got to tell you, I'm a little hesitant...

Processed Into Submission: one reason I'm less inclined to complain at the start of this year is that it seems everytime something is complained about, HR's solution is to create a new process or website or training to, quote-unquote, make it better. Perhaps it's brilliant negative reinforcement. Everything around this year's Mid Year Career Discussion looks daunting to me, given the amount of time and energy required to do a good job preparing and running the discussion. My initial reaction: yeah, the Career Compass is good idea, but is there a way we can ease into it?

Has anyone taken a moment to assess what the average Microsoftie, attempting to succeed relative to their peers, has to do during the year as part of the process of managing their career? The average manager? Dude, I want to own my career, not have my career 0wn m3. And realize this: my group gives us two-hours to work on our review, mid-year or major. One hundred and twenty minutes, twice a year. Including giving manager feedback. That's maybe a quarter of the time to do a good job in order to really have a productive discussion.

Maybe we're on our way to push-button career management. But we're not there, yet.

Well Stacked: we still do stack ranks. Some people thought that stack ranking - aka calibration aka rank and yank - went away with the new review system and were busy praisin' Lisa for their demise. Not at all. Leads still get together to figure who is on top, who is on bottom, and what's the linear ordering in-between. You are still in competition with your peers, and this competition continues to not be in the best interest of our customers and shareholders.

Our HR leader said one of the fundamentals the company holds dear is differentiation. That means stack ranking, which then feeds into the blurry curve we have (and I'll still take blurry over quotas).

If we're going to have stack ranking, I believe we should provide the results to anyone who asks for them. How can you find out how to truly best succeed in your group? See who is on top and valued. Oh, you could snap Headtrax from time to time and see who crossed a CSP boundary, sure. That's not as good, though, as seeing where you are within your team's savanna.

At the very least, we should provide people the information like, "You are number six in a peer group of thirty." I agree, you are not a number. But you are ranked.

Interesting discussion points to have with your manager:

Time to Promotion: there's a ticking clock and it happens as soon as you hit your career ladder level. For some people, it might be set to twelve months. Others, eighteen months. And maybe thirty months for others. Once that clock goes off, if you're sitting at the same career ladder and not supported for promotion, HR has decided it's time to cast your limited butt aside because something is obviously wrong with you. You're such a Kim. Get out of here.

Now maybe your group has the determination to give HR the finger and say that's not the right way to do business and to manage and grow people. Do you know where your group stands? If your clock is ticking down, it's time to start driving that discussion around promotion. Because unless you find an enlightened group, "Limited" is the new toxic career kiss of death among hiring managers.

And the more painful, awkward conversations that are had around HR's clock, the more that clock will get hammered to bits from the bottom up.

Stack Rank: where am I? You really need to have this conversation before your team's calibration. Assert where you think you are. Influence your manager and win them over to your point of view. Because your savvy peers will be doing just that. And your lead's peers will be tearing you down in order to raise their people up. In all my years at Microsoft and all the calibration meetings I've been in, almost every lead comes in with their people pinned to the very top of the stack, in determination to stick them high and make everyone fight to get them lower.

And of course, the more of your lead's peers that are also supporting you, the better. What do your lead's peers think of you?

After the stack rank is over, you have to try to pin down with your manager where you landed. And who is above you. And what you need to do in your group to achieve success higher up in the rank.

Of course, only you want to. I hate that this advice is still relevant and I think it represents a fundamental failure of any myMicrosoft overhaul. That and not getting the old ESPP back.

Commitments vs. CSP: remember, for all those wonderful commitments that you list, your first responsibility is to commitment zero: your career stage profile and the expectation that you do a strong, exceptional job there. Maybe you have a bunch of soft commitments. If you blow them all out of the park, are you exceeded? No, and you certainly don't want that surprise come the end of summer. You should first focus on how you're doing within your CSP before moving onto the refined icing that are your commitments.

The fact that HR is allowing this confusing disconnect to continue is a pain. To remove this confusion, there should be a hard-coded commitment that appears in everyone's commitment plan about doing exceptionally well within the expectations of their profile.

Additional Opinions: I'm actually warming up to the Career Compass. I think it is a tool that's part of a multi-year corporate culture shift (like valuing the Good Managers and running off the toxic managers). You can invite additional opinions on your abilities via the Career Compass... a sort of lightweight 360 evaluation. If there are differences between what other people say and what your manager says, what does that mean?

But in order for it to be a useful tool and not a yada-yada-click-click-clickity-submit tool, the information there has to align with what your group rewards and recognizes. If you're kicking butt in the Career Compass numbers but slapped with a weak review, what the heck does that mean?

What really matters: there's what HR says and then what matters. What matters to exceed in your group? Are managers still evaluated based on their individual contributions with management seen as a nice side-line job ("Oh, you grew your people. How nice.")?

Upcoming: MSFT financial numbers come out this Thursday. Other than the $1,500,000,000 deferral, I'm hoping that we have great optimism in our presentation. Because if not now... when?


58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mini, I think you've gone soft on us. If you think that just because there's a new process in place that now all of a sudden managers want their employees to succeed you are very naive. This is just more loops for them to jump through. In fact, if anyone benefits from this, it will be the managers because they'll claim they have so much more (useless) work to do.

