Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mini, a Devil, and Fine Whine

'So,' I wondered to myself, trying to get comfortable after a couple of weekends of digging and planting and valiant blackberry fighting, 'what kind of headlines do we have in Mini world?'

(1) Ballmer calls Google's growth plans 'insane' :

"They are trying to double in a year," Ballmer told a crowd of Stanford Graduate School of Business students on Thursday. "That's insane in my opinion."

(2) A comment on the Microsoft TCN award event in San Francisco:

In case people didn’t realize, the Microsoft award weekend event this past weekend in San Francisco was a big huge L68+ Partner boondoggle - 2nd annual boondoggle - for the Partners and their spouses to network and enjoy extravagance after extravagance, all expenses paid.

And give out some achievement awards and invite the nominees and their spouses to enjoy the extravagance, too (just, shh!, don't tell anyone else - seriously!).

Once upon a time, we invested money in making the employees happy as part of sharing "Hey, we appreciate you and the hard work you do. Let's party!." We had great entertainment at the Company Meeting, for instance. Now we supply the entertainment ourselves with employees up on stage singing to us. Great. Yes, let's save all that money for the Partners so that they can go to the Fairmont and enjoy Penn & Teller and meet George Lucas.

Sure. We'll eat cake.

(3) A multi-studded comment including this bit on the Career Compass tool:

Career Compass:

HR hates it as much as the rest of the company, they just don't want to piss of their fearless (and ex-developer) leader. Its true purpose is to provide documentation for use when employees start suing for being terminated or held back due to discrimination, and to provide ammo for the "why you will never reach Partner level" discussions that are going on all across the Collective.

About then, there was a little *pop* on my left shoulder and there stood my personal little editing Devil. "Oh, baby," he chuckled, bending down and rubbing his hands together, leaning in closer, "sometimes this stuff just writes itself!"

"Shouldn't you be out with Master Shake and Meatwad?" I asked. He jumped down and zoomed up to full size.

"You know I don't like those Frylock jokes. Hey, here's something else. Do you have one of the freebies - Seattle Weekly or The Stranger, or the Sunday paper?"

"Yeah, yeah," I started shuffling through the newspapers. He said to look for page twenty-seven or eleven and to read the groovy Microsoft Maps ad to him. "Here we go: '6 o'clock drinks. 6 miles from work. 6 doors down from that hammering statue thingy. one search.' Oh, I get it, six-six-six."

"They're not even making it hard. And you'd think someone in the paper's advertising department would say, 'Gee Microsoft, uh, you sure you want an ad with those three sixes lining up?' Ho-lee-crap! Anyway, I'm going to run downstairs and get a bottle of Col Solare. We're going to enjoy this post!"

Well, let's see. Mary Jo Foley already covered the Ballmer comment pretty well, though I was going to say something like Ballmer shouldn't be throwing black chairs around his overly crowded glass house. It's become exceptionally tough to recruit exceptional talent once Google gets in the picture. I know of more than one recent offer that the recruit initially accepted and then dropped once their Google ship sailed in.

As for the big award event - which in no means, according to leadership, was a L68+ Partner event (bull) - I really don't want to beat that poor dead horse again. First of all, I know some exceptional Partners. I might be an out-of-the-box thinker, but they think and deliver in an extra dimension compared to me and have obviously worked hard and had success to reach a Partner level. I'll have to have at least five more years of varied and harrowing adventures inside of Microsoft before I feel like I can have an honest conversation about being on the bench and being considered at that level. And it will probably really, really suck to be a Partner by then.

As for Career Compass: now here, we have a problem. And by problem, I do not mean something that can be solved by adding another process or tool to solve it. The Commitments Tool combined with the Career Compass is a cluster-f multiplied by a train wreck. Somewhere, some excellent folks got together and came up with a theory regarding how all the careers at Microsoft could be boxed up and measured with very specific calipers. And then they made a database and a tool on-top of it. And in the midst of Microsoft desperately needing to be efficient and agile day-to-day, we pooped out this time-sucking, burdensome, poorly aligned process and tool that messages people that they need to dedicate a huge chunk of time to managing their careers and laying down a database stream of just how limited they might be. All while the competitions, unencumbered by such inspired dreck, passes us by.

Yes, now we all have our own personal bureaucratic system to manage.

"I'm back!" Ooo! Clinking glasses and the nice *pongk* of a bottle of wine being opened. "Allow me to pour. Okaaay, let's see what we've got so far-r-r-r-r-what the hell? I like the Career Compass bit but come-on, Ballmer pissed at Google for reckless hiring and the Partners and their spouses traveling to San Francisco for their second big social event? With the guests and the luxurious accommodations and fantastic awards that's probably nearly 1,800 people for two-thousand a head! That's easily over three-and-a-half million dollars! Take them towels and shove it! No, no, write that down: 'Take them towels and shove it!' Don't you take a sip until you do!"

Tempting. I'd do just about anything for a nice full glass of Col Solare. But then. "This is rabble rousing. And it's a bit of whining. I don't disagree that the Partners have fallen when it comes to fiscal leadership. The stock is flat and their rewards are not in sync with shareholder value. Their rewards should be transparently tied to the measurable results they are responsible for delivering. But to ding them for a party, well... hey, did you read Anthony B. Robinson's column Saturday in the Seattle P-I?"

"The, ah, spiritual columnist?" Sip. "No, doggone it, I somehow missed that."

"So it was titled The unfortunate age of entitlement in America and it's worth a read. And it got me thinking. First of all, since the Microsoft stock sucks and pay-raises and bonuses are the only way to get rewarded in a meaningful fashion, people have decided that they are going to focus their career on being a Microsoft level 68-plus Partner so that they can get what they deserve. The thing is, what, one-percent of the employee base is level 68-plus?"

"Well," he pursed his lips and thought, "more than one percent. So far."

"And people haven't figured out that they are not going to be Partner. Or maybe they have. And they are pissed about not getting compensated well enough. Now conventional thinking is that I never can be compensated well enough and that I deserve so much more for just being me. And to see people in the company enjoying the good life is a personal affront to me."

"So...?" My Devil shrugged.

