Sunday, February 04, 2007

Closure.

I showed up on campus Monday to find most flat surfaces at eye level adorned with neon stickies:

REMINDER: Windows Vista & 2007 Office System Launch Today - Jan. 29! 1:30 pm.

Closure.

Saying that our corporate nightmare is over is over-the-top, but having Vista (oh, and Office 2007) out there and shipping and for sale finally makes RTM real. The Microsoft launch event was fine, though everyone in Cafe 34 was gasping in pain as it appeared that the Uno Live demo was falling apart, only to have it re-appear working. Head shaking and groans turned into relatively shocked cheers. It was one of those fractal-emotional moments that probably summed the ride over five years.

I liked the "Wow" commercial, and I hope we have more tangible advertising. Personally, I'd love a DVD inserted in the big monthly magazines with slick content showing how Vista and Office works and lots of raw content to play with.

Also with this past week, two departures: Jim Allchin and Bryan Lee. Seeing some of Mr. Allchin's internal emails I can only say I certainly haven't, in comparison, pushed the envelope here with criticism of Microsoft vision and strategy; too bad he wasn't, ah, in a position to effect change when it was needed. Mr. Lee has been griped about in the comments here before and it looks like someone is, via graceful career aikido, tapping a piece of paper on his back with "Hi! I'm responsible for Zune!" as he slips out the backdoor.

I was recently talking with a fine individual on the Mini-Phone and the flow of conversation turned to reflecting on the changes at Microsoft since summer of 2004. The changes I note that happened:

  • Open discussion and criticism about bumbling bureaucracy which has led to flattening in some of our major organizations (and certain managers either moving on or transitioning back to individual contributor duties) along with adoption of agility and efficiency.
  • New leadership for Windows (Sinofsky, DeVaan) coming from an organization relatively well known for making sure the trains run on time.
  • Hard questions being asked in public of upper leadership and that same leadership recognizing that Vista development didn't go well and swearing never to do that again.
  • A revised review cycle meant to do away with a harsh curve-based quota system. Well. Sorta.
  • Bread and circuses around towels and dry cleaning.
  • Increased transparency - far from complete - on the inside of Microsoft.
  • Continued support for employee transparency via blogging, videos, and other direct engagement. I don't know of any other company Microsoft's size and influence that has put so much trust and support behind its employees to talk directly to the world, and doesn't freak out and bring down the banhammer for the occasional bit of schmuts in the eye.
  • HR leadership engaged with the employees and the employees discovering / rediscovering their internal voice to challenge the way things are and work together on solutions.
  • Some refocus on the consumer market with the Live moniker.
  • A mostly new IE team that came together and re-invigorated our essential web browser and platform to make IE7 stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the competition... if not on some wobbly, repentant knees (hey, we didn't start the fire).
  • The stock has cracked $30 and stayed above that mark.

Unfortunately...

  • We've ballooned in employee size by nearly 15,000 people - 25%! - beyond reason and beyond need.
  • Oops! I guess Wall Street really doesn't like being surprised about a billion here and there. Hello!
  • It has become clear that Microsoft is a two-tiered company with-respect-to compensation, with the Partner L68+ ranks of the company raking in rewards under dubious goals, especially in the midst of long-term depressed stock performance.
  • Our internal review and career management continues needing a serious beating from the common-sense stick.

So what are the big levers left to pull to help ensure that Microsoft in on a good course and stays on a good course? I kind of felt like enough-was-enough before and slipped into a sustaining mode here. And other than discussing Limited II things have been quiet. Right now, things that I personally keep an eye out for:

  • Hiring: stop it. Just please stop it. Unless it's an A+ super-hire, walk away and refocus all hiring energy into internal hiring and redistribution of people inside of Microsoft.
  • Internal job moves: this process has to be as easy as me deciding I want to work in a group that's personally interesting to me, talking to the the right people, doing whatever interviewing they need, and then I start my new job over there. Their budget goes up to accommodate my overhead. Yes, all of this is "me me me" based, neither permission nor stated intention based. I have a new position before I even involve my old group to say goodbye. There is too much drama and stress and bridge burning around internal job moves, and this results in unhappy people being mis-aligned with what they want to be doing. This is not good for business and long term, strategic growth.
  • Research: I've come to recognize that MSR is actually doing some things that I'm really interested in seeing in our customers' hands (or, more specifically, my hands). Is this as effective as it could be? Where's the leadership and ownership to ensure the deep investment we have in our researchers is translated into exceptional returns in what we deliver?

I'm still not sure if that's enough, though, for generating interesting posts and discussions in the meantime. What big levers do you believe still need a good pulling for Microsoft to get on the path of a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine? And, you know, not so much the messes and the stains but the positive changes that not only solve problems but create new opportunities.

Oh, and one last thing: let's touch on risk averse, unhappy people just suffering through their Microsoft J.O.B.

Not happy doing what you're doing? Full of criticism of how Microsoft could be a better place for little ole you? Risk averse to looking for a new position in Microsoft or outside of Microsoft, perhaps knowing this is as good as it gets for you? Within a dispassionate environment pulling down a direct deposit and satisfied that's the way it's going to be?

Well, you're my original core demographic group.

The group that I want fired and moved on and out of Microsoft.

I'm willing to bet a dinner for two at The Herbfarm that Microsoft would produce better results slimmed back to a size of 35,000 well-positioned passionate people than 70,000+ with marginal interest and alignment to what they want to be doing. And even if we do have 35,000 passionate people embedded now, they spend their days encumbered with the grind of a huge, unfocused machine. We end up with feature strategies splattered about like a Jackson Pollock. I want the abundance of mediocre resources that produce mediocre results replaced with a restricted set of high quality, happy, motivated, well compensated people producing out-standing results given the focus required to use what we have most effectively. We'd be at measure-twice and cut-once vs. let 'er rip and ship!

Maybe there's another way there. I'd like to know it. But right now, I still believe the biggest challenge left to our long-term success - post Vista - is dealing with our burden of too many employees. It's time to start spinning off and spinning down large groups in Microsoft to what's reasonable.

Updated: typos fixed. Thanks! Updated again: fixed another typo. I had it right in my mind, but somewhere between my mind and the game on the TV it got dropped. Lesson to self. Updated... sigh. Time to go to the blackboard and write out I won't type while watching the game... a few dozen times.


68 comments:

Anonymous said...

Risk adverse

That should be "averse", as in avoidant.

