Friday, September 07, 2007

Microsoft Company Meeting 2007

The overall Mini-Microsoft summary of Microsoft's Company Meeting 2007:

  1. I love this company.
  2. I love this company's Company Meeting.

For real! Even at the end of this Company Meeting 2007 day when I'm poised to make a break for it, staring pleadingly at our CEO - giving one of the best speeches I've heard from him while - and repeatedly whispering, "please stop talking stop talking stop talking... my eyes and ears filled up two hours ago when this was supposed to be over... stop talking... please..." I still love the meeting.

Hey, I'm an unrepentant Company Meeting fan. Why? Because I do like to be energized from time to time and say, "Damn, we do some great stuff and I work with some excellent people." Otherwise, I would wander over to some other game and pull up a new keyboard.

Could this huge, complicated production have been better? Of course. I hope they round up people's constructive feedback and go over it next year as part of planning the Company Meeting 2008. Quick, shallow improvements off the tips of my fingertips:

  • Alternative bus routes logistics: why does every bus come down I-90? How about strategizing some different approaches and trying to separate pedestrian and bus traffic? Once again, I was watching buses stacked up on the exit ramp while the meeting was well into the first hour. That's no fun for them folks.
  • Demo Deathmatch: five minutes. That is all you have for a demo. I'm smart (well, sez me) and I don't need a big story about wood delivery and gold-customers blah-blah-blah. Five minutes. Drop the story. Show me the candy at a highly concentrated rate that overloads my cortex. Have an ongoing applause-o-meter to track who wins the deathmatch and, I think as a reward, gets to talk more about their group.
  • Let Them Play Golf: I agree with a recent commenter: when did we hire all these polished, good looking people? I know that *you* are good looking or else you wouldn't be reading this. But, sorry, I want a presenter onstage that's a little crazy and enthused, not spa-shined and sparkling. I don't know. Some of those presenters just didn't seem like... Microsofties. Maybe I've just uncovered a discrimination that's been lurking in my heart: "for a Microsoftie, you just don't look geeky enough to be talking about {fill in the blank}."
  • More Fun: Yeah, I miss those parody videos of the past (though the JibJab-esque video was fun!). Sorry, the parodies are much better than having a bunch of rich execs onstage burping for us via an Xbox game. Now, that might make for an interesting start in a parody video... ah, BrianV, you were good for one thing...
  • Que the Orchestra: hey, they'll start playing the music to cut-off a big Hollywood star's rambling acceptance speech. I think we can have Bob or Clippy pop up on the screen to start chasing off presenters who go on too long... (clink clink clink) "It appears you don't understand time management. Can I help by turning off your mic?"
  • Ban Paper: not one scratch of paper. I mean nothing that can be folded into a paper airplane. When are people going to friggin' learn that right after eating their lunch, bored Microsofties, especially those in the 300 sections, start flinging assault waves of paper airplanes down on their very annoyed coworkers? I think I said "Ooo! Crap!" around thirty times yesterday, watching some high speed attack plane from high-above smack into some young man or young lady.

Well, okay, the last one would have stolen from us the point where one paper airplane made it all the way to the stage screen and the crowd erupted in cheers. And Kevin Johnson was all, "Yeee-aaah!" thinking we were cheering for what he just said...

For the first two hours of the meeting, I was planning the title of this to be "Best Company Meeting Evah!" And then I guess the demos happened. I escaped the demos to go chat with other enlightened folks who were... escaping the demos. Demo guys, you're not selling this stuff to us. Show us the highlights and stuff we don't know and why we should feel good about the company because of what you're doing. That's what I want. The meat. Not the prelude, building action, twist, climax, and extended denouement.

The Live Search team wins for having the best demo of stuff I want to use. Now. Right now. Ship it please. Awesome stuff.

Figure a way to make a Surface the size of a laptop screen and you know I'll buy one.

I had just downloaded and installed the new Windows Live Suite beta so I already knew what was in there. I thought Chris Jones was being surprisingly uncool (I'm a big Chris Jones fan) during his demo snag, but the object of his white-courtesy phone heckling left a comment that all was fine. I think that was the only demo snag of the day.