"So I don't feel like fanning the flames over a party. It was a wasteful indulgence but it's not a defining problem. The problem is that there's a growing gap between those below level 65 and those above level 68. And very little being done to bridge that gap. Stuff like the Town Hall meetings help a lot. Where there is true exchange of what we're doing and why, there's understanding and the banishment of speculative grousing and whining. I think every Partner should have a blog where they post every couple of weeks regarding decisions that they've driven and the reasoning behind it. It would help explain why they do what they do and help everyone else understand and raise their level of enlightenment."

"Hmm, they could make a... process out of that blogging!"

"Funny." I was thinking about adding a Borat accented "NOT!" when my Devil continued:

"The thing I want to know is - and feel free to enjoy your glass, I was just funning with you - so why be so secretive about it? And why defend it saying 'Hey, whoa now, this wasn't a Partner event at all, it was a celebration of technical achievers... just you know, celebrated exclusively with the Partners and their spouses in a luxurious location in an out-of-state city.' Fiscal responsibility my butt! To be truthful, the memo should be rewritten: 'Weenies For You, Shrimp For Me.' And all of this is happening in the middle of what should be the redefinition of Microsoft as a company. It's shameful. And it shows the leadership at the top do not realize that appearances matter. It's a big 'screw you' message."

I enjoyed my sip and looked out the window at the newly planted shrubs. My Devil asked, "What's your little first rule of being an effective manager?"

"If the team has to suck-it up and eat a shit-sandwich to get the job done, I take the first and biggest bite."

"Not very tasteful, but it gets the point across. And do you see leadership taking that bite?"

"No. But whining about it accomplishes what? If I don't like it, I either accept it as the way it is and push up my concerns within the political corporate system or I move on to another company. Hell, I'm like a lot of people with Google executive recruiting and head hunters checking in with my non-Mini self to see, quote-unquote how things are going at Microsoft and if I'm interested in talking. I'm here because I want to be here. Complaining about every offense that comes my way means that I've made the wrong decision in staying. And that I should move on to where I'm not bothered with such silly messes."

"Well," my Devil says, finishing his glass and placing the bottle on my end table, "there's one more step in that direction. Let's wrap this up."

*Poof* Dang, he disappeared before I had a chance to mention the Microsoft Channel 9 article in Wired 15.04 and if, given that Microsoft had a dossier on Fred Vogelstein, my Devil could track down any dossier on me. Ah, well. Next time.

What else? The last post certainly had a number of interesting conversations going on in the comments, ranging from Microsoft Research's place in the company (worthy of its own post), the business of Xbox, and a lawn-mower selling experiment. Hey, I hope Mr. Barr sells it. I'm just not that sure that the comments are an effective Microsoftie watering hole, but, ooo!, there's news with respect to comments! You now have a comment feed per post! I'm sure there's some Blogger gadget I could put in here to make it obvious, but for now you're going to have to use your RSS feed auto-detection mechanism when you visit the individual blog-post web page and subscribe to what should be the third item to get the comment feed.

Some other items from that multi-studded comment above:

A few more tidbits from deep within the management ranks of the company:

Exec reorg: Stay tuned, there's lots more to come. The Blake Irving-Alex Payne-Satya Nadella three-step is just the opening moves in a very extensive executive dance. Look for several more big names (i.e., ones that Mary Jo loves to toss around at parties) to either decide to spend more time with their families, or move to roles for which they are as equally unfit for as their current ones.

[...]

HR: There's lots of dissatisfaction within the HR world, and lots of personell changes happening there, as well. Note that most of the recent mangement hires within HR have been from the outside. That tells you something about their reputation within the company.

Mini and InsideMS: Management is even more pissed about the fact that this blog continues to thrive than they ever have been. It's beyond the level of chair throwing, and well into the foaming-at-the-mouth stage. Lisa's blog is a disaster, and she is trying to get permission to kill it. Anonymity has been removed (never really was there), and Partners are being notified about inflammatory posts from their employees. Also, it's sad to see Dawn-Marie leave.

Exec Re-org: it's always better to do big changes quickly and together versus having an ongoing stream of randomizing changes that induce anxiety over what the next change might be and starts stalling out important initiatives.

As for this blog and InsideMS: well, this blog and its conversation changed pretty dramatically when InsideMS came on the internal Microsoftie scene and there's no denying that. And it provided me an opportunity to change the direction of this blog, which I don't think I've been effective in doing. Yet. I was trying my best to hit the big pause button here anyway and await my Mini 2.0 muse. To tell you the truth, reading the comments on the InsideMS blog also depressed the hell out of me and it was a little mirror of some-kind of justice held up to me to see another's point-of-view of what's been happening here.

My suggestion would be to shelve InsideMS ("Jealous much?"), Career Compass, and the Commitments Tool and... do what? (1) Replace InsideMS with a leadership blog where L68+ Partners / VPs communicate with the company what recent decisions they've made and the reasoning there (and, call me a hypocrite, but no anonymous comments), and (2) determine that high-maintenance, process-focused, bureaucratic management of your career is not efficient, agile, or effective and go back to the (a) What went well, (b) What could have gone better, and (c) What is your future plans for growth review form.

I have come to deeply appreciate the flexibility of a simple, mostly blank and wide-open Word review form.

Of course, this would involve admitting mistakes. Somehow, that is the anti-matter to everyday business at Microsoft.

P.S.: fill out your MS Poll form! And use the comments to provide frank, brief feedback regarding what's going well and how things could be better.


68 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey mini your Wired link is 404.

Yes, I hope your voice is heard and MS will truly address it. I still vividly remember the time when I read Steven Sinofsky and Jim Allchin's blog.

And... Ray Ozzie hasn't updated his blog either. Maybe he posts in InsideMS?

John Vert said...

Worst. Boondoggle. Ever.

Get real, you call that TCN event a boondoggle? Do you really want to spend a romantic weekend away with your wife, David Vaskevitch, and a hundred other type-A geeks? Any partner at this company can afford to fly to SF for a weekend on their own dime without even dipping into the latte budget. I've given enough weekends to this company, I'm not roping my wife into giving up hers too.

Anonymous said...

P.S.: fill out your MS Poll form! And use the comments to provide frank, brief feedback regarding what's going well and how things could be better.

And why would I do that? It hasn't changed a dang thing for the positive in the past; why is this time special?

The only thing that has effected real change (it seems) is blogs like this. Or...this blog in particular, I'd say.

Somebody convince me otherwise, or I'm not MSPoll'ing. Heh. (And I used to be so faithful about such things - times have changed.)