Sincerely,

Your friendly neighborhood grammar nazi

Anonymous said...

You misspelled 'Pollock'.

Erik Porter said...

Here here! I'm with you. All the people complaining and doing nothing to try to help change things need to re-evaluate their position (i.e. help figure out the answer to the problem and be a part of the solution or look for a job outside of Microsoft where they would be happier).

I think one way to help the people with passion to get their ideas out and help make them happen is to reward them (more so than a good review). The people who have great ideas and are passionate about making them happen in the company should be rewarded, encouraging others to do the same. It's not about financial reward (even though that should be part of it). It's about being recognized and appreciated for your contributions to the company that are bigger than doing well at your job. Like you mentioned, those 35,000 smart, passionate people should have an environment to help develop change in the company (new products, services, philosophies, etc).

-Erik (NOT Anonymous)

Anonymous said...

Sir,

The problems you mention wont go away. It will work only if you start by firing the top of the pyramid.

Why do we need several thousand people in HR and finance? What do the large number of partners in research contribute?

Microsoft doesnt know what its core competency is anymore. Is it legal or HR or finance or software development? Your guess is as good as mine

Anonymous said...

Mini, Jim Allchin has the power. These email released are not new. He foresaw and acted. The outcome Window's Vista. Far inferior than planned Longhorn but far superior than the competition. At the moment, if somebody courageous like Jim Allchin is there in Apple, he would be writing similar email to Steve Jobs. Windows is now a generation ahead of OSX. They would need couple of revisions to match the power of Vista but by that time Windows would have moved ahead another generation. Like this year, competition like Apple would have to depend upon Microsoft jeolots to sell their OS. They will always be showing Mac/PC ads and eat on the crumbs left by Windows. Cheap tricks like not making iTunes not compatible with Vista does not reflect the quality gap on Vista. In fact it is the other way round. Windows is like an elephant now. It moves slowly but with full determination. When it moves the earth around it feel it.

Tobin Titus said...

^-- What Erik Porter Said

Anonymous said...

I've been an "individual contributor" developer at Microsoft for 8 years.

Microsoft's main problem isn't too many employees. It's an inability to make strategic decisions and then trust in them long enough to see them through to implementation (and ultimately, to payoff).

Inside of Microsoft, decision-making is distributed among too many layers of managers, and every decision must be endlessly questioned and second-guessed. No decision is ever final or certain. No decision is ever 100% embraced consistently by all managers up and down the management chain or by managers of parallel teams that need to work together.

The people in the trenches who ultimately do the real work need clear direction and a clear plan, otherwise they won't be able to deliver anything excellent. They will just be victims of ever-changing strategy, ever-changing mandates, ever-changing personnel, and ever-changing organizational structure. This is exactly what's happening at Microsoft these days.

The bottom line: it's better to make fast and clear decisions and execute on them well, than to hold up execution by agonizing over what the optimal decision should be.

I know it's not very democratic or consensus-based. It doesn't have to be to make good decisions. As long as you have really smart "benevolent dictators" making all the executive decisions, then more than half the time those decisions will end up being the right ones, and you'll come out ahead.

Decision-making power needs to be taken away from middle-managers (who also tend to come and go pretty frequently, further muddying the decision-making process by taking and bringing different opinions with them) and returned to the hands of qualified "benevolent dictators" at the top (who generally stick around for terms long enough to span several releases of a product and therefore see their strategic vision through to completion). Middle managers should be stripped of all strategic decision-making power and instead simply provide personnel management.

When it comes to something as complex as Windows, you've got to let one person at the top, who understands both users and our technologies, dictate the overall plan and make all the important strategic decisions. Only a single decision maker at the top can guarantee that all the pieces fit together according to a seamless, sensible plan with clear goals. And only a dictator sticking around for ten years or longer on the same thing can push that vision consistently through long enough that it can finally start saying some payoff in the marketplace (without someone else coming along with different ideas and pulling the plug on the last strategy before it had a chance to take hold).

Anonymous said...

You misspeled DeVaan as well.

Anonymous said...

What Microsoft needs to do is pull coordinated levers. Figure out what they want for a workforce, and build a cohesive plan to get it. Right now, their pulling one lever at a time without the right supporting programs. Or worse, pulling levers in different directions, leading to confusion, frustration and failure.

For example, the company is trying to turn over its Kims and replace them with cheaper, younger, perhaps more aggressive and flexible talent. But at the same time, it continues to reward managers for their individual contributions rather than their managerial or leadership skills, predictably leading to astonishingly bad management and organization. The only thing that allows the company to function with the current middle management are the legions of highly experienced jacks-of-all-trades at the senior IC and front-line management levels. Since the company does not have the ability to properly organize specialists (at least on the product teams), it relies on people who can quickly adapt to the circumstances and keep progress moving forward. It is not a very efficient way of working, but it is the only way progress can be made without better management.

But, those highly experienced jacks-of-all-trades are the Kims that are being Limited II’d out the door. The college hires who will replace them may be future superstars (but see my point about salary below) but they are years away from having the experience to compensate for lousy management. If Microsoft only pulls the Kim level and doesn’t pull the Management level, it will be a disaster.

Likewise, there’s the pay level. The company wants ambitious first string superstars who work their butts off, but is only willing to pay for ambitious third string mediocrities. Or first string superstars who aren’t as ambitious and would be happy with an interesting job with good benefits for the family. But the company doesn’t want them either, and is pulling levers to chase them away. But it isn’t pulling the lever to attract ambitious talent with the kind of potential rewards that matter to that kind of person. So, the ambitious first stringers go to Google where they can still (potentially) become millionaires, the unambitious first stringers leave to have a happy life, and the ambitious third stringers fill the ranks.

It just seems like no one is really thinking these things through, or reconciling contradictory desires. We need mutually supporting programs in order to be successful. Our hiring, promotion, reward, organization, and management philosophies need to be designed to be in harmony with one another. Right now, they aren’t. Someone in the exec suite needs to recognize that and pull that level. I’m too far down the food chain to pull that lever for them, so I’m planning my exit. I made my best effort to contribute to a solution over the last four years, and all I got was four years older. Time to look for my landing spot.

SteveL said...

I don't know what MS Research are up to, so cannot comment on whether it is any good or not. I have worked in another corporate R&D lab, and know about the big problems getting stuff from lab demo to production.