There was no Zune demo, only teasing that yes, something Zune-y this way comes for the holidays. After all of Apple's announcements on the previous day and Apple coming up with the quote-unquote brilliant idea to make the WiFi on a player do something useful, I don't know what we could do to spring ahead at this point. ZUNE!

I finally discovered something that stinks about Halo 3: that upcoming commercial. What the? Come on, show us the game. Geez. It's already gone gold so why couldn't someone from Bungie grace us with a demo?

As for the speeches, some high level remarks:

  • Kevin Turner: I feel this guy is trying to sell me something vs. talk to me as an employee. No, I actually want to see, page by page, everything we shipped and everything we plan to ship, not some crammed together chart with perhaps obscure products. And profits, please, not revenue.
  • Gates: well, I kind of remember it but I listened more in respect than interest.
  • Ray Ozzie: really good vision speech that I could relate to (it's a generation thing). He just has to throw in a few more questions here and there so that my attention can be refreshed. But as a commenter pointed out here a while back, what we need from Ray now more than ever is code and shipped product, not vision. And I liked his "party like it's 1984" call to arms to protect our customers. Nice.
  • Steve Ballmer: great speech, even if I don't agree with chunks of it. I'll probably watch it again soon. I loved the scorecard. I loved the frankness. I have to say, my heart skipped a beat when he said, "We are many Microsofts" since I initially misheard him. We are not one Microsoft. We are many Microsofts and no one solution will apply to all of the company. Hmm, well, one way to think small if not be small and enable small-team aggressiveness. I do like that he tackled head-on the lack of boldness in the company. I wonder: why does Steve think there's a lack of boldness nowadays? Me? A poorly performing MSFT stock price certainly is a factor there. Hey, when you can say FYIFV, you can do some pretty bold things.

Looking at the crowd, I think most people were polite and clapped when they were supposed to, but I don't think the needle on the engage-o-meter ever went above "interested" (vs. "authentically enthused" or "wow" or "friggin' awesome"). Also, presenters and demo'ers need to realize that they are presenting to what's supposed to be one of the smartest audiences gathered for the whole year. Anywhere. Go fast. Talk frankly. Don't sell to us. Tell us something we don't know. Demo'ers: make us want to come work for you.

And when it comes to where to work to find the best Microsoft manager: Brazil? Okaaaay...

Finally, I'm pretty sure there was a lone "boo!" when we proudly announced last year that we had hired 12,800 people.

I wonder where that came from?

Further Discussions:

(1) The previous post has lots of incoming comments already about the Company Meeting. And there have been some very fine comments and discussions recently. If you don't tend to read comments, I suggest going through the last few posts and scanning through the comments and participating, if you're so inclined. And note that every post has a link to a comment feed, so that you can subscribe to comments in your RSS reader of choice.

(2) Mr. Jon Pincus provides an option to keep your Company Meeting discussion on the Microsoft.com side of the firewall:

Mini, if you wind up blogging about this, would you be kind enough to let Microsoft employees know that we've got a thread discussing it at https://spsites.microsoft.com/sites/adastra/jon/Lists/Posts/ViewPost.aspx?ID=253 ... there are a lot of different strong positive and negative opinions expressed and not only do I think your readers at Microsoft would be interested, I'd loooove to hear what they think!

I wrote on Jon's Facebook wall that I was delightfully surprised to see the number of times he popped up on the video interview snippets.

(3) Mr. Adam Barr has Software + Services = ? which is a bit of a rumination over Mr. Ozzie's speech.

(4) red hot place has their take on the Company Meeting, too. Sorry to have led you astray! I thought there'd be more than buses, too!


202 comments:

1 – 200 of 202   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

C'mon mini...
I expect more from your opening blog after company meeting than rambling about paper airplanes!
Anyway, to me BillG appeared to be completely unplugged this time as if he wanted to talk about his philanthropy ideas rather than technical stuff, but was not allowed to do so.
Speech by Ballmer: Exceeded expectations. Keep it up Steve!
LisaB: Starting shuttles. Great. We love you for that. But, we expected more…

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh! Some years ago I won the paper airplane contest by putting one one the stage. I vividly remember the cheering, much to the confusion of the speaker.