Anonymous said...

FWIW, while I'm near-certain that an L68+ soiree in SF occurred a few weekends ago, not all Partners were invited. I was talking with a couple of other Partners and a few didn't even hear about the event, let alone get an invite (I didn't receive an invite). So, my guess is that only CVPs and up were invited at most...

Anonymous said...

Re: John Vert

Perhaps the most honest and candid post from an identified partner. And even as an IC...I am 100% in agreement. Any company "mandated" event that includes spouses masquerading as fun, just seems like more work and not so much fun.

And to the fourth poster...it is true is was not for all partners. My boss is a partner, was not invited, whereas his boss a DE was invited and went.

Anonymous said...

>P.S.: fill out your MS Poll form! And use the comments to provide frank, brief feedback regarding what's going well and how things could be better.

I've been here long enough now [creaking of old bones] to believe that the only poll strategy that makes a positive impact is to put the link where I've put mine - in the recycle bin. Doing this gives back 30-45 minutes of your time. And I find those "lesser of two evils"-phrased questions (usually regarding benefits) insulting:

"Would you prefer to:
-Be hit on the head with a hammer
- Or just poked in the eye with a pickle fork?"

The only sane response is no response.

Anonymous said...

Come on, folks. Didn't anyone see the train wreck coming that was called InsideMS? It was a hoot! Oh, the unfiltered goodness. Seriously, what was HR thinking trying redirect traffic from here?

Just a reminder those who have forgotten their high school lit. classes: Re-read Animal Farm

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Just breathe and accept.
You will sleep better. Kind of like being picked last for kickball.

For analysts, recruiters, companies looking for talent:
Read this blog carefully. There are many trolls here, but the truth lies somewhere in between.
This company is in major flux and you can pick up some very talent folks for just some extra money and giving them the room and freedom to their job well. If I were hiring,
I would be picking up the Kims in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

To establish my credentials:
Ex microsoftie (up to 2006), now working on another US SW company overseas.

Seems lots of change going on...but for worst not better. From comments from my ex-colleagues whom I take to lunch every so often, things are more or less going the same way things were when I left. That is, hiring like crazy and even worse, setting back really good people to put in people from outside whom these guys interview and evaluate as hire at starting lvl, and see going into the higher levels (bypassing the hire low and promote stuff). It seems the profiles they want hire are asking for more money...weird ain't it?.... This seem to align with the new good - KIM bad way of thinking at MS, which for me is very sad.

BTW. All this partner stuff sounds like MS is becoming something similar to ACCENTURE, at least in the partner structure, including the political infighting stuff rewards and goodies. Now the only thing missing is the 70 hour workweeks for the rest of the personnel..ohh right, that's already in place :D

regards

Anonymous said...

>I've given enough weekends to this company, I'm not roping my wife into giving up hers too.

So have others. It doesnt give you( or your wife ) a right to spoil shareholder money.

Anonymous said...

>Do you really want to spend a romantic weekend away with your wife, David Vaskevitch

-
Sounds like boondoggle Dennis Kozlowskis party in Italy. Kozlowski went to jail for looting share holders.

Anonymous said...

>> I've given enough weekends to this company

I haven't seen a single dev manager in my 6+ years at the company that would come in on weekends to support his devs during crunchtime. So STFU and enjoy your SPSA grant.

Anonymous said...

>>"but, ooo!, there's news with respect to comments! You now have a comment feed per post! I'm sure there's some Blogger gadget I could put in here to make it obvious, but for now you're going to have to use your RSS feed auto-detection mechanism when you visit the individual blog-post web page and subscribe to what should be the third item to get the comment feed."

Mini, you're going to have to make it more obvious. I can't see any additional links to individual posts except the `links to this post link list at the bottom of YOUR post. WTF are you exactly talking about anyway?

Also, your latest rant is not being picked up by My Yahoo mini-Microsoft feeds either. Is this some kind of MS IE7 thing (which I don't use) or what?

Maybe I am thinking there should be some kind of threading available (which is not) that shows responses to individual responders positioned under one another like on ZDNet or CNet.

Anonymous said...

They didn't remove anonymous posting on the InsideMS blog.. I just checked.

Just My 2¢ said...

"What's your little first rule of being an effective manager?"

"If the team has to suck-it up and eat a shit-sandwich to get the job done, I take the first and biggest bite."


This is called 'leading by example'. Therein is the source of your unhappiness, Mini. You confuse leadership with management. Microsoft does not want you to be a leader. That is what partners are supposed to do. They want you to manage.

Thing about the answers to this question...

Q: How are you going to accomplish this?

A: I'll lead.
A: I'll manage.

Anonymous said...

Treat07 is the alias for partners that attended the boondoggle. The name is suggestive that the event is a TCN recognition event.

Anonymous said...

There's been plenty of press coverage of what the partners are taking out of Microsoft, but I'm curious what the partners are giving back.

In organizations that have some intention of living longer than their employees, there is an obligation for the senior people to pass along their wisdom and knowledge to the rest of the company so that the organization can continue on. Traditions such as "training your replacement," "mentoring programs," as well as formal and informal training are common in such organizations.

I'm still too far below the stratospheric level of the partners to see any of this sort of activity (if it's there to be seen, of course) so I'm just wondering if those higher up on the food (i.e. bonus and stock award) chain could shed some light.

Surely out of 800-some partners, there must be some shining examples.

Disgruntled IC said...

Fuck 'em. I've been in Microsoft for a few years, and have recently moved onto a sexy project that will bring me out another two. After that you can kiss my never-gonna-be-a-partner-and-don't-care-enough-to-play-that-game ass goodbye.

I have no desire to bow and scrape and beg my way to *maybe* hitting L68+ in ten years. That just sounds stupid to me.

If you're really that bothered by Treat07 (I'm not sure if I am), give Lisa your thoughts, or send the first person in your chain of command who attended a pointed note. Tell them that you hope they enjoyed their trip to the Bay while you came in to work over the weekend to help ship your product.

Anonymous said...


>> I've given enough weekends to this company

I haven't seen a single dev manager in my 6+ years at the company that would come in on weekends to support his devs during crunchtime. So STFU and enjoy your SPSA grant.


Ok, I'll nibble your tasty little worm. I'm a dev mgr. I won't come in on the weekends, and I don't ask my devs to blow their weekends either. I sure don't expect them to come in.