All too often, researchers and their managers focus on shiny demos and leading edge stuff, rather than the details of getting the stuff working, which is left to the product groups. But those groups are already behind schedule with lots of good ideas, and if MSR dont provide the engineering effort, nobody else will.

What I've seen work best is if the researchers move into the product groups to help implement it. Not only are they the best positioned to xfter the technology, they learn a lot by building products. Like test centric dev, team processes, project management, etc, the stuff that individual researchers in and R&D lab dont do so much of. Then, once the tech is transferred, when they go back to research, they take with them what they've learned.

the other thing is to have product people spend time in the lab. Treat it as a mini-sabbatical for someone too burned out by ppt-driven schedules to do any more all nighters for a while; let them focus on some ideas they had but no time to work on.

we have to stop pretending that research labs are where the ideas come from, instead as a place where ideas can be explored off the critical path, and anyone competent can help.

As for my company, well, open source is turning out to be a more responsive pipeline than the product divisions. We can stick something not-production-quality out the door there, if it is useful it gets picked up, and we get early customer feedback. Look at what Sun are doing with Fortress for an example of this.

-steve

Anonymous said...

Reducing the msft employment numbers to reasonable amounts will not reduce the number of policies those left will need to play by.

Anonymous said...

>>> The stock has cracked $30 and stayed above that mark.

Unfortunately not anymore.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with bloating is that it gets difficult to hire people where we really need them: in groups which do produce real products that ship and make revenue. It is sad and irritating to hear that some teams can't get headcount or even $350 flat screens while some other teams don't ship anything for 7 years and yet have the entire floor and got dual 20" LCDs four years ago.

As for HR it is really bloated and inefficient. As a manager I am yet to see any help from HR. HR folks change every month, keep sending in people for interview that don't even remotely know what a pointer is, can't find a decent candidate in months.

Anonymous said...

re: "Inside of Microsoft, decision-making is distributed among too many layers of managers, and every decision must be endlessly questioned and second-guessed. No decision is ever final or certain. No decision is ever 100% embraced consistently by all managers up and down the management chain or by managers of parallel teams that need to work together."

I second that. I work in product management. I'm asked to put together marketing plans by my manager - only to find out that the peers on my same team are also working on plans - no coordination; little communication. My manager needs to be helping us cross-coordinate, collaborate and move forward as a team. My boss seems to be more preoccupied in building a career. And, my boss tells lies to create fear to motivate us. That worked when I was eight years old and it was my Mom telling me to clean up etc.

Anonymous said...

You know that story:

"There are smart and dumb people, there are lazy and hard-working ones. So you have four types of people.

When you hire, hire in this order:

a) First look for some smart and hard-working guys;
b) Then, if you cannot find them, look for smart and lazy people;
c) Failing that, hire dumb and lazy;
d) But, never hire dumb and hard-working people.

It seems that MS of today is full of b's and d's -- problem are those from d) group -- those are work hard on implementing wrong things (anybody said 'Zune' :))

Alyosha` said...

No decision is ever 100% embraced consistently by all managers up and down the management chain or by managers of parallel teams that need to work together.

That's a new one. The problem at Microsoft is that there's not enough groupthink? Huh.

Anonymous said...

"mediocre resources that product mediocre"

Should be "produce".

Anonymous said...

I'm sick of hearing about the bloated HR teams.

Let's talk about the bloated number of PMs, Group Managers and Architects that we don't need - they are the ones that can't get product out the door or confuse product development with product marketing. If you want to look at who is responsible for the bloated infrustructure that we have today - that's KevinT, Kevin Johnson and by default, SteveB. HR? They are playing the hand that we continue to deal them.

Plus, I don't want to throw my HR team under the bus - I get awesome support from my HR Team - although clearly I am the only one on this blog.

Finance? I'll agree that I have no idea what they do, since they can't even tell me how many PCN's I have..I have to tell them and they haven't gotten my budget right once in 6 years.

My suggestion:

Let's get rid of 2500 L60/61 PMs and App Developers, throw in a few hundred misaligned SDETs, GMs and Group PMs.

Also, I'm sick of dealing with College Hires that walk in the door and think that because they did a 3 month internship and we offer them a position making $65,000, with larger signining bonuses and stock awards than I award to my seasoned PM's and Devs that they are the second coming of sliced bread.

Those changes alone should save us $350-400MM a year and instead of putting that money in the pocket of the Partners they can put that in the pocket of those of us that are working are asses off.

Anonymous said...

As one of the aforementioned new hires ('A+' or otherwise, it doesn't really matter), I look forward to my first day and the outpouring of warmth and welcome which, no doubt, awaits me.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, did you really like the "Wow" commercial, punk'd???

Ugh. It was the cheesiest thing I'd seen in a long time. If the intention was to make me laugh, it succeeded. A little too ridiculous I think.

Anonymous said...

In my org we have "feature teams" and the leads in the team make all the calls. At least that's the story. We spec, design and cost out our features; Test, Dev and PM (who all like each other and work well togehter) agree on the delvierables and snap them to milestones. We're all pumped to get some cool bits out the door. We all know how to do our job.

Then there is a review where nit-picky clueless middle management meddlers frak it all up, ask stupid questions (there is such a thing as a stupid question) and set silly condtions based on a complete lack of understanding.

I think you could eliminate the layer between front-line leads and "upper" management and get a huge win in the case of productivity. I have more than five directs. Our test manager has three. In between me and the test manager are three middle managers. They are good folks who know their stuff, one of them is a good friend, but their function to me is not clear. IMHO they are not needed. Those reqs could easily be lost or converted into people who find and fix bugs (our testers fix bugs too).

My unit is awesome, there are no slackers and everyone is dedicated and fired up about the work we do, but even here there is an obvious middle-heaviness that could be trimmed down. By flattening the org we could get more productive. Take these smart folks who've been promoted up to paper shufflers and get some bugs or code or fixes out of them rather than another PPT deck.

Anonymous said...

"What big levers do you believe still need a good pulling for Microsoft to get on the path of a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine?"