Those were the days!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I agree with you for the most part related to the meeting logistics and feedback. One thing I'd like to add that stood out to me occurred during SteveB's speech. He mentioned a meeting with the financial analyst community a few weeks ago. If I heard him correctly, he said they asked him, "How will Microsoft succeed?". His answer left me scratching my head. He basically said (paraphrasing), “because we have to”, “we have great employees”, etc. Is that really an answer shareholders and investors want or need to hear? It sounded more like a way to make employees feel all warm and fuzzy, but legt me feeling empty. I think most shareholders believe we have lots of smart people and the resources we need to do great things, but I think he could have provided them and us a more insightful answer. “Because we need to” just doesn’t cut and sounds like my mom telling me not to do something “because she said so”. Um, I didn’t buy that when I was 7 and I don’t buy it now. Really, I want to hear our CEO provide a better answer to those kinds of questions.

Other than that, I liked his speech. I loved the fact he called out focusing on Design (great visual and tactile designs) and being Bold (taking smart risks). We can do much better at both.

Anonymous said...

I watched the webcast and skipped the last half hour, and now everyone says Ballmer was in rare form. I assume it's on corpnet somewhere, right?

Agreed on the spa/tan/slick look. On average, people who work here are less attractive and more interesting than the people who show up on stage at the company meeting.

Giving Dave Cutler the first Bill Gates award made me feel like the long-ago past is more important than anything that's happening right now. Of course he deserves any award he gets, but I thought the goal of the meeting was to PUMP US UP!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, the LINQ dude should have received the BillG award. LINQ is the most exciting real-world tech I've seen anywhere in the last decade.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a comment in the earlier post about how we dont care about any of the presidents or the sam's club guy. He sounds so artificial and so do KevinJo. JeffR is the only guy I have some respect for among the four jokers.

I would have liked to see some cool execs like J or a funny Technical Fellow like Peter Spiro on the stage. I had enough of these salesmen presidents. Give me a break please.

I also felt that BillG was little unplugged and his keynote was repetitive.

Ray kicked ass. I liked his slides too. Every other slide pretty much sucked. We should send all our execs to Steve Jobs on a course on how to come up with interesting and innovative slides. I thought Office 2007 powerpoint has more capabilities.

I would have liked to see LisaB to talk more on the stage. Connector sounds cool. Let us see.

Heard enough about E&D making profit this year. I will be glad if they dont blow up more billions while trying hard to make a couple of millions of profit. Come on guys, get real!!

This Debra crapathy totally pissed me off. I dont know how is serving as a CVP for a company like Microsoft. Pathetic!!

Most of the demos sucked. I dont know why they have to demo all the admin products in company meeting. Who will be excited to see a demo of how to configure some stupid management server product.

SteveB speech was a big drag. Too bad that when he called BillG on stage recognizing his last company meeting most of the stadium was empty. I would have liked to see more videos about BillG.

Anonymous said...

The Ray Ozzie's speech was great but it was a long day. And it was a pitiful sight when 2/3 of people had left and SteveB had to command the rest to stay to give a last standing ovation for BillG.

Too bad that's no TechFair! I looked forward to all the freebies in the meeting and I returned empty handed!

An antidote: when hotmail showed up in the photo demo, another teammate sat besides of me said "yekk!" and I almost wanted to shout, "Get rid of those fxxking banner ad!!!" It is so distracting! That's the major blocker that turned me away from Hotmail. You'd be surprised how many new softies used gmail instead. When I was in NEO and exchanging emails all of them gave gmail accounts and none used hotmail!

The new Live Search though, is cool and we have a real chance in beating google. The video search is GREAT! The text search... well I tried it this morning and it still didn't do as well as google but only behind marginally. There's certainly hopes! (whether we can gain some market share is another matter).

Anonymous said...