I know you're probably trying to be positive, but don't sugar coat it. It will still suck. If they want you to succeed you will. If they are threatened by you because you are actually good at your job, or even worse, you're good at their job, you won't. A manager's worst fear is that someone more capable than they are will get promoted to their level.

This isn't just a Microsoft thing, this is exactly how the Boeings and the AT&Ts of the world work as well.

Anonymous said...

Woo-hoo, I'm the first comment! I'm going to be famous!

Here's to hoping the stock hits 35 soon.

Anonymous said...

Can I like.... can I just do my job? I dream of a Microsoft where the pointless drivel of commitments and HR babel vanishes. Really, if they ditched the entire process, would it make the slightest difference, other than alleviating an enormous burden from us?

I recognize my Kim-ness, and I'm very happy to be a Kim. Just let me keep doin' what I'm doin', because I do it damn well and I'm more or less content. I haven't the slightest interest in moving up the greasy corporate poll (frankly, I see the people up there, and they make me shudder).

My "commitments" (yes, at Microsoft, we are all committed!) could be more or less the same year after year. What would that mean? It would mean I was fulfilling a neccessary role, doing it well, contributing substantially to the success of my particular product line, being well regarded by those I work with and considered a valuable asset by those that rely on me for help, information and insight. And for that, I will eventually be punished or even driven out.

Shun!! Shun the non believers!! We who just want to do what we do and do it well without worrying about career "growth" and other perversities of Microsoft corporate life. But the Kims are shunned.

Nothing -- nothing -- in my entire work year is as miserable and dispiriting as the commitment writing process. That alone is enough to have me walking out the door, which I will do soon enough. And Microsoft will be worse without me and my Kim-ness, because some people around here just need to get the job done.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to go through my first mid-year and you don't exactly help me cringe any less. One question, though: How can I use Headtrax to see others' levels? Is this something only available for management? I'm trying to figure out who I'll be ranked against, or at least have a better sense of what higher/lower levels look like among my group.

Anonymous said...

I spent quite a few hours last week running through careercompass training and documentation.

My mind became fried, as it usually does when trying to get under the hood of another HR initiative/tool. Link to this page, read this document, watch this video, run this tutorial. Repeat. Bringing in such a fundamental tool needs simple, concise information all in one place, not a merry-go-round of info.

Anyway, after all that I cracked open a beer and pondered is this change a good thing or not, and what does it actually achieve. I concluded the idea was a good one, it definitely makes career development easier to plan and discuss.

Then I fired up the tool to begin my assessment. For 1/3 of the competencies and skills, I could only rate as "developing" or "full". The "exceptional" section was greyed out, with some blurb along the lines of "we haven't figured out what exceptional means in this context yet".

So a great idea, with a useful tool - but really poor execution. The lack of content is going to create an artificial ceiling for employees who are "exceptional" because they can't record their real capability. Even worse, how does someone who is at "full" know what they need to do to get to "exceptional" in HR terms??

Couple that with the fact that a number of roles still haven't had CSP's clearly defined, and you have a disaster waiting to happen. This needs to be fixed before the usual email prompting everyone to complete their assessment is sent out.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, I feel sorry for you people. It's pretty clear that HR at microsoft was given a free hand to push pieces around on a chess board and pretend they know WTF they're doing.

Anonymous said...

dear dudettes and dudes

hr org has two thousand+ people. many have low iq. low iq at high places and the need for activity cause problem.

mini is right. instead of overpaying the country club, pay the foot soldiers. get espp back and tell people where there are in a peer group of 'n' people.

Anonymous said...

I was five years at Microsoft as a GM. I never saw the reason behind the amazingly complex HR-driven review process except for one: it creates a forced paper trail for HR to cover their asses when an employee is forced out.

In my five years, I spent tons of time at first trying to create comprehensive reviews for my people and in just about every case the time was wasted, my feedback ignored after a few weeks once the review period had ended and the cookees handed out.

I also spent tons of time on my own review, only to have it all ignored by my VP who made whatever points they wanted to make regardles of what I wrote.

The review process should be as follows:

1. Select 3 co-workers to do a peer review on you. I, your manager, will select three others. Their feedback will be anonymous to you, but will carry as much weight as my feedback.

2. Anwser the following three questions in paragraph form:
--- What did you do over the last year that moved Microsoft ahead?
--- What could you have done better?
--- What are you going to do in the coming year to move Microsoft ahead?

We will schedule an hour or two to go over the results.


Anything else is HR bullshit and an enormous time waste. Add up the hours across 70,000 employees and figure out the cost.

Then cut HR by 90%

Anonymous said...

It's very MSFT that we try to fix the reward/rating problems by writing a program//creating a website that will help employees rank themselves.

Anonymous said...

Is it better or worse than it was 3 years ago?

Three years ago, my lead negotiated my ranking with the other leads months before I was even asked for my review.

Three years ago, my team was told to spend an entire day each time we had to write our review.

Three years ago, my lead didn't even look at what I had written until the day before he had to submit it.