What big levers don't still need pulling? Board oversight? Non-existent. Case in point: ZUNE. CEO leadership? MIA most of the time and embarassing the rest. No sense of urgency. Senior Management accountability? Still infrequent and/or insufficient (e.g. Zune and Lee - was he the only one responsible for that mess? What about Allard and Bach? What about Ballmer?). Focus on cutting costs? Words, yes, actual deeds and results, no. In fact, headcount keep cranking along. Operational excellence? Puhlease. New businesses? Still losing money, forecasts reduced/pushed out, and now the Wii has an outside shot of beating both Xbox and PS3 and doing it profitably. Marketing? Have you seen the general Vista blog/media reaction despite a $500M launch? No positive hype or buzz whatsoever. Search? The ONLY company in the top 10 to actually lose marketshare - and this while pouring in Billions. Market performance/perception? Look at the selloff since the company stopped aggressively pumping up the stock with buyback dollars. MSFT is now back below both major indexes over a 1 year timeframe - just as it's been for most of the past 5 years. The nightmare isn't over. The hype is over, and if the results don't follow, the nightmare has only just begun.

Anonymous said...

"mediocre resources that product mediocre results" should be "mediocre resources that produce mediocre results" right? No more blogging while the game is on.

Anonymous said...

Mini, if 35,000 out of 70,000 Microsoft people are unhappy and dispassionate in their "Microsoft J.O.B." then either Microsoft is doing a poor job of hiring or Microsoft is doing something awful to all those great Microsoft hires turned sour. Which is it?

Don't get me wrong, though, I think 70,000 employees at Microsoft is absurd.

What I would like to know is how many IC's at Microsoft find that when it comes time to set commitments they get little to no direction from their management? How many find that they must be, ummm, "creative" in trying to define their role in the company? How many struggle with this lack of direction and then are made out to be the bad employee for failing to create their niche?

I suspect that it's not just IC's but firstline managers (and higher) who struggle with this lack of direction. Entire teams flounder when transitioning from project to project and the anxiety this uncertainty creates is palpable.

Now if you buy into what I perceive to be the current Microsoft way of thinking this lack of direction is not a management problem but an IC problem. Microsoft seems to think that all of its employees should be leaders and the company seems willing to throw out lots of great followers in search of more great leaders. That is a recipe for disaster, I think, for a team full of leaders is not a team at all.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of problems with Microsoft and you could fill a book enumerating them. There is only one key problem, though, and if it gets solved, it will have a knock-on effect on every other problem.

The key problem is that Microsoft has not embraced the philosophy of "The Tipping Point"--i.e., that little things have a big impact. Almost everything about Microsoft is geared towards doing a ton of work to make huge changes because employees (at all levels) intuitively think that's the only worthwhile way to make/sell new products.

The "ton of work" philosophy is present on a large scale (e.g., WinFS, getting Windows to run on a cell phone, Ray Ozzie redesigning the Internet), and on a small scale. Which is easier: 1) doing a feature that requires an entire team to work on it for a milestone, or 2) moving a single button to a different position on a toolbar to alleviate a known pain point for millions of users? Unfortunately, at Microsoft, the answer is usually the former.

Anonymous said...

>The people in the trenches who ultimately do the real work need clear direction and a clear plan, otherwise they won't be able to deliver anything excellent.

This has got to be the most succinct and accurate post yet regarding the ability (or lack thereof) to deliver excellence.

On many occasions, features appear in spite of unclear direction. This is arguably better than not at all, but still chaotic.

I always used to think that vision statements are fluffy nonsense; now I'm not so sure. So long as everyone knows what that vision is, and buys into it, so it becomes a guiding principle when ambiguity reigns (often).

So perhaps the mark of a good leader is everyone knowing what they are supposed to be doing, why it is important, and where they can get help with the "how". Duh.

Anonymous said...

Inside of Microsoft, decision-making is distributed among too many layers of managers, and every decision must be endlessly questioned and second-guessed...

Bingo.

There are smart and dumb people, there are lazy and hard-working ones. So you have four types of people...

Bingo.

In my org we have "feature teams" and the leads in the team make all the calls. At least that's the story. We spec, design and cost...
Then there is a review where nit-picky clueless middle management meddlers frak it all up...


Super Bingo.

lack of direction is not a management problem but an IC problem. Microsoft seems to think that all of its employees should be leaders and the company seems willing to throw out lots of great followers in search of more great leaders.

Sorta bingo. You're right, this is what the company thinks it is doing, but frankly, since BillG checked out, the company wouldn't know a leader if one showed up and started kicking it's butt.

Which is easier: 1) doing a feature that requires an entire team to work on it for a milestone, or 2) moving a single button to a different position on a toolbar to alleviate a known pain point for millions of users? Unfortunately, at Microsoft, the answer is usually the former.

Because doing a ton of work is the only way to get outstanding/4.0 reviews. Moving a single button, no matter how much users love it, is, well, the right thing to do but not much visibility there. I mean, your boss is going to have a hard time convincing the GM to promote you if you didn't do a ton of work. Whether it needed doing or not.

So, a) clean out middle management, who do nothing useful and plenty harmful. b) replace them with people who don't worry about product strategy but instead worry about identifying people doing important but not necessarily visible work.

That might be a great place to work.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly sure why MS is hiring and hiring and hiring. I know why thats the case in my org at least - lack of talent. In a given team of lets say 5 people, just 1 or 2 are smart and get things done for real. So since there is *too much* work to handle for the team of 5, the manager fights for and gets more headcount. Multiply this by a few hundred teams across MS and there you have it. Hiring and hiring and hiring...
Reminds me of those telecom companies (used to work for one) that hired armies of people and when times got tough laid them off in droves.

Anonymous said...

I am fairly sure why MS is hiring and hiring and hiring. I know why thats the case in my org at least - lack of talent.

Case study, our org. We had 5 busy, excellent IC's. We had more work. We had to hire. We kept turning them down, but lead pressured us to let some people through because we HAD to get the extra work done, and we didn't have enough time to do it ourselves. We did. We got one productive person, one neutral person, and one person who is after 6 months on our team still a time drain on the productive members of the team. The net manpower effect was an improvement of around 1.5 for the price of 3. MSFT would rather hire 3 mediocre performers than pay for 2 superstars.

How did we handle this?

We created another layer of management so that there would be people to help the neutral and time drain performers, while having the minimum effect on the high performers that don't have time to baby sit. We were split into two teams of 4, with two new people brought in as leads to give extra attention to developing the two FTEs that should have been no-hires. Now it's a net improvement of perhaps 2, for the price of 5. So in our org, the quality of individual we've been able to attract lately has had a direct affect on the number of layers of management in our org and the amount of headcount bloat.

Has this happened in other orgs?

Keeperplanet said...