It was the first Company Meeting since I left MSFT. This particular event had stopped being inspirational or interesting to me a long time ago. the same claims/promises were being made year after year with little to show for them ("we're on the verge of the largest wave of innovation in the history of this company", "there's never been so many opportunities", blah blah blah...)

I'm quite surprised to read that MSFT hired 12,800 people in the past year though. Is that a typo? I thought on a "typical" year it was something like 7,000 or so. What happened? Is it a result of acquisitions?

Anonymous said...

Be bold, be brave... thats a great message, but Steve should know how it really is.

Looking out for the customer will get you in deep trouble. When all the engineers want to do the smallest necessary boring work possible, if you do be bold, you'll be in trouble real fast.

If Mr Ballmer knew how things were at Atlas (Aquantive) he'd know that he's asking developers to commit career suicide.

If you think you have it bad on main campus, you should try to be bold at Atlas and see what happens to you.

Steve's vision is great, but we need to get our raises - and keep the lynch mob from tearing us apart

Anonymous said...

I would have liked to see some cool execs like J

Heh. J's "coolness" is entirely manufactured, a fact that becomes all the more blindingly obvious the more time one actually spends around him.

My only question is: how many image consultants making six-figure salaries are we paying for to make a clod like J seem "edgy" (as the laughable Business Week cover article slash puff piece put it).

Mini, feel free to CRF this one if you think it's over the line. I just had to get it out.

Anonymous said...

This Debra crapathy totally pissed me off. I dont know how is serving as a CVP for a company like Microsoft. Pathetic!!

Just remember, you can't spell "Debra Crapathy" without "ra!"

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to know what the aQuantive folks thought of the meeting.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you work with lots of excellent people. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of them.

Trouble is, MSFT has tens of thousands of employees. It's long past time for a shareholder revolt to toss out the deadwood, starting with your top six(!) layers of management.

Anonymous said...

"J's "coolness" is entirely manufactured"

To say that it's manufactured would imply that it actually exists. I would rather describe it as:

"J's 'coolness' is entirely imaginary, and in fact is believed by nobody outside of "J" himself and his chain of command up to Ballmer, the #1 example of the Peter Principle in the world today."

Anonymous said...

>>"J's "coolness" is entirely manufactured"

Oh, its not just him; he's just a particularly visible poster-child of an evident executive belief that lots of hair/no hair/various piercings/the ability to WOOHOO! at the slightest provocation and so on is the key to developing cool, innovative software.

Unfortunately, that's just a hackneyed stereotype.

Much of the best software is developed by mature, sober, seasoned, quiet, "boring" engineers who really get technology and have the technical clout and managerial backing to implement it correctly.

As was evident from the company meeting, pretty, polished people with nice teeth, jutting jaws and a cheerleader mentality are running the place these days, which is worrying to me as I'm as ugly as sin and frighten small children without a bag over my head.

Anonymous said...

sure wish there was a webcast that folks in the field could have watched. i received an email back saying that we are not doing a live webcast to encourage more to go to the meeting... well i am hundreds of miles away. thanks msft.

Anonymous said...

"J's "coolness" is entirely manufactured"

To say that it's manufactured would imply that it actually exists.

In a similar sense, quotation marks are also used to indicate that the writer realizes that a word is not being used in its (currently) accepted sense.

Anonymous said...

::I'd be interested to know what the aQuantive folks thought of the meeting.

I'd be happy to share my impression... Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.

My new manager has alot of the vision that I heard Steve talk about. But the old manager had the opposite vision - the customer was our enemy, don't be bold, take the littlest risk... and that cost us dearly, and caused great misery.

Its probably like this anywhere, its up to the manager. Thats why its up to Steve Ballmer personally to stay true to his word. Send that message down the ranks. Make sure it gets sent. Just like Vince Lombardi, its either 'my way or the highway'.

Looking at the demos, especially search, I was inspired. Then I imagined our software, and we are neck to neck with Google right now, they bought double click, we're on a level playing field. And I couldn't imagine a demo with our software... how boring, how embarrasing... software built without passion, pride, love of the customer.