Sure, in theory it is a useful feedback tool and helps us track where we need to improve. In practice, it was a joke.

Like the person who mentioned in the last thread that randomly providing rewards is worse than not providing them at all, providing arbitrary feedback and applying it arbitrarily is much more damaging than not.

Reviews were the worst part of my job even when I did an exceptional job. I am no longer at MS. Reviews are better now.

So, is it any better now?

Mini, how do I know where I rank if my lead and manager refuses to say even who I am being ranked against?

Finally, how do I achieve commitment zero when all year long I am randomized through micro-management.

It is all academic for me now, but it would be nice to know that some of those Kims that I worked with aren't hopelessly screwed.

Anonymous said...

"Couple that with the fact that a number of roles still haven't had CSP's clearly defined, and you have a disaster waiting to happen."

Its worse than that. The CSPs don't mean jack. Likely your feature team manager / PUM will have created his own internal framework for measuring people.

Get rid of the CSP fluff and base evaluations on value contributed to the company. If you move the needle in your area you get rewarded. This is the way it works in any case.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is a corporation. It will not spend more money to keep the employees happy unless they need to. This is the way any company runs, and quite ok, if you think that you own (control) a company. Unless there is attrition (which is not the case currently), there will be no increase in benefits, only decrease, if there is a change in benefits. Why would anyone give you more money when there is no derth of engineers. A couple of engineers lost here and there is not a big deal, it does not matter for a company this size. Reality, no matter what is done in mymicrosoft, etc. Would you give your grocer more money than what he/she asks for or the price he sets for his goods? He is not going to reduce the price for you unless you are ready to go to another grocer. Or may not reduce even then, if he knows that by losing you, he wont lose much business. He is in it for profit, with resonable (from his perspective) level of expenditure. Now you may vent your feelings on an internal blog or external blog, its just venting until things can be changed, which wont, unless really necessary for the business to run. So effects may be evident now, or after some time, depending on time & situation.

peon said...

There's another flavor of "time to promotion", and it's equally poisonous: minimum time between promotions. In some groups (Office is a notable example), regardless of performance, you must have a minimum of 18 months in level before being considered for another promotion.

This kicks the ladder system right in the jimmy sack. The list of competencies for a level is irrelevant. Come review time you'll hear "just keep doing what you're doing" with no useful feedback on how to grow. So you just sit there, doing what you're doing, no longer pushing yourself as hard. Why bother? It can't pay off this year.

It seems like this is a holdover from the old (pre Comp 2000) levels. When the expected level band for ICs is two levels wide (and demotions are impossible), it makes at least a little sense to make sure they're performing consistently. But IC spans five or six levels now, and the bottoms ones are variations on "has a pulse" and "doesn't pee in the plants". If you're notably underleveled it takes years to correct - and the employees in this bucket are smart enough to realize it and leave.

Anonymous said...

I've been w/the company over 9 years and I always hate reviews. I've usually done at least ok to well on reviews. I didn't get the limited tag last review but I'm getting worried because I've been stuck at my level for a long time and switched managers and groups in the past ~2 years. Recently, someone in my group quit (he told me he received a "limited") and someone got fired.

When I had to do my very first review, I didn't know jack about the review system and thought the review form was so official and everything. I later realized it was all BS. It came down to your relationship w/your manager and how you were perceived by management. Whatever the manager wrote just pretty much was something to support the score you ended up getting.

In the past, when I'd been promoted, I didn't really do anything special other than work hard. Now, I'm being pushed much harder because of CSPs, being at my level for a long time (red flag), commitments, etc. It seems crazy that I have to do all this extra work and worrying when I really have no time for it and I'm already very busy w/working on the product.

I've become pretty cynical because of the BS nature of reviews and having seen people rise to lead and manager status w/o necessarily excelling in anything that we're expected to now. It's as if I'm being held to a much higher standard than they ever were just to budge.

HR seems to always screw around w/the review form, process or collateral probably to justify their own existence.

Anonymous said...

The poster who imagined this process was a CYA move is absolutely right. All of the tools and process are wallpaper to reduce the likelihood that the company will be accused of bias or discrimination in its assessment and promotion process. Process must be "fair." The Frat Boys Club/ personality cult/entourage clubs aren't. Formulaic/algorthimic approaches to stacking people just must be more fair than a subjective stack negotiated between a bunch managers. Sure it is. Same old crap with one level (or more) of indirection. And all real decisions are made by GMs/VPs who don't know the employees rather than the direct managers. And this all leads to a "differentiation" range of a couple of percent in a 4% raise pool. Unless you're a partner.

Anonymous said...

Apologies if this is slightly OT but we're about a week away from our biggest release and so far the only mention of Vista I've seen in a tv advertisement was in a Get-A-Mac campaign. I've yet to see any efforts on our side to try and do some damage-control in response to so much negativity in the press (JimAll's embarassing emails,Mossberg's review of Vista which pretty much aligns with the Apple ad which ", etc).

TheKhalif said...

Can I like.... can I just do my job? I dream of a Microsoft where the pointless drivel of commitments and HR babel vanishes. Really, if they ditched the entire process, would it make the slightest difference, other than alleviating an enormous burden from us?