# "New leadership for Windows (Sinofsky, DeVaan) coming from an organization relatively well known for making sure the trains run on time.
# Hard questions being asked in public of upper leadership and that same leadership recognizing that Vista development didn't go well and swearing never to do that again."

Bill `Bob' Gates is the Six Billion Dollar Man. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Vista-a-6-Billion-Dollars-Operating-System-44096.shtml
But this customer is asking a hard question: do you know wtf you are doing? While Vista sales figures are mixed
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/content/vista/early_vista_sales_dont_tell_the_whole_story.html
I am concerned about the articles that are coming out about one or two a day now that outline royal Emperor's New Clothes scenarios of total Vista screwups.

For example: From MSNBC:
• Is Vista trouble for online gamers?
Feb. 5: Microsoft's new Vista operating system could cause headaches for online gamers. CNBC's Jim Goldman reports. (link to MSNBC Science and Technology page and click on the video feed links)
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032118/

In a time when the number one software company should be figuring out ways to preserve legacy data and improving the customer experience, Microsoft seems hell bent on forcing us to forget our past by erasing it. From a customer standpoint, this and the difficulty with using media on your Microsoft based pc is strikingly wierd at best and smacks of some kind of cryptic high strangeness of maximum effort to limit functionality of personal computers.

or this from ZDNET:

When is a firewall not a firewall? When it's Vista's built-in firewall
http://ct.zdnet.com/clicks?t=28974295-a35fa6a2756d38fc93b98b27382a2e72-bf&s=5&fs=0

You guys will have to comment on that.

If the trains run on time because they don't stop for customers on the tracks, well, I suppose you would blame the customer for being on the tracks in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Discussion of pay. I am a HR director. I wont tell you my level or group. I made 225K in 2006 including stock awards. The GPM salary is a bit low for L66. It is possible to have that salary after 401k and flex care is deducted.

Anonymous said...

>Plus, I don't want to throw my HR team under the bus - I get awesome support from my HR Team - although clearly I am the only one on this blog.

HR speak++.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody agree with my feeling that the Vista UI is actually pretty ugly? The one thing the OS is really supposed to have going for it, and I hate it. It's all dark grey. It makes me depressed when I look at it. And why are the bottom edges of windows round on the outside and square on the inside?? I understand about 3D acceleration and whatnot but if I saw a picture of XP and a picture of Vista side-by-side, I'd rather buy XP.

Thras said...

Blocking outbound traffic through a firewall is kind of silly. It's not a big deal that outbound filtering in the basic Windows firewall sucks.

But what is that statement a while up the thread about Vista being "a generation ahead of OS X" supposed to mean? That's just insane. I run Vista on my desktop. It's a stretch to say that Vista is even a generation ahead of XP.

Anonymous said...

Here here! I'm with you. All the people complaining and doing nothing to try to help change things need to re-evaluate their position (i.e. help figure out the answer to the problem and be a part of the solution or look for a job outside of Microsoft where they would be happier).

Erik, the correct term is "Hear hear".

Anonymous said...

This is just a comment on some interesting stats on Vista vs XP performance from Tom's Hardware

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/01/29/xp-vs-vista/

One of their conclusions (which is always fair and based on actual comparative benchmarks) was:
"Windows Vista clearly is not a great new performer when it comes to executing single applications at maximum speed."

Reducing software performance in a new MS OS release is nothing new. It has in fact been the result of most MS OS releases over the years to increase GUI value in exchange for speed trade offs that have always been compensated for (eventually) by hardware improvements (Moore's law having not yet been breached).

Personally I have to ask if Microsoft has ever started out with the intent to improve speed and performance in its operating system design. It seems that doubling performance is not an unreasonable specification to be a given for developers. It seems that performance is a higher priority in the MS OS world than chasing after Apple's limited performance `I feel pretty' resource hogesque GUI.

Maybe I'm all wet here, but as a customer, I am quite weary of the never ending moving ever increasing loss of performance in windows products, which in turn affects things like running CAD or 3D modeling or gaming performance. In fact, because of this I am considering moving back to Windows 2000 to get the performance I desire, since I cannot yet move to Linux for running certain apps I have.

Anonymous said...

Q. When does a company know it's in crisis?

A. When the money runs out.

Q. When will Microsoft's money run out?

A. Never.

Q. Is Microsoft in crisis?

A. No.

Anonymous said...

>> Does anybody agree with my feeling that the Vista UI is actually pretty ugly?

There are several major flaws in it, but by far the most annoying one is context menus. They're just so ugly, it's unbelievable. I mean things are just out of alignment. Highlight has rounded corners, menu itself does not. Highlight is too bright so it's hard to see the gradient. There's often just one icon in the menu, can someone explain why we have the left margin there? Uneven vertical and horizontal spacing of dividers, text and icons. Even XP menus were more consistent. Office 2007 menus are consistent, too (rounded corners, even spacing, consistent use of icons, darker, easier to see highlight). Why did we say that this version of Windows would be the most aesthetically pleasing and then completely ignored aesthetics?

And you know what the worst part is? We'll have to live with this nightmare for the next 5 years at least.

Anonymous said...

So perhaps the mark of a good leader is everyone knowing what they are supposed to be doing, why it is important, and where they can get help with the "how". Duh.

(FYI: I'm the original poster of the comment to which you were replying).

Exactly. What Microsoft desperately needs is: (1) new excutive-level strategists who are actually in touch with real users, have a clear concrete plan, and know what the hell they are doing, and (2) new middle-management that is subservient to the strategist's plan and authority at all times, rather than constantly challenging the strategist and creating rifts in some misguided effort to make themselves look self-important for career growth purposes.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd seen just about every stupid marketing move by the management team imaginable. I was wrong:

whatswrongwithu

If this is for real, every head involved should roll.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I am fairly sure why MS is hiring and hiring and hiring. I know why thats the case in my org at least - lack of talent.

Case study, our org. We had 5 busy, excellent IC's. We had more work. We had to hire. We kept turning them down, but lead pressured us to let some people through because we HAD to get the extra work done, and we didn't have enough time to do it ourselves. We did. We got one productive person, one neutral person, and one person who is after 6 months on our team still a time drain on the productive members of the team. The net manpower effect was an improvement of around 1.5 for the price of 3. MSFT would rather hire 3 mediocre performers than pay for 2 superstars.

How did we handle this?

