Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Microsoft FY07Q4 Results

Here comes the fourth quarter results for FY07 and some peering into what FY08 has in store. Well, as much as we're willing to reveal. My favorite post analysis sites for the results:

I'll summarize what folks are saying and link to their posts later.

Some articles started showing up earlier in the week forecasting what the results might be and that totally got derailed by Mr. Peter Moore leaving Microsoft for a better, family friendly job location with Electronic Arts in the Bay area. I know a lot of gopher heads popped up questioning, "Accountability? In action? At Microsoft?"

That was quickly put to rest. Of course, even if Mr. Moore was asked to head for the nearest exit, we wouldn't want to piss him off over at EA. So, I'm marking this up as how it was presented, with zero amount of accountability being exhibited. Again. Whatever the SPSA metrics are for this upcoming shower of gold, I'm sure none of the bad news around Xbox will affect the payout.

What do you think will be the interesting parts of the end of FY07 results?

What questions would you ask if you were on the conference call?

Some topics:

Vista: how is deployment? And analysts will probably fish for news on SP1, given that SP1 should increase Vista deployment. To me, the secondary issue is around Vista 3rd party drivers. I still walk into people's office and see some cool device and hear, "Yeah, well, when the Vista drivers are released I'll be able to use it again..."

Oh, and hey Windows Vista: you remember Chris Pirillo? Let me jog your memory: (1) Copying Xerox, Vista Mistakes, and VP and Perspectives (2) There's Ray! Plus: Plenty of Room For More Brains at Microsoft. Don't shrug him off as a whiny complainer nor doubt his ability to get press, because last week the Chris Pirillo focused "6 Months Later, a Report Card on Vista" / "Six Months On, Vista Users Still Griping" / "Little Annoyances Still Big Vista Issue" took its sweet time spreading to about every news site I read.

Acquisitions: probably we should hear a question about aQuantive and how things are looking there. It would be nice to also conjecture about other acquisition targets... I know, we can't. Again, I would enjoy Microsoft acquiring Facebook and then letting only the best people help them build it out (e.g., sorry, no one from Spaces allowed - you had your chance and you'd probably be bitter). Of course, when it comes to acquiring Facebook, Scoble says we ain't good enough.

Duuude. We're well over having the Microsoft network membership pass one-fifth the number of current employees. We're not just dating Facebook here. We're (leaning forward with a knowing glance) involved. Ooo! I'm going to invite Bill Gates to be my friend on Facebook right now... okay, done.

Staffing: last year, Mr. Bishop was the first to gather that Microsoft had an explosive year in employee growth. How bad is it going to be this year? And who the hell are all these people? What parts of the company are growing and what is the demand that the growth is addressing? How the hell can we sustain this growth globally let alone poor little cluster f'd Redmond / Bellevue? It just makes my language go to pot.

Anti-Trust concerns: the elephant in the room. Do we expect any discussion about Europe progress, let alone the US? We yanked Google's anti-trust chain for the DoubleClick acquisition, now they are yanking our anti-trust nipple ring around desktop search.

(Later...)

Follow-up posts to our earnings announcement:

I was surprised that Liddell shrugged off the importance of Vista SP1. If it was an attempted Jedi Mind Trick, he forgot to wave his hand.

Other goings on:


142 comments:

Anonymous said...

>>What parts of the company are growing and what is the demand that the growth is addressing?

If I were a cynic: they are in areas where we wouldn't want them working for the competition. For a while at least.

fCh said...

Long time no see. I thought you and your readers may want to read this:

http://www.linkedin.com/answers/technology/information-technology/computers-software/TCH_ITS_CMP/68224-3961046

Cheers, fCh

Anonymous said...

"Whatever the SPSA metrics are for this upcoming shower of gold"

Well played, sir!

Anonymous said...

To me, the secondary issue is around Vista 3rd party drivers. I still walk into people's office and see some cool device and hear, "Yeah, well, when the Vista drivers are released I'll be able to use it again..."

I don't think this is true. What devices still don't have drivers? And if they don't have drivers by now, is there really any chance there will be updated drivers for the device?

What more can be done by Microsoft to help people get the drivers they need?

Anonymous said...

Device drivers is one of the concerns but many people are avoiding Vista even on new machines. They don't know if their favorite applications will work or not and they don't want to take the chance.

Anonymous said...

She lives by where I work (near QWEST). She’s even more gigantic in person.

I just got Roxio drivers for my <6 mo old Dell. Up until today, every reboot ended up with 7 PCA popups telling me the driver was blocked.

Well, no more! I'm free of the PCA tyranny!


What more can be done by Microsoft to help people get the drivers they need?

You're kidding right? Or were you a PM on the Longhorn Driver Model team?

How about - don't break the old ones until there are new ones available. Well, that trainwreck left the station a while back, but to me it's one of the most telling signs of Windows management being completely out to lunch. I wonder if there will be any questions about that?

JASG said...

I don't know about microsoft not being good for facebook, but what would microsoft do with facebook? It would be a disaster to have to wade through 7 or 8 ads per page like on myspace. It would be a disaster to take ownership without a clear plan. Use silverlight and popfly to make way killer apps that can be shared on facebook, yes. But otherwise, it is not a matter of good or bad, it is a matter of how does it fit into the business model, and keeping it from getting screwed up.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so keen to see MSFT get in bed with Facebook if I were you. If there's any truth to this: http://valleywag.com/tech/mythbusting/facebooks-fake-revenues-278437.php they are way overpriced.

Anonymous said...

Mini, some logistics issue:

1.When I click the comments link on your post, I am brought to this page, which is configured for posting comments and not for reading comments (comments are in a narrow column hard to read). Few months back, the same click used to bring me to comment page for reading. Now I have to press the blog-headline and then scroll down to reach the same page.

2. There is so much troll. Why do not you make the website accessible to Microsoftees only. It is possible, easy, and preserves anonymity. I am sure you could also think of a quick solution.

Anonymous said...

i am soooooo tired of vista, my awesome tablet pc has never worked the same since i installed it. the writing features work fine, but the screen rotation and using multi-mon NEVER worked again. whoever developed the multi-mon functionality for vista must have done so with the external monitor on the right because that's what my screen always defaults back to (i like to have mine on the left.) Boot up takes a brutally long time. i also disabled the stupid access control pop-up in the local policy and could therefore live with Vista. i feel like this whole OS is steps backward from XP.

Anonymous said...

So here's the great question of the day. With the stock price cruising past 31, and options expiring in 2011....do I exercise?

Lockergnome said...

Heh... I should do an anonymous interview with you, eh? :)

It's funny, actually - I blogged that Microsoft should pay me ONE MILLION DOLLARS to market Vista better than them. Must've made it to the "Fit and Finish" department, as nothing ever happened.

More interesting is how I was raked across the coals for complaining about small things - when Apple fanatics cheered Jobs for stating that Leopard would have a consistent interface throughout.

Am I a Nitpicker, or a Switcher waiting to happen? I'm certainly not alone. The future of Windows for me may be a seamless VM experience through OS X.

Anonymous said...

Scoble says we ain't good enough

Geez Mini, why do you give that guy any exposure?

I'll seriously argue that the emergence of his like from Microsoft is like the appearance of buboes on a plague victim. Both a sign of deep illness. If we ever rise above the current circumstances, Scoble will return to his former gig as a Best Buy blue shirt.

Anonymous said...

Drivers that don't work or don't work right:

My sandisk sansa - was flawless in XP didn't work on vista for a while and now kinda works

My lexmark all in one printer - worked great in XP, even though they have Vista drivers on their website I still can't get it to print, although it does scan. I still dual boot XP for this reason alone.

My Toshiba M4 still struggles with external displays. But Toshiba laptops are horrible altogether.

Nvidia has no plans to release drivers for my 5600 even though it's running Vista now and is perfectly capable. I just get a limited feature set.

That's a pretty awful user experience if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

"What parts of the company are growing and what is the demand that the growth is addressing"

We're growing like crazy in the field! We have may too much business in Services and we have many unfilled positions. We're all overworked at the moment. The strategy is to put more MS folks closer to the customer -- not in Redmond.

Omega said...

Microsoft could afford to recognize the sh*tkicking it's getting from Linux.

Right now Microsoft is unable to compete. It struggles to even get a shape of where Linux assaults it.

Inevitably current trends will continue and it will force Microsoft to quietly skulk off and develop a main focus.
One that isn't just blind, frantic and completely amateur Windows boosterism.

Hmm...Doubt that's in the next year though.

During this "fiscal year" Microsoft will continue to be punch-drunk from Linux and continue making themselves look really bad.

Anonymous said...

So looks like MS had another good quarter (which would have been an excellent quarter if it hadn't been for the XBOX fiasco). But still. A good quarter. I'm dying to hear how the regulars here are going to spin Googles 8% stock slide on missing their estimates.

Tee hee.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft could afford to recognize the sh*tkicking it's getting from Linux.

Wha? I'd like to see some evidence for this statement. Server growth and desktop growth are both strong. Care to enlighten us as to exactly where Linux is crushing Microsoft?

jon said...

Welcome back, oh somewhat-kinder-and-gentler Mini. Given this somewhat different perspective, are you going to drop the "lean-and-mean" tag line?

Anonymous wrote:
There is so much troll. Why do not you make the website accessible to Microsoftees only?

Is there any evidence that the TQ [troll quotient] is lower with Microsofties? We see a lot of the same kind of behavior internally on sites where anonymous comments are allowed ...

Also, I very much agree with Jasq's point about making killer apps for Facebook; that's a good thing to do whether or not we buy them.

jon

Anonymous said...

lockergnome - you are a douchebag and a troll. Please do us all a favor and switch. Or go spend a few hours with Apple's OS and post another multi-hour tirade video.

Mini - please moderate the comments again and bounce some of this lame crap.

Anonymous said...

Omega - Please leave the "shitkicking" linux comments outside please. I am an Ms employee in the field and the no. of people who are fed up with linux and moving to Windows is in the tens of thousands - Customers dont give a damn about it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Mini - your damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-dont tirade against MS is becoming tiresome.

Will there be any post forthcoming from you that will sound a little more positive?

Give me criticism over cynicism anyday.

jon said...

Thinking more about this (interestingly I had a very similar same conversation at work today) ...

One obvious business model for Microsoft apps on Facebook is to attract traffic to our sites, services, and applications. We clearly have some destinations that are attractive to a lot of people: XBox Live, Club Live, Messenger, MSN, ... etc. etc. (yes, yes, I know our stuff has to be competitive for this to work; that's another discussion). Essentially, one way to look at Facebook apps is as a low-cost way of attracting users.

What are some good examples of Facebook apps that would play to our strengths?

jon

PS: For those of you who work at Microsoft, please feel free to join in the parallel discussion on the Ad Astra blog. While you're there, please check out (and join in on) our work-in-progress open letter to Ray Ozzie, discussion of transparency and the just-started brainstorming thread for our upcoming open letter to Mini.

PPS: Ooops. jasg, sorry about the typo in your name in my previous post.

Who da'Punk said...

Jon: please be sure to email me any open letter... or post it someplace public.

Administrivia: flipping moderation back on. I experiment with it on and off to see what difference it makes.

Anonymous said...

@ lockergnome:

Some people should know better than make a video of themselves. I threw up after watching the first three minutes. It's not that your comments against Vista aren't valid - it's the presentation. Let me tell you a secret. You're far less important than you think you are, even if news agencies refer to your blog. In fact, I'd bet a good deal of money that about 99% of Microsoft ecosystem hasn't heard of you and doesn't know who you are, much less why they should value your opinion. To the rest, you're even more irritating than Scoble, and that's an achievement in itself.

Do everyone a favor - refrain from putting yourself on youtube in the future.

Anonymous said...

> So here's the great question of the day. With the stock price cruising past 31, and options expiring in 2011....do I exercise?

When I was faced with this choice (not at Microsoft), I did a straddle. I sold some of it, to make sure that I got something at all. And I held on to some of it, so that if it went up, I could make more. (This was made easier since parts of my grant vested yearly.)

This strategy moderated both my upside and my downside.

MSS

jon said...

Who da',

Of course! In fact, if you wouldn't mind, it would be great to do the same thing in parallel here as well -- and perhaps we could do one jointly on Facebook too. That way we could compare and contrast the results. It'd be a really interesting experiment.

jon

Anonymous said...

