Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quest for Happiness

Following up on Ballmer and the Stock: the post Steve Ballmer's Horrible, Rotten, Awful, Really Bad Day by Owen Thomas has this reported overheard Steve Ballmer conversation after the financial analysts meeting:

Ballmer: "That didn't go over so well."

Flunky: "The reaction seemed about 50-50."

Ballmer: "At best."

Kevin Kelleher refers to the above conversation in his interesting write-up Microsoft Gives Up the Grail and has the best analogy I read all week (one so good that I wish I had written it). Snippet:

[Ballmer] uttered those magical, market-cap-killing words about the company's new Vista operating system: "Perhaps people are somewhat too bullish."

On Wall Street, of course, that's the same thing as wandering down a dark alley and wondering aloud if you have too many $100 bills in your wallet.

Interesting comments: first up: a simple question - "Do we get paid to ship process or features?"

Which is more important? Meeting some commitment and junk that HR came up with or shipping a quality product? Customers won't be forgiving if my (very critical) area's quality is crap because I took a whole bunch of time out to focus on "career development".

Around Vista ship expectations and what Mr. Ballmer has said, Charles shares the following:

Seriously, Ballmer himself is responsible for setting unrealistic expectations in the first place when he said:

"We think in the next three months, we'll probably sell five times as many copies of Windows Vista as we ever did with (Windows 95) in the equivalent period of time," he said. "We'll probably go double what we did with Windows XP."

Notes From the Field has an excellent comment (once again) that if you haven't read you should just do right now to see a take on Vista features and how relevant to the real world they are. A nice summary (as opposed to the lengthy technical list on Wikipedia - can we get a consumer friendly version of that?). Around the Ballmer Vista comments:

Even though I think Ballmer was totally incompetent in his communication of the message, I think many analysts were overly optimistic on the early Vista successes. Yes, there was a spike in PC shipments when Vista released to consumers. It was a one-time event and many analysts used it as a basis.

I still question why Ballmer felt the need for a press conference instead of just "whispering" the data to the key analysts. That would make for a softer landing.

BizDog's take on the message content and the messenger:

Does Ballmer need to be accurate and honest with investors - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with employees - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with partners and customers - YES. Does he do a good job at this, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

There was a lot of back and forth discussion regarding the problem of major technology providers - like Creative and nVidia - having their drivers actually done and at a high-quality level for Vista ship. Who's problem is that? Microsoft's:

If all a user does is buy and install a Microsoft product and it causes his machine to not work as well, then who can possibly be to blame besides Microsoft? If Microsoft didn't sell the product or encourage users to upgrade, people wouldn't have these issues. Creative and nVidia are not the companies trying to sell Vista.

And one last comment to put some distant thunder in your day:

There are a number of high-level departures that have already been announced or soon will be. There is a major org shake up in process that will dwarf any others in the company's past, and many of the exec's don't like the looks of it.

Scoble and Microsoft: I was pleasantly surprised to see a post from Mr. Scoble that meandered back into deep MSFT territory: Microsoft has no innovator’s dillema. The comment stream is interesting, too, though to hmmm me up and say that Mini-Microsoft is to blame for any malaise at Microsoft is, in my opinion, like taking a ol' big bite from the dumb-ass tree fruit and saying, "Hey, let's beat that kid up that pointed out that the emperor is naked!" Things were not right. People moved on. Change happened and is still happening. More change is needed, but I'd say the company is in a far better position than it was two-and-a-half years ago.

Anyway, back to Mr. Scoble's post: an interesting snippet regarding the departure from Microsoft of Chandu Thota :

But, yet again, another developer left Microsoft (this time Chandu Thota, on the Virtual Earth team, who is starting up his own company). Just remember, happy workers don’t leave. And the continual flow of smart developers leaving Microsoft tells me that Microsoft has deep managerial problems that are going to prove challenging to overcome.

At least for now it seems that Mr. Thota's new endeavor will be building on Microsoft technology... and he'll probably reap far more rewards outside of Microsoft than he could inside. Good for him. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

As for happiness at Microsoft... well, in my circle of associates the trend has been to realize Microsoft is indeed a huge company doing many things and if you're not happy doing what you are doing now, you can pretty easily find something amazingly interesting to do elsewhere, even if it's just cold-calling a cool group and building your own opportunity. Talented, motivated people are in short supply. Maybe it was the whole intent-to-interview change or maybe it's just the timing of big releases, but I'd say half the people at Microsoft I know are someplace radically different this year compared to last.

And happier.

And all this comes as risk of losing their career momentum and not limiting yourself to just being savvy at the politics of the internal review system.

I imagine they'll stay at Microsoft - and stay happier - only if they see the risk of moving to where they're happier pay off and not come back to bite them.

And note that I said "happier." Not sunshine and bunnies bursting all-out happy. There's still a melancholy sense all-about, which I personally think is directly due to the flat stock price and the two self-inflicted foot-shots we've taken to the stock price during the past year. Thank goodness we're out of feet to shoot... right?

Quest for Firing: from what I'm told, it looks like the L68+ Partners are getting an update on The Quests from DavidV. Have you been so, err, lucky to be involved in a Quest yet? It ain't no Puzzle Hunt, but it's quite puzzling (as in: Must. Not. Roll. Eyes.). Perhaps one of the Quests can be for finding properly aligned growth goals to be associated with SPSA cha-ching payouts. Nah. Might as well throw a party in San Francisco and invite the significant-others to enjoy schmoozing and fiddle playing by the open pit fire.

Analysis of Mini-Microsoft Discussion of Stack Ranking: derived knowledge is interesting to muse over, especially when it's a Microsoft outsider analyzing the discussion here and elsewhere regarding Stack Ranking and its effect on a corporate work force: Human Resource Management - Steve Gall at Walden University - Stack Ranking in the Performance Appraisal at Microsoft. Snippet of the conclusions:

  • The stack ranking system, if not implemented carefully, can result in legal issues being raised
  • The use of the stack ranking method may have value as an internal tool for Human Resources when used as a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the overall employee review system, but as a performance measurement that is shared with individual employees, it is shown to have far-reaching unintended consequences. Employees are smart, and they quickly figure-out how to manipulate the system to their least disadvantage.
  • Stack ranking provides questionable value as to insight into an individual’s actual job performance. Its use highly politicizes an organization. The rank number is most often based on unsubstantiated subjective judgment by an evaluator who may feel pressured to respond according to a narrow set of guidelines.

What do you think of the write-up and conclusions and alternatives, especially given the changes implemented in CY06? Stack Ranking is of course not the term to be used anymore. It's calibration. New lipstick. Same pig. Same little piggy games.


98 comments:

Anonymous said...

So if it weren't for stack ranking, how would you decide who to promote and how to assign bonuses?

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if Steve B. is suffering whiplash. Going from a claim that Vista would double XP's sales performance to saying "not every release is a revenue growth opportunity" in the span of what, less than a year?

It might actually help MS on wall street if he were to own up to what really happened to Longhorn. It failed to ship. It's the biggest software project failure of all time, in terms of money wasted. Vista is not longhorn, and that's about the best thing you can say in its favor.

Anonymous said...