I recognize my Kim-ness, and I'm very happy to be a Kim. Just let me keep doin' what I'm doin', because I do it damn well and I'm more or less content. I haven't the slightest interest in moving up the greasy corporate poll (frankly, I see the people up there, and they make me shudder).

My "commitments" (yes, at Microsoft, we are all committed!) could be more or less the same year after year. What would that mean? It would mean I was fulfilling a neccessary role, doing it well, contributing substantially to the success of my particular product line, being well regarded by those I work with and considered a valuable asset by those that rely on me for help, information and insight. And for that, I will eventually be punished or even driven out.

Shun!! Shun the non believers!! We who just want to do what we do and do it well without worrying about career "growth" and other perversities of Microsoft corporate life. But the Kims are shunned.

Nothing -- nothing -- in my entire work year is as miserable and dispiriting as the commitment writing process. That alone is enough to have me walking out the door, which I will do soon enough. And Microsoft will be worse without me and my Kim-ness, because some people around here just need to get the job done.



There should be more people like you. Not everyone can be a chief. You need some hard-working cogs to handle the actual product work.

I'm the biggest Kim in the world and I LOVE it. I love being in the trenches where bureaucracy and carer don't matter. Only producing maintainable, modular code matters.

Of course there needs to be some process for determining managerial status but the Kims of the world are best suited to management because they will only be concerned about real technical growth and real results.

This means that the process developed will be quantifiable, a major problem with most large SW shops. MS is the largest and therefore has the most "visible" problems.

Vista was not late because the Kims were staying in droves, but because they were leaving. Without that dedicated worker, management will become stagnated and productivity will suffer.

Because non-Kims are VERY GOOD at subterfuge, it is sometimes (most times) difficult to determine initially whether a manager is a "step-over" or a willing developer of talent.

The key to MS' true emergence as the SW leader is a LONG, HARD LOOK at what makes not only a good manager but a good employee.

Is it "flash and bang" or "in the trenches dedication?"

Anonymous said...

I worked at Microsoft for just over 15 years and left during the Fall 2005 review process because I couldn't bear to go through yet another review.

Shortly after I left Microsoft I went to lunch with a guy who had been my 2nd level manager, not at the time I left but within a year of my leaving. This guy told me that he had not filled out a review form for years. I was surprised to hear it. "How did you manage that? HR expects your review to be submitted and you and your manager must sign off on the HR website?"

I was informed that his manager and his manager's manager could not care less about the review form and therefore they submitted blank reviews and on they went.

I know this guy had been promoted at least once during the time that he was supposedly submitting blank review forms to HR.

I was quite frustrated to hear that the review system that I had come to loathe and that ultimately drove me out of the company was in fact such a farce.

Toward the end of my time at Microsoft I was surprised by the amount of energy that was expended on people's careers and how little focus was on shipping great products. I guess that is what bureaucratic big companies are all about but wow, what a mess.

Anonymous said...

"I've yet to see any efforts on our side to try and do some damage-control in response to so much negativity in the press (JimAll's embarassing emails,Mossberg's review of Vista which pretty much aligns with the Apple ad which ", etc)."

MSFT appears to either think that its vaunted historical reputation is inexhaustible, or is resigned to see it slowly go down the toilet with little more than a whimper.

Anonymous said...

Anybody care to post a template response to the template Mid Year Discussion form? I'd do it, but I'm too lazy. It would be interesting to compare results from people who submitted the same data. (OK, it wouldn't, but it would probably free about ~100 hours of time in schedules across the company, if enough people copied it.)
Personally, I've never worried about the review process. It's fairly obvious that those who really care and slave over the forms are the ones who need to. I prefer to let my work stand on its own. If the VP/GM/Whoever is ranking doesn't recognize my name, that means they haven't been paying attention. In the end, it's a waste of my time and the company's resources to make such a big production out of it.

Anonymous said...

One flaw in your logic mini, you assume the everyone has their commitments.

I know a number of people who don't.

Anonymous said...

The HR measures of the past few years are designed for continuous renewal.

When business moved slower, institutional memory and personal relationships were key. Now, however, I think management perceives them more ambiguously. To them, Kim is seen as great for the org and business we had and have now, but maybe not open and unfettered enough (or, unfairly, without enough spare cycles) to catch the next wave. The next step for Kim is either extreme reinvention or relegation to "limited" followed by replacement with new blood.

And there are enough younger, cheaper, bright new candidates to provide a sufficient flow of Kims. Not brighter necessarily, rarely more experienced, but arguably more flexible.

Here's an important point: it doesn't have to be the same Kim who keeps the business running; there just has to be enough overlap between successive waves of Kims to ensure the load doesn't get dropped.

I see the problem that management is trying to solve. Just witness the inertia and inflexibity the Windows organization developed over the past decade.

I don't agree with the solution they've come up with, but there's a cold logic to it. They are institutionalizing the renewal, and they'll risk losing "limiteds" that aren't. The math still works out. For management, not employees.

When I first started working for Microsoft in the 90's, I was astonished to see how much power individual contributors and first line managers had. I remember thinking that the organization was upside down. Upside down, but fun, exciting, and remarkably effective for a company of that size at that time. Well, today it's a right-side up company.