We created another layer of management so that there would be people to help the neutral and time drain performers, while having the minimum effect on the high performers that don't have time to baby sit. We were split into two teams of 4, with two new people brought in as leads to give extra attention to developing the two FTEs that should have been no-hires. Now it's a net improvement of perhaps 2, for the price of 5. So in our org, the quality of individual we've been able to attract lately has had a direct affect on the number of layers of management in our org and the amount of headcount bloat.

Has this happened in other orgs?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 8:38:50 AM


This is interesting. Our Org just hired back a large sum of folks who they let go back in E3 days + plenty of extras from the outside world. Most came back with nice pay increases and kept seniority. Ok fine.

But now LW6 is passing us by like comet. It is virtually over. Hmmm what will we do with all this new head count. Porto Rico looks good. So now they are considering the entire org down to small amounts of the org to be moved there for the "tax benefit".

So is this thier way to clean house so to speak? You know the management won't be reduced. No manager that I know of lost a job during E3, just IC's. Back to cleaning house, some were flat out told "you have x amount of time to figure it out, or you are on your way out" Tough words to have to hear for those with families to support. But for those that got the message that is a sure sign of get it together.

So until then there is plenty of web pages to be viewed to pass the time on a daily basis until you get your severence.

We did a case study in our org as well (ok not scientific but a few IC's talking). We see 1.5 out of 3 work here to. Makes you wonder how MS can afford the extra salaries for those that have nothing better to do all day than swing by the office to say hello at the water cooler.

Anonymous said...

Not happy doing what you're doing?
Sometimes.

Full of criticism of how Microsoft could be a better place for little ole you?

Every company has problems.

Risk averse to looking for a new position in Microsoft or outside of Microsoft, perhaps knowing this is as good as it gets for you?

Just waiting for my 20 or so months to start soul searching and making sure I can move. I want to switch every 2-3 years and I hope everyone else does too.

Within a dispassionate environment pulling down a direct deposit and satisfied that's the way it's going to be?

Never satisfied. If no other group wants me, I'm probably not meant to be with Microsoft. That won't stop me collecting money for a while and still trying to do a good job, but if I can't do what I want to do, outside I go.


BUT then I'm a fairly new hire. I take advice, try not to have an ego even when I do things right, and try to never surf (some days are bad days, but I try to make up for it the next day in an extra hour or two).
We don't all think we're the best thing since sliced bread and that Microsoft needs to do more for us.
Most of the other new hires I know are just extremely happy to be here at all. The benefits are great.

My current manager sucks, but like I said somewhere around 20 months (I've already had 2 different managers).

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"What Microsoft desperately needs is: (1) new excutive-level strategists who are actually in touch with real users, have a clear concrete plan, and know what the hell they are doing, and (2) new middle-management that is subservient to the strategist's plan and authority at all times, rather than constantly challenging the strategist and creating rifts in some misguided effort to make themselves look self-important for career growth purposes."

What a concept. :-) It would also be nice if faced with a near non-stop meltdown that's destroyed ~$20B of shareholder value and dropped the stock back through key levels that have taken YEARS to get above, the senior management got front and center and reaffirmed confidence in Vista sellthrough to date and financial projections for the year. Instead, the CEO and CFO are mostly AWOL, and not one senior exec has even bothered to refute ANY of the statements in the recent very negative Barron's article (generally credited with sparking the most recent selloff). The market continues to signal a lack of confidence in MSFT and its management, as it has for many years now, and - incredulously - the management team in small and large ways too numerous to list, continue to earn that lack of respect. Time for a wholesale change, starting at the top.

Anonymous said...

Hi mini and All,

Anonymous at 2/7/07 at 9:30:20 AM writes:

Maybe I'm all wet here, but as a customer, I am quite weary of the never ending moving ever increasing loss of performance in windows products, which in turn affects things like running CAD or 3D modeling or gaming performance. In fact, because of this I am considering moving back to Windows 2000 to get the performance I desire, since I cannot yet move to Linux for running certain apps I have.

This has been an explicit policy of the upper management in Windows for many, many years. MS wants to make people buy new machines, so they can thus sell new licenses. Remember Kempin's memo about the need to "find true MIPS eating applications" from the antitrust trial?

Personally, I think you're missing the big picture, mini. Microsoft, throughout most of its exisitence as an OS vendor, has been driven by the desire to crush other software vendors so that it can leverage its IP into new monopolies. It can't apply those tactics (at least not as successfully any more), so it flails around in other areas to try to find the next monopoly.

As long as MS's corporate culture revolves around these tactics - IOW, as long as Gates and Balmer are running the show - that's not going to change. The rank-in-file knows that Vista and Office 2007 aren't going to have as much market share as Windows95 and Office97. They know that Google isn't going to go away. They know that MS's "embrace and extend" culture isn't going to bring riches any more.

The best thing for MS's employees, shareholders, and the US economy, would be for MS to split itself up into several smaller companies. The OSes should be in a stand-alone company.

I don't doubt that MS could stand to lose a lot of people. Many large corporations that aren't pressured by the market fall into complacency. But just slimming MS down isn't going to change its profit prospects, IMHO.

If you really want MS to be a profit-making machine, you should simplify the OS. Quit throwing the kitchen sink in Windows! MS grew fastest when it had a vibrant ISV community and when it had competition. You should be happy that Apple is starting to provide vibrant competition, and inspiration, with OS X.

In sum, as someone above said, MS needs a new mission statement. A computer on every desk and in every home all running Microsoft software doesn't recognise the realities of the challenges ahead.

Thanks for reading.

Best of luck in making changes at MS.

Cheers,
Scott.

Anonymous said...

It seems that performance is a higher priority in the MS OS world than chasing after Apple's limited performance `I feel pretty' resource hogesque GUI.

Not really on your topic, but it's interesting that you mention Apple's "resource hogging" GUI.

OS X 10.0 was slow when it was released in 2001. This was when Macs typically had a G3 processor, 64 to 128 MB of RAM, and a DirectX 7 video card. Apple basically released a performance fix (10.1) after about 6 months and people stopped complaining.

Well, it's 6 years later and processors, memory, and video cards are more or less an order of magnitude better. I don't think OS X has changed fundamentally, so it runs about 10 times better than acceptable. (Or it has very modest system requirements, you pick.)