I ask my devs to be smart and plan their work so they don't have to. And we manage our releases to ensure this, except very rarely. Oh yeah, [chuckle], and did I forget to mention we're making Microsoft money, growing like crazy and producing great software? :)

We've sure got some excellent morale and results in my team. Woot us.

Anonymous said...

P.S.: fill out your MS Poll form! And use the comments to provide frank, brief feedback regarding what's going well and how things could be better.

And why would I do that? It hasn't changed a dang thing for the positive in the past; why is this time special?


I believe that the Poll is going to show a spectacular drop in satisfaction this time around. There is simply too much discontent (in leadership, reorgs, products, space, etc) throughout MS.

Don't waste this opportunity. Let your voice be heard. If enough of us show how we really feel, management will have little choice but to at least acknowledge the issues.

Anonymous said...

Mini, you're going to have to make it more obvious. I can't see any additional links to individual posts except the `links to this post link list at the bottom of YOUR post. WTF are you exactly talking about anyway?

Gee, that's funny. Apple Safari picks it up instantly.

(Clickable RSS button right next to the address; picks up the feed no problem.)

Anonymous said...

A lot of you don't seem to know what a partner is. To quote mini, "they think and deliver in an extra dimension compared to me and have obviously worked hard and had success to reach a Partner level."

Worried that you might not become a partner or that it will take a long time? That's right. Think of the top technical person on your team. The one delivering quality code, coming up with great ideas, the goto guy/gal. They might not be a partner. In fact, they might be years from becoming one. So if you are not yet that person then you are not close to becoming a partner. Get there first, then deliver more, do it consistently for a while and then you might be a partner in a few years. All this complaining about having to wait and prove yourself before becoming a partner is insane.

To quote mini again, "I'll have to have at least five more years of varied and harrowing adventures inside of Microsoft before I feel like I can have an honest conversation about being on the bench and being considered at that level." 'nuff said.

Anonymous said...

There's been plenty of press coverage of what the partners are taking out of Microsoft, but I'm curious what the partners are giving back.

In organizations that have some intention of living longer than their employees, ... so I'm just wondering if those higher up on the food (i.e. bonus and stock award) chain could shed some light.

Surely out of 800-some partners, there must be some shining examples.


Surely some are, but most are not. The last three partners I worked for were all zeros on the leadership (or management) scale. They did nothing to set a vision or tone for their organizations. In fact, if I saw them in the hallways twice a week it was a miracle. Even when they were my skip-level manager and I was doing important strategic planning, they were just not there. No imput or guidance on the strategic direction of the product they were responsible for, let alone any of that other stuff. They weren't even decent cheerleaders.

Three in a row, and all three responsible for big, important parts of Windows. Based on that, and on the entire Vista debacle, draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

"I believe that the Poll is going to show a spectacular drop in satisfaction this time around."

Yeah, just like the spectacular drop in stats predicted last year and the massive display of discontent at the company meeting that was organized here...oh, wait, none of that happened. LOL

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen a single dev manager in my 6+ years at the company that would come in on weekends to support his devs during crunchtime. So STFU and enjoy your SPSA grant.

Is this the kind of bullshit trolling that mini has been reduced to? Perhaps you should be less trigger happy with the comment moderation.

First of all, not all dev mgrs are partners. There're plenty of lvl 65-66 dev mgrs, so not all of them get to enjoy their SPSA grant.

Second, I've worked for three dev mgrs in 6 yrs. I have only ever needed to work the last few (2-4) weekends during the final RTM push. This is OK, IMHO. We're coming down to the wire, and the product needs to get out the door.

Third, all the dev mgrs I've ever worked with are happy to get their hands dirty fixing bugs. In general they try not to be critical path for the obvious reasons, but when push comes to shove, they will get down and fix as many bugs as they can to help ship the product.

It's one thing to provide constructive criticism, but when someone posts using their real alias, and you allow another bitter troll to undermine that, it just encourages opacity and more negativity. To what end? It isn't the jverts who need to leave in order to make MS efficient again, it's the cowardly anonymous troll above who does drive-by ad hominem attacks. Shame on you for not filtering that, Mini.

Anonymous said...

"I believe that the Poll is going to show a spectacular drop in satisfaction this time around. There is simply too much discontent (in leadership, reorgs, products, space, etc) throughout MS.

Don't waste this opportunity. Let your voice be heard. If enough of us show how we really feel, management will have little choice but to at least acknowledge the issues."


i'm guessing you're a fairly recent hire. :)

the polls never see truly dramatic change, and this last year certainly isn't the worst in recent memory for pervasive malaise and discontent... that's been around pretty much since SteveB stopped doing the sales stuff he was born to do and started trying to run the company. does anyone who's not a partner actually *like* that guy, or believe that he's not a flaming idiot? in all my years at microsoft as a PM manager, i've rarely encountered anyone who doesn't wish he'd disappear. he's an obnoxious and mean-spirited person and has probably done more to hurt microsoft's reputation than any of the various loser VPs we've hired over the years.

my prediction: this year's poll results will show marginal gains that will be touted by various execs as demonstrating that we're moving in the right direction, with the slightest of nods that we still have a way to go. and just like the last few years, you'll generally only hear people talking about how much microsoft sucks and how it kills your soul and how it's about as much fun and as vibrant as working for FEMA... and you'll wonder why your own personal daily experience and the experience of those around you doesn't look even a tiny little bit like the poll results.

face it -- this company is by-and-large now a company for those people who punch a clock and plan to be here until they retire, and it's those 70,000 people who microsoft needs to cater to. there are some small pockets of cool, and if you're kinda snarky and driven and passionate and super-smart then you should seek those pockets out if you want to stay.

my team is pretty cool, btw -- our PUM will actually say in team meetings, for example, that career compass is embarassing and counter-productive and that we should focus our reviews and career planning on things that make sense like having measurable goals and getting your manager to evaluate your performance against your objectives regularly in email so there aren't any indefensible surprises when it's time to divvy-up the gravy train. ;-)

my advice is to seek-out those few people in positions of power who freely admit the endless process junk is garbage and who are willing to put their necks on the line to shield their teams from the goo designed to keep the mediocre herd in check. find them, treasure them, and do whatever you can to support them in their fight against the depressing -- and largely unavoidable -- process gravity of this giant corporation.

Anonymous said...