And that's not the way it should be. That CRM software that was demoed, our software should be that appealing and easy to use. A manager should be demoing our software, dragging sliders, and turning nobs, and showing how our customers maximize their inventory, their profit by the millions... how we have the potential to be the most incredibly useful product for advertisers and publishers.

I thought the meeting was great. But not all managers are like my manager. My last one was the opposite of Steve's vision. My current one is Steve's vision.

I'm like Steve... I competed with them personally for years in Search Appliance space and did pretty darn good. And now its Google, Google, Google... and I love every moment of it. I was crushed when Google appliance came out, devestated, and defeated. Its a great honor to be able to compete with Google once again, this time with Microsoft on my side. With a fair chance to win, if what I saw at the meeting was for real.

Steve, if you read this, you Have to be a man of your word, plug your power cord into the orginization and make sure that vision gets from top to bottom. Make it your way or the high way. Or else we're screwed. but you got great people, you have the best. Its up to the coach to make the game. I already know what to do cause I heard your speech. But how can we even get a first down when we're our own obstacles. I loved the meeting, and now my after thoughts - if Steve Ballmer was able to get that speech plugged into the org, to get that vision to drive the company, most of all the division I work for, then he's the greatest CEO on earth (that I know of), if not, he's just a pretty good speaker.

So what's it going to be Steve? Vince Lombardi didn't just give a motivational speech in the locker room... he won superbowls by being on the field, every single play. Not up in the bleachers looking down. Steve Ballmer on the sideline would strike fear in the deadwood (the good attrition would skyrocket, Mini would love that), and the ones who are out to win will have the obstacles removed to do it.

My take on the company meeting, look up Vince Lombardi on Wikipedia... when Ballmer was talking (during the high moments) thats what I saw. And my other impression, probably my greatest hero, Eric Selberg, PM of Relevancy at MSN Search... reminded me of Bart Starr. I got to shake Eric's hand once. I saw all the people who made that happen, I don't know their faces but I saw their passion and love. Its an honor to be a part of this company, and that's not Cool-aid, that's 100% pride.

MicrosoftBlue said...

"I Love this Company" ... everything else aside .. on September 6th .. " I Love this company " and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, the LINQ dude should have received the BillG award. LINQ is the most exciting real-world tech I've seen anywhere in the last decade.

More exciting than all of the Windows releases in that time?

You must be "the LINQ dude".

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I was the only one that thought Ray's slides sucked.

20,000 people at MS do not need a history of the personal computer. Especially when we were already running late.

We also don't need to see a scene that was used in one of our competitors most memorable ad campaigns. I don't get what the point was (except that we're "the man" now).

Yes, he was a great speaker. A little more motivating than most of the other execs. But we still haven't seen him DO anything at Microsoft. I would've much rather seen a demo of something he's been personally working on.

Anonymous said...

One thing that struck me in demos and some exec speeches is that their goal is not to serve the customer, but to defeat the competitors (Google, Apple, etc). This is really sad and immature.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against competing, but let's not count the chickens before they've hatched. Let's do our due diligence in addressing competitive challenges, but let's skip the kool-aid talk about how we're going to kick Google's ass. Let's skip it for two reasons: 1. We won't kick Google's ass in foreseeable future since they don't stand still either, 2. "F#cking killing Google" shouldn't be our goal to begin with, Lucovsky notwithstanding.

This reminds me strongly of various governments who invent a foreign enemy to detract the attention of their constituents from domestic problems. This happens all the time and never ends well.

Anonymous said...

sure wish there was a webcast that folks in the field could have watched. i received an email back saying that we are not doing a live webcast to encourage more to go to the meeting... well i am hundreds of miles away. thanks msft.

There was a live webcast, and it was even split into "Redmond" and "everywhere else" feeds. You just had to know where to look (hint: you will never find it on the intranet -- you have to "know people"). Even though I'm in Redmond, I skipped going down to Safeco (as if traffic isn't bad enough on a normal day ...) and instead watched the webcast from the comfort of my office. I had to email a friend in Fargo to get the link.

jon said...

Thanks for the mention, Mini! My Mom'll be happy that I was up on the big screen :-)

Alas, I missed the meeting -- couldn't find a way to stream it off Corpnet -- and so don't have much else to add here.