"So if it weren't for stack ranking, how would you decide who to promote and how to assign bonuses"

Easy. Just use the same good old boy politics and favoritism that applies with stack ranking.

Most people already understand this, but the smartest and most capable people at Microsoft are often not the ones who are rewarded best come review time.

Anonymous said...

Mini, kudos to you for your continued vigilance in outing the critical issues at our beloved MS.

While I applaud the efforts of LisaB in providing visibility into her thought processes, I continue to be underwhelmed by her flipant responses and comments in InsideMS. As a constructive poster to that forum, the more I'm exposed to her exchanges, the less I feel that she is actually listening or has any empathy for us Non-Stars (that is the lowly 80% the comprise the remainder of the workforce).

I will thank her though for understanding it is the little things that make a difference. For example, the iCup coffee makers - for those caffeine addicts it is a godsend; now if they can just do something about that annoying clicking sound.

Still, the big issue that she does not appear to grok, is what one poster astutely labeled "MyPaycheck". Now that the stock has flat-lined for the last five plus years, and the latest round of Stock Awards was anemic for us Non-Stars, the reality for most folks is the twice monthly paycheck. Why continue to peg the salary at the 60% of industry mark, when the other methods of compensation do not make up the remaining 40%?

Well, I guess if I had received over a million dollars from the latest SPSA payouts, things would seem fair to me through my green-colored glasses

Oh, another comment -- MyMicrosoft is not a product, it is a service. This crazy talk about only shipping the "product" once a year is bunk; it should be considered a true service where the mindset should be rapid shipping of incremental improvements based on reflection and feedback. MyMicrosoft is a commendable start, but let's continue see more and frequent enhancements to this service

Anonymous said...

I'll be convinced that Microsoft has had an earth shaking reorg once DavidV has been asked to spend more time with his family. What value has that guy added in the last 10 years?

Anonymous said...

We can always hope that the company once again returns to taking risk, cutting edge and having fun...

.. Oh, who am I kidding.

Let the billionaires blabber on about the future they could no better guess than fall into.

Anonymous said...

So if it weren't for stack ranking, how would you decide who to promote and how to assign bonuses?

Same way they do now - give it all to the Partners.

Ba-da-bum.

Really, it's amazing how we can have both stack ranking and the CSPs. HR promulgates CSPs and commitments as absolute measurements (meeting, exceeding, developing), then forces a distribution at review time that means your review is relative to your peers, CSP or no. Let's have one or the other, they really don't mix.

The most charitable explanation is that HR is beefing up CSPs in an effort to replace stack ranking, but I doubt it.

And, about these big shake-ups. Anyone have a time frame on them? I'd hate to leave too soon and miss all the fun and games.

Anonymous said...

I'll be convinced that Microsoft has had an earth shaking reorg once DavidV has been asked to spend more time with his family. What value has that guy added in the last 10 years?

Davidv will not leave until Bill is gone. Steveb will tell you, if you can catch him in private, that THE ONLY reason that Davidv is still here is that Bill finds him useful and valuable. If it was up to Steveb, Davidv would be long gone.

-an ex softie, now working for the enemy

Anonymous said...

RE: CSPs

Last review period I wanted to give CSPs a chance. I set tough commitments for myself and I busted my ass all period to exceed each and every one of them by quite a margin. Come review time, I wrote it all down on paper and submitted it to my manager. What did I get, you ask? Achieved/Strong, pitiful stock grant and raise that brings me to the middle of my pay level at the long last. And it's not like I'm not visible - I am visible, but not to the point of brown nosing and living in my manager's office like most of the folks who got promoted last September.

Since I refuse to do this, I've moved to another group in disgust. I of course didn't say anything bad in my goodbye mail - that'd be unwise.

Anonymous said...

We can always hope that the company once again returns to taking risk

Thestreet.com has a good article this morning on why MSFT should buy YHOO. This is a pretty good article which explains what GOOG is upto. I hope Ballmer has the wisdom to buy YHOO and not let someone else buy it like a private equity firm who seem to be buying everything in sight.

http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/newsanalysis/techstockupdate/10340710.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA

Keeperplanet said...

>"There's still a melancholy sense all-about, which I personally think is directly due to the flat stock price and the two self-inflicted foot-shots we've taken to the stock price during the past year."

Mini, elevation is necessary here. The stock is flat because of what Microsoft has done which is visible out here, up here, not what it has done which is visible in there down there. Your perspective is stifled by where you are. Just remember, when you put your work up on the wall, it works or it doesn't. One raises stock value the other lowers it. All the rest is self reinforced group think, a process called 'reification of ideas.' (Most famous example is Adolf Hitler and his ability to entice Germany to follow him).

With everyone inside talking to each other reinforcing the idea of Keplagh (thats Kleon for success!) it is very easy to make mistakes and believe in something because everybody else has said it is good (i.e., THE Koolaide). Just because two agree that something is good does not mean it is. That's what reification is, the concept that 'perception is everything' is true until people have to use what you've been beaming about and then it all comes crashing down if somewhere you forgot to ask what it was they wanted in the first place. The first step to recovery is for all to attend your local Softie's Anonymous meeting and come to grips with the realities of what Microsoft is and is not. You will be surprised to find out it is not at all what you thought.

It's complicated and simple. (Over)complicated by your mind and simple in that 'it works' or it doesn't. The world may be saying that what Microsoft is producing is more in the 'doesn't' category than the other. That is what is driving the stock down. To quote a line from one of my favorite movies, "it is hard to know how to answer when one doesn't understand the question". I doubt the messenger has anything to do with it.

Anonymous said...

"Why continue to peg the salary at the 60% of industry mark, when the other methods of compensation do not make up the remaining 40%?"

Great, another Microsoftie who doesn't know the difference between the 66th percentile and 66 percent of the average. I suggest you go and find a job outside the company that gives you "100%" and enjoy your pay "raise".

One can't lay all of the blame for our lackluster products with our leadership; the hiring bar has really been slipping of late.

Anonymous said...

Been a few places since I left MS. Landed at a startup with a whole lot of older former MS folks. They're all good, know what they're doing, and have lots of experience. Makes it a real fun place to work. Keep whacking the Kim's over there - they make great hires.

Anonymous said...

#1 Who the heck is DavidV?
#2 Over the years I've been here on campus there's been a noticeable drop in 4-way-stop competency. Some are overly aggressive, i.e. 'me me me' (e.g. MBAs exiting building 34), others are timid beyond belief. It's one 'compass' I guess, noticeable to me at least, and it points down the river.

Anonymous said...

Here is a lesson I have learned during my short time at the company with regards to Manager Feedback:

Do not make your feedback anonymous. Rate your manager with either of the top two choices for any given item. Provide positive written comments.

At best, you can walk away from this process with no change to your standing within your group. If you are naïve enough to believe this is a forum where it is safe to comment on someone's lack of clothing, prepare to be bent over.

You have been warned.

Anonymous said...

"Davidv will not leave until Bill is gone. Steveb will tell you, if you can catch him in private, that THE ONLY reason that Davidv is still here is that Bill finds him useful and valuable. If it was up to Steveb, Davidv would be long gone."

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, final proof of the primary source of all problems at Microsoft: Bill Gates. Until he is gone there is NO CHANCE OF HEALING.