"Think of the top technical person on your team. The one delivering quality code, coming up with great ideas, the goto guy/gal. They might not be a partner."

Probably not - they're capable, respected, creative, and delivering results.

Anonymous said...

Bruce Schneier on Microsoft DRM

http://www.forbes.com/security/2007/02/10/microsoft-vista-drm-tech-security-cz_bs_0212vista.html

There are a lot of complaints here that Microsoft doesn't listen to customers but just goes ahead and imposes its way. DRM is one of the worst examples. I am wondering what people inside Microsoft think of it.

Anonymous said...

They didn't remove anonymous posting on the InsideMS blog.. I just checked.

How could they have removed something that wasn't there in the first place? Altogether now: There is no such thing as "anonymous posting" on the internal blog. Period. If they want to find out who you are, it is rather trivial.

Who da'Punk said...

It isn't the jverts who need to leave in order to make MS efficient again, it's the cowardly anonymous troll above who does drive-by ad hominem attacks. Shame on you for not filtering that, Mini.

I always welcome feedback on the filter. But I also rely on the folks who participate here to help bring balance. Like you did.

Hey mini your Wired link is 404.

Should be working as of Monday.

Anonymous said...

The MSPoll results in my org are a big black hole. I've tried asking about them, but only get vague responses of how management was analyzing the data and that this would be shared with the team.

And now it's MSPoll time again.

What's interesting to me is that there are a large percentage of people opting OUT of the poll. Any decent statistician will tell you that for any qualitative measurement you're trying to make that you really should try and normalize against those who opt-in to these sorts of things otherwise you're getting a skewed read of the data.

I suspect that people who are indifferent to positive generally take the poll while those who are frustrated or disgruntled do not.

I am also wary of the "anonymous" nature of the poll. It's really very specific and it knows who your manager is, never mind that you also take it from your office PC connected to corpnet (HINT HINT all you who think InsideMS is anonymous). I'm sure I'm not the only one who has this at the back of her mind. It also contributes to the non-contrarian nature of MSPoll feedback, which merely helps tout the overall positive OHI of the company. And Nero fiddles on.

Anonymous said...

my advice is to seek-out those few people in positions of power who freely admit the endless process junk is garbage and who are willing to put their necks on the line to shield their teams from the goo designed to keep the mediocre herd in check. find them, treasure them, and do whatever you can to support them in their fight against the depressing -- and largely unavoidable -- process gravity of this giant corporation.

Had a boss who did just this (at MSFT, no less) and life was GOOD. Unfortunately, he retired (yes, he started at MSFT early enough that he could do that...) and it's all been downhill (STEEPLY downhill, I might add) since.

:-(

Anonymous said...

"There are a lot of complaints here that Microsoft doesn't listen to customers but just goes ahead and imposes its way. DRM is one of the worst examples. I am wondering what people inside Microsoft think of it."

DRM is not evil.

I'm sure there were content providers pushing Microsoft to add more DRM. If we want to be in the living room, we need to live with some of this. Wouldn't you like to be able to rip DVD's to your machine WITHOUT breaking the law? Without some form of DRM, you never get back there.

The article you linked to starts out with several lies, so it's not even worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll nibble your tasty little worm. I'm a dev mgr. I won't come in on the weekends, and I don't ask my devs to blow their weekends either. I sure don't expect them to come in.

Help us out here. Let's say some of us were passionate competent people considering quitting MSFT because our the corridors of our orgs are as silent as the 520 at 3 AM, how would we find your team?

Last year the "18 month in the job and you can move on" rule was announced. Wouldn't it be great if we also knew what the decent, moving, and alive orgs were?

Sometime it feels like it'd be easier to go work elsewhere than transition.

Anonymous said...

face it -- this company is by-and-large now a company for those people who punch a clock and plan to be here until they retire, and it's those 70,000 people who microsoft needs to cater to.

Too true...

We've lowered the bar so low on new hires and we're unable to energize our existing forces.

The author of Good to Great wrote that the great companies didn't start by defining the right goal. They started by getting the right people on board and the wrong people off. Then they let people do their job, identify over time the right goal and readjust as need be.

We have too many wrong people who need to get off and we can't attract enough of the right people anymore. Doesn't bode well.

Anonymous said...

never mind that you also take it from your office PC connected to corpnet (HINT HINT all you who think InsideMS is anonymous)

All people who found the idea that anything you do on a privately owned network is only anonymous by the good will of the people who have the authority to monitor it to be a revelation, please raise your hands.

You're hereby fired for incompetence. If you're a developer or tester above level, you're blacklisted as well.

(I can dream, can't I? The rot at MS exists at all levels.)

Anonymous said...

>"DRM is not evil."

Oh goodie, another DRM tit for tat. It may not be evil, like bullets in a gun are not evil. Look, I will try to say this politely and honestly, (no I did not write the orginal post to which you were responding) as I can:

1. Legitimately owned DVD Vids don't work on XP anymore since the backdated updates and they won't work on Vista either. Period.

2. That is an intentional strategic and not a legal action on the part of Microsoft.

3. I challenge you to prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

> The article you linked to starts out with several lies, so it's not even worth reading.

Let's see... an article by Bruce Schneier, who is a recognized authority. An anonymous reply, saying that it contains several (unspecified) lies. Who to believe, who to believe...

I trust Schneier enough that I expect that he would not deliberatly lie. Could he be mistaken? Sure, absolutely. But even there he's more likely to be right than some random guy who happens to post to Mini.

You want us to believe that he's wrong? Fine. How about some detail about what he said that's wrong? And while you're at it, how about skipping the emotionally-loaded finger-pointing (calling it lying) and just say what's factually wrong with the article?

MSS

Anonymous said...

"The MSPoll results in my org are a big black hole. I've tried asking about them, but only get vague responses of how management was analyzing the data and that this would be shared with the team."

Same here with a twist - our 50 person team got our Poll scores and also the MSFT overall scores but not our larger Business Unit scores....as our team had some significant OHI and MCI decrease areas vs. MSFT, the lack of the BU scores as a divisional benchmark was significant,( i.e, was it just our team or the whole Business Unit/Division that trended downward....?)and in the absence of BU level data transparency ( and we asked for the BU scores more than once), the assumption has been COVER-UP.