During this "fiscal year" Microsoft will continue to be punch-drunk from Linux and continue making themselves look really bad.

Wow. I typed like three paragraphs on this before realizing that it was a waste.

Dream on, fanboy.

Anonymous said...

I read through the Ad Astra stuff.

It looks to me like the type of navel-gazing and self-promotion that a lot of commenters on this blog are claiming is endemic.

I work in the field so don't fully subscribe to the political opinions raised here frequently - those things seem to be more of a corp "feature", but if Ad Astra is a sample of what is going on then I'm not too enthused about these type of overheads.

Anonymous said...

Jon, you are a GM, a leader in Microsoft. You are posting here on a forum critical to Microsoft is encouraging other employees.

Sure you can do this at a personal level as mini is doing. But as a manager of a company, you are not supposed to go against the company and encourage other employees. I hope that the senior leadership take notice.

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that Jon posts here. It shows that senior folks at MSFT are reading and not afraid to engage.

Jon - I dont think it is wise to carry on any discussion here. This forum is way too public for what are essentially internal issues. I dont think we should talk about the open letters and we definitely shouldnt talk about Facebook apps. That discussion should be happening internally

Anonymous said...

Mini - here's a suggestion (this is not really a comment, feel free to delete it). Why dont you write a Thinkweek paper? You could talk about your observations and the stuff learnt from your blog. You could ask people like Jon Pincus to help you out with the logistics to help submit to http://thinkweek2.

If you want a public response from BillG and others, that would be a good way.

jon said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for checking it out. Good feedback; the blog is pretty chaotic and at any given point in time may look a lot like navel-gazing. For now I added a link to the work-in-progress "FY 08 pitch" to the Welcome page; it's admittedly imperfect, but probably the best description so far -- and also describes what we think are good next steps.

Without discussing anything confidential, a few things that I think are more than navel-gazing:

* Mashup events (and the associated threads) are an attempt to address the rather embarrassing lead that our competitors have over us -- back in March, only 4 of the 1500 mashups listed on programmableweb.com were on Microsoft services and APIs. (The Computerworld article on the Mashups at the MVP summit looks at this narrowly in the context of search.)

* the series of workshops we prototyped on innovating more effectively have gotten rave reviews from the attendees, and we're partnering to ramp those out more broadly

* Given how much people complain about execs not knowing what's going on, I think things like the open letter to Ray fill an important rule.

* The Third Rail Project (anonymous gathering of "unmentionables", forwarded on to Lisa) is a really valuable snapshot of what can't be discussed at Microsoft today -- in a way very complementary to Mini and other sites.

It is true that we still don't do a good job of conveying what Ad Astra's about. The grassroots, network-oriented approach we're taking is really different; and some peopel view the highly-participative approach we take as "too much talking". We're working on it.

The best way to get a feel for it is to participate; one of the reason we're on spsites is to make access easier for people in the field, who often have problems RASing in.

And if it's still not clicking for you after you try, oh well; apologies for wasting your time. Please consider coming back in a few months -- and in the interim check out some of the other things going on like OfficeLabs (there's a brief blog post on their productivity science fair).

Thanks again!

jon

PS: Mini, apologies if this comment is too long ... if you want, I'll resubmit something shorter.

jon said...

Anonymous,

Jon, you are a GM, a leader in Microsoft. You are posting here on a forum critical to Microsoft is encouraging other employees....

True enough, and I am indeed encouraging other people at Microsoft to engage in constructive ways: here, on Lisa's blog -- and of course on our blog. [As was pointed out above, I'm also rather shamelessly promoting our work ... I'm a GM in a marketing organzation :-)]

Look: a lot of the criticisms here are at least somewhat valid, and some -- the lack of transparency of the SPSA, for example -- are 100% on target. More than that, this blog gives a voice to a lot of people inside Microsoft who don't feel safe speaking up and outside Microsoft who don't have any other channels. There are a lot of people here who care passionately about Microsoft, and that's a good thing.

I still find the tone here somewhat negative and harsh (that lean-and-mean thing again), but the attacking and trolling has decreased quite a lot over time. Why not engage?

I hope that the senior leadership take notice.

The ones I've talked to generally see it the same way as me. But please, feel free to publicize it further with them!

jon

PS: I'd certainly be a lot happier about being here if this were hosted on some Microsoft site (or even any place but Google); expect to see something along those lines in the open letter.

Anonymous said...

I remembered this blog today after about six months and I must say I am surprised it still exists and people still bother to post.

Props to you Mini. I don't know where you guys find the energy and time. Although skimming the site, I could tell by the quality of some of the recent posts and comments that the days of Minimsft being the place to go are long over.

Still no one can deny that this blog started something

Anonymous said...

>>Jon, you are a GM, a leader in Microsoft. You are posting here on a forum critical to Microsoft is encouraging other employees.

Sure you can do this at a personal level as mini is doing. But as a manager of a company, you are not supposed to go against the company and encourage other employees. I hope that the senior leadership take notice. <<

God its people like you who make my experience at MS a living hell. I did not see Jon giving away any details what so ever on anything competitive. You remind me of a moron in ehome ...

Anonymous said...

Sure you can do this at a personal level as mini is doing. But as a manager of a company, you are not supposed to go against the company and encourage other employees.

Jon (or some GM like him) has to step on and try to win back the disaffected. Microsoft is about to find itself in one hell of a fight. We can't have soldiers giving 50% in the daytime and skulking around on Mini at night. No offense, Mini.

Anonymous said...

Jon, sure you are not giving away any detail. But this blog is trespassed by press regulalry.

If the senior management really wanted to give any official rocognition to this blog, then the management would have been posting here. Lisa does not even mention Mini by its name.

Microsoft is not a charity organization so we must take care of investor's interest. Investor's interest hurts if this blog gets official recognition. A GM posting here does give official recognition to this blog.

The blog is supposed to work as an informal unofficial place to force certain changes. Getting official recognition to this blog may be hurting this blog's agenda also.

Jon, both you and me know that the management wants to deal with this blog by ignoring it. Tomorrow do not say that I did not warn you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Jon, also if you want to criticize the transparency of SPSA grant, since you are a GM you could raise this issue quite effectively inside the company. Or on your blog you can discuss why you think you deserved (or did not deserve) that grant. Basically you are in a position to tackle the issue of transparency starting from yourself.

jon said...

Anonymice,

Thanks for the support! One of you said:

I dont think it is wise to carry on any discussion here. This forum is way too public for what are essentially internal issues. I dont think we should talk about the open letters and we definitely shouldnt talk about Facebook apps. That discussion should be happening internally

Totally agree that we have to be very aware that this forum is public. There are many topics I wouldn't get involved in here.

Also agree that discussions should be happening internally. It's not an either-or thing, though: we can carry on discussions internally and externally at the same time, and sometimes that's very useful.

For the open letter to Mini, I'm really curious what the differences will be between something constructed with open and anonymous participation here, with (almost as) open and pseudonymous participation on Facebook, and with Microsoft-only and non-anonymous participation at Microsoft.

As for using Facebook apps to drive traffic to our other properties, getting other people involved in that can only help us. Others are just as likely (if not more) than we are to have ideas about what the opportunities are -- or aren't. And if somebody who's not at Microsoft takes one of the ideas and (for example) writes something linking Facebook to XBox Live or MSDN, or says "I can't see how to do this in the current release of Popfly but it's really easy in Yahoo! Pipes" ... that's a good thing. [I double-checked this with one of Satya's directs before bringing it up here.]

Yes, this is counting on Microsoft employees having the good sense to keep from posting any patentable ideas here. I think people understand that; and realistically those are likely to be in the underlying services anyhow, so the risks are pretty low.

jon

jon said...

Why dont you write a Thinkweek paper? You could talk about your observations and the stuff learnt from your blog

Great idea, if you 've got the time! [For those who don't know about it, this WSJ article from 2005 is a good description of the "twice-yearly ritual" of ThinkWeek.] I'm happy to be the bridge here.

In the past there's often been some kind of provision for submitting external papers. There are some caveats ... I'll check with the folks running Thinkweek and see whether it's possible and if so what the deadline is.

jon

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"I still find the tone here somewhat negative and harsh (that lean-and-mean thing again),"

Jon, no offense, because fwiw I applaud you personally for engaging here directly. But after YEARS of MSFT under performing across a number of key criteria, and many of the criticisms that you concede are at least somewhat valid left unresolved (SPSA lack of transparency, for example), I suspect that some folks are tired of candy-coating their feedback. I know I am. So maybe the harshness of the critics is a function of the tone-deaf nature of current MSFT senior leadership? As a shareholder, I see ZERO openness to change/rethink coming from that group despite numerous failures and missteps. Indeed, there's an unwillingness to even acknowledge many of these (e.g. the abysmal multi-year track record of the stock, or ROI - more accurately, lack thereof - from "big bets"). But I'm encouraged by your leadership example and hope you're not alone in the executive ranks. I also agree that more constructive engagement on both sides is sorely needed. Finally, I think the street would reward a leadership team that was more open to feedback and honest about what's working and what isn't. It's the "dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead regardless" attitude they find scary - as should anyone looking at the track record this decade versus last.

Anonymous said...

I remembered this blog today after about six months and I must say I am surprised it still exists and people still bother to post.

Step 1: Insinuate that mini is "passe" and those who still read and/or post are out of the loop.

Check!

Props to you Mini. I don't know where you guys find the energy and time. Although skimming the site, I could tell by the quality of some of the recent posts and comments that the days of Minimsft being the place to go are long over.

Step 2: Demean the quality of the current discussion and suggest that effort to monitor or engage in same is wasted.

Check!

Still no one can deny that this blog started something

Step 3: Finish by exhorting folks to go find that "something" without actually saying what it is (although an inference that "something" is the internal discussion forum wouldn't be far off).

Check!

Lisa B's newest lackey, ladies and gentlemen! What, you thought that headcount would have been better allocated to a group that actually produces something?

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft is not a charity organization so we must take care of investor's interest. Investor's interest hurts if this blog gets official recognition. A GM posting here does give official recognition to this blog."

Seriously, I can't see how this hurts investors any more than the incompetent way the company has been run the past several years (I think the investors that post on this blog regularly would agree).

To be honest, if this blog can no longer be ignored it would be a good thing: it's about time the senior management faced up to the fact that there are serious problems in the company that need to be addressed rather than burying their heads in the sand.

Anonymous said...

>> we must take care of investor's interest.

I was an investor. Granted, small scale, with just over $100K in MSFT part of my portfolio but an investor nevertheless. I've sold all my MSFT a year ago, tired of waiting for a miracle.

>> Investor's interest hurts if this blog gets official recognition.

Just because you say it doesn't make it true.

Anonymous said...

"Jon, you are a GM, a leader in Microsoft. You are posting here on a forum critical to Microsoft is encouraging other employees.

Sure you can do this at a personal level as mini is doing. But as a manager of a company, you are not supposed to go against the company and encourage other employees..."

Enough with the rulebook nonsense. If you've noticed most of the people here care about the company and want to fix what's broken and there have been plenty of suggestions on what needs to be fixed and how.

The thing that's wrong here is these people had to post here because they wouldn't have been listened to internally and they may have been retaliated against individually.

Anonymous said...

If the "negative and harsh" goes away then you know that Mini has been assimilated. Any exec thats blogging in a public forum - and who believes in free speech - knows that any type of comment may appear on Mini at practically any time. That's a by-product of having an open mike. In my view, its worked pretty well to this point. Had it not worked well, execs would not be here attempting a dialogue. The anonymous are here to improve the company without losing their jobs. Referring to them as anonymice only displays more arrogance and ignorance. Please do come out and say something bold that you will have to back up among your peers on Monday morning. Not comfortable with that? If you don't like the heat stay out of the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

We can't have soldiers giving 50% in the daytime and skulking around on Mini at night.

Perhaps someone high up should be asking what demotivates those once highly motivated soldiers?

Anonymous said...

what's with all this "open letter" stuff. where is the value?

will it deliver better products faster? increase share price? raise OHI??

Navel gazing indeed. This makes me want to puke.

Anonymous said...