Anonymous said...

Stack Ranking/Calibrations - I've participated in ranking & calibrations for 8 yrs now, and over all I have seen it to be a very good assessment individuals vs. their peers. However, the key weakness is that there is an over reliance on the IC's direct manager. This where I hear Google has a better peer feedback process.

Anonymous said...

KeeperPlanet had an interesting post, above. I think he’s close to getting to the heart of some of MSFT’s problems. To summarize, KeeperPlanet said:

1. Reification - the thinking of or treating something abstract as if it existed as a real and tangible object (MS Word’s own Encarta interpretation) is why Germans followed Hitler and Softies drink the Kool-Aid; that because two people say it’s so doesn’t mean it is.

2. “The first step to recovery is for all to attend your local Softie's Anonymous meeting and come to grips with the realities of what Microsoft is and is not. You will be surprised to find out it is not at all what you thought.”

3. “It's complicated and simple. (Over) complicated by your mind and simple in that 'it works' or it doesn't. The world may be saying that what Microsoft is producing is more in the 'doesn't' category than the other. That is what is driving the stock down.”

Regarding Reification -- I believe it’s possible but, the more probable root cause is something called, in my own words, “because I say it’s so” thinking. Germans followed Hitler because the dysfunctional and hierarchical German family forbade you not to. Translate that to Bill Gates and you get essentially the same thing. Perhaps the best example is the WTF! (What the Fuck!) project meetings where the fewest WTF!’s from uncle Bill meant your project won and would be implemented.

Microsoft is ruled with a dysfunctional iron fist. Gates pervades throughout every thread of the organization. Might as well call it “Gatesatory”. And, until “because I say so” thinking or Gates leaves, Microsoft will suffer and stumble and fail.

Regarding KeeperPlanet’s first step to recovery -- Twelve Step Program -- Oh, if it were only true! It was my salvation but is, perhaps, too much for Microsoft as a company. There’s a tremendous resistance to this kind of healing that would, I believe, prevent the true beauty and truth of this approach from being embraced.

No, what is needed is some subset of this approach that points the way if others choose to embrace the whole idea but is capable of healing the organization at the same time. The first step is to admit there is a problem and that you are part of it.

Finally, it IS complicated and it IS simple -- There is great paradox in life. The discovery of solutions to people’s problems is always simple, IMHO. The process becomes complicated by fear and ego.

What works for everyone, not just Microsoft’s customers, is choice, simplicity, support and civility. Microsoft gets low, low grades in all of those categories. Therein lies the very simple problems that I suspect, until Microsofties can solve with something other than “because I said so” solutions…don’t stand a chance of being solved!

Anonymous said...

"#1 Who the heck is DavidV?"

You've been on campus for years and don't know this or can't figure out how to look it up? Yikes.

Anonymous said...

"Davidv will not leave until Bill is gone. Steveb will tell you, if you can catch him in private, that THE ONLY reason that Davidv is still here is that Bill finds him useful and valuable. If it was up to Steveb, Davidv would be long gone."

I'd like to catch him BY the privates!

Anonymous said...

Well what a great day ... MSFT is back to $27.XX on close.

Anonymous said...

>"Following up on Ballmer and the Stock"
On a cosmic scale, as we all swirl around the drain, what Balmer did was a few molecules in the drop in the bucket of one day's sell off.

'Dow Drops 416 on Global Market Plunge'
http://www.breitbart.com/news/2007/02/27/D8NIBFF80.html
I wonder if Greenspan will get the same respect for his hoof n' mouth disease.

Lets call this one 'the greed correction' of which Microsoft is playing a roll as the troll demanding his fee to cross the bridge.

Anonymous said...

"Quest for Happiness"

Microsoft shakes up Windows marketing unit:
http://news.zdnet.com/2100-3513_22-6162675.html

Musical Chairs with an extra chair or two. Sorry Mini, I guess the big partner RIF will have to wait till the dow is somewhere around 5000.

Anonymous said...

One can't lay all of the blame for our lackluster products with our leadership; the hiring bar has really been slipping of late.

Um, newsflash...our leaders are the ones who set the bar and approve the hires.

Raymond said...

Honest question from outside Microsoft:

What about a "skunkworks" project?

In other words, could a group of Microsoft employees begin developing something "secretly" (i.e. with management casting a blind eye as long as company resources/personnel were not severely taxed) or during (barely available) free time in real secrecy, to do something like:

1) a stripped-down XP build that was rock-solid and yet could make use of important Vista features

2) an alternate approach to browser implementation that sacrificed backwards compatability for security (i.e. strip away CGI functionality)

3) Media management and imaging tools that might work more efficiently, or allow a more liberal use of older hardware with newer GUI features

4) resurrecting "dead" projects that may have an unforseen new relevance in the current market

I spend a lot of time reading this blog and it seems like a vast majority of the complaints concern good ideas or products that got waylaid by bad process etc.

Could Microsoft be persuaded to allow the kind of "skunkworks" I'm describing? In other words, a group pursues a goal outside the bureaucratic constraints and then gets rewarded, prodigal-son-style, when they debut their excellent new thing?

Anonymous said...

BTW, I found Ray. He spoke at an analysts meeting today. Great stuff, which I am sure most of you have already heard on your investors site, but as a customer, I found what he had to say to be encouraging and refreshing, except that I think he is more optimistic than I am about the negative aspects of MS that still have to be fixed (drm, wga, live, etc.).

Now if somebody can only fix all the other things that may cause his vision to stumble, you guys might do well in the next few years. And coming from me that is saying something because I usually post negative stuff here.

I am Robert Scoble, Heh (not).

Anonymous said...

Here is a lesson I have learned during my short time at the company with regards to Manager Feedback:

Do not make your feedback anonymous. Rate your manager with either of the top two choices for any given item. Provide positive written comments.

At best, you can walk away from this process with no change to your standing within your group. If you are naïve enough to believe this is a forum where it is safe to comment on someone's lack of clothing, prepare to be bent over.

You have been warned.


Truer words have not been spoken. I'm a senior person stalled because I took manager feedback at face value. Now I'm being given the feedback that I'm not supportive of the manager or the overall team.

Don't be foolish on this point - the only way this feedback is taken is if the skip level dislikes your manager, if not you will be thrown under the bus.

Anonymous said...

Well, took long enough, but it seems Godwin's Law has now finally applied to Mini-MSFT.

Anyway, to get back to the "Happiness" theme, I've been here for over 10 years now, and I look around at how things get done and I'm saddened to see the CYA culture and the passive-aggressive poisoning of our peers in an effort to calibrate high permeate through practically everything we do now.

It hasn't been "fun" for a few years. I don't think that's entirely a result of being in my 30's now rather than my 20's when I started.

Anonymous said...

What about a "skunkworks" project?

In other words, could a group of Microsoft employees begin developing something "secretly"...


I was on a project like that. About two dozen of us. We were making great progress on something really important. Then the Turf Lords discovered us and realized we were kicking their butts. Our group was reorged into about eight pieces, scattered around the Windows org.

So, my experience says the answer to your question is, "No, we can't, the turf warring GMs and VPs won't allow it."

Anonymous said...