> I'd be happy to share my impression... Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.

Well said! And great post in general, it's very useful to see these things through new eyes.

jon

jon said...

> sure wish there was a webcast that folks in the field could have watched.

Ooops, I lied, I did have something else to add.

There was a webcast; several other people were sending around questions about where/how to find it, so maybe it wasn't all that well publicized.

It's also up on corpnet for viewing -- or re-viewing, as the case may be.

jon

Anonymous said...

>As was evident from the company meeting, pretty, polished people with nice teeth, jutting jaws and a cheerleader mentality are running the place these days


Ozzie and Ballmer are exceptions to this. In their own very different ways, they were the only speakers who made any connection with the audience (some of it was negative, no doubt).

Many of you bash Ballmer, but I wonder whether his insistence at staying is because he realizes the 4 frat boy cheerleaders he has reporting to him are paper pushers. I hope that's the case, I hope he's just waiting for someone more inspiring to show up and then turn things over.

On the other extreme, as a previous poster points out, those supposedly cool execs with the piercings and what not are also paper pushers, different only from the big 4 in that they lack self awareness. I also hope Ballmer has them figured out too and is trying to keep a lid on things. Just because you might see him and J high five-ing each other, doesn't mean he really has any use for or hope in him.

Anonymous said...

"One thing that struck me in demos and some exec speeches is that their goal is not to serve the customer, but to defeat the competitors (Google, Apple, etc). This is really sad and immature."

i am glad someone mentioned this and above all glad that such people exist at msft. maybe the company's biggest challenge is that it is TOO competitive as in "we want to be in on anything in tech that is cool and profitable". and also "we won't touch any technology no matter how good for our customers unless someone shows that it is a profitable business".

whatever happened to "we have a long-term vision for the technology future and we are excited to help being this future to our customers"?

typical example is reported comments by gates and ballmer laughing at google before the goog ipo days because they were "commies" with no business model. not only were they comically wrong but also WHO CARES whether there is a business model or not to start with: as long as you have good technology why not take a risk and see how it develops? Back then google was a small operation with COOL TECHNOLOGY. the same thing can be seen from ballmer's comments on iphone. not a word on the technology of the device. no. he only wanted to talk about the PRICE.

in other words stop thinking like a bean-counter or a salesman. think like an engineer. good things will follow.

disclosure: i am not a msft employee. i have some stock as part of a diversified portfolio and a long-time customer..

Anonymous said...

>> More exciting than all of the Windows releases in that time?

Yes. The last exciting release of Windows was Windows 95 pretty much. Since then it was just putting Windows 95 UI onto the old NT kernel. Let's look at a shorter timeframe, though, since BillG awards are not awarded for decade-long achievements. What did cutler do in the past couple of years? Anyone? Ported NT kernel to x64? Isn't this supposed to be straightforward? Linux folks just throw in a few custom bits, recompile and their kernel works anywhere from watches to LANL. Granted, it's not really Cutler's fault that Vista is embarrassing pile of crap, but let's look at the situation realistically. There's NOTHING special in terms of engineering about NT these days. It's become a commodity which most people continue to buy because they don't know any better.

LINQ on the other hand solves a HUGE pain in the ass for applcation developers. It's one of a kind. I've never heard anyone bash it, even on anti-Microsoft sites. It just makes huge amount of sense. It's beautiful from engineering standpoint. It's novel. If this does not deserve a prize, I don't know what does.

Anonymous said...

On the topic the seattle work locations:

As an employee in the field, this is good news. While it doesn't benefit me directly, it does show that Microsoft is learning to be less Redmond-centric.

Field employees are limited to customer-focused career options like sales and services. There is a great amount of talent in the field, already employed by Microsoft, that would be great in product development (PMs, test, dev, marketing, etc).

I've been a PM in another company that "gets" virtual teams in product development -- and guess who's collaboration tools we used? Microsoft!

It's time to start eating our dogfood with our collaboration tools and start utilizing our talent outside of Redmond.