Meanwhile, Vista just shipped, requires a relatively high-end PC, and doesn't seem to offer anything special vs. OS X for all that extra hardware. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a softie but I guess there are enough softie reading this, and enough awareness may actually change the fate of a school teacher and at the same time boost the down-trodden image of MS...

Most of you must've heard about the plea from Gorbechev about a Russian school principal who got arrested because he unknowingly bought a pirate copy of windows. I know that MS is very sensitive on this issue, but I don't agree that that man should be sent to jail because of this. First, there's no way he or the school can ever afford to buy a copy of Windows (and now Vista is insanely expensive), and second, I truly believe that software for educational should be economically accessible in local standard. However, the horrible thing is that MS PR has already issued a cold-blood reply, saying that MS would not intervene because it respects the Russian judicial system. Nevermind how "respectable" the Russian judical system is, but it can really undone the positive image that MS has built up and, in my humble opinion, can be averted. But it can only be done inside, and
the MS PR has proven to be coldblood enough already. Time for "developers, developers, developers" to step up!!!

Here is another link: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,2091412,00.asp

Anonymous said...

Mini,

I know you don't want a flame war so maybe you're going to have to stop letting these barbed Apple remarks through. The OS X animations aren't resource hogs because they're located at the correct altitude in the hierarchy of the operating system (e.g. lower than their counterparts in any flavor of Windows). I can report firsthand that older, obsolte Macintoshes speed up when you migrate them incrementally up the OS X family tree (and they're all fastest in Tiger; even the seven-year-old machines).

I mean, I don't want to have a flame war either, and I respect the underlying argument, but get the facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Most of you must've heard about the plea from Gorbechev about a Russian school principal who got arrested because he unknowingly bought a pirate copy of windows.

A quote from your own article:

"It could be that as far as the Russian criminal justice system is concerned, nothing that Bill Gates might say would make any difference in Ponosov's case."

You want MS to go over there and tell the Russian government what to do with one of their own citizens in a criminal case brought by their own prosecutors?

They would tell us to shove off, and rightly so.

Anonymous said...

Reading some of the comments I got reminded of a quote from Peter Drucker:

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things

The question is does MS have management or leadership? or neither?

Anonymous said...

Vista - I just upgraded my new machine and it has been a disaster... driver hell for one.
Of yeah security, every second action wants a conformation. Program incompatibilities ...

Well after 3 days on Vista, I am back on XP!

Who da'Punk said...

(1) Okay, no more Vista v OS X comments. You are wasting your keystrokes. This is not the place. Hell, I don't even know where that place would be.

I am sufficiently convinced neither side knows enough about both OSs to have an enlightening conversation.

And those that do, know better.

(2) Upgrade to Vista? Dude, I'm not upgrading any of my machines to Vista. For me, Vista is going on brand-new hardware designed for Vista in the first place.

The only upgrading I would do is paving a machine. I have too many random services and programs running (and old hardware) that would not be happy.

Perhaps that's one reason our ads for Vista have been so light and so lame: we don't want people to go through the hell of upgrading but rather just want them to get a new machine.

Anonymous said...

Remember Kempin's memo about the need to "find true MIPS eating applications" from the antitrust trial?

The idea is not to screw customers and force them to buy new machines. The idea is that with computational power growing with Moore's Law, we need to supply software that takes advantage of that growing computational power - which means, yes, it runs slower on yesterdays machines. And with the lifetime of an OS, today's machines are not what we are targeting.

Charles said...

I am sufficiently convinced neither side knows enough about both OSs to have an enlightening conversation.

Certainly weeding out comments that merely prolong a flame war is prudent.

However, one does not need to know what is right or wrong about OS X or even have a Mac or an iPod to know what is wrong with Vista (or was wrong with Longhorn) or Zune.

It isn't rocket science, and in all honesty, much of it hasn't even risen to the level of Managment 101, Marketing 101 or OS Design & Architecture 101, yet.

Much of what is wrong in Vista has is roots in Bill Gates' "vision" for how to own the desktop, fast follower, embrace and extend, and inability to administer a large corporation (much less an OS) etc. None of which changed with the transfer to Balmer's oversight, save possibly its direction and delivery is even more poorly articulated.

But knowing (or discussing) what is wrong with Vista or Live, etc. doesn't require likewise knowing what is wrong with OS X, or Google, or Wii.

Right or wrong, Microsoft hitched it's future to Vista. To curtail discussion of Vista is to curtail discusssion of Microsoft. Their respective strengths and weakness have been intertwined for a long, long time. They are microcosm's of each other.

Anonymous said...

>"a quote from Peter Drucker:

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things"

The question is does MS have management or leadership? or neither?"

That statement is priceless.

Note to Lisa: rewrite your search specification for manager to include leadership (and visionary) characteristics.

Suffering Customer.

Anonymous said...

"we don't want people to go through the hell of upgrading but rather just want them to get a new machine."

Pretty harsh. You might want to consider retracting that particular one...

Anonymous said...

Open discussion and criticism about bumbling bureaucracy which has led to flattening in some of our major organizations (and certain managers either moving on or transitioning back to individual contributor duties) along with adoption of agility and efficiency.


One more reason to consider leaving Microsoft: Kevin Johnson occupies the whole 4th floor of building 35

If you have not already heard, Kevin Johnson has chosen building 35 for his
new home and is building a new executive space on the 4th floor which means the SQL org had to give up a bunch of office space to make room, this ripples all the way down to the first floor.

This means some employees who had a 2006 start date will have to be doubled
(and in some cases re-doubled after just being un-doubled!).

Don't try to persuade anybody this is good for Microsoft, even with facts that some buildings on campus are now into tripling as they wait for building 7 to complete.

The office space density will surely beat any other in America, and can successfully compete even with such countries as Japan.

Let us applaud our Vice President's great contribution to the working
conditions and to the efficiency of our work.

Lisa, what do you think about the working conditions at Microsoft?

Will somebody be able to hold our Vice President accountable for this?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Mini, time to pack up shop? The blog has really jumped the shark and is now inhabited by aliens. Who knew that Lisa's blog will KTFO Mini's blog?

Anyway it was good while it lasted. Thanks for the towels:)

Anonymous said...

Research: I've come to recognize that MSR is actually doing some things that I'm really interested in seeing in our customers' hands (or, more specifically, my hands). Is this as effective as it could be? Where's the leadership and ownership to ensure the deep investment we have in our researchers is translated into exceptional returns in what we deliver?