"Um, newsflash...our leaders are the ones who set the bar and approve the hires."

Um, get a clue. None of the partners hover over my shoulder as I interview people. If we're letting in bad people, the problem lies with ICs and first-line managers.

Crappy people (like the math illiterate person I was originally blasting) put out crappy products, and believe me, I have seen a lot of crappy people coming in to my corner of the company. All the leadership in the world can't fix that.

Anonymous said...

Could Microsoft be persuaded to allow the kind of "skunkworks" I'm describing? In other words, a group pursues a goal outside the bureaucratic constraints and then gets rewarded, prodigal-son-style, when they debut their excellent new thing?

It could happen, and in several cases it has happened already, however unless you're a sadist, you wouldn't try doing this. At best, you get a good review and a meager amount of stock grants (oh, joy!), and at worst, you end up pissing off lots of people who have competing projects or political motivations to prevent such projects from happening, and you find yourself on the fast track to the unemployment line.

Anonymous said...

So they shook up the Windows world. Not really being a part of that world, and being a guy who generally speaking ignores the executive level entirely (another exec email? delete!), to me it was just a bunch of names I've vaguely heard of being shoved around.

But for some reason, I was intrigued by the notion of the Bill V. "video message". So I watched.

Ummmm.... Dr. Seuss?

Wow. His whole demeanor was creepy, like the crazy guy trying to convince you to join the cult. "This is the land of happiness and sunshine! I'm so, so proud of what I've done. What I'VE done, me. Look at my amazing accomplishments, and I did it... for YOU. For the shareholders. Now let me read some more from my favorite book, by Dr. Seuss..."

Yes. Yes. Let's read that book....

Oh the places you'll go!
Oh the things that you'll do!
You'll work your ass off
To be ranked Limited II!
You'll listen to morons
Who know not what they do!
You'll go by a Zune
For your video and tunes.
You'll install that Vista,
I'm telling you Mista
Your PC will crawl
Like a bug on the wall,
And you'll love love it all.
And you'll come back for more
Cuz it's never a bore
Watching billionaire nincompoops
Run things into the floor.
So you'll go post on Mini
Where you get the real skinny,
You can rant and can rave
As you're trying to save
Microsoft! Microsoft!
Your home and your grave.
Where you act like a clown
(Watch your options get drowned)
Spend your days kissing ass
Which converts into cash
When it's time to review
All the things that you do!
Your work is fantastic --
"You're a Limited II"
But oh how can that be?
Tell me, Mister Bill G?
"Oh Kim, it's so simple!
You forgot that the pimple
On your boss's ass
Is as shinny as glass.
But you didn't help shine it
And buff and refine it
To make him feel grand
Like the Lord of the Land.
So your ranking will suffer
While the losers and duffers
Rise up up the ladder --
Does it make you feel sadder?
Well that's life for you,
As a Limited II.
Now please do not scowl,
Don't cry, shriek or howl,
Because after all,
We gave back your towels."

Sriram Krishnan said...

Regarding the skunkworks thing - there are a few grassroot initiatives which encourage exactly this - folks working on their own pet projects in their spare time.(and I'm stressing the word 'grassroots').

For MSFTies who want to code up something in their spare time but dont know how to go about it or have something already languishing on their dev box, mail me (sriramk) and I'll point you to the right places and the right people

- Sriram

Anonymous said...

"Well, took long enough, but it seems Godwin's Law has now finally applied to Mini-MSFT.

Poppycock! Anyone who believes this is...well...a Nazi!

Anonymous said...

I hope Ballmer has the wisdom to buy YHOO and not let someone else buy it

When was the last time MSFT effectively leveraged an acquired company? If MSFT bought Yahoo, they'd redesign it to look like MSN, fill it with ads, try to rewrite it in .NET, and ultimately ruin a nice service.

Over the years I've been here on campus there's been a noticeable drop in 4-way-stop competency.

Haha. I wonder if people are embarrassed about their inability to handle these intersections. Sometimes I see looks of terror. "Oh god, I hope nobody honks at me this time..."

Anonymous said...

>Well, took long enough, but it seems Godwin's Law has now finally applied to Mini-MSFT."

Whoops. I completely forgot about Godwin's law in my post; and I probably did it twice with my corollary reference using Kleons.

But my reference in no way was referring to anyone at Microsoft.

Keeperplanet.

Anonymous said...

That Dr. Seuss pastiche was genius. You don't have to post this, but I just wanted to concur that it was both pertinent and amusing.

Anonymous said...

"If we're letting in bad people, the problem lies with ICs and first-line managers."

The ol' pass the buck defense? Management is a chain. If it's not working at the IC and first line manager level in particular, it's not working period and the fault likely lies at all levels.

Anonymous said...

It's Microsoft's own fault for using the 66th percentile term.

If you ask 10 developers about the term, only 1 or 2 knows what it means.

Why don't they just say: you will get paid more than 2/3 of your peers in the industry?

Anonymous said...


Here is a lesson I have learned during my short time at the company with regards to Manager Feedback:

Do not make your feedback anonymous. Rate your manager with either of the top two choices for any given item. Provide positive written comments.

At best, you can walk away from this process with no change to your standing within your group. If you are naïve enough to believe this is a forum where it is safe to comment on someone's lack of clothing, prepare to be bent over.

You have been warned.

Truer words have not been spoken. I'm a senior person stalled because I took manager feedback at face value. Now I'm being given the feedback that I'm not supportive of the manager or the overall team.

Don't be foolish on this point - the only way this feedback is taken is if the skip level dislikes your manager, if not you will be thrown under the bus.



How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous? How can they so blatantly lie about it like that?

Anonymous said...

Um, get a clue. None of the partners hover over my shoulder as I interview people. If we're letting in bad people, the problem lies with ICs and first-line managers.

Crappy people (like the math illiterate person I was originally blasting) put out crappy products, and believe me, I have seen a lot of crappy people coming in to my corner of the company. All the leadership in the world can't fix that.


Maybe there is no good reason for good people to come to your corner of the company.

They are probably going to Google or to startups.

Anonymous said...

How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous? How can they so blatantly lie about it like that?

the feedback (unless you specifically tell it to provide your name) is anonymous. However, if your manager has very few reports (2-3), it probably wouldn't be hard for him to figure out who wrote what. Even if the feedback for small teams goes to the skip manager, your manager will likely be able to figure out who wrote what based on the review he gets from his manager.

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just say: you will get paid more than 2/3 of your peers in the industry?

Probably for the same reason that Las Vegas slot machines have huge banners that read Loosest slots in town!!! Guaranteed 98% return!!!

Anonymous said...

When was the last time MSFT effectively leveraged an acquired company?

Interesting. Most people argue that almost every one of MSFT's successes have come as a result of acquiring some company's product / technology / people.

Anonymous said...

How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous? How can they so blatantly lie about it like that?

When I came into a particular group (after 10 years at MS), the leads were all happy because they'd driven out a young lady whom they had convinced themselves that they had figured out she was the lone person casting negative feedback in the MS Poll. Later while on the team, the person who had *actually* cast the negative feedback 'fessed up to me in confidence. Once the young lady had been driven out, the real "feedbacker" decided to toe the line.