What's really sad here is that, in past groups I've worked in, we used the less than great Poll scores to course-correct pretty quickly and make things better for the team....tough to do when relevant benchmark data is not shared.

Anonymous said...

The article you linked to starts out with several lies, so it's not even worth reading.

Wow. I've been doing computer security in one form or another for the better part of two decades now, and I am pretty sure this is the first time I've ever heard someone call Bruce Schneier a liar.

That's a scary kind of arrogant you've got going there.

Anonymous said...

I'm a 11+ year employee (no, not a partner...probably never will be). It's pretty clear to me that minimsft attracts a larger percentage of bitchers and cry babies than exists in the company overall. I, along with most of the people I work with, enjoy working here overall. I think the "deal" is pretty good. Like many, I see stupid things, bad managers, promotions for people who don't seem to deserve them etc etc etc. Guess what? Welcome to the real world.

Regarding the Poll, I don't know about the rest of the companay but leadership (hate that phrase...) in our group (what I call the "cost center division" - Corporate Marketing)seems responsive to poll results. My direct VP and his boss Mich Mathews have made specific changes based on poll feedback. Maybe I'm a pollyanna but I wish people would try to be more constructive and, god forbid, positive.

PS. I'm not at ALL happy about the stock price and I have growing doubt that the old line leaders have what it will take to turn that around. I think we have a big perception problem among investors and that something drastic might be needed to change that. The financials are good...but the stock stagnates. Watch the stock hit $35 or $40 and see how many of the crybabies quietly get to work.

Anonymous said...

[mini: fixed typos: sorry]

It's pretty clear to me that minimsft attracts a larger percentage of bitchers and cry babies than exists in the company overall. I, along with most of the people I work with, enjoy working here overall. I think the "deal" is pretty good. Like many, I see stupid things, bad managers, promotions for people who don't seem to deserve them etc etc etc. Guess what? Welcome to the real world.
[...]
PS. I'm not at ALL happy about the stock price and I have growing doubt that the old line leaders have what it will take to turn that around.

Has it ever occurred to you that these two phenomena might be connected?

In other words, genius, did you ever consider that the "bitchers and cry babies" you scorn so disdainfully might have more on their minds than a selfish desire for a better "deal"?

The idea is as fundamental as employees having stock: by owning part of the company they are directly connected to its fortunes; they want systemic conditions at the company to improve because improvements in the company structure are good for the stock.

Even if you don't care about anything that's going on around you for any virtuous, non-solipsistic reasons, can't you understand that "leaders" who "have what it takes" are people who take interest in the company's fortunes beyond their own petty need to "enjoy working here"?

In the "real world" you're so familiar with, companies thrive because of successful integration of employees' strengths and weaknesses and the greater goals and drives of the company. If you just want to "enjoy working here" (and expect God to take care of the company's market value), go sell insurance. This is an industry for innovators, dreamers and iconoclasts who force improvements in their surroundings, not self-absorbed wage earners who frown on discontent for no reason beyond their own torpid complacency.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, Microsoft is being evil when we push other companies around and don't adhere to standards, except when the companies are media conglomerates and the standards are DVD, HD-DVD/Blu-ray, HDMI, etc, in which case, Microsoft is being good.

Doesn't take a genius to see how far that would fly. Tell Schneier not to give up his day job.

Who da'Punk said...

On DRM: just to be clear on my comment bar here: if you've got something of substance to say then please share, but now anything on DRM is by default bounce-worthy to the CRF unless there's a meaningful spark of insight.

Anonymous said...

Quick question:

What's a KIM? Acronym? What makes them so good at what they do?

Anonymous said...

I've grown increasingly weary of all these slams on the partners. I don't deny that many of them are incompetent, corrupt, ill-mannered, and unhygienic, but the concept of partnership itself doesn't bother me one bit. The demands on people at that level are extraordinary; if you think not, then you wouldn't be screaming so loud about their failures.

I was not a dev, so it was rather convenient that I didn't want to be a partner; it wasn't going to happen.

What bugs me the most is the way people seem to resent partnership as if they themselves are entitled to the lofty rewards just because they work hard, or code better than a peer. I agree that there's a problem with incentivizing partners on stock rewards at a time when they are meaningless for the rest of us, but the idea that there are people who have, by dint of their talent, vision, and accomplishment, are rewarded disproportionately to a disgruntled code monkey is not inherently wrong.

The people who got rich at MSFT in the 90s were not better than the rest of us, they just got in on the scam earlier. In fact, we're earning the E that their P (as in P/E) was speculating upon back then. Too bad infinite growth is impossible.

No, keep demanding accountability from the partners; I hope that someone is rewarding them on their merits in some way, and defrocking them when necessary. But avoid thinking two things; first, that becoming a partner is something you get by wanting it bad enough. (I cracked up when the college hire asked how you become a partner.) You earn it through work, vision, and imagination that you either have or you don't. Second, just because you write better code than someone else doesn't mean you have the business sense, the political acumen, or the intestinal fortitude that these positions require.

Finally, can someone tell me the inside scoop on Satya Nadella's transfer? I've heard very little good about him, and he didn't seem to have a strong execution record. Maybe this is too far down the food chain, but does this mean ultimately that someone is going to stop Rajat Taneja from throwing shareholder money away?

Anonymous said...

What's a KIM? Acronym? What makes them so good at what they do?

Welcome to the MiniMSFT blog, I'd suggest starting with this post from the Archive and then some of the more recent ones: http://minimsft.blogspot.com/2006/11/no-so-limited-kim.html

Anonymous said...

If you really want to stick it to HR - stop posting on InsideMS. As was mentioned - HR is pissed that their efforts to draw people from mini is a failure. We were all excited when InsideMS was first created. Finally - a chance to have a forum where we can say what bothers us and actually be listened to! Things are going to change!

Yet, the post LisaB made that told us to stop complaining about compensation ended that dream. Now she just talks about whatever bs SHE wants to talk about. Brilliant.

While there is sooo much I hate about MS there is still a little bit that gets me out of bed in the morning wanting to drive across the 520 bridge. Sadly - I'm sure that will eventually go away and I'll be force out, or worse, sent off to a team that ships crap - yeah SpotWatch! I'm talking about you!

Anonymous said...

>No, keep demanding accountability from the partners; I hope that someone is rewarding them on their merits in some way, and defrocking them when necessary.

There is no accountability at partner level. Partnership is for life.