10 year employee, since moved on.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it: the entire review process is designed for punishment, not reward. It's all about fitting you into some curve, there will be some ranking and bucketing going on, it's just now even more obscure and shady. Take the misleading 'contribution' rating: it's not about your contribution to your group or your product, it's someone's idea on how fast your career growth will be. In my group, there's are other hidden ratings that are used and not shared with employees, like "trajectory" and "time-in-grade". Suddenly, the review isn't about a Microsoft wide way of evaluating employees; it's about various groups and HR folks deciding what it should be, making the review process even more muddled.

And these new career models--what's with that? Why the change, again? In my many years at MS, there's been changes every four to five years--are we level 11's now? Or 63's? What's my CSP? Is the bubble half-empty or half full? Where'd the numbers go? Am I a tester, or a developer-in-test? What's the difference between a senior PM and a PM? Best question of all: How can I make a career at Microsoft that lasts over a decade when the career model changes every four years?

The biggest and most depressing thing at Microsoft, though, is that it's become a company where it's next to impossible to overachieve. This was doable 10 and even maybe 5 years ago. Now everyone's been rolled up into huge silos, paying fealty to their senior VPs strategy, however misguided that might be. Often the VP's primary strategy is to preserve his headcount, and it doesn't matter if these people would be more successful and better value to the company somewhere else. One way to preserve headcount as a VP is to suck other products under the big strategy umbrella. This is bad--these mega organizations take forever to move (despite the strange push to agile methods, which don't get us to RTM any faster, nor at higher quality), and these mega organizations destroy creativity. There aren't a lot of products anymore, and there's very little opportunity to take risks with new ideas--most of the new risks have been crushed under the dead conformist weight of Engineering Excellence policies decided by some faraway yet prominent (not successful) VP. Who are we kidding when we think that database software, video game software, and cell phone software all need the same processes and skills and development methodolgies?

When Microsoft had fewer employees, everyone's responsibility and accountabilities were larger, even at lower levels. Now you have to run through a gauntlet of product planners and SWI buddies and UE burnouts and localization weenies. Don't even get me started on how you're supposed to move up in your career by managing a platoon of outsourced vendors who have their own agenda (get more work, eat up hours) and don't care about what you consider to be a job well done. Autonomy fostered personal responsibility and pride, but autonomy has been left in the dust in the new Microsoft.

Back to reviews: they exist for negative reinforcement and justifying a score (often hidden from the employee), not for career growth. Reviews aren't there to reward positive efforts--there are other programs for that, most of which are perversely confidential. Microsoft is a company that punishes publicly but rewards privately. Reviews are there to document excuses why you shouldn't get promoted this go-around. Microsoft should really disassociate career growth discussions from performance reviews. Conflating the two confuses the issue--are you getting rewarded because you have potential, or because you did a good job?

One more punitive aspect of reviews: they punish you in your next internal job at MS as well. If there's a speck of negativity, even if it was years ago, hiring managers will see you as tainted, and will roll the dice on someone else... your only chance is that you might be less tainted than the other candidates. Because of this, all the reviews I write are bland and boring, with very minor nits. I know my employees aren't going to stay in my group forever, and I don't want to hinder their careers by actually writing down how they need to improve. That's best left for one-on-one discussions--a perfect venue to discuss other unwritten rules as well, such as Kim and the time-in-level guidelines. But then if my reviews aren't honest and complete, aren't I being dishonest? Yes and no. Reviews aren't about performance.

Ultimately, reviews at Microsoft serve more to obfuscate than to enlighten. We should just get rid of them as they stand today--the purposes they claim to serve are at best misguided and at worse disingenious. Sometimes nothing is better than something.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm.

Looks like the review system everywhere is screwed.

We recently completed the review cycles in our company. Here are a few things ( i've been working in this company for a year and this was the first review here that I went through).

- We supposedly have a peer review. When filling our review forms, we are to write the names of 2 to 4 people whom we would like to get feedback from. The manager though has the power to ask someone else. So, in my case, i got to know that none of the people i had asked for the review from got contacted. Instead the manager asked some other people (which I do not know how much is true - as these people are 'confidential'). As a result my feedback is from people who have not even worked with me.

- review comments are like 'needs to lead more effective team meetings'. Beautiful ain't it?

- our hikes are linked to our performance reviews. We were given the hike letters before the reviews. Effectively, we were not allowed to contest the ratings we have got.

- then a typical dilbert event happened. our company got aquired by another company - and just after the review ratings were given, our management calls for a 'celebration' about the new deal. Needless to say, most people weren't entusiastic about it and did not even stay for the snacks arranged by management (nerds not gorging on free food - point to be noted). We are now being called 'non professionals' now.

So, the work is now in stasis. Morale is down to like -150. And we are expected to work overtime for the next release.

I think you guys have a better deal. Can anyone beat this ?

Anonymous said...

Where the hell did these CSPs come from? In Services, the don't even come close to what I do. How the hell do I answer them? All N\A? stupid.