PS: I'd certainly be a lot happier about being here if this were hosted on some Microsoft site (or even any place but Google); expect to see something along those lines in the open letter.

And how many of those who've experienced the repercussions of speaking the truth in the halls of MS when syncophancy was actually what was desired will post on a Microsoft-run site? I know I would never even read it. The notion that anonymity is real is false in so many other aspects of our corporate life that I cannot imagine believing it to be real in a situation such as this.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is not a charity organization so we must take care of investor's interest. Investor's interest hurts if this blog gets official recognition. A GM posting here does give official recognition to this blog.

Puh-lease. Arguments that the MS leadership has MS investors in mind as their top priority is a waste of my time, and lowers my perspective of your sincerity completely.

Anonymous said...

When is this year's review result being communicated?

I'm waiting.

Anonymous said...

I instantly mistrust the tone of any GM posting here. It looks like a grand and brave conciliatory gesture until you think it though and realize that the weird vibe you're getting is accurate.

The postings I'm referring to have all the fake enthusiasm and sincerity of a parent or teacher grinning as he or she attempts to ingratiate him/herself into a teenage discussion. "Hey, man! What's going on?" the adult says, all smiles. "Don't mind me; I just want to be part of your 'rap session.'" Don't believe it. The parent or teacher has an agenda: find out what's going on here; break down defenses and ingratiate smoothly; amass data and strategy to bring back to the mothership and try to figure out how to stop the kids from doing whatever rule-breaking they're doing.

Something's wrong with the company. The employees have gone outside the corporate channels to communicate about their grievances. Despite attempts to caricature this as some kind of after-hours "bitch session," if you think it through you'll realize that it's an extraordinary event: the employees actually care so much, believe so much, and are so frustrated that they've gone off the reservation and into a public space in order to hear each other and to make noise for others to hear. That's amazing: it shows dedication, seriousness of intent, maturity, and innovative problem-solving.

So when a company authority figure sidles into the huddle, smiling broadly and announcing that he's here because he's "interested" but he doesn't like the "negativity" and he wants to try to find a less acrimonious way to bring the discussion inside the mothership, don't you believe it. They want these blogs gone. They want them gone right now. They can't stand the dirty laundry in public. They will make the right concerned noises about how good points are being raised, but that's just smoke. If these people really cared about the problems being identified here they would use their influence to try to loudly identify and fix them, rather than "shrewdly" ingratiating with the revolutionaries like the FBI did with radical groups in the 'sixties. Once this blog becomes hidden from public view its power is gone and its influence is meaningless. Don't give in! A better Microsoft can only come about when GMs stop trying to "smooth ruffled feathers" and "remove the harsh tone" and start taking up torches themselves.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps someone high up should be asking what demotivates those once highly motivated soldiers?"

How about one of the oldest time tested rants on this blog, over and over again. Here I am, trying to get to the next level. Got Exceeded/Strong last review, ship its, gold stars, but it's been long enough from my last promo. Beginning of last year, frank discussion with my manager (a partner) about wanting a level bump. All year long, talked with him and skip level manager about it. "You're doing all the right things" they say, all year long. Then just last week got some very VERY strong indicators that it wasn't going to happen. And that my manager is going to go run some fun project somewhere else and leave me holding the bag..."might be a good time to look around at what you want to do". So positive feedback all year, career discussions, and clearly communicated desires...all for nothing. NOTHING!!!!!

That means, I'll take my few % this year, and next year, I'm phoning it in. NO MORE passion from me. Where does it go?

jon said...

Msftextrememakeover,

No offense taken (and thanks). I didn't mean to imply that feedback should be sugar-coated; I just think that the tone here sometimes crosses the line from direct to hostile, attacking, and caustic.

If your goal is to reach people and create change, this matters a lot because lot of times Microsoft people (as with anybody else who feels beseiged) will react so defensively to attacks that they'll disregard or disparaget the valid information, analysis, and criticism in the same thread or forum. [This used to come up very strongly in reactions to Slashdot, for example.]

In terms of negativity, a lot of times people here spend time wallowing in what's wrong and looking for reasons why everybody involved is an idiot. Of course I agree it's vital to identify, diagnose, and acknowledge problems; once you've identified the patterns, then it's a lot more valuable to spend the bulk of your time discussing how to make progress on them -- given the (often apparently-irrational, but real) constraints. And once again, this gives people who aren't naturally inclined to hear the messages an excuse to tune things out.

Even more importantly, this negative focus passes up the chance to build on our strengths. We just had a damned good quarter, and in case nobody noticed our search query share is up and Google's down for the first time ever. Okay, still need to see how sustainable all this is (the search gains are due to Club Live) but there clearly are at least some good things happening. As well as dealing with our dysfunctions, the way to get the stock price moving up again is to distill what's working ... and then do more of it.

I'm not trying to downplay people's sense of frustrations; and when you feel that nobody's listening, it's natural to turn up the volume and intensity. Things evolve, though; at this point, I think a lot of people are at least trying to listen, and the tone here means Mini's influence is a lot less than it could be otherwise.

jon

jon said...

Anonymous,

Apologies if "anonymice" came across as disrespectful; I was trying to address two anonymous posters in the same letter and it seemed to me that this was a funny plural. I'll cop to not thinking about the message it may have sent. Why do you think it shows arrogance and ignorance on my part?

Any exec thats blogging in a public forum - and who believes in free speech - knows that any type of comment may appear on Mini at practically any time.

I haven't noticed posters here restricting their attacks to people appearing in this forum. [And I'm not just talking about execs, unless Scoble posted earlier in this thread and I missed it.]

Had it not worked well, execs would not be here attempting a dialogue.

As far as I know, I'm the most senior person from Microsoft who's here openly, and I stayed away for a long time for exactly the reasons I mentioned. What execs were you thinking of?

jon

PS: for future reference, other anonymous posters, are you also offended by "anonymice"?

jon said...

On the ThinkWeek paper, I checked with somebody on Bill's TA's staff, and the rules are the same: an FTE [me, in this case] can submit an outside paper as long as there are no IP issues.

Of course there's no guarantee that Bill will read the paper (there are now enough submissions he doesn't read them all); and even if he reads it, there's no guarantee that he'll comment; however, it will get posted on an internal site for all full-time employeess to read and comment on.

This year's deadline is August 25. Getting it in about a week earlier is good because it gives a chance to react to employee feedback -- I'll ask for permission to post at least some of it publicly.

jon

PS: Msftextrememakeover, if you'd like to collaborate with Mini on this, I think something coming from the two of you together would have even more force.

jon said...

what's with all this "open letter" stuff. where is the value?

will it deliver better products faster? increase share price? raise OHI??


Many Microsoft employees feel that they don't have any effective ways of getting their views to executives; so if the open letter process works at least some of the time, it will help contribute to raising OHI. I've already gotten a chunk o' mail saying variants of "this is great" and "thanks for doing this" so I think we're on track there ... have to see about Ray's reaction, of course.

In terms of delivering better products, one thing I'm trying to do with these is to help those of us at Microsoft learn to work more collaboratively (in this case, specifically constructing documents a wiki and a blog). Another thread on the blog discusses a series of experiments along these lines and there's been steady progress over the last year. I think that getting better at this will lead to better products and services much faster. [For those of you who have access to the blog, please check out the "highly collaborative environments" thread.]

Also, one of the offshoot threads in the letter to Ray is on distributed development. I think if Microsoft can do this better, we'll do a much better job at creating products and services for countries other than the US -- and we'll do much better at recruiting both in the US and abroad.

And a common theme both here and at Microsoft is that some of the executives just don't get it. Can find a way to use the open letter process to help them understand things they're missing? It's too early to know (and I started with Ray because in my and most others' opinion he clearly does get it) but I think there certainly are possibilities.

So yeah, I think things like this do help the share price.

jon

jon said...

And very briefly ...

I have and continue to raise transparency issues internally. Please don't overstate my influence!

In terms of this site being hosted on a Microsoft site, I certainly understand the concerns -- note that I also said "anywhere else but Google. Being a shareholder, I'd really like to see at least the revenue (and ideally the page views) of this accrue in some way to Microsoft ... or at least not to our arch-rival.

It seems to me that experiments like InsideMS and others show that Microsoft really does understand the value of anonymous speech, and that a lot of employees currently do trust the company not to violate commitments to anonymity in situations where it is technically possible. However, I also agree that a lot of people still might have very good reasons not to feel safe in this kind of environment. If this is something that really concerns you, I really hope you're using Tor or some other anonymizing facility to read this blog.

jon

Anonymous said...

I began to ponder a question today...

With all these high profile execs leaving MS, forced for voluntarily, over the past year, at what point does someone on the board ask the question "is the problem that all our VP's suck, or is the problem with their leader, Mr. Ballmer?"

If everyone is jumping ship, then will we never make the captain walk the plank?

Anonymous said...

> Microsoft is not a charity organization so we must take care of investor's interest. Investor's interest hurts if this blog gets official recognition. A GM posting here does give official recognition to this blog.

Wow. This has so much that is wrong packed into just three sentences.

First: Microsoft has to look out for the investor's interest. True - but not exclusively. Microsoft also has to look out for the customer's interest, and the employee's. It cannot focus exclusively on the investor's interest.

Second: The investor's interest is not served by ignoring the issues raised here, and is not damaged by official "recognition" of this blog. The investor's interest is damaged by official inaction on these issues, and attempting to sweep them under the rug and pretend that everything is fine.

Third, Jon coming here, admitting that he is a manager at Microsoft, and posting using his real identity is not "official" recognition of this blog. He's not nearly high level enough to speak for Microsoft as a corporate whole. Official recognition would be Ballmer or Lisa.

To the person ragging on Jon because he's a manager, accusing him of being like the adult trying to infiltrate the group of kids: Look, being a manager doesn't automatically mean that Jon's a sellout, a corporate guy, an empty suit. You seem to say that everybody else is here because they care, but you don't think that a manager could feel the same, because he's a manager. Maybe Jon can see the same problems you do? Maybe he actually cares, too? Judge him by what he says and does, not by his job title.

To Jon: Personally, I think "anonymice" is cute, but then, I'm not a pure anonymous since I sign with a handle...

Anonymous said...

Can't live with 'em. Can't live without 'em

WRT not involving a GM simply because they are a GM is unnecessarily paranoid and ultimately counter-productive. If you can't get the management to change or can't change the management, then things will only get worse. Besides, if that's how you view the management, why are you still working in such an environment?

While there may be trolls or undercover spies posting to this anonymous, public blog, my guess is that the vast majority are concerned employees and managers who are reading and/or posting. I'd guess is that the vast majority of posters are concerned and passionate but frustrated. (Perhaps Machiaveli should be required reading for CS grads?) Sure there are trolls who like to stir the pot just to watch it boil and I have no doubt that some of the bad managers that are described here are paranoid or evil enough to go digging for dirt to throw back at their subordinates, but, as a group, you/we have to rise above this sort of behavior and start working for the better not being drawn down by the worst.

Anonymous said...

The employees have gone outside the corporate channels to communicate about their grievances. Despite attempts to caricature this as some kind of after-hours "bitch session," if you think it through you'll realize that it's an extraordinary event:

Not really, no. It's not extraordinary. It happens any time a group of quality, self-motivated people find themselves being led by incompetents*. The self-motivated, used-to-winning folks see a problem and start looking for ways to solve it. It's a tough problem, so allies are important, and they look for other people in the company who see the same problems. In the Top-Middle-Bottom Barry Oshry world, this is Middles Uniting, a classic coping mechanism.

I saw it in two of the three companies I worked for before joining Microsoft. It didn't work there any better than it will work here.

See, unfortunately, if you work for an idiot, you can't fix him. If you work for a company that places a large number of ineffective people into leadership positions, you can't fix that. The only people who can fix it are the executive leaders of the company, and they are the ones who created the problem in the first place. For them to fix it, they need to a) realize they made a mistake and b) admit it long enough to fix it.

The problem is, in an organization where bad management has become common, b) is nearly impossible. The institutional insecurity among bad managers coupled with the need to do something about mounting performance problems, makes admitting to a mistake career suicide. The only way out of the mess is a wholesale turnover at the top. The new executives can freely acknowledge their predecessors mistakes without tarnishing themselves.