If you want to become a partner, attach yourself to a new group being formed. Make sure you report to the top honcho not some sucker down in the chain. VP will promote you to be the partner to use up his quota for partners. Then enjoy million dollars a year for life.

Anonymous said...

What bugs me the most is the way people seem to resent partnership as if they themselves are entitled to the lofty rewards just because they work hard, or code better than a peer.

No, that's not the problem at all. If our partners were like Steve Jobs, I don't think anybody would have a problem paying them 10 times what they make now. Jobs may be a dishonest pompous a**hole but he clearly has special insight into the market and knows how to execute--his presence at Apple brings in billions.

The problem is that we don't seem to have ANYONE with any special, unique spark of insight at the partner level. "J" is supposedly our Jobs-type but his big ideas were to burn through billions aping the PlayStation and iPod. You can get this level of strategy and insight from any level 59 at the company, so why is "J" making the big bucks?

Anonymous said...

> The people who got rich at MSFT in the 90s were not better than the rest of us, they just got in on the scam earlier.

Get real. People in the 90s worked harder and sacrificed their weeks/weekends to make the company what it is. They reaped the rewards of their work.

The work of the 90s allows the employees and partners to milk the cash cow now without doing anything.

Anonymous said...

I've been taking the MS poll for years now....and I *don't* mean the survey.

Anonymous said...

"The problem is that we don't seem to have ANYONE with any special, unique spark of insight at the partner level."

Beg to differ. I think we have plenty of special people at partner level with sparks of insights. We got the best of our best (and we only hire the best, right?) that still wanted to work for us.

Sadly, they mostly have no communication skills, leadership skills, people management skills and business skills.

But they're the best coders and architects at MSFT.

Now if only we held them accountable for "communication skills, leadership skills, people management skills and business skills", maybe they'd wake up, work on these and become useful to the masses at the bottom. Or make room for those looking for a challenging career path.

Anonymous said...

> Get real. People in the 90s worked harder and sacrificed their weeks/weekends to make the company what it is. They reaped the rewards of their work.

They were motivated to do so. Nowadays, even if we want to have people work on weekends, we can't convince them their work is worth enough to the company and senior management.

Work smart then hard. If there's nothing smart about working, why work hard?

Didn't someone complain years ago of the number of cars in parking lots in the evenings? We're all geeks here. I'd love to pour my soul in smart work. That would be dumb. With the processes and politics, I'd be wasting my creative energy. Instead I am one with the machine, doing the little that's expected of me in 25 hours a week and still get great reviews as a Senior SDE.

Looking ahead, it doesn't seem it'll get better. CareerCompass made clear what I have to work on: Scope and Influence competency #3 (for engineers) specifically requires demonstrating a control of chains of influence. As an I/C I must play political games to further my project's technical needs.

Here's the "Tao of Linden", makers of Second Life.

http://lindenlab.com/employment/tao

> No Politics!

> Never act to advance your own interests or someone else's interests at the expense of the interests of the company. This is the one principle, outside of violations of law, for which violation will likely result in immediate termination.

Would I myself be terminated if we applied this rule? Maybe I'd sleep better.

Anonymous said...

> Get real. People in the 90s worked harder and sacrificed their weeks/weekends to make the company what it is.

Speak for yourself.

This week is the first week in 2007 that I have put in less than 75 hours. My longest weeks this calendar year have involved in excess of 100 hours in building **.

I have sacrified my weeks and weekends for a year and a half, for the good of my project.

Am I getting rewarded, stock-wise? Yes, noticeably more than the average SDE. Commensurate with the hourly wage I'd make as a 40-hour dude, no. And anywhere near the reward level seen in the 1990's for similar effort? No chance.

Anonymous said...

"This week is the first week in 2007 that I have put in less than 75 hours. My longest weeks this calendar year have involved in excess of 100 hours in building **."

Any project that has people working 14 hour days 7 days a week has got to be complete shit. People's productivity goes down significantly after 60 hours.

Let me guess what you're working on...live search?

Anonymous said...

3. I challenge you to prove me wrong.

You want someone to prove to you that a secret conspiracy doesn't exist?

Anonymous said...

Mini - This doesn't meet your comment bar, but I was challenged to point out the lies
in the first paragraph of that article. My comments are not specifically about the DRM
topic, but about the article itself.

Windows Vista includes an array of "features" that you don't want.

Lie

These features will make your computer less reliable and less secure.

Lie + FUD

They'll make your computer less stable and run slower.

Lie + FUD

"They will cause technical support problems."

Just a guess, but it can be said about any feature added to any product ever created. So it's FUD.

"They may even require you to upgrade some of your peripheral hardware and existing software."

Unless he goes into more specific detail in the article, this is just FUD.

"And these features won't do anything useful."

Lie

"In fact, they're working against you."

Lie + FUD

"They're digital rights management (DRM) features built into Vista at the behest of the entertainment industry."

Hey, finally an actual fact!

Anonymous said...

>> I have sacrified my weeks and weekends for
>> a year and a half, for the good of my project.

You're either a recent hire, or you're not very smart. You can't do this for months on end. You will burn out and hate life after a few months. Honestly, I think extreme overtimers should be punished at review time, not rewarded. Come to work, put in your honest 8 to 9 hours that you're paid for, go home. Lather, rinse, repeat for 10 to 15 years, move on. That's what Microsoft wants from you these days. When there's crunch time, it's OK to pull all nighters, but don't do it for more than a week, and get additional vacation from your management in return. They'll be delighted to give you a couple of days off if you help meet the deadline.

Anonymous said...

People in the 90s worked harder and sacrificed their weeks/weekends to make the company what it is.

Correct! When several of us came to Microsoft from DEC in 1988 we received options for ~10k - 15k shares @ ~$40. The stock was flat for over a year. Didn't matter to us. We were not at Microsoft to become wealthy. We came to Microsoft to build an operating system.

We came in an built a system from scratch. We spent countless nights, weekends, summers, etc. building the system, iterating through NT 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, 4.0, Win2k, XP, etc.

We won the lottery. Thats all that happened. We didn't come to Microsoft to get rich, BUT by sheer luck, thats what happened. Thats not what drove us though. What drove us was building the system.

I'm sorry that you resent us for building the system and being in the right place at the right time. Remember though, it was just plain dumb luck on our part. It was time for a new system and we were there to build it. Our friends over at Novell and Sun weren't as lucky as us.