Anonymous said...

despite the strange push to agile methods, which don't get us to RTM any faster, nor at higher quality

Speak for yourself, buddy. Maybe it's just a case of "good people being able to do a great job using any methodology", but our projects using agile methods have a negligible number of defects.

Yeah, there are plenty of failures too, but it's usually caused by not following the guidelines, lack of buy-in, or, in some cases, just plain lousy people.

Anonymous said...

>I recognize my Kim-ness, and I'm very happy to be a Kim. Just let me keep doin' what I'm doin', because I do it damn well and I'm more or less content.

Hmmm, the level at which "a timeline for advancement is not required" doesn't seem all that high unless maybe you're a tester. Is HR targeting people at or beyond this level for too much time in level too or is this just a case of "A's hire A's, B's hire C's"?

Anonymous said...

Marketing promised at the Vista ship party that they were spending shitloads of money marketing the product. I can't remember the number (and I'm sure it's confidential anyway), but it was large.

I saw an image on office depot's website, and a contest with HP in an ad on msn.foxsports.com (gee, an MSN property...I wonder how much THAT cost us). Other than that, zip.

With one week to RTM, they should be carpet bombing radio/TV/magazines/newspapers/Safeway bulletin boards with marketing materials.

Create at least a LITTLE buzz, please.

Anonymous said...

Blog popularity dwindling? Blame it on insidems.

Rob Henry said...

"--- What did you do over the last year that moved Microsoft ahead?
--- What could you have done better?
--- What are you going to do in the coming year to move Microsoft ahead"

Forget that. Pick a total of 6 people to answer the questions? No way. Managers should already know what an employee contributed. The only two people that need to answer any questions are the manager and the employee. Everything else is a waste. The manager should rate the employee and the employee should be able to also give an answer to counter the manager if need be. Any manager playing politics or not giving truthful answers about an employee should be fired immediately for lying and being untrustworthy of the authority given to managers.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, the level at which "a timeline for advancement is not required" doesn't seem all that high...

Partner (level 68) is pretty high.

Anonymous said...

"Any manager playing politics or not giving truthful answers about an employee should be fired immediately for lying and being untrustworthy of the authority given to managers."

Get real. If you can't get anybody to back you up, how are you going to prove who's lying?

On top of that, if nobody else but your manager can say why you've got value to the group, are you really that valuable anyway?

Anonymous said...

"Forget that. Pick a total of 6 people to answer the questions? No way. Managers should already know what an employee contributed. The only two people that need to answer any questions are the manager and the employee. Everything else is a waste. The manager should rate the employee and the employee should be able to also give an answer to counter the manager if need be. Any manager playing politics or not giving truthful answers about an employee should be fired immediately for lying and being untrustworthy of the authority given to managers."

Agree. And, I'll do you one better:

IMHO, only my manager's manager should review his reviews. This will keep the system honest and should they both be in kahoots, you're fucked anyway.

Anonymous said...

Blog popularity dwindling? Blame it on insidems."

Spreading the FUD that this site's popularity is dwindling? Blame it on HR shill-insidems.

Anonymous said...

>>>Blog popularity dwindling? Blame it on insidems.


It is the stock price stupid!

Anonymous said...

The only two people that need to answer any questions are the manager and the employee. Everything else is a waste. The manager should rate the employee and the employee should be able to also give an answer to counter the manager if need be. Any manager playing politics or not giving truthful answers about an employee should be fired immediately for lying and being untrustworthy of the authority given to managers.

OK, in an ideal world, you are right. In the real world, the employee is subject to the sole opinion of the manager and whatever their personal agenda might be. At Microsoft, the manager who doesn't have a personal agenda is rare. The reason for the peer review system is to create a balanced and non-biased perspective of the employee.

Managers that use reviews (most) to advance their agenda will hate this, which certainly applies to the person who wrote the response above. Managers that work on a more fair system will embrace this as helping them and the employee see how others perceive them and their performance, which is probably the most powerful thing you can accomplish in a review.

Anonymous said...

>Partner (level 68) is pretty high.

Didn't read the CSPs, did you? Think much lower.

Anonymous said...

Someone wrote that they know of two people without commitments?! Entire teams in Office went on without commitments until this January, wasting their time in the mega reorg that happened after the Office 2007 RTM date (and similar cases happened in Windows also). Then, this January entire teams came to a halt to suddenly enter their commitments for the upcoming mid-year career discussion in February. As a manager, the only thing I could tell my employees was: “Would your commitments last September make sense now?”

And what about replacing the time-tested Word review document with the (nobody-else-in-the-industry-uses-it) InfoPath forms?

But the most amazing comment of all is the one supposedly coming from a GM. If that is true, I just lost a lot of hope in the system. We all know that HR people at Microsoft are on average “average I.Q. people” dealing with “way above average I.Q. people” in the technical positions. There is an enormous component of “control” and “envy” in almost any HR initiative in the company. But lately the initiatives are really getting to a level so pathetic that one can anticipate the day when teams will have at least one HR person per PM (which usually maps to 4-5 dev/testers).

We all talk about moronic managers making empires, but what about the empire being built right now in the HR department? What are all those people doing? How are they reviewed? What are their commitments? Certainly it is not to make the “results-oriented” people of the company happy. Certainly it is not improving the bottom line and investor value. It is probably just to repeat “People are our main asset” (and because of that we will reduce the headcount of product teams and hire more HR people!).