So, the only real hope for Microsoft is a wholesale slaughter at the executive level. When Jack Welch took over as CEO of GE, he fired 12 of the 14 VPs who reported to him. Microsoft needs that scale of turnover at the top to fix things.

*this doesn't mean every leader at MS is incompetent, just that a large number, perhaps the majority, are. And it's getting worse, since the adage A's hire A, and B's hire C's is true, and true of A's promoting A's and B's promoting C's.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

Jon,

Thanks for clarifying. I agree with virtually all of what you wrote. However, I think there's a big disconnect between the problems Ballmer et al would concede as problems versus the list the rest of us would likely submit. As that list is the basis from which all else flows, that's a critical issue that needs to be resolved up front.

Anonymous said...

MCS Email:

During FY07 we had very strong results from your participation in the MSPOLL and we grew our organization significantly throughout the course of the year. We added 60 new members to the team in FY07. Among these were 24 new consultants, 10 new TAMS, 8 new Engagement Managers, 2 new Support Engagement Managers, 9 new Sales Executives, 4 new GM & PM coordinators, and 3 new PDMs! One aspect of our “new” hiring that I am particularly proud of this past year is that we added six recent colleges hires to the team.

These “MACH” hires are a true testimonial to vibrant nature of our company and how well ALL of you embrace new talent! Thank you for your sense of inclusiveness and teamwork! Again, I re-welcome each of you who joined the team in FY07 and I thank you for your enthusiasm and for you commitment to our business!

I'm one of those new college hires. And I can tell you that I worked very hard this year, and that I personally delivered 10's of thousands of dollars of revenue and profit to MCS.

We're growing in the field and doing a damn good job.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ Sunday, July 22, 2007 10:01:00 PM said...

"Perhaps someone high up should be asking what demotivates those once highly motivated soldiers?"

...

my manager is going to go run some fun project somewhere else and leave me holding the bag..."might be a good time to look around at what you want to do"


Speaking of demotivators. How about the once-every-six-to-twelve-months reorg that leaves employees scrambling to find a new job. Can you imagine working for a company where once a year or so you have to go out and interview for a new position and face the uncertainty of having no job at all? I can't. What a lousy environment to work in.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Lots of people have proposed LOTS of constructive solutions to many of the problems kevetched about here and on InsideMS. (Many, many solutions have been proposed on InsideMS to mostly deaf ears as well - but that's a different conversation. Kind of.) They propose them here, they suggest them to management in person (sometimes). There is no shortage of people problem-solving about the Big Problems.

What is the result? THAT's what people are frustrated about the most. NOTHING CHANGES. Ok, strike that. VERY LITTLE CHANGES. Tidbits and scraps are dropped to appease the masses and demonstrate "good will." But overall, it's either the same-old, same-old dressed up in different packaging (e.g. review changes, where the stack rank just moved to another area) or it's something totally trivial in the grand scheme of Things That Are Broken.

What specifically would you like the people here to do that would be more constructive than making proposals that no executive ever picks up on? Sure, the suggestions could (and DO!) go through official channels. Go to your manager, your second-line, HR, send mail to Lisa, etc. The problem is that all of those channels come with a price, and it's one too many of us have already paid (and learned from).

Please be specific about what you'd like to see happen HERE on Mini, rather than just "be less negative."

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, anonymice is not all that flattering a term How about using anonymi?

Jack Shafer, in Slate.com, introduces us to the term "anonymice" with a colorful metaphor:

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/03/01/092928.php

"Like insatiable vermin eating and rutting their way through a bulging grain elevator, anonymice continue to multiply in the pages of the top dailies. This proliferation comes despite the public promises made by some newspapers to stamp out--or at least reduce--the number of anonymous sources quoted."
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=anonymice

anonymice
People (typically n00bs) who insist on posting anonymously to online communities, usually just to cheese non-anonymous people off.

Anonymous said...

Jon said: "We just had a damned good quarter ..."

The street expected .39 per share and we delivered .31 per share. I call that damned sucky.

Oh, that's right, you don't hold Robbie accountable for one of the biggest fuck ups in the history of business. You just write it off as a "one time charge" and pretend like it didn't happen. AWESOME QUARTER. Hopefully XBOX can blow another billion next quarter! Maybe Live can lose a record amount too. I know, let's settle .03 per share of lawsuits too. Then we can celebrate a trifecta of one time charges!!!

And for the record Robbie, Xbox won't be a "profitable business this year" or next or the next. Maybe by 2015 - more likely 2020. For a business to be profitable, you have to look at the entire business, which includes the $6.5B you mismanaged down the shitter. You might be cash flow positive in FY08 (if you were fully burdened, you probably wouldn't even make that mark), but your business won't be profitable until you pay back - with interest - the $6.5B.

Sorry if I'm being too negative, but it's embarrassing when our supposed leaders pretend like we're stupid and try to blow smoke up our ass.

nff

Anonymous said...

I haven't noticed posters here restricting their attacks to people appearing in this forum. [And I'm not just talking about execs, unless Scoble posted earlier in this thread and I missed it.]

I wasn't referring to behavior on the blog as much as to its success. In my opinion, MM is a well-attended blog because it allows passionate discourse. Can that be carried too far? Yes. Does that detract from the blog's overall value? No. If MM had 4 posts a month it wouldn't garner the attention its getting now.

As far as I know, I'm the most senior person from Microsoft who's here openly, and I stayed away for a long time for exactly the reasons I mentioned. What execs were you thinking of?

Sorry for not being clearer. I was referring to you specifically and not execs plural.

Jon, you stayed away from MM until now because - why? I mean, why didn't you or another senior person engage 3 months ago, or 6 months ago, or a year ago? In my view, this blog may have toned down recently, but not that much. Could one of the reasons why senior staff stayed away because there was an informal(possibly career-threatening) policy against blogging here, and now, for some reason, MM is strategic, and its important to manage MM messaging? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

jon:


In terms of negativity, a lot of times people here spend time wallowing in what's wrong and looking for reasons why everybody involved is an idiot. Of course I agree it's vital to identify, diagnose, and acknowledge problems;


the italicized is emphasis mine. i wanted to point out that that sentence describes in a nutshell the Microsoft culture. it can be seen everywhere from interview loops to spec reviews to cross-group engagements to post-mortems. it is the way people have been trained to 'add value'.

and it comes from the top. this is what Bill does and has always done and we all want to be Bill. we want to find the one little hole in everyone's best-laid plans and then dig and dig until the other person acknowledges that they are, indeed, a lesser mind than you and that they have to go back and think about it some more.

and you wonder why this is what we all do here? do you wonder why on aliases like Litebulb people shoot each other down because of some esoteric factoid that only people who've been involved in the problem space really have any understanding of or exposure to? do you wonder why interview loops are these horrible things that attempt to measure people on having thought about a problem for all of 2 minutes and then castrating them for not having a bulletproof design/plan?

THIS IS WHO WE ARE.

we find the problems and do it as a means of 'adding value'. it doesn't matter if the problems we find are esoteric or inconsequential. contributing silence is ALWAYS WORSE than contributing random noise. you risk being labeled a 'no op' if you don't 'contribute' somehow. and it's the silent no-ops that are deemed worse than the fuck-up no-ops who at least try to 'add value' but are really just inept.

you take the culture we've built and add dissatisfaction to it, there can be only one outcome. the thing that brings it out in public is the blogging tidbit.

Adam Barr said...

"I instantly mistrust the tone of any GM posting here...The postings I'm referring to have all the fake enthusiasm and sincerity of a parent or teacher grinning as he or she attempts to ingratiate him/herself into a teenage discussion. "Hey, man! What's going on?" the adult says, all smiles. "Don't mind me; I just want to be part of your 'rap session.'" Don't believe it. The parent or teacher has an agenda: find out what's going on here; break down defenses and ingratiate smoothly; amass data and strategy to bring back to the mothership and try to figure out how to stop the kids from doing whatever rule-breaking they're doing."

Let me put in my two cents in support of Jon. If you read his postings internally, you'll know that he posts the same way inside Microsoft, and if you've ever seen him speak or been to one of the events he puts on, you'll know he's genuine in his desire to make Microsoft great. So don't discount him as "just another GM", he's trying to fight the same good fight that Mini is (but possibly in a different way).

Also, I think when he commented about wishing this was on a Microsoft site, he just meant he wished it was on Spaces or something, not that it should be brought inside the firewall.

- adam

Anonymous said...

Mini and Anonymice, everybody must be happy with the morning townhall meeting. Robbie Bach came out as a leader.

Anonymous said...

>The postings I'm referring to have all the fake enthusiasm and sincerity of a parent or teacher grinning as he or she attempts to ingratiate him/herself into a teenage discussion. "Hey, man! What's going on?" the adult says, all smiles. "Don't mind me; I just want to be part of your 'rap session.'" Don't believe it.

I'm not sure that folks DO believe it. Do YOU believe it, gentle reader? That said, Jon, if you have ideas/opionions on:

- "Share of the Pie" vs. Partner/non-Partner
- inept or downright mendacious managers
- watering-down of innovatiion due to design-by-concensus of who-knows-how-many groups and stakeholders
- purging of the Kims
- fiscal responsibility
- the Old Boys Network
- all the other frequent issues raised here...

... then let us know about them, here, and we can respond to you (or not), here, where there is a measure of accountability-by-visibility.

I don't think that internally, there is any high-level intention or desire, whatsoever, to change many of the things that are regularly discussed here. The only goal that "taking it inside" satisfies is... not having it discussed here.

Anonymous said...

Ever heard of the good-guy-bad-guy tactic used against someone? Jon is the "good guy". Don't believe him.

jon said...

A lot to respond to here and I may not be able get to all of it; apologies in advance.

Probably the most important thing is to apologies to the anonymous posters (and thank the person who linked to the Jack Shafer article). I honestly didn't realize that the term had such negative overtones, and can see how it badly undercut my message. And to the person who brought it up originally, thanks as well, and you're right: I was ignorant.

Thanks also to Adam Barr for clarifying that my comment about hosting "on a Microsoft site" was referring to Spaces (or something like that), not taking inside the firewall. One thing that I think might make a lot of sense at this point (depending on the directions Mini wants to go) is to shift to something that's more discussion-forum oriented ideally with community moderation and reputation for pseudonyms -- something Slashcode-based would fit the bill for example. No idea on how to do that in a way that the page views (and a share of the revenue, if any) accrue to Microsoft, but it would be realllly easy to do that some place other than Google.

And thanks also to Adam for his public support of me and the work we're doing. It means a lot to me.

if you've ever seen him speak or been to one of the events he puts on ...

There are several on10 videos of our Mashup events that give a good feel for them, starting with Tina Wood's oldie-but-goodie from last December. There isn't anything public about the workshops we've been doing as part of the innovation process (internally, there's stuff up on the cleverly-named "Workshop Wiki" on our site), but the kinds of people we've been partnering with in the design and prototyping should give a good idea of the flavor: John Sweeney (author of Innovation at the Speed of Laughter") and Brave new Workshop, Max McKeown, Kathy Cramer (Asset-based thinking) and the Cramer Institute, ... Other groups at Microsoft are picking these up for FY08 so expect to see a lot more about them.

And for the post that starts with ...

i wanted to point out that that sentence describes in a nutshell the Microsoft culture.

Well said!!!!!!!!

The question of "why am I here, now?" is a very good one and worth a post in itself.

And sorry once again to any anonymous posters I offended.

jon

Anonymous said...

Fascinating to read the circle-the-wagons comments.

I don't currently work for Microsoft, but (and this is a SHOCKA!) it appears not much has changed in the four years since I left.

That should really shock some people. The same cruft is still keeping people from doing excellent work. The same demotivational actions that are explained as "to better serve you." The same vapid responses to critical remarks.

I don't know what's accomplished by not listening to criticism. Sometimes criticism is invalid or wrong - but dismissing it all is the sign of someone who's afraid to examine reality.

If you don't listen to criticism, and you don't listen to customers (now, be honest - you cherry-pick the customers' responses you want to hear), who are you listening to?

Anonymous said...

this is what Bill does and has always done and we all want to be Bill.