So yeah. We became partners. Big deal. You think we asked for this treatment? Nope. Some dork in HR invented that program. We were just L14's and L15's. We joined as L12's and L13's and got promoted along the way...

Remember, Jvert and Davidtr joined us fresh out of college. They were great engineers, BUT like most of you whiners were new to Microsoft. They just lucked out and ended up in our team, produced quality code, and gained the respect of davec, markl, loup, stevewo, darrylh, etc. As a result, they were rewarded for their efforts, AND they continued to produce and they put in 15 years here. BUT, all that really happened is that through sheer dumb luck, their timing was good, the joined during a period of explosive growth, and they too, "won the lottery".

IF you whiners had been born 10 years earlier, or joined Microsoft when it was a small, $600m company like we did, you might be stressing about your new yacht like us.

Remember though. We just got lucky. The same thing might happen to you, BUT I can garuntee that if all you worry about is $$'s, you wont ever see them. You need to jump into something that excites you, stick with it, kick some ass, AND if you are VERY VERY lucky, you might win the lottery. I know it can happen. It happened to me once already at Microsoft, and once again post ms. They key is to chase what excites you, NOT to chase the $$'s...

Anonymous said...

I had the best MYCD this year in my career at microsoft. The career compass tool seemed so painful and elaborate my manager skipped it entirely

I work in a product group, and looks like the teams that spend less time on things like career discussion, commitment setting and career compass seem to be the happiest employees. in fact the first reaction to saying that mid year review deadline is approaching makes managers and employees both cringe. I would much rather be writing code than commitments, and be discussing the design rather than abstract concepts full of generalization.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm probably going to "out" myself here, but I'm one of the biggest trolls on the "InsideMS" blogs. Why? Because it makes me physically ill to read comments that are either rah-rah Kool Aid posts or are so insipidly stupid as to make me ashamed to work with people so dense.

As for Dawn-Marie, well, Dawn-Marie was good attrition. I was on Dawn-Marie's interview loop when she was first hired at MS all those years ago and I gave her a solid "NO HIRE". Her constant "I'm a VICTIM!" comments were pathetic. She's the archtypal example of someone barely performing who chooses to play the victim card rather than step up and take a hard critical look at her career. She was a programmer/writer. Windows documentation sucks, has sucked, and always will suck. Our documentation is pathetic, and we have an army of Dawn-Maries to thank for it.

The fact that she was able to scrape out an existence "stubbing out reference pages" is a testament to the ills plaguing Microsoft right now.

Revolution starts from within kids.

Anonymous said...

IF you whiners had been born 10 years earlier, or joined Microsoft when it was a small, $600m company like we did, you might be stressing about your new yacht like us.

So kids, the moral of this story is: Look elsewhere if you'd like to create something new and be well-rewarded for it. You missed the boat.

There's nothing wrong with expecting to be well-compensated for an original idea that nets the company big bucks. I'd like to point out that at some places, like oh say, *cough*oogle you still have a chance for being rewarded for doing something great even though the general lottery has passed (via the Founder Awards system). At MS, well, just work hard and cross your fingers and hope you have a chance to reach partner....someday.

Dare Obasanjo said...

>There's nothing wrong with expecting to be well-compensated for an original idea that nets the company big bucks.

I'm really surprised by all you folks who want to have your cake and eat it too. If you have an original idea that is worth millions then go found a startup. Seriously, who expects to join an established Fortune 500 company with over 70,000 employees and expects to become a millionairre?

It's not like college hires joining GE, Home Depot or the Ford Motor Company expect to become millionairres after working there for a few years. Why do Microsoft employees think they are any different?

Anonymous said...

"Windows documentation sucks, has sucked, and always will suck. Our documentation is pathetic."

Yes, it's true. The documentation orgs have some of the worst politics in the company, some of the least capable people, and a management structure that's only good at getting in the way of and stepping all over the few people in those orgs who have any real talent. No surprise at all that those orgs are so disfunctional and produce such abysmal results. But it's also true that the product teams themselves generally make zero commitment to documentation. If you want great documentation, be an active part of the documentation process and make it part of your product group's goals. Or STFU. It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

But it's also true that the product teams themselves generally make zero commitment to documentation. If you want great documentation, be an active part of the documentation process and make it part of your product group's goals. Or STFU. It's that simple.

How true. When I was doing dev. work for Microsoft I used to write the documentation in rough form, hand it off to my UA writer, they'd massage it into a more professional format, I'd review their work and fix any technical errors introduced and we'd go back and forth until we had it right.

The developer understands their component better than anyone else and it should be their responsibility to see that it's properly documented.

I think Microsoft's management doesn't believe in this kind of "end to end" work on the part of its developers. There's a lack of ownership by development teams and a lack of pride in the finished product. It's sad to see but the "me me me" atmosphere at the company places more importance on advancing your career than on delivering quality products.

Also, with respect to documentation, I believe that the language barrier between the foreign, barely speak English, development staff and the UA writers gets in the way of the UA people understanding the product well enough to write good documentation. It's the price we're paying for that cheap immigrant labor.

Anonymous said...

Here's my rant. Career compass is a complete waste of time. I found the competency definitions unbearingly ambiguous. As a result most of my mid-year discussion (about 90%) was spent arguing of what the terms actually mean, while about 10% was spent on actual growth plans. The only good thing that came out of the discussion was my team realized just how far out of synch their day to day roles were with the the company definition. I certainly can't say that that helped our morale.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm probably going to "out" myself here, but I'm one of the biggest trolls on the "InsideMS" blogs. Why? Because it makes me physically ill to read comments that are either rah-rah Kool Aid posts or are so insipidly stupid as to make me ashamed to work with people so dense.

Holy crap, I thought I was the only person on InsideMS that did that. If I had any idea who you were I'd shake your hand.

Anonymous said...

"What's your little first rule of being an effective manager?"

"If the team has to suck-it up and eat a shit-sandwich to get the job done, I take the first and biggest bite."


Thank you for this.

If more managers just followed that one little rule, this company would be a better place to work. My manager left at 3 today, and didn't come in at all on Friday. While I empathize that people are busy, enough is enough.

I have been in the trenches getting dinner with the team every night, and I received the worst review of my life because I didn't "shine" enough. Maybe if more folks followed your example, we'd have a happier work place.