Anonymous said...

>Create at least a LITTLE buzz, please.

Look at Apple. Since they've been on a roll with those "I'm a mac.." ad's, they've been bringing new ones out CONSTANTLY. Correct me if I'm wrong here but its not really been tied to any specific Apple release. They've kept the buzz GOING - something Microsoft can't figure out how to do. I thought this line from this article was particularly funny
"The company on Wednesday said it was too early to detail its broader advertising and promotional plans for Vista's debut."
A week before product launch is "too early"?

Seriously - whens the last time we did a GREAT tv spot? Why can't we do something with a little humor and creativity like Apple does? Why does Apple get free reign to mock us in their ad's?

Anonymous said...

Didn't read the CSPs, did you? Think much lower

Don't have a manager who tells you the real story, do you? Think much higher.

The CSPs are one thing, what managers are told to do is another.

Anonymous said...

>Don't have a manager who tells you the real story, do you? Think much higher.

Yeah, because we're all supposed to rise to partner level. If you're going to lie, try to at least be convincing.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, because we're all supposed to rise to partner level. If you're going to lie, try to at least be convincing.

Ah, no, we're not all supposed to rise to partner level. Only a special few do that. The rest of us are supposed to become Kim and get shoved out the door after ten or fifteen years so cheaper, college hires can take our spots. Think Logan's Run.

Anonymous said...

Seriously - whens the last time we did a GREAT tv spot? Why can't we do something with a little humor and creativity like Apple does? Why does Apple get free reign to mock us in their ad's?

Snark envy? The marketing should fit the company's image. Apple has always been boastful and elitist, which comes straight from Jobs' personality. And it matches up with their demographics, typically "creative" types who like to imagine they are one of the elect. Linux doesn't really have a marketing image but if it did it would be some filthy geek making derisive comments about "lusers".

Apple has had some memorable ad campaigns, but what has it gotten them? Worldwide market share at 2% and holding. Microsoft's ads tend to be inoffensively positive and stress their products' strengths. That's probably the way to go, even if it means having to shrug off glib claims that they just copy everyone.

Anonymous said...

The rest of us are supposed to become Kim and get shoved out the door after ten or fifteen years so cheaper, college hires can take our spots. Think Logan's Run.

Meh, whatever. I don't see any details, like your division, level, or exactly what was said, just vague BS. I sure as heck don't see anybody backing you up. On the other hand, I do see people around me that have been around 10+ years who (surprise) are not partners.

Somebody call Adam and Jamie, 'cause this myth is busted.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I do see people around me that have been around 10+ years who (surprise) are not partners.

Yeah, that's the old Microsoft.

But, whatever, your life is your life. Call Jamie and Adam if you want (I'm calling Keri). Just please, don't swallow everything HR says.

Anonymous said...

>>Ah, no, we're not all supposed to rise to partner level. Only a special few do that. The rest of us are supposed to become Kim and get shoved out the door after ten or fifteen years so cheaper, college hires can take our spots. Think Logan's Run.

How would a company afford to pay all employees at partner level? Who would do the work?

Anonymous said...

How would a company afford to pay all employees at partner level? Who would do the work?

Thus the reason to shove all the Kims out the door. You can't keep getting promoted forever, because it's a pyramid (duh). So you can tolerate being Kim'ed (labeled "Limited," given tiny, less-than-COLA raises, if any) year after year. Or you can leave (aka get shoved out the door).

As has been stated many times here before, this results in lots of churn in the Kims who are doing the real, day-to-day work for the company, while the superstars soar on by.

That appears to be what HR is aiming for, because that's the system they designed.

There are some folks outside of HR who think that perhaps constant Kim churn isn't a fundamentally sound way to run a non-growth company. That perhaps HR hasn't noticed that stock is no longer splitting and doubly regularly and we're a GM, not a Google.

We'll see how long it takes HR to wake up and smell the coffee. Based on past experience...I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, at Sunday, January 28, 2007 9:56:40 PM said:

>>We'll see how long it takes HR to wake up and smell the coffee. Based on past experience...I'm not holding my breath.<<

Actually, it's not HR that needs to wake up and smell the coffee so much as it is the new hires and new hire wannabes that need to wake up. Many of today's Kim's benefited from the "good times" at Microsoft with good stock option/stock-related benefits and so when they get squeezed out of the company they at least have solid savings to fall back on. But when today's new employees get Kim'd they will find themselves out of a job and without the savings they need to ride out their unemployed status.

Is this the kind of company you want to work for? Will Microsoft use you up and toss you out after 10-15 years? Do you want to be 40 years old, unemployed, and searching for a job in an industry that favors young, cheap, work-all-night eating cold pizza and drinking Diet Pepsi labor? Oofda. Not only may Microsoft be a bad place to be but the tech. industry as a whole may be a bad place to be.

And Bill and Steve complain about the lack of college grads in the C.S./engineering discipline. Maybe today's college students are smarter than Bill and Steve and aren't interested in being used up and tossed out.