The leads keep tallies on who they think is saying what. Don't fool yourself into thinking they don't communicate this information up two levels, past your skip-level manager!

While we're at it, the other thing that counts against us is not contributing to the Microsoft Giving Campaign. Score is kept on that one, too, particularly if you're in the Office org.

Anonymous said...

"It's Microsoft's own fault for using the 66th percentile term.

If you ask 10 developers about the term, only 1 or 2 knows what it means."

80-90% of MS developers don't know what percentile means? You have to be joking.

Anonymous said...

How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous? How can they so blatantly lie about it like that?

If it works anything like the peer feedback we have been asked to do in our group, the managers manager knows who provided what feedback. Then what gets shared between them behind closed doors never occured.

In other news a Ray Ozzie sighting http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/MICROSOFT_OZZIE?SITE=NYELM&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Anonymous said...

How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous? How can they so blatantly lie about it like that?

I propose an experiment. Those who believe that the anonymity promised in internal surveys is indeed truly anonymous test these waters by posting some flammable items. Tear your GM or VP a new a-hole, deserved or not.

Do this several times.

Then, say, sometime around October (after reviews) let us know if you feel that your comments might've not been anonymous after all. :)

Anonymous said...

Why don't they just say: you will get paid more than 2/3 of your peers in the industry?

You're right. It is poor wording.

I prefer, however, "1/3rd of your peers in the industry will be compensated more generously than you will be."

Anonymous said...

It could happen, and in several cases it has happened already, however unless you're a sadist, you wouldn't try doing this. At best, you get a good review and a meager amount of stock grants (oh, joy!), and at worst, you end up pissing off lots of people who have competing projects or political motivations to prevent such projects from happening, and you find yourself on the fast track to the unemployment line.

Well said.

If someone has that good of idea, Microsoft provides zero real incentive to share that idea with the company. In fact, the politics, the cronyism, the territorialism, the chaos, oh and hell - everything else - make Microsoft a horrible place to even consider skunkworks projects.

Seriously, if you have that good of idea, go find angel funding - or if that frightens you, go find someone who it doesn't frighten (we're around), let me .. I mean them .. start a company and hire you to pursue it. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm the second commenter on the manager feedback.

I provided negative feedback on the worst manager I have ever worked for and I did it anonymously.

Subsequently in a skip level 1:1, I was asked for feedback on the manager. Thinking this was related to manager feedback, I was candid and balanced. Foolish rookie mistake as I now realize this was a ruse to flush out the dissenter(s) - I don't know if there were any more dissenters in my peer group.

As I think about this now, the skip level had no incentive to fix the poor management - why? He hired the guy and issues like this reflect poorly on him. This is my thesis only.

Right now, my career in this divison is basically over - I'm given conflicting feedback on career progress and progress against commitments. I'm at a level where the jobs are few and far in between so I'm just laying low and waiting for something else come along because I need the paycheck.

I feel trapped and demoralized but wiser. On the feedback that ended today, I went in with my name and in glowing prose I lied through my teeth about how great this manager is and how much he has helped me improve sicne the last time

I'll report back if I am out of purgatory.

So be warned friends, this is not a fair or balanced system by any stretch of the imagination.

Anonymous said...

It's Microsoft's own fault for using the 66th percentile term.

If you ask 10 developers about the term, only 1 or 2 knows what it means.


If you search Google News for "percentile" vs. "Anna Nicole," you get a 1:35 ratio. It's not that rare a word/concept. I would be surprised to meet a moderately intelligent or moderately curious adult who doesn't know what it means. I would no-hire anybody who doesn't, unless English isn't their first language.

Anonymous said...

"The ol' pass the buck defense? Management is a chain. If it's not working at the IC and first line manager level in particular, it's not working period and the fault likely lies at all levels."

Man, you're really going all out to twist what I'm saying to stick blame on the management chain any way you can aren't you? Well, whatever. Everybody needs a hobby, I guess.

Maybe you're so brilliant and saintly that you can genuinely say none of it's your fault and lay the entire blame the people above you but, personally, all I've got to say is "the anonymous poster doth protest too much, methinks".

Anonymous said...

After being away from Microsoft for a while, I think that one of the big problems that Microsoft is suffering is that you just don't know when to stop.

Shipping isn't success unless you have shipped a good product that works well.

I wish I could get every softie to read a recent article on the website
http://worsethanfailure.com titled "What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?"

Anonymous said...

"How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous?"

Feedback is anonymous. Use your head; a person's writing style in the written feedback and correlating a person's day-to-day opinion and actions with the results are what gives people away.

Anonymous said...

As a shareholder, I am sad to see the many games an employee has to play in order to keep their job. It’s almost like being a sophomore in high school. Microsoft has become as inefficient as the US Government. You could fire 50% of the government employees today and see a 25% increase in productivity and 100% improvement in moral.

I hope Carl Icahn or other corporate raiders start buying MSFT shares and demand improvement from the board. Icahn made AOL Time Warner change its ways even though he only owned 2.7% of the shares. He has now focused his attention on Motorola and hopefully MSFT will be next.

Anonymous said...

My experience with the anonymous MS Poll is that results are tracked down to the first level manager and since a first level manager can have as few as 1 report, and averaging, what, 5 or 6 reports it can be pretty easy to figure out who is complaining.

Further, I found that if a first level manager's team is coming in with lots of complaints (even if those complaints are not about the 1st level manger) and bringing down the overall score of the group then the squeeze is put on that manager and his team. So, filling out the MS Poll negatively is akin to sh*tting your own bed. Don't do it.

That's why I was always dismayed that Microsoft would spend money on the MS Poll. It's a waste. The only reason for conducting the poll that I can see is to fulfill some perceived legal obligation and protect against getting sued.

Let's face it, the message you get from management with respect to the MS Poll is, "You'd damn well better fill it out and you'd damn well better provide positive feedback." Am I right?

Anonymous said...

Must Atlas shrug and set his burden down to be free of these parasites? Only after disaster can Microsoft be resurrected.

Anonymous said...

This is basically off-topic, but it's the only place to go for the truth. So...

I am considering leaving the Softie for another company. The company clearly falls into the realm of "competitor" as it sells a product that competes with a product I've worked on. This violates the letter of the Microsoft Employee Agreement.

Now, many a folk reading this blog are x-ers. What is your experience of Microsoft actually enforcing the non-compete? Will anyone bother?

I'm nobody particularly important, L62.

I find the whole concept of the non-compete odd. That they can stop me from working at precisely the places where I have the most expertise. Weird. And no, I'm not a dev or R&D type. I'm in marketing. So I don't know anything anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ex-softie,

Your comment about DavidV only being there because of BillG's support is hilarious, because it applies so much more to Ballmer!

That clown's ENTIRE qualification for his current job is that he was Bill's college buddy. Whenever Bill G either gets hit by a bus or decides to fulfill his duty to the shareholders (fat chance, I know), Ballmer will be out of there. Frankly, I don't know why the shareholders didn't kick his stupid ass to the curb a mere three years into the longhorn debacle.

MS needs a major housecleaning. The company has NO competent senior management at all. Anyone who was worth a damn has bailed to Google, Apple, or their own start ups by now.