I beg your pardon. I want to make useful products of excellent quality so we all benefit. I also want to be a decent human being. While I certainly want Bill's money, I sure as heck don't want to be a bully, internal or external. I've seen and heard how he treated people and frankly you can have Bill, no matter how many doses of vaccine he buys.

Anonymous said...

RE: the execs that have left
Interesting stat, over 10% of execs (listed on presspass) have left over the last year...is that the right level of turnover? Personally, I lean to the "mini" side...so I'm going with a goal of >15% finding other opportunities for the next year!
PS Welcome to the discussion jon, glad to see someone increasing visibility of this internally.

Anonymous said...

Mini and Anonymice, everybody must be happy with the morning townhall meeting. Robbie Bach came out as a leader.

Uhm... not me. Sure he owned up to the question that everyone was wanting an answer on; how hard was that? Really? What struck me was how fast the next sentance came out "We're moving on... Zune will be great blah, blah, blah..." With slick speaking skills like that he should run for political office.

Anonymous said...

Regarding folks who are complaining/wary of Jon posting, he's not your typical GM.

He has no FTE staff / organization, and does not seem tied to a product or service. The GM title seems to be tied to level for an IC, which perhaps gives him a bit more time/freedom.

He does drive events like the mashup days, which can be a very positive collaboration opportunity. (although having everything pink is a bit obnoxious)

He's a genuinely nice guy trying to make MS a better place with comments inside and outside the firewall.

Anonymous said...

Someone suggested that a spike in non-anonymous posting on this site in the final month before bonuses are handed out, was suspect.

Specifically, someone might be looking for some notoriety for either a better bonus or a some collateral to use when looking for a new position (in or out of the company).

Not sure if I agree, but it's an interesting comment.

Anonymous said...


Interesting stat, over 10% of execs (listed on presspass) have left over the last year...is that the right level of turnover?


Yes, that's exactly what SteveB would like across all level bands (especially VPs) and the 20/70/10 ranking system tends to deliver.

There are other impacts, less measurable but just as obvious...

1. Instead of aligning their divisions, execs spend their time in turf wars and piss-fights trying to avoid the Limited label.

2. Those who feel relegated to the 70 bucket will phone it in instead of quit outright. You don't have to outrun "the bear" of competition, just your equally apathetic peers.

3. At some point the great leaders who may find themselves being promoted realize their "reward" is more politics and limited financial upside compared to a smaller firm, so they depart for greener pastures.

The 20/70/10 system applied at the management level is a recipe for a stagnant political bureaucracy.

I say put them all back on options (not SPSA) and see them either band together to drive the share price up, or else move on and help reduce our payroll expense.

-A. Ghost

Anonymous said...

A confession.

I wanted to demonstrate a disadvantage of being anonymous. So I took a non-topic, such as Jon posting with his real name, and objected to it. Half the comments to this post are being spent on discussing that non-topic.

Lesson learned. In an anonymous setting anybody can turn the discussion, sometimes in a useless direction.

I am confessing this and did it on purpose. But that's immaterial. I have seen many posts in the past when somebody starts a non-topic and the discussion turned to that non-topic. So anonymous settings have a large overhead. The reason is the same which is keeping msft stock down. msft stock is down because executives do not have as much accountability as they should have therefore it brings overhead of redundant employees. Anonymous commentators do not have any accountability so it brings its own overhead.

Mini if you want to make Microsoft lean and mean, first show me how you can make this blog lean and mean.

Anonymous said...

Mini, and Jon,

It's that annoying open-source guy again.

Jon, you made this statement:

"One thing that I think might make a lot of sense at this point (depending on the directions Mini wants to go) is to shift to something that's more discussion-forum oriented ideally with community moderation and reputation for pseudonyms -- something Slashcode-based would fit the bill for example."

If you want a place where comments critical of Microsoft yet passionate about getting it working right, etc, etc, etc, I would suggest getting in touch with O'Reilly's and asking them to host it. I can't think of anyone with a more developer-friendly reputation, or a reputation for not pulling punches where Microsoft is concerned, yet publishing quality documentation on Microsoft products and supporting Microsoft-based developers.

Of course I don't think asking them to pay Microsoft for the privilege would exactly fit what you're wanting this proposed new site to do. And at the same time you could close it off to anyone who doesn't have a microsoft.com email address, yet keep it completely anonymous, and out of the way of possible direct bosses' retaliation.

And of course it would have to be Slashcode. Slashdot invented the genre - they've been doing it successfully for much longer than anyone else. Kurozhin, etc, came along a while after Slashdot proved there was a place for it.

FWLIW

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece about Civilized workplaces.

Anonymous said...

It's that annoying open-source guy again.

Please go away. I feel like we're constantly being harassed by these door-to-door proselytizers. Even the HR shills are less annoying...

Anonymous said...

Jon/readers,
a quick question as an ex-softie and ex-shareholder, please forgive the bluntness

"As General Manager of Strategy Development in Microsoft's Online Services Group, I lead a broad-based effort to develop, analyze, get adoption of, and execute "game-changing" strategies in the online services space." Besides spending your well-paid time posting on this blog, can you mention any game-changing strategy you came up with to slow down (let alone halt) Google's march towards making MSFT irrelevant? Just one? No luck? Let me help you with a simple one that will increase profitability and claw-back some of that Bach leadership. Look at the company's org chart and highlight the (30 about six months ago) individual contributors currently on the company's payroll at GM/VP level (I'm sure we can all help you come up with a few names). Ask yourself "what would a business person do with all those lead-less leaders" and write that in a memo to Bill.

Anonymous said...

> Despite attempts to caricature this as some kind of after-hours "bitch session,"
> if you think it through you'll realize that it's an extraordinary event:
> the employees actually care so much, believe so much, and are so frustrated
> that they've gone off the reservation and into a public space
> in order to hear each other and to make noise for others to hear.
> That's amazing: it shows dedication, seriousness of intent, maturity, and innovative problem-solving.

So, this is an offsite! We should get lunch. Thai?

Keeperplanet said...

Mini said: "Of course, even if Mr. Moore was asked to head for the nearest exit, we wouldn't want to piss him off over at EA."

Of course. From the bleachers here, the Moore departure seems more a mutually beneficial multiplier for both EA and Microsoft than any kind of accountability tag to tame the RROD and other Xbox problems for Robbie Bach.

'Microsoft Peddles Product Inside 'Madden'
http://www.switched.com/2007/07/26/microsoft-peddles-product-inside-madden/

Also, whoever made the comment from the previous thread 'life here or life there', i.e., >"Keeperplanet asks several times why Microsoft went with IBM's POWER line instead of AMD or Intel. There would probably be two reasons - . . ." I would like to respond off line but you would need to contact me: info@headstuf.com. While I wholly agree with your strategy, it is only one leg of an overall strategy and set of opportunities left behind by Entertainment and Devices, or even Apple for that matter. Both companies (and HP, Dell, and others) have missed huge opportunities in the devices arena which includes game boxes because of convergent thinking which has yielded a hardware stagnation in the industry.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord, down in that (below 30) trading range again:
MSFT 29.92 -0.79

I wonder what the real value is considering how much the dollar has fallen of late.

jon said...

Great suggestion, not-so-annoying open source guy! O'Reilly would be a great partner for something like this. Although I wasn't particularly thinking of a Microsoft-only forum (I think a lot of the value comes in exposing Microsoft folks to other views -- and vice versa), that's certainly something that could be added: once you go the Slashcode route, it's just a hop, skip, and jump to multiple forums.

> Of course I don't think asking them to pay Microsoft for the privilege would exactly fit what you're wanting this proposed new site to do

Agreed. However, if some of the forums have advertising (a la Slashdot) then a lot of win/win possibilities open up: funding a couple of moderators/editors, and if there's anything left over directing it to non-profits. If it's using Microsoft's ad engine, it's valuable inventory for our advertisers and thus helps us even if there's no direct revenue. Hey, if it's good enough for Digg ...

Please understand that I'm not speaking in any kind of official capacity; I'm just brainstorming here, and making suggestions to Mini (and others) about directions they might want to go. Still, from the perspective of a reader of this blog, it certainly seems attractive.

What do others think?

jon

PS: Sorry I haven't gotten to the "why here, why now?" question; busy week. It's still on my list.

PPS: Thai sounds good!

Anonymous said...

Bach and Xbox fascinate me. Ballmer is his buddy, and spins the $6bb lost so far (its more i suspect, masked by other profitable businesses in his p&L) as an "investment"

Bach aimed at gaming w/ an expensive, old business model approach (build an expensive gadget, sell a bunch of games)....meanwhile Nintendo crunches the market and embarrases MSFT the whole time.

So he loses $250mm each quarter, and a few guys leave (Bryan lee, Peter Moore, a bunch more mid levels). But Bach and Kim and others thrive

wow. hard to believe. Why?

Anonymous said...

"...develop, analyze, get adoption of, and execute "game-changing" strategies in the online services space." Besides spending your well-paid time posting on this blog, can you mention any game-changing strategy you came up with to slow down (let alone halt) Google's march towards making MSFT irrelevant? Just one? No luck?..."

Oh come on - isn't $150K/year (?) good value just for the stirring prose? I certainly couldn't come up with "...develop, analyze, get adoption of, and execute "game-changing" strategies in the online services space." - I'm not even sure what it means.

Even when meant in earnest, statements like this sound like typical, vapid corporate hyperbole that melt like ice-cream in a furnace when you try to analyze them objectively.

There seems to be a nasty rash of "cargo cult" coolness in evidence at Microsoft these days. Apparently, living the image, having the trappings of coolness and making cool sounds and statements, will somehow lead to cool products.

This affliction is particularly rampant in groups involved in online endeavors which might instead benefit from some good old-fashioned market research and engineering discipline.

Anonymous said...

"Oh come on - isn't $150K/year (?) good value just for the stirring prose?"

$150K/year doesn't even cover the taxes on the partner SPSA grants alone, let alone the base salary and bonus.

I'm not picking on Jon specifically by any means, but let's not kid ourselves about compensation levels...

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a nasty rash of "cargo cult" coolness
Well put. For those unfamiliar with the concept see the wikipedia entry

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys,
Off topic question..I am SDET got hired at level 59 after 1.5 years got promoted to 60 with only 4.5 % increase in salary ...

Anybody knows what is the average increase in pay ??
Is 4.5 % too LOW ??

jon said...

Jon, you stayed away from MM until now because - why?

Because there wasn't any good reason for me to spend time in the kind of environment that I find unpleasant.

I've already talked about a couple of reasons I ventured into this thread: to get additional perspectives on how we could leverage Facebook's great success and intriguing development platform*; and to promote Ad Astra and our internal blog.** From my perspective, the timing wasn't right for these earlier.

Also, it's presumably clear that I'm trying to point out possibilities for Mini to redirect a lot of the energy here in a more productive direction. He/she/they have been blogging less frequently recently; a lot of the commenters seem to feel that things have plateaued or are stuck in a rut; maybe Mini's ready for something different. The "broken blogger" remark in this post struck me as promising ... so ... why not?

On top of that, somebody posted something on InsideMS last week suggesting that anonymous whiners should take it to "the-place-that-cannot-be-named", and for some reason that pushed a button with me. I replied with a post suggesting that flaming and attacks should go there as well, and helpfully included the URL. Mini's not like "The Unnameable" in the old H.P. Lovecraft story; the taboo that many people have internally about discussing it -- or posting constructive things here -- has to stop. I'm in a position where I'm very unlikely to get in trouble for doing it, so it seemed like a good time to break the ice.

Oh, and okay, who am I kidding: it's good for my image as a force for change to be the first senior leader to show up here non-anonymously. Somebody was going to do it at some point ... might as well be me.

Anyhow, those are the reasons I decided to drop by. It's true that I probably wouldn't be here if the site didn't have such a strong brand; even so, it took a heck of a lot of things aligning. If this were a friendlier and more pleasant place -- and I don't mean "friendlier to Microsoft", I mean "having a lot fewer jerks" -- I'd be more likely to participate without having multiple compelling reasons. I wouldn't be surprised if others feel the same way.

Thanks for asking!

jon

* which, I notice, nobody has responded to

** speaking of which, if you're at Microsoft, please check out the open letter to Ray and consider signing on -- deadline is August 1. While you're there, please check out other interesting topics on the blog

jon said...