Anonymous said...

The rest of us are supposed to become Kim and get shoved out the door after ten or fifteen years so cheaper, college hires can take our spots.

Are college hires that much cheaper? Seems new hires come in around what existing employees are currnetly paid and 1 or 2 weeks vacation is not that much of a difference. Seems money is small amount of the motivation behind colllege hires vs. existing MS employees.

Anonymous said...

What does it mean to get a gold star bonus award, is that highly selective? Typically what is the award amount?

Anonymous said...

Are college hires that much cheaper? Seems new hires come in around what existing employees are currnetly paid and 1 or 2 weeks vacation is not that much of a difference. Seems money is small amount of the motivation behind colllege hires vs. existing MS employees.

So is HR just vindictive then? Or in a completely different universe, where they have no idea what impact they are aiming for with their practices?

Kim said...

I was waiting for the "I am Kim" t-shirt, but nobody ever seems to
have followed up on that idea.

So I did: http://www.cafepress.com/kim_limited

Who's brave enough to wear it around campus? If all of us Kims did, then maybe management would realise how much they actually depend on us to keep things running.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, HR just sucks! the bunch from HR creates a system that they have no clue about. none of them are engineers to empathise with any of the engg teams or with marketing as they have never gone to market either. half of them don't understand the bell-shape and the theory behind it BUT continue to preach it nevertheless.
All they do is create opacity in the system as transparency counters their existence! (if everyone knew where they are heading and waht to do next what would HR earn its mone from??)
i think HR should be relegated to lesser roles in the organisation and looked upon purely as a support org. I am not saying that people are any less strategic, but leaving such an important decision to HR (bunch of no idea goons) is commiting harakiri!
i would like to challenge HR to create a HR SAT survey for internal MS folks that is widely published. the funny thing is they don't have any measure to benchmark them and they in turn continue to create systems to rate everyone else :)
In India, i can tell you that HR is impossible to talk to! hell, they never come of their glass cubicles. wonder what do they do except be pen-pushers....

Anonymous said...

> What does it mean to get a gold star
> bonus award, is that highly selective?
> Typically what is the award amount?

Think about it this way: There is a small pool of slush money and stock for extraordinary performance that you want to recognize more quickly than the next annual review. If someone does something outstanding, a Gold Star is a way for the group to recognize this and directly correlate it with compensation soon after it happens.

The size of the award is discretionary. Since the pool of money is small, it is selective by nature (managers don't get to throw it around loosely).

Anonymous said...

I am relatively new Microsoft employee. I had hoped to have left behind all the useless paperwork (tons of it) in my previous company that 15 years ago held the position Microsoft does today in the Telecom space. Imagine my disappointment when I get bombarded by a billion things to do with career compass all of which seem more about leaving paper trails for managing future litigation than anything else.

I agree with some of the other comments here, shrink the HR organizations, it seems as if they equate activity to productivity. They could just let people do their jobs and do them well!. I wonder if Microsoft hired in the people that were let go from companies like the one I used to work for!!

Anonymous said...

I don't want to say how far over 15 years I am. The more it is, the smaller a group you're in (and the easier it is to sleuth you out).

I'm a Kim (by the way, that's what the T-shirt should say--not "I am Kim"). But I'm a Kim that my team would sorely miss. I'm the only SME on my team, and according to my manager, "this place would fall apart if you left".

And yet, I received a limited.

Even if (or hopefully when, I'm still around) my ineffectual team mates are swapped out for SMEs, I'm fairly confident that they would stack under me given the position. Too bad--I'm a Kim, and so I will not get my cookies.

I cornered my manager on my CSP and how little of it applies to my position. I finally asked a question on it that he couldn't answer. He shrugged, there was a pregnant pause, and we then continued on with the farce that is career compass.

If they think they can get a fresh young engineer to do what I do at entry pay rate, they're dreaming.

I used to have a lot of friends that worked at MSFT. Only one remains. One got riffed, the rest quit. One quit when he worked hard, was patted on the back all year long, then screwed at review. "You know what? I'm out'a here. Don't expect an exit interview".

I came right out and said to my boss during the recent MYCD meet that I have never in all my years here had to spend so much time managing my career (I wasn't about to say "jumping through hoops") at the expense of getting my job done.

I've always disliked review time, but not until now has it actually given me pause about staying here. I would be leaving a lot of respected peers, and their respect of me, many years of MSFT internal business experience and knowledge. Their loss, I would say.

Anonymous said...

The careercompas is a really useful tool. It is useful for both the managers and employees. Here is how:

Managers can use it to justify their actions, do curve fitting. This is an excellent defense mechanism that can be used by them to shield themselves from any complaints the employees can raise.

For the tech saavy employees who are happy about the technical work they do,
The carrer compas offers yet another chance for them to wake up. It shows them that the work they do really doesn't matter when it comes to promotions. It shows them that its the manager's gut fell that really matters.

Actually I am totally against the point of view that people doing technical work have more IQ. They don't even have the common sense that the work they do doesn't matter for their promotions. They (we) are the ones who couldn't prioritize their carrer over their work.

Anonymous said...

Entire process reeks of politics and favoritism. Yuck!!