Anonymous said...

re: "The only reason for conducting the poll that I can see is to fulfill some perceived legal obligation and protect against getting sued."

Well duh. Sorry, but that is what motivates about 80% of the weird crap that HR, Recruiting, Legal, and Management do these days. And clearly, the only reason there's so much emphasis there is because the company has paid many, many times for the problems the weird policies are supposed to prevent. Problems, btw, growing out of the good-old-frat-boy's club that constitutes most of MS >=PUM mgmt. At least Mike Murray had the wherewithal to say explicitly in the Micronews (mid 90s) that the only reason MS was announcing a firearms-on-campus policy was to have a defense if sued after a whack-job shoots up the campus. Why do you think there's so much mgr training? So the manager takes the blame when there's a screw-up, not the corporation.

Anonymous said...

I just read this article: http://stevegall.wetpaint.com/page/Human+Resource+Management It's totally true! Our review process gives managers total power to decide who'll be the top performers. Stack ranking is utopic because the majority of the managers we have aren't fair. They use the system to promote the people they want and that's very easy to accomplish.(I'm not a manager but I saw it in every team I worked) Just create a well thought business case for the manager's manager to justify why your favorite employee is the top performer, delegate initiatives to your favorite employee so you can tell others he/she is a person that has a lot of ideas and driving, mention his/her name to other managers, exagerate his/her accomplishments and reduce the visibility of the (real) top performers, etc... The manager's manager knows you through your manager's word. I bet everyone here saw it at least once!

Anonymous said...

I am considering leaving the Softie for another company. The company clearly falls into the realm of "competitor" ...
just leave!!!, you don't have to tell where you are going - "you have a better opportunity" give them two/three weeks, tell them what they want to hear at the 'exit' interview and go. leave the 'door open' - you never know.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, the message you get from management with respect to the MS Poll is, "You'd damn well better fill it out and you'd damn well better provide positive feedback." Am I right?
"TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR" - that's your rule of thumb for any poll, interview, feedback, review, opinion, suggestion, idea, social event, etc. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

Well, unless the powers that be have psychic abilities, I just can't see how anyone can know what I put in in my manager feedback:

1. No written comments
2. Manager has 6 directs
3. I'm never transparent enough day-to-day to give them any clues, it's quite the opposite.

The fact is, my manager is terrible, others on the team feel the same way, and while I don't know what feedback they'll put in, I couldn't in good conscience lie and say good things. I provided very positive feedback the last 2 years, and he screwed me in my review both times, so this year, I wasn't going to let it slide.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that based on my 5 years as a field based flunky, MS Poll is indeed a waste of time (the term whitewash comes to mind) and no feedback is truly anonymous. I was punished for giving open and honest feedback twice, once on manager feedback and once when I questioned some org changes in a "post your question here" internal forum.

What is there to say, really? MS is being run by and for the partners and senior execs. There is a ladder of aspiring managers "managing upwards<" climbing that ladder. Dissent will be discouraged, ignored or punished. They are cranking the wheel and rewarding themselves lavishly while ensuring a "steady state" that means the rank and file get the promise of possible carrots to keep them hopeful.

Too bad the board is so weak. Lack of accountability + greed + monopoly = just another job in just another company for everyone below partner level. Microsofties aren't changing the world anymore, they're just enriching the senior ranks at their own expense.

Maybe, if you stop thinking of MS as it was (agile-creative-rewarding) and recognize it for what it is (another big company creating wealth for a select few), you'll stop having unrealistic expectations about it.

I took the obvious solution and left. Happier, much better paid and actually making a visible difference with my new employer. You can't change the world, but you can make choices about your course through it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a CSG, not a Microsoft employee, but I have just a couple of comments on the issue of the talent bar being lowered lately and who is to blame for that - upper management or IC's and first-level managers?

1) Of course the bar has been lowered on the talent level that comes into the company. MS is a big huge monster corporation and the bottom line is that there aren't that many true superstars out there. MS could pay at the 80 percentile and they still wouldn't be able to hire a superstar workforce.

2) MS probably doesn't need a superstar workforce anyway, and besides, who decides what a superstar is and isn't? I'm fairly certain that's a major part of the discussion on this blog as well. Most people are good at some things and not so good at others. They have their successes, their failures, and their in-betweens. They have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. Sometime stuff in their personal lives happens that gets in the way. That's just how it is.

3)What MS really needs is better managers - that's where you guys are really hurting. Most of your managers really don't have a clue what management is. Of course, part of the problem is that they're just as busy covering their asses as everyone else. But seriously, you guys need more managers that understand how to manage resources, how to position people for success in their areas of strength and how to develop them and make them better in the stuff they are bad at.

This management thing is really the big problem this company has. This is the systems problem that has to get fixed. I know you all know this, but I'm saying it anyway.

Anonymous said...

"How do you guys know this? Is the feedback not anonymous?"

Feedback is anonymous. Use your head; a person's writing style in the written feedback and correlating a person's day-to-day opinion and actions with the results are what gives people away.


I was a GM at Microsoft for five years. I can guarantee you, I always knew who wrote what in the manager feedback. I never had more than 5 direct reports, it was never a tough mental exercise to match comments to people.

I wrote my feedback to my manager in the open, let him know where it was coming from. The several VP's I reported to over the five years, with only one exception, had no street value outside of Microsoft. On the other hand, my Microsoft tenure was the result of an acquisition. I have served at the VP level of several other public companies, and I have started, run and sold 4 VC backed startups. I am running my fifth now.

In every case, my feedback was used as a tactical weapon against me. I finally voted with my feet. The jackals won, at least from their perspective. Microsoft lost an individual with 25+ years of experience in building businesses.

On my way out, I asked my Sr. VP one question: Doesn't it concern you that someone with my experience can't succeed at Microsoft?

I never got an answer.

Anonymous said...

This is basically off-topic, but it's the only place to go for the truth. So...

I am considering leaving the Softie for another company. The company clearly falls into the realm of "competitor" as it sells a product that competes with a product I've worked on. This violates the letter of the Microsoft Employee Agreement.

Now, many a folk reading this blog are x-ers. What is your experience of Microsoft actually enforcing the non-compete? Will anyone bother?

I'm nobody particularly important, L62.

I find the whole concept of the non-compete odd. That they can stop me from working at precisely the places where I have the most expertise. Weird. And no, I'm not a dev or R&D type. I'm in marketing. So I don't know anything anyway.


While you should always get advice from a lawyer, in general non-competes are unenforceable. At level 62, you will not be bothered. The rare cases where a non-compete is an issue are at the VP and up level, typically.

Go in peace. There is a better world out there...

Anonymous said...

I'm in marketing.

"Yes, I voluntarily signed a legal document, and promised not to do certain things. Will I get caught when I do those things?"

"Yes, Windows is slower and fatter than ever. Yes, it doesn't work as well. Yes, we stripped out most of the features we promised. Look, it's shiny - can you say WOW??"

c said...

Well, I've filled out negative MSPoll for the last few years, and it hasn't affected my career. If you're someone who regularly spends a lot of time on negativity, it won't take MSPoll for that to reflect on you.

Anonymous said...