"...develop, analyze, get adoption of, and execute "game-changing" strategies in the online services space." Besides spending your well-paid time posting on this blog, can you mention any game-changing strategy you came up with to slow down (let alone halt) Google's march towards making MSFT irrelevant? Just one? No luck?..."

Oh come on - isn't $150K/year (?) good value just for the stirring prose? I certainly couldn't come up with "...develop, analyze, get adoption of, and execute "game-changing" strategies in the online services space." - I'm not even sure what it means.


Huh. Seems pretty clear to me: come up with strategies, analyze them to see if they're going to work, and act on the most promising ones. Okay, "game-changing" is a buzzword (as well as one of Ad Astra's rallying cries), so let me be more precise: rather than trying to mimic and catch up with our competitors in the game that they're playing so well, instead vaulting ahead of them by doing something very different.

And to the first patronizing questioner: I've mentioned several of them already in this thread, and in fact I even kicked it off with a potential one: leveraging traffic from Facebook to some of our attractive destinations. With respect to Google, look at the examples I gave (XBox Live, Club Live, Messenger, MSN): in each of these cases, we've got one, and they don't. [GTalk isn't the same thing as Messenger; most of its usage is embedded in other applications such as GMail.]

Obviously I'm not going into details here (and there are several others that we're not talking about). Next time, though, you both might consider reading more closely and doing a little thinking before making posts like that -- or at the very least realize that if there's something you don't understand, it's a lot better to ask for clarification rather than insulting people.

jon

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a nasty rash of "cargo cult" coolness in evidence at Microsoft these days. Apparently, living the image, having the trappings of coolness and making cool sounds and statements, will somehow lead to cool products.

Holy coolness, Batman, you just described Sean "How-Many-Groups-Can-I-Ditch-And-Go-To-Silverlight-Because-I'm-So-Cool-I-Can-Go-From-PM-To-Director-In-18-Months-Flat" Alexander and that crock-of-crap blog of his (oh, it's all about coolness, didn't you know?) in which he live-blogs from E3...all while doing his job!

kaChow! *There's* my Dinoco directorship!

Am I jealous? No. What it does is break my heart to see the rewards go to the Sean Alexanders in the company instead of the Tim Patersons and Chris Caposselas who are genuinely technical *and* earned their success through late nights and sweat--instead of joining the Silverlight team nine months before the product shipped and then make sure you're in front to get all the credit.

I blame the company, not you, in that you've clearly played your cards perfectly in the modern Microsoft to score that directorship. (big sigh)

Anonymous said...

When Jon is asked about his game-changing strategies, he is quite.

A typical MS manager. Good at speaking and bad at doing. Jon wrote about opaqueness of SPSA grants. What he did for making it transparent?

I suggested him to either explain on his blog why he think he deserves the grant or say that he thinks he did not deserve the grant and neither did many others. That would send a strong message to Microsoft managements. Unfortunately Jon is among one of those. Though he could speak sweatly. But only speak without any action.

Jon, show us the actions. Do someting so that people talk about you.

Anonymous said...

>>Also, it's presumably clear that I'm trying to point out possibilities for Mini to redirect a lot of the energy here in a more productive direction.

- Mini, has this blog been co-opted by by Jon?

- Jon, do you perhaps think that Mini and various blog posters have not already tried directing their energy in what you would term "a more productive direction"? I'm afraid that this just sounds a tad condescending.

Anonymous said...

>"Holy coolness, Batman, you just described Sean "How-Many-Groups-Can-I-Ditch-And-Go-To-Silverlight-Because-I'm-So-Cool-I-Can-Go-From-PM-To-Director-In-18-Months-Flat" Alexander and that crock-of-crap blog of his (oh, it's all about coolness, didn't you know?) in which he live-blogs from E3...all while doing his job!

kaChow! *There's* my Dinoco directorship!"

kazing. gee, maybe Mini has finally got religion and is starting to let a little whack through just to keep things livened up. . . let's see if this get's plopped to the crf:

Re cargo cult: my vision as I read said words. . . a four foot high mini sort with a brown serrated paper bag over his head dancing around a fire in some Tanna place [from wikip. "In other instances such as on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, cult members worship Americans who brought the cargo."] while I play my old stolen music from Napster days; Buffalo Springfield 'hooked on a feeling' "ugga chackhaa ugga chachkaah .. everything's alright . . . "

The new Microsoft HOAF theme song for 2007. Play on dewds.

Anonymous said...

And to the first patronizing questioner: I've mentioned several of them already in this thread, and in fact I even kicked it off with a potential one: leveraging traffic from Facebook to some of our attractive destinations. With respect to Google, look at the examples I gave (XBox Live, Club Live, Messenger, MSN): in each of these cases, we've got one, and they don't. [GTalk isn't the same thing as Messenger; most of its usage is embedded in other applications such as GMail.]

Jon,
patronizer her.

Let me start from the "insulting others" part of your reply. As a fellow human being, I'm sorry you feel that way. As an ex-fellow softie: when did we start hiring people like you? Because that's most likely when we lost it. That's when we went from meetings in which we DID insult people (and got insulted, where do you think the term "WAR MEETING" came from?) to the current "do not challenge the GM" game. Insulting? How about ... challenging (for a change)? But then this is not what you (or most of GMs) seem to be used to these days, isn't it?

As for your other comments. I would suggest one simple addition to your definition of game changing: MEMORABLE. If I (and I would bet 90% of people on this thread) can't "get it" on the fly chances are it's not. "Having a graphic interface" "all of your office applications talking to each other" "finding what you need": not really that difficult to articulate (or remember) Windows, Office or Google ... don't you think?

As for your Facebook idea. I can certainly see immediate value for other properties in us compensating them to drive traffic to our "attractive destinations" ... except ... if our destinations WERE attractive traffic would be NATURALLY driven to them ... don't you think? And if that's not already happening, isn't there a remote chance they may not be that attractive (in the Origami, Zune and MSN general sense) and you're just (once again) throwing good money after bad one? We're PAYING people to use our search, is that another attractive destination that's so attractive we feel the need to pay people to use? Seriously: how desperate are you guys?

I'm not "getting" it and I don't want to "insult" you any further. I just can't avoid challenging you: can you enlighten me on the "game changing" nature of this play ... if you can?

jon said...

Lesson learned. In an anonymous setting anybody can turn the discussion, sometimes in a useless direction.

Interesting experiment; thanks for bringing it up.

Looking more closely, I only saw a handful of posts about me posting under my own name; there was probably more discussion about my agenda -- and so your mention of me being a GM may well have had more to do with it.

In any case, my experience is that anonymity isn't a major contributor to this; it's also easy for people to derail discussions in non-anonymous environments. There are several tribes on tribe.net that are good examples of this, and going back a ways this was pretty endemic on Usenet newsgroups.

And of course thread drift isn't always a bad thing ...

jon

Anonymous said...

Anybody knows what is the average increase in pay ??
Is 4.5 % too LOW ??


You did well to get 4.5% buddy. It could have been 3% or lower. Keep it up.

jon said...

Jon, do you perhaps think that Mini and various blog posters have not already tried directing their energy in what you would term "a more productive direction"?

Sure; and I didn't mean any disrespect by this, I just think there's plenty of room for improvement.

This ties back to a question that came up earlier:

What specifically would you like the people here to do that would be more constructive than making proposals that no executive ever picks up on?

First of all, I already suggested a specific question (related to Facebook) that I thought we could use input on and that I could find executives willing to listen. If a great suggestion comes from here, people will take notice. Thus far, the silence has been deafening (even the posts on the internal blog come from people I know got there via other paths than Mini); oh well, maybe it's not something anybody here has any thoughts about.

More generally, if people aren't listening with your current styles and channels of communication, you have to find others. I've given suggestions on both of these fronts.

For people inside Microsoft, I pointed to a movement that has a decent chance of getting messages to executives in ways they can hear. This doesn't mean they'll accept everything we say, but by working with the people who are forces for positive change at all the different levels of the organization, we can steadily find new allies and increase our influence -- as well as getting feedback on where the solutions we advocate fall short. Of course this isn't the only such mechanism, and it's not to everybody's taste; find the other ones out there ... one way or another, get involved.

For people "on the outside", it's harder. I think there are opportunities to use the visibility of Mini and this blog, and the energy of the participants here, in ways that would be more effective. I made a few suggestions myself (and the open source guy had an intriguing follow-on), and we'll follow up with an open letter; I also encouraged Mini to get his/her/their readers involved in discussing this by writing their own open letter to Mini. Somebody else suggested the ThinkWeek paper route, and I volunteered to act as a conduit. No reaction from Mini yet on any of these (other than wanting to see our open letter); we shall see.

As I've pointed out a few times already, the stylistic issues are pretty important. It's going to be very hard to get people to listen with the tone here. Starting with the proposition that execs are idiots is self-destructive: if you're right, then they won't listen; if you're wrong, you've kicked things off on the wrong foot in two different ways [by insulting them, and by making an incorrect assumption]. And in a situation like this when you're coming in without any credibility, the burden is on you to get taken seriously.

Also, I think it's worth looking at the kinds of solutions that you propose. It seems to me that most of them are negative (cut this, stop doing of that, fire them); pointing out opportunities is more likely to open eyes. And I have to say that a lot of the analysis here is very superficial and often incorrect, ignoring a lot of important constraints. Yeah, yeah, I know; it's a blog, what can you expect -- and there's some very good stuff here as well; and this doesn't mean the suggestions are wrong. But it does mean that people aren't likely to listen.

Anyhow, those are some top-of-the-head thoughts. Hope they're helpful.

jon

jon said...

Patronizer,

As an ex-fellow softie: when did we start hiring people like you? Because that's most likely when we lost it.

Microsoft acquired my startup Intrinsa and our static analysis tool PREfix in 1999. (A lot of people also know our next iteration version PREfast that was even more successful, and is now available in DevStudio.)

Insulting? How about ... challenging (for a change)? But then this is not what you (or most of GMs) seem to be used to these days, isn't it?

People pretty regularly challenge me; I welcome and enjoy it -- and do my best to encourage it. The difference between a challenge and an insult is a matter of respect.

Just as I do my best to treat others with respect, I expect to be treated that way myself. In my books, cynical (and incorrect) assumptions painting me in a bad light, and your habit of tacking on bullying questions at the end of your sentences ("isn't it?", "don't you think?", "can you?") are insulting. In a "war room", where people are under a lot of pressure -- and are working together based under an underlying notion of mutual respect -- I'll accept behavior like this; in a regular meeting, or here, I won't.

And yeah, this behavior used to be normalized at Microsoft (and there's still a lot more of it than I'd like). Times change.

if our destinations WERE attractive traffic would be NATURALLY driven to them ... don't you think?

That's a simplistic analysis in at least two ways. First of all, all the destinations I listed do get a lot of traffic. Secondly, even for attractive destinations, marketing is extremely important. The iPod is very attractive; Apple markets the heck out of it; the combination is powerful.

can you enlighten me on the "game changing" nature of this play ... if you can?

Based on the discussion so far, apparently I can't.

Would somebody else like to take a try?

jon

jon said...

By the way, out of the roughly 50 comments by people other than me in the sub-thread I started, I'd classify about 1/4 to 1/3 of them as insulting, patronizing, or disrespectful in some other way to individuals or groups of people.

Obviously there's subjectivity here, and your mileage may vary. Still, that's a lot.

On a more positive side, 80-85% of the comments have been constructive in some way; so as the earlier poster said, I think people are trying to channel the energy productively.

jon

PS: This adds up to more than 100% because some are both constructive and disrespectful

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Why has this site been stigmatized within Microsoft? There are many objectionable sites not fit for visting from one's desktop during company work hours. In my opinion, this isn't one of them. I think you can go a long way toward community moderation by allowing staff, during the workday, to come on this site and address some of the issues brought up here.

Another thought ... how about lobbying your peers - anyone at director level or above - to sign up for a weekend of MM duty? On their respective weekend, the senior staff can make an introduction, talk briefly about what they do, perhaps address one or two of the current topics on MM, and take it from there. In my view, it would add a humanizinig element to the posts and could wind up being a lot of fun. Rather than "market" this, the guest blogger could be kept a secret until the time they post.