Having recently moved from a product group to research, I have to disagree with you. Granted my previous group had serious work/life balance issues (10-12 houre days typical), but its a complete 180 over here in research. As long as you show up before 10am you can get a parking spot, otherwise forget it. Go wander down to the parking garage @ 4pm.... empty. WTF?!!?! As a shareholder it pisses me off to no end the waste I see over here (idiotic research project as well as 6 hour days). As far as I can see, there is a serious lack of leadership or accountability over here.

Anonymous said...

"This means some employees who had a 2006 start date will have to be doubled
(and in some cases re-doubled after just being un-doubled!)"


Our project group is composed mostly of FTEs who have been hired within the past 2 years, with a couple 5-year people thrown in. All staff who've joined MSFT in the past 3 years are doubled. Some have been undoubled and redoubled; even those whose address book titles contain "senior."

Life is tough all over. I feel bad for your doubled-up colleagues with 2006 start dates. However, consider that some of us who started in 2004 or 2005 have been doubled up since we started, with no relief in sight.

Including me. In addition to being an inconvenience (can't call into a meeting and put the phone on mute, and continue working until I have something to say), it also wastes my time. When I need to have a private conversation with someone, or a small meeting with 1 or 2 people, or I need to conduct an interview, I need to find (and get to, which often involves a walk to another building due to the number of people doubled in our building who thus have to seek out conference rooms) a conference room to use.

We've been given the option to move to places like Redmond Town Center, but most of our staff needs to meet with people in our area of the main campus on a daily basis.

I heard someone in the hall the other day joking that Microsoft should buy some trailers and temporarily put some mods up in the parking garages to help relieve the space crunch without moving groups off-campus. What does that say about our working conditions? The danger I see is that the temporary would become permanent.

Bruce Lynn said...

The call out to the Drucker (also associated with Welch) quote about Leaders doing the right things and Managers doing things right is the tagline to my blog which looks at this whole issue of Leadership/Management. Naturally, I turned the lens on my own personal experience of Microsoft and took a stab at assessing just how we do stack up on this dimension with a look at Bill and Steve's leadership personnas. Being in the field, I admit that a lot of my data is second-hand so I really don't know about how on the mark the analysis is, but people interested in this particular topic can check out my http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!132.entry posting and I welcome all comments.

TheKhalif said...

Exactly. What Microsoft desperately needs is: (1) new excutive-level strategists who are actually in touch with real users, have a clear concrete plan, and know what the hell they are doing, and (2) new middle-management that is subservient to the strategist's plan and authority at all times, rather than constantly challenging the strategist and creating rifts in some misguided effort to make themselves look self-important for career growth purposes.




The problem is that the person would get fired by the "stack."
That's why I quit. I couldn't stand peole (idiot managers) taking credit for my good work but making excuses as to why I was nt advancing as I should have.

It's OK though because since I've left MS, I have grown immensely as a C# programmer. I even ge credit for my work (not always a raise but acknowledgement ofttimes is worth more than money.
As someone said the best workers don't have to be given a raise for every idea they have. They love what they do.
Just say good job and don't screw people on the review with "double talk."

Anonymous said...

Here's my gripe..

Manager is never in office. Could be sick, could be doing errands, could be golfing. Noone on the team knows, because he doesn't bother to let anyone know. Forget Deal or No Deal, every day I play 'Show or No Show'

Also, the manager is doing little to no work. He makes 1:1 commits, forgets, and the team has to pick up to the ball to avoid getting tarnished.

If this is management, if this is leadership, no wonder the stock price is going down.

Anonymous said...

Commitments.

Remember those things that should have been set in July of last year.

How many people still don't have them? Doesn't anyone in HR check the tool and ask about these?

How do you compensate in an org where goals aren't set. Seems you're either set up to get screwed (I know you didn't have objectives, but if you had them you didn't meet them) or lavishly rewarded (you never fall short of your goals if you define them after you're done)

So who's not got commitments locked?

Anonymous said...

Enough complaints about doubling up.

Try going to a customer site. You go to a large financial services company, where the employees are pulling as much or more than we are, and guess where they're working?

Cubicles. And if they're not in cubicles, they're stationed on long tables in an open plan environment.

I seriously think Microsoft should have a 'non-MS buddy program', where you can talk with someone from outside Redmond who'll remind you just how good we all have it.

There are people out there who work in cubicles and pay (gasp!) for coffee (not starbucks, either). People that pay way more for healthcare, get much less paternity leave, get no discounts, have no flex-time, are forced to run Windows XP/2000, don't get re-imbursed for broadband/mobile, don't get stock grants, etc. And they don't argue about towel service, because who outside of 98052 would *expect* the employer to provide them with towels!

Just take a moment and appreciate what you've got.

Anonymous said...

>> are forced to run Windows XP/2000, don't get re-imbursed for broadband/mobile

That resembles our group. AT MSFT.

Old machines means Vista.

REIMBURSED for broadband and mobile? I've heard rumors of this happening elsewhere, but it doesn't happen in our group even though many of us work 20+ hours a week from our home net connections in addition to our time in the office.

Anonymous said...

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003574610_microsoft16.html

everytime he opens his mouth the stock price seems to go down. why is this?

Anonymous said...

One problem i've seen over 11 years with the company is the belief that everything can be solved by adding more levels of management, and that whenever a manager needs to install another manager he goes right to his group of friends to choose on on that basis alone.

Anonymous said...

In response to the comment earlier that "you've got to let one person at the top, who understands both users and our technologies, dictate the overall plan and make all the important strategic decisions. "

I say i hope that person is a god. Where does the statistic that you will be ahead 50 percent of the time by following the dictatorship model of corporate leadership come from? We are not math illiterate.

That, my friend is a mathematical prediction. What is it based on?
Read "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki. At least the book presents some evidence that leaving all the decisions in the hands of one person is very bad.

In fact, following the model the author puts forth, MS should do an anonymous company poll directly concerning poduct development. Not asking "do you agree with the direction of the company" but asking "name your precise suggestions for product improvement/development."

Make it really anonymous, and then compile the results. 70,000 people equals a tremenous resource. Plus, this approach has been shown to work when the participants are from all over the "smart" scale and according to Surowiecki does better than a group of like-minded smart people.

This is a powerful idea and the more you think about what the whole premise of the book really means--that a representative group actually represents the population -- you understand its simplicity.
So, no dictators please! nobody is that good (or has enough personalities to representt the population)!