My Dev Lead told our group that we had to complete something called "Career Compass" by EOM. WTF is that and why do the shareholders or any of our customers care about this?

Lately, I have had a really hard time trying to see the benefits of being a fulltime MS employee these days. I love what I do and that is the only reason why I'm able to tolerate nonsense like this.

I almost wish there was a checkbox on the benefits website where I could opt-out of receiving stock options & bonuses as long as I didn't have to waste time with reviews and whatever other ridiculous paperwork HR forces on software engineers each year.

Anonymous said...

I'm in marketing. So I don't know anything anyway.

Non-compete clauses were struck down late last year by a federal appeals court in Edwards vs. Arthur Anderson. Companies don’t have a right to stop you from making a living unless you start giving away their trade secrets. It’s your life, go have fun. Maybe you could fling a chair at Ballmer on your way out and hopefully it will knock some sense in him.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I was just curious enough to look up who this "DavidV" character was, and found this:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/dvaskevitch/default.mspx

So, the guy's a marketing dink with a CTO title. I guess that about all I needed to know.

Anonymous said...

+++1 to the person who said that MS is a big monster that is set up (like most big companies) to enrich a few at the expense of many (and I'll add including customers, competitors, the sw industry, and many world economies).

As an individual with 20+ years' experience in a variety of big and small sw companies, I too ask the same question: "Why is it so hard for someone with so much experience to succeed here when I've been so successful elsewhere?" The kool aid fanboys will say that I'm not good enough for here I suppose...reality is, I don't keep my head up my bosses' asses like some of the snorkle wearers here in my group.

+++1 to the poster who said that we need better managers. I recently caught my new manager in a lie about my performance. He claimed that I had lost all my credibilty with my VP and his mgmt team (who I had worked with for several years before the new bozo arried). So I asked the names that he mentioned and they were, you guess it, surprised, "I didn't say that. I have issues with your team, but not with you."

This is just crap and while things like this also happen elsewhere, on top of all the other MS comp, mgmt, product, and exec nonsense...when it is time, I too will be gone from the 8th level of hell (the Malebolge, check it out) when it is *convenient* for me.

Anonymous said...

Mini, in case you did not get one, there is an online survey to which randomly-selected MS employees have been asked to participate in by HR. The questions on the survey cover topics such as the level of rewards that should be given to Achieved vs. Exceeded employees and the transparency of compensation at Microsoft. This is the first real step I have seen in addressing issus raised on this blog around compensation!

No one in HR or at MS asked me to say that. This is my honest opinion.

Anonymous said...

Mini, in case you did not get one, there is an online survey to which randomly-selected MS employees have been asked to participate in by HR. The questions on the survey cover topics such as the level of rewards that should be given to Achieved vs. Exceeded employees and the transparency of compensation at Microsoft. This is the first real step I have seen in addressing issus raised on this blog around compensation!

No one in HR or at MS asked me to say that. This is my honest opinion.


I got this too. I was specifically asked to participate by Lisab; she said I was special ;-p

I took a quick look at the survey (at least the first page) and thought it was the usual lock'em in questions so the only way they can answer is positively, neutral or there was such lack of information on my part that there was no way for me to answer accurately. For example the one of the first question asked something about the process my manger went through to allocate my reward was effective... How the hell do I know if the proccess was effective or not?

Anonymous said...

"I almost wish there was a checkbox on the benefits website where I could opt-out of receiving stock options & bonuses as long as I didn't have to waste time with reviews and whatever other ridiculous paperwork HR forces on software engineers each year."

Amen, mate. I don't work for MS, but my company went all the way from totally informal ("if you want feedback, chat to your boss over a cuppa") to mega-formal, with marks and all sorts of crap in the internal portal. I asked whether I could cut the crap if I forfeited the success premium and the bonus; however, our clueless HR department obviously didn't even understand the question.

A company that offered such a scheme would in all probability attract a lot of non-political, hard-working, professional staff.

But it seems to be a law of nature that big companies fall for the crap approach.

Anonymous said...

http://gartenblog.net/2007/02/22/here-come-google-apps/#comment-136

Fred said...

Getting back to the "skunkworks" question:

It all sounds very interesting and I'm curious about the poster who said that he/she tried that and got in trouble.

There have to be company-wide patterns of people looking at each other and saying "You know, we could do it this way..." and everyone agrees enthusiastically.

Then inevitably there's the next moment where everyone rolls their eyes or gestures meaningfully at the manager ("He/she won't let us/won't get it/will punish us") and the idea goes away.

But "Lunar Orbit Rendezvous" (the breakthrough idea of the Apollo missions) was just such an idea. A rank-and-file engineeer thought of it and forced the idea up the chain through strongly-worded memos and a report he'd written.

Who knows how many good ideas (Say, just to pick an example, Apple's choice to modify their existing iTunes application to connect to the iPod rather than writing all-new "iPod" software like everyone else in the entire industry does when they make a peripheral) came from rank-and-file employees rather than from "visionary" managers?

It makes the most sense that the people who manipulate the code day-in and day-out are going to invent solutions to problems. This isn't architecture or Hollywood where the predominance of aesthetic principles over all else forces a strict creative hierarchy.

Even if Bill (or someone) set up a token "direct channel to Bill" for these ideas, bypassing the chain of command in some clever way that didn't penalize anyone, wouldn't the company's fortune's improve?

Even if someone had Bill's full attention for twenty seconds, that's long enough to say "Nobody wants to squirt songs" or "WinFS won't work and I can prove it."

Anonymous said...

"Yes, I voluntarily signed a legal document, and promised not to do certain things. Will I get caught when I do those things?"

Actually, I had a lawyer friend look at the "legal document," and there are several areas of the Employee Agreement that go against what the law is. Calling it "illegal" would perhaps be too strong. But it is at best unenforceable in any court.

Did the MS lawyers know this when they drafted the agreement? Of course. But items are there simply to intimidate employees, because most people will not turn to a lawyer to examine their employee agreement.

Just because you sign it, that doesn't mean that it's valid. I can have you sign something that says "I give you permission to shoot me," but that doesn't mean I can then go and shoot you without consequence. Most of the agreement is pretty standard stuff, but parts of it are bogus.

Why am I not shocked?

Anonymous said...

For example the one of the first question asked something about the process my manger went through to allocate my reward was effective... How the hell do I know if the proccess was effective or not?


This is re: the survey from LisaB, I got one too. I was struck by the comment above!

This is very binary guys - the process is only effective if the results were reasonable. If you think the results were reasonable, then it clearly follows the process was effective. If it wasn't, then it follows the process wasn't.

I came out very well last review but to put it bluntly, I had to manage up, manipulate, etc to get my reward. I delivered great results (E) but this is Microsoft, everybody delivers results. How do you stand out? So I did what I had to do and I know it came at the expense of other Es - I know this for a fact

I wish I did not have to do this and since I was able to manipulate the process, the process is flawed.

I could keep quiet about this and say the process works but I do want to make this place better. Somedays I don't think it will never get better but hope springs eternal.

I was very honest in that survey and the results on the 1st page was UGLY for us as a company.

Anonymous said...

On the non-compete etc,

Get a life people - nobody is coming after you.

Unless you are a BrianV or Mark Lucovsky, nobody is even going to throw chairs. And despite that they still walked away. Should tell you a lot.