Rather than tiptoe around MM (like the proverbial elephant in the living room) how about if we do more to embrace it?

jon said...

It's a beautiful weekend, so I'm going to be spending it outdoors ... and next week's a busy one for me, so I probably won't be here much at all. After that, who knows?

Thanks to all for the discussion and to the moderators (and readers) for their indulgence; apologies once again for the "anonymice" remark (oops) and anything else that people found offensive. Looking forward to seeing where things go!

jon

Anonymous said...

I just read about our new stock awards program. This is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the information that had been communicated to us in our last all-hands meeting.

In essence, Microsoft is giving employees incentive to DECREASE MSFT STOCK VALUE. The less the stock is worth, the more shares I get. (Note to self: Sell MSFT short every August!)

Do some of the members of management who made this decision still have options that are under water? Are they trying to artificially deflate our stock value? Why don't they just give us cash and call it a day?

Anonymous said...

And yeah, this behavior used to be normalized at Microsoft (and there's still a lot more of it than I'd like). Times change.
Wow dude, did tell Bill?
Last time our team talked to him we got a very insulting "this is the dumbest idea I ever heard" ... did you tell him times change?

Anonymous said...

"As I've pointed out a few times already, the stylistic issues are pretty important. It's going to be very hard to get people to listen with the tone here."

On the one hand, I get your point. On the other hand, I think this is a total red herring. (I know that sounds contradictory, but it really does strike me both ways.)

As another poster said, since when did Microsoft managers become folks who are (apparently?) so thin-skinned and insecure (?) that they can't take the chaff with the grain and discern some pretty important stuff out of it - and ACT on that. Instead, they either ignore the entire message, blustering and all (from many, many folks by the way - I'm not saying that a single cowboy who comes in shooting shouldn't perhaps be deflected rather than listened to). Or they respond with "How dare you talk to me/us that way? You are totally out of line and blah blah blah" with no response at ALL to the MESSAGE. Which, sure, could have been sent in a kinder, gentler, "more constructive" way. But dang it, people get frustrated after months and YEARS of the Same Old Crap and little or no acknowlegment even that it IS crap. I don't have to tell anyone here what that is because WE ALL KNOW. Does management know and they're just going la-la-la, hands-over-ears, don't mess up my world with such unpleasant news that might rain on my parade? Or do they NOT know, because they're busy making big deals, grabbing glory wherever they can - because otherwise they won't get promoted, and they'll get slammed with the ol' Used-To-Be-Called-Limited slot - or because they're just glory-grabbers by nature, and that's where their priorities are?

Sorry, but I just don't buy the argument that is we just found 100 more ways to couch the message more nicely, more constructively, more palatably to those sensitive managers, they'd somehow start to "get it." Only when we make it in their best interest to "get it" (in other words, tie THEIR rewards to improving things that really matter to the rank and file) - THEN they will make changes. Or if people start to leave en masse. The latter is unlikely to happen, of course, with a big, stable company. But I don't see anything else as likely to make one whit of difference.

Sorry if that's not "constructive" and doesn't mesh with your (in my opinion, VERY idealistic) view of how change will happen at the Big M. But I guess we peons get a little jaded when year after year, managers and execs continue to behave as if only superstars matter and the rest of us are interchangeable cogs and can take a flying leap if we think some positive changes could make a *world* of difference.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to add that I'm all for respect - BOTH WAYS. I have been ground under the heel of a manager here at MSFT and treated, every day, for months, like I didn't deserve to lick his/her boots, told I was a liar, had the past completely rewritten for me to suit his/her "story" and so on. Doesn't mean that I turn around and treat all my peers and all other managers disrespectfully. But I sure lost the idea that managers at MSFT had any kind of baseline "respect" required of them (with consequences otherwise).

And just by the by, I don't think Lisa (for example) has responded to difficult questions that have been couched respectfully. If they're relatively easy or she can figure out how to softball them, she'll list them (maybe... on a good week ;-) and write up some kind of response. There's a whole list (that several people have written up and posted on the blog - very respectfully) that she won't touch with a 10 foot pole. Why? NOT because of respectful challenge and discussion. Because she simply doesn't want to address or change those things. THAT is the crux of the problem, IMO - NOT whether people are being respectful or not. Adults (and certainly, one would think, experienced Microsoft managers and execs) can look past the anger and heat and filter out what the real issues and problems are. No one who could make those kinds of decisions or fix the big problems chooses to do that here. And so, people continue to vent without any hope that anyone over there cares, because at least we get the satisfaction here that other people DO "get it." (Just not the ones who can fix anything!)

I think you do care, actually. But I don't think you have the authority to address the issues, nor the clout to get others who do have the authority care. And that's a shame.

Do you really think other execs are just too thin-skinned to even *read* the posts here and distill the kernel of the frustrations? If so, that's hugely disturbing. But also...not surprising. :-(

Anonymous said...

Jon,
patronizer here.

Let me start from your "It's a beautiful weekend, so I'm going to be spending it outdoors ... and next week's a busy one for me, so I probably won't be here much at all. After that, who knows?" post.
You're older than my five years old, if I were you I'd leave the "llalalalalala can't hear you" techniques to his generation. It just doesn't project much leadership ... my 0.02

Re: And yeah, this behavior used to be normalized at Microsoft (and there's still a lot more of it than I'd like). Times change.
I will avoid the too easy "sure, and we used to make money too" comment. I WILL remind you the all-too-common experience of a meeting with Bill and his "this is the stupidest idea I ever heard" mantra. That to me (and my team) WAS insulting especially since it didn't mean anything more than "yeah, I'm still awake". Where were you when your company was aquired and why did you put up with THAT if it's -indeed- so important to you? :-)

-- BTW, 0.02 on your summary post on this blog. If 25-33% of people here are insulting to you, then I'm not sure you're in the right company (or planet for that matter).--

Re: That's a simplistic analysis in at least two ways. First of all, all the destinations I listed do get a lot of traffic. Secondly, even for attractive destinations, marketing is extremely important. The iPod is very attractive; Apple markets the heck out of it; the combination is powerful.
I completely agree: the concept of marketing a good product (or destination) is extremely powerful. So powerful it's actually been around for more than 100 years .... can we not consider it a "game changing strategy"?

So back to your idea (using Facebook push "attractive destinations"). Still don't get why paying a site like Facebook would make any sense. IF your sites were good and already getting traffic, the web has proven over and over again that word of mouth would pretty much take care of them (see youtube or google to name two). Want to accelerate / get beyond your natural core audience? I "get" an awareness campaign (e.g. with Google search given those would be your least-likely-to-know prospects) I don't get marketing through a site like Facebook that is all about repeated users.

Now for some good news. The weather is equally nice around here AND, as passionate as I am about my old company, I am no longer part of it. So there's really no need to have others justify your thinking with me. Do it yourself or let the market do it for you.

Anonymous said...

"Rather than tiptoe around MM (like the proverbial elephant in the living room) how about if we do more to embrace it?"

+1 for this whole post. Could do a lot to help people feel more "heard" and maybe (dare we hope?) provide some engagement by people who can actually make changes, or explain why they're not.

But given that even on the internal site, most guest posters (which I think is kind of the equivalent to what you're suggesting here) simply blather about their own pet improvement/project/announcement and ignore most of the actual concerns (there are several notable exceptions, granted), seems reallllly unlikely that on an outside forum they'd do differently.

More's the pity.

Anonymous said...

Jon, if you really took Mini seriously then you could find time for Mini next week too. Basically, you put Mini at your lowest priority commitment and that's why you do not have time. You could keep continue investing in Mini and say that you are too busy to something else. You probably have to spend only 15 minutes a day in Mini.

Anonymous said...

It's crossed my mind as an outsider that given the seeming high level of animosity within your company, what's the likelihood of some things being sabotaged? If it happens at NASA, why not MS?

Anonymous said...

You're older than my five years old

And that's about as much as you're going to get out of Jon. He's a wannabe provocateur, thinking that his various personality issues (about which you can read more than you'll ever want to know on the internal blog) make him special. He equates an outlandish personal appearance and its effect on others as being visionary, forward thinking and a means of serious recognition, when all it really accomplishes is make him a freak show.

Good job though, Jon, you've managed to consume a lot of bandwidth here and get at least some naive dimwits thinking someone in management gives a crap.

jon said...

Well, all right, that was kind of a cavalier exit; my bad. Apologies for the flippancy. Let's try this again ...

Another thought ... how about lobbying your peers - anyone at director level or above - to sign up for a weekend of MM duty?

Something I hadn't mentioned explicitly (although I certainly hope people were assuming this) is that I've passed the link to this thread around pretty broadly (including to peers and execs), and mentioned it in person to quite a few people as well.

Questions those of you who want more engagement might ask yourselves: when people at Microsoft read this thread, do you think they'll be any more likely to show up here? After my experiences here, am I likely to lobby them to do so?

patronizer wrote, in response to my "Times change": I will avoid the too easy "sure, and we used to make money too" comment.

Actually, Microsoft makes more money now than it ever has; however, that shouldn't obscure the underlying point here...

This kind of insulting, attacking disrespectful behavior -- at Microsoft, on this blog -- is a relic of a past time.

If you look at newer, hugely successful companies like Google and Facebook -- or most of the successful startups out there -- there's nowhere near as much of this kind of behavior. This helps their creativity, agility, employee morale, recruiting, diversity* -- in short, their business.

"Bill does it too!" is certainly a valid part of the explanation for why this is still too common at Microsoft -- but it's not an excuse for anybody who engages in it. If you want things to be different, start acting the way you want your company to be.

The poster who pointed out that I could prioritize Mini more next week is completely right. I'm choosing not to; and not to sound like a broken record or anything, but the tone here is a big part of the reason why.

Would I (and others who think like me) hang out here more if there's enough value? Maybe. Is there value? Potentially, and there may also be ways to improve the environment.

So I decided to try an experiment. It's too early to know the results (early returns are mixed); we shall see.


jon


* see for example Susan Herring's Gender and Power in Online Communications for how this attacking and insulting style of discourse marginalizes women -- and Scott Page's The Difference on the costs of this.

Anonymous said...

Give Jon some credit. If I made $150K+ by just sitting in meetings and throwing in an occasional string of buzzwords, I wouldn't even waste the keystrokes here.

At least he did something useful in his career - code analysis in VS2005 kicks major booty.

Anonymous said...

It's crossed my mind as an outsider that given the seeming high level of animosity within your company, what's the likelihood of some things being sabotaged?

There are a few places in MS that have rotted out, but I can't really say I've ever seen anything going on inside remotely like the cesspool here. The internal poll results don't show that either.

Draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Guys, just posting to say I'll be too busy next week to read this blog, thought you should know, kthx.

Also, anyone who has criticized me without pouring bags of sugar over their words should know that I will probably ignore you, after all that's what's best for Microsoft and my new policy of Politeness First is why Xbox 360, Vista, and Live are widely heralded as the outstanding products in their respective categories.

Anonymous said...

Jon,
patronizer here.

Let me apologize (my turn) for not making myself clear. Bill, with all his imperfections, built a company on something that's now sorely missing: a desire to win. An HUNGER to win. A PASSION to win. Did it come with being a jerk and not having the slightest clue of how to decently relate to fellow human beings (not to mention how to pick anything more classy than sneakers and jeans)? You bet. Still, pick up a copy of "Who said elephants can't dance" and you'll read Gestner describe a company that sounds terribly like the MSFT I left being eaten alive by the company we used to be. You'll see him struggle to inject some of that hunger back into a company that used to have some, and read of comical (if not tragic) responses from some of the weird creatures that populated IBM in the 80s. The "let me write to the new CEO to tell him how he shouldn't focus on killing competition but on personal improvement" kind ....

Somehow, and I hope it's me, you keep reminding me of that IBMer. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all live in peace and MSFT's motto wasn't the -who's eating your lunch today?- somebody mentioned a few months back?". You bet. Would it make the company more successful? I seriously doubt it.

So, in my 0.02, if all it takes for somebody at MSFT to disengage from a conversation is this tone ... well Jon I'm afraid you're doomed. Google? Jon I lost members of my team to Google before I left. They weren't the nice vegetarian kind, they were the true hungry wolves we needed and that just got fed up with our way of splitting the kills. Do I blame them? No. To them that company was what MSFT was to me when I joined: a mean to go eat the lunch of the monopolist's fat cats.