And frankly if they come after you, get a great lawyer and proceed legally. It will be a David & Goliath fight - and history shows Goliath never wins.

Go in peace and hope you can do some good working for the other side. This company has lost its way.

Anonymous said...

>Why am I not shocked?

Because it's a really common practice in companies big and small? Because most people don't want to go through the trouble and considerable expense of fighting it?

Why should you have been shocked?

Anonymous said...

How can one be happy at Microsoft?

Can the people crammed 2 or 3 in a room and waiting for years to get their room with window, actually working and living 1/3 of their lives in a basement, be happy?

Most of the people I know openly say that they only wait to get their Green Card and would then immediately leave Microsoft for a better, normal company.

How can one be happy, if the work doesn't satisfy, the managers do not have a clear vision, the "process" contributes to the chaos and waste of time?

Such waste of resources is only possible in a company the monstrous size of Microsoft. Here one person doesn't mean anything; it's just an abstract unit used to measure the prestige of a manager based on how many subordinates they have.

The senior managers are so many that they form a separate caste. Even among vice presidents we have "senior vice president".

If something continues to surprize me it is that with so much unproductiveness Microsoft is still surviving somehow.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of pay, 66th percentile etc

The following article

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/03/01/8401032/index.htm?postversion=2007030106

references a site called payscale (www.payscale.com) started by a ex msft guy where you can plug in your stats to see if you are being over/underpaid

I'm being underpaid by nearly 20%

Anonymous said...

Just because you sign it, that doesn't mean that it's valid. I can have you sign something that says "I give you permission to shoot me," but that doesn't mean I can then go and shoot you without consequence. Most of the agreement is pretty standard stuff, but parts of it are bogus.

Well said. The point, of course, is to lead people to believe that they're bound by such agreements, legal or not. That'll keep many from even considering them.

Anonymous said...

RE: MSPoll and Manager Feedback

A lot of disgruntled folks tend to generalize and think that what happens in their neck of the woods is what happens all over the company.

I can tell you one thing - MSPoll and Manager Feedback are actionable at least in my team. We have a pretty short "Bill distance", and our VP has no issues talking about low points in MS Feedback in all hands meetings and putting a requirement to improve things into his commitments.

Manager feedback was very useful once in my career. I had a manager who was totally retarded and all of his reports thought the same way. Through manager feedback (and later in person) we told his manager what we thought about the guy. The guy was not our manager anymore within 2 weeks. Though, unfortunately he's still a manager elsewhere in the company.

Anonymous said...

Even if someone had Bill's full attention for twenty seconds, that's long enough to say "Nobody wants to squirt songs" or "WinFS won't work and I can prove it."

Spoken as someone who's never had a meeting with Bill, I take it?

Anonymous said...

The senior managers are so many that they form a separate caste. Even among vice presidents we have "senior vice president"

With so many people in upper management, why couldn't at least one person see the rising power of Google. Ray said last week it was a wake up call to see how well Google was raking in the advertising dollars. Why are all these bozos getting paid these high salaries? BillG has been taking personal retreats for many years to think about new ideas. Maybe he should stop going or take the rest of these idiots on a retreat and never come back. It’s time to clean house.

Anonymous said...

RE: With so many people in upper management, why couldn't at least one person see the rising power of Google.

So what is it that Microsoft makes money doing? What are (were) they good at?

Google is an advertising company that uses technology to sell ads. MSFT is NOT an advertising company so who cares what Google does?

Apple sells niche OS's to stuffy, holier-than-thou users. MSFT sell MILLIONS of copies of Windows to the rest of the WORLD. So who cares what Apple does?

Sony and Nintendo make consumer HARDWARE. MSFT is a SOFTWARE company so who cares what they do?

MSFT has proven over the past five-seven years that it is NOT and advertising company, a hardware company, or a niche-market player.

As soon as they can dump that distracting baggage and get back to making an infratructure that people want to buy, the sooner they'll start succeeding.

All these "distractions" remind me of someone with too much time and money on their hands.

Charles said...

"Sony and Nintendo make consumer HARDWARE. MSFT is a SOFTWARE company so who cares what they do?"

Equipment vendors like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and their customers, which depend upon compatible support of their equipment from Windows. Their support/return costs skyrocket when Windows (Vista) fails to work as anticipated "out of the box".

Also application vendors like Oracle and OS competitors like Red Hat and server competitors like IBM, Sun etc., "care" to some extent what Microsoft does, but increasingly less as Microsoft becomes less relevant - note that was "less" relevant, not "irrelevant" - there is a significant difference.

"MSFT has proven over the past five-seven years that it is NOT and advertising company, a hardware company, or a niche-market player."

Nor is it a service or media company.

Microsoft at one time was a vendor of an applications and services platform, which rightly or wrongly is inadvertently transforming itself into an overpriced, underperforming, customized, web-appliance that has tied itself to PC growth, which is limited relative to the ROI Microsoft needs, the life-cycle of PCs, and the stiffening competition it faces in all but the desk-top information producer market.

ps, off-topic: italics tags seem broken or ignored - italicized text is converted to "/* - yes/no?

Anonymous said...

MSFT is NOT an advertising company so who cares what Google does?

Who cares? Microsoft does. That's why they keep spending billions to catch them.

Anonymous said...

It makes the most sense that the people who manipulate the code day-in and day-out are going to invent solutions to problems. This isn't architecture or Hollywood where the predominance of aesthetic principles over all else forces a strict creative hierarchy.

Exactly. I've read about differences between American and Japanese car manufacturers and it comes down to this.

American assembly line workers are treated as cogs in a machine--interchangeable, and a cost of doing business. Nobody in management ever wants, asks for, or acts on their insight. Hence low pay, unions, etc.

Japanese assembly line workers are respected and encouraged to contribute to the products/company. The theory is that the person who spends 8 hours/day installing a part or performing an operation will know the most about it. One story had a Toyota headlight-installer suggest a different, easier way of designing the headlights that ended up saving the company millions of dollars.

Unfortunately this mentality seems endemic to our American "business" culture.

Anonymous said...


If something continues to surprize me it is that with so much unproductiveness Microsoft is still surviving somehow.

That is because with monopoly position in a couple of markets, Microsoft is immune to market forces, that correct such inefficiencies. Were normal market forces operating, as for pretty much everyone else, such bungling of products would not happen, because if it did, MSFT would be trading at $13/share.

Anonymous said...

For those who believe MSFT should buy yahoo, yahoo is so 5 years ago now..However, MSFT could buy companies like flickr, delicious directly. Unfortunately, most of the cool companies do not run on msft technologies..

Anonymous said...

flickr was purchased by Yahoo! already. I guess msft after all needs to buy Yahoo :)

Anonymous said...

Now, many a folk reading this blog are x-ers. What is your experience of Microsoft actually enforcing the non-compete? Will anyone bother?

Definitely check with a lawyer, but as someone who had the same worries when I departed MS, I offer the following:

1. don't sign anything at the exit interview -- say you need a lawyer to review the docs
2. is the new company really a competitor as defined in the MS no compete?
3. move to California where no competes are unenforceable by law.

Enjoy your freedom!