Long post, my apologies, just PLEASE don't provoke on the money topic. "We used to make money = we may have insulted each other more but at least the process usually resulted in profitable ideas." I DO want to hope somebody somewhere in the company had enough of a brain to think 'Origami = bad idea' ... somehow however that fight wasn't fought (just like many others) and ... the company paid the bill.

Anonymous said...

Hi, everybody, it's the open-source guy - thanks for the "not-so-annoying" tag, Jon! ;) - again.

Setting up a Slashcode site requires moderators. Slashdot manages with its karma system, which is reasonably workable - though there are a number of complaints about it. Kurozhin's got a similar system, and I think it works better.

But having a distributed moderator system is essential if one person - one Minimsft all alonio - isn't to take all the burden. Because if you want more than one person to contribute, everybody's got to have the same start point, the same "karma". That means everybody from the merest Kim to the loftiest Jon - or even SteveB. In such a site, you don't want contributions judged on employment status - you want them judged on their quality. Their independent worth. Which is why I suggested using O'Reilly's, because that is what their reputation is based on.

I would advise - seriously - against paying moderators anything. It could pose a major risk to the success of the project. Particularly if the moderators' identities became known, and they were judged to fall too heavily within some Microsoft "party" or "camp". In short, the risk is too high.

And in relation to the comment:

"Please go away. I feel like we're constantly being harassed by these door-to-door proselytizers. Even the HR shills are less annoying..." if you're thinking I'm the poster who argued:

"Microsoft could afford to recognize the sh*tkicking it's getting from Linux.", you're wrong. I'm not so blatant.

I will say this, though - I was at a job interview this year, and I found out something interesting - they used Visual Studio C# to develop their apps, since its quality as a tool is quite high - but they then build the entire product in Mono on Linux, because they trust it to just do it. I'll bet they aren't the only ones.

So even the success of Microsoft's own C# seems to be tied inextricably to Linux and the Free and Open Source Software communities. Here's a hint - treat us nice.

Anonymous said...

>> or most of the successful startups out there --
>> there's nowhere near as much of this kind of behavior

Just because you say it doesn't mean it's true. Somehow I have a hard time believing that people in a startup (or at Google for that matter) can't afford to openly challenge engineering decisions. At Microsoft oftentimes you can't. "Politicians" will bury you, even if you're right. And don't you DARE speaking up against your management - you'll end up without a promo. I know I'd be leveled two levels higher if I kept my mouth shut. That said, I did help the products I worked on by loudly saying things everyone else was afraid to say. And I'm still employed. Just not as successful career-wise as my quieter colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Jon:

Thanks for stopping by. Separating the wheat from the chaff is hard work; whether it's worth it depends on how much wheat you get.

So I'm going to try to give you some wheat. The reason the tone here is so negative (and often insulting) is because people are mad. Really, deep-down angry, frustrated, and often bitter. And, as a manager, you need to understand why they're bitter, because it's a cancer eating away at your company. Microsoft may look healthy - the profits are great - but the cancer is there, and the appearance of health won't last forever.

Why are the people here so angry? I can't speak for everyone else, and I don't work for Microsoft. I can tell you why I'm angry, and it's relevant to what you've said in your posts, but it's not the reasons for most of the people here.

Why am I angry? Go back to what you were saying about using Facebook to drive traffic to your sites. (Your point about needing the marketing as well as good sites was a valid one. But the people who were challenging you were trying - if I understood correctly - to point out that you need compelling sites as well as marketing, and implying that the sites weren't compelling enough, which point you didn't respond to at all.)

Here's the problem with driving traffic: I'm the "traffic", and I don't want to be "driven". When you try, I get bad memories. Memories of times in the past when Microsoft has tried to "leverage" something in order to sell something else. But when you, the strategist, see it as "leverage", what it feels like to me is that I'm being forced, and it pisses me off. I resent it. I resent it deeply, and I resent it for years.

So be very careful how you try to "drive traffic". I actually think Google does this very well. I search for something. They pop up some sponsored links along with the regular search results. Now, often, I just ignore them - they're very non-intrusive, so they're easy to ignore. But the times when I'm looking to buy something, they're very handy. So this "driving traffic" can be done well, but it has to be done in a very non-coercive way. The more intrusive, the more heavy-handed, the more it annoys, offends, and angers us.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Jon, I told you do not post in your capacity as a GM. You hurt the blog (may be that's your goal) because now other executives won't dare to post here.

Sometimes following ancient advices make sense. One of them is, "Do in Rome as Romans do."

Anonymous said...

"...I guess we peons get a little jaded when year after year, managers and execs continue to behave as if only superstars matter and the rest of us are interchangeable cogs and can take a flying leap if we think some positive changes could make a *world* of difference."

I really am trying not to be a broken record, but NAME NAMES!

No amount if struggling here will change things if noone internally feels the heat. And that won't happen until they are publically called to account.

As I've said before, if a named person is unduly vilified, someone here will come to the rescue; likewise, if they are sainted, someone will deflate that balloon.

I've never worked with Jon, but I applaud the fact that he can take the heat when people here lay into him.

Name Names!

Anonymous said...

Number of posts on this thread by Jon: 22
Number of times Jon addresses "lack of transparency of the SPSA" 1
Number of times Jon addresses the X-box $1 billion charge fiasco: 0
Number of times Jon addresses the review process: 0
Number of times Jon addresses HR problems: 0
Number of times Jon addresses stock reevaluation issues: 0
Number of times Jon addresses Vista problems: 0
Number of times Jon addresses Zune problems: 0
Number of times Jon addresses Search problems: 0
Number of times Jon directly attacks management in any specific way: 0

That's it for the issues that most frequently get discussed here. The rest of Jon's posting is about Facebook (why can't somebody else come up with an answer in terms of directing traffic), his "open letter," the lack of "positive tone" on the site, his own lack of anonymity (and what that says about him) and his subjective reactions to posting here and receiving harsh feedback.

Anonymous said...

Bill, with all his imperfections, built a company on something that's now sorely missing: a desire to win. An HUNGER to win. A PASSION to win. Did it come with being a jerk and not having the slightest clue of how to decently relate to fellow human beings (not to mention how to pick anything more classy than sneakers and jeans)? You bet.

Right, contention. It did work early with smaller projects but the projects got large and intertwined and the focus switched from delivering something great to the sport of contention. How do we get the vigor back? Ray Ozzie probably knows. One of his lines is: "complexity kills" I'm sure he's given this matter plenty of thought.

Anonymous said...

A few comments on Jon and his movement:

1. Jon has engineering chops: prefix, prefast. He knows his stuff and prefix / prefast has benefited us core technical folks, and our customers (by seeing fewer bugs). For that Jon, all our products are better because of you.

2. Jon is not a "leader" any more than Robert Scoble was. He's a loud coherent voice with technical stature due to #1. He has no org, no product, no revenue. In fact, he's out of a job as of July 1, and is scrambling for funding and an organizational home -- part of me thinks that if he does get let go, it means something actually works at Microsoft.

3. Jon's movement (Ad Astra) is noble but flawed. Flaw #1 -- too much Jon, not enough movement. His personality and posturing obscures any culture change message. You can see that in his posts here.

Flaw #2 -- very few "core contributors" are signed up for Ad Astra. Lots of v- (contractors) talking about making Microsoft (a company they do not technically work for) a better place. Lots of fake tech (MSIT, HRIT, UE, TAP) ogling the mash-ups. Lots of non-tech (marketing, training/learning) looking for a friendlier work environment. Very few developers shipping actual products.

Why is that? See flaw #1, and perhaps the fact that for core contributors, Microsoft isn't really all that messed up.

Maybe (tongue in the vicinity of cheek) it's just the wussy non-core non-tech folks who can't hack the aggressive environment but think they deserve the same kudos as those who can, coupled with a few a-hole managers who screw over some of the core contributors.

And no, I'm not an HR shill. I'm just a technical contributor/lead who works hard, gets rewarded and rewards others for that work, and wishes we would all shut the bleep up and go kick Google's ass.

Anonymous said...

>Number of times Jon addresses "lack of transparency of the SPSA" 1
Not gonna change unless the entire business world changes its rules on executive compensation. Good luck with that.

>Number of times Jon addresses the review process: 0
>Number of times Jon addresses HR problems: 0
>Number of times Jon addresses stock reevaluation issues: 0

1) Jon doesn't work for HR
2) Lisa already said no to all of these or is making the changes she intends to make.

>Number of times Jon addresses the X-box $1 billion charge fiasco: 0
>Number of times Jon addresses Vista problems: 0
>Number of times Jon addresses Zune problems: 0
>Number of times Jon addresses Search problems: 0

Jon doesn't work for any of these groups either, sport.

>Number of times Jon directly attacks management in any specific way: 0
He's sending them a courteous letter asking for change, which beats your snotty arrogance by a mile.

If you want to "attack" in a way that will get noticed though, you're more than welcome to try to start a full blown shareholder revolt. Good luck with that too.

Anonymous said...

"I really am trying not to be a broken record, but NAME NAMES!"

Sorry, I'm only a peon and it would naming my second-line manager - which would almost immediately finger me. I can tell you the larger org, but that would be pretty meaningless. There are dozens if not hundreds of managers in the org (Office) and you wouldn't know which to avoid.

There are also great managers here. But we can't name the bad ones because we'll get pinned to the wall, beaten, dragged around the floor, and then told it's our fault for not reading someone's mind 6 months ago or for raising questions without having three potential solutions for each one, which we ourselves can implement, of course.

Sorry, Charlie. Folks who are higher up in the food chain (where there are lots and lots of potential ratters) will have to take that bold step of naming the bad and the ugly.

Anonymous said...

As a shareholder / employee I am sick of the preferential treatment being given to some part time woman. There are three woman in the Windows marketing team that work 3 days a week on some key projects. It’s a total nightmare to get any work done. The vendors and other team members end up getting the raw deal. We are expected to pick up the slack and the project and budget are suffering. To add insult to injury; certain women who have been on the team for a few months are taking a third vacation AND we are launching in October!! Windows Home Server management is off their rockers. I support working mothers (I am one) but this is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

As a shareholder / employee I am sick of the preferential treatment being given to some part time woman.

The abuses of parenting leave and parenting status are definately quite costly. First one to leave and the last one to arrive always have some child care excuses and everyone else picks up the slack. Call out their lack of dedication on a review, and HR is at your doorstep (yes, kids, HR sometimes sides with the employee, not the manager).

I'd love to see parents have to pay the extra coverage for insurance as well. Maybe we could get a great dental plan with the resulting cost savings.

Joe said...

Uh... hating on pregnant women?

First, they are a PROTECTED CLASS UNDER THE ADA. You're observations and proposed actions are unethical, and illegal.

Secondly, it reflects horribly on your status as a caring human being. It also reflects poorly on your maturity. What do you propose, forced sterilization of all MSFT employees?

Come on mini, this conversation is simply hateful, and really shouldn't be published.

Who da'Punk said...

Come on mini, this conversation is simply hateful, and really shouldn't be published.

I give you the last word.

Anonymous said...

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070825-windows-genuine-advantage-suffers-worldwide-outage-problems-galore.html

There are no words.

Microsoft had better become a customer-focused company in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

"wishes we would all shut the bleep up and go kick Google's ass."

That's precisely what I point to whenever I want to show someone what's wrong with MS. You're focused on your competition, not your customers.

Do you think anyone at Google gives a rat's ass about MS's latest attempt to "kick Google's ass"? Let me give you a free clue: the entirety of MSFT is somewere around #MAX_LONG on Google's list of concerns. Want to know what people in a vibrant, growing company think about all day? They ask themselves "how can we make this better for our CUSTOMERS?", just like Apple does, just like Virgin Atlantic does, just like Sun did once upon a time.

Who was the genius who decided on this WGA bullshit that's buggering customer's XP and Vista installs as we speak? In a CUSTOMER-focused company, everyone in the chain of command that made that boneheaded decision to treat your CUSTOMERS as thieves by default would be fired over this.

Man, sometimes I don't know why I even bother to yell at you people. You're so pathetic you buy Ray Ozzie as a "vision" guy.