BTW: Where did these 12,800 people come from? A large chunk are hires in the field. We still have many open positions, but the lack of career opportunities make it tough to hire top quality employees we need.

Anonymous said...

Good comments to a good post.

Re Demos: I had the same gut feel that most here express: except for the Live Search demo, it was too much marketing and not enough engineering. Send the developers, the program manager who built the software/hardware to demo it!

Re BillG award: the point is why give the award to someone who already is at the top. Give it to someone who is up and coming to rally the people and show them that innovation still can happen!

Steve's speech was good. But it should not have taken until the end of the meeting to thank Bill...

As long as we have boring parts to the meetings, will see more people leaving early and more paper airplanes being build.

Anonymous said...

One thing that struck me in demos and some exec speeches is that their goal is not to serve the customer, but to defeat the competitors (Google, Apple, etc). This is really sad and immature.

Oh, get over yourself. I suppose next you'll be writing to NASCAR and telling them that races would be so much safer if only one car was on the track at a time.

Humans live for competition. While we exist to serve the users, we are in a race to figure out the best way to serve them with some very talented and lethally determined competition. Knowing whether you served the customer the best exists only in relationship to them and therefore it's stupid to take your eyes off of them even for a second.

I didn't come to Microsoft to work on software as some sort of academic exercise or to build average software either. I am here to build THE best software in the world, acknowledged by both friends, our detractors, and, yes, even our competition. If that's not what you're after, help support Microsoft by working for one of our competitors. (I hear Google is hiring.) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Much like the last 6 company meetings, I skipped it and took a personal day-off (ok I ras-ed in to check in some changes :)). Again - doesn't seem like I missed anything.

Recently, for some reason, I pickup up Billg's The Road Ahead (published back in 95) from my bookshelf on the way to the bathroom. I thought it was a terrible read a decade ago when I bought shortly after accepting an entry position. But while I was flipping through it I noticed the below passage. I thought: "Wow! Bill pretty much summed up mini a decade early!"


"When you have a hot product, investors pay attention to you and are willing to put their money in your company. Smart kids think, Hey, everybody's talking about this company. I'd like to work there. When one smart person comes into a company, pretty soon another does because talented people like to work with each other. This creates a sense of excitement. Potential partners and customers pay more attention, and the spiral continues, making the next success easier."

"Of course, companies can get caught in a negative spiral too. A company in a positive spiral has an air of destiny. One in a negative spiral operates in an atmosphere of doom. If a company starts to lose market share or delivers a bad product, the talk turns to "Why do you work here?" "Why would you invest in that company?" "I don't think you should buy from them." The press and the analysts smell blood and start telling inside stories about who's quarreling and who's responsible for mismanagement. Customers begin to question whether they should continue to buy the company's products. Within the sick company everything gets questioned, including the things the company is doing right. Even a fine strategy can get dismissed with the argument "You're just defending the old way," and that can lead to more mistakes. Then down the company spirals."

- Bill Gates. The Road Ahead. Chapter 3: Lessons from the Computer Industry. Page 39.

Anonymous said...

>> Humans live for competition.

Dude, competition is customer focused. You build the best product, customers give you their money, you win. If you're mature you don't even mention your competitors in this scenario.

For our execs, it's not a matter of building the best product, I'm afraid. It's a matter of sucking the oxygen from the atmosphere and killing f#king Google and everybody else. That's ass-backwards.

Coincidentally, Google's quote of the day today is:

War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.
- Thomas Mann

Anonymous said...

I didn't come to Microsoft to work on software as some sort of academic exercise or to build average software either. I am here to build THE best software in the world, acknowledged by both friends, our detractors, and, yes, even our competition.

How's that working for ya?

I agree we have too much immature comic-book competitiveness. People who are the tech equivalent of fat guys chugging beer and second-guessing NBA players, memorizing stats and explaining them instead of working out.

Our competitors live in fear of our pile of cash and existing market dominance, both of which are slowly but surely eroding while our management pumps their fists and yells about "passion" and "competitiveness."

Anonymous said...

One comment - Eric Selberg of MSN Search is no more the PM for relevance nor has anythig to do with relevance

Anonymous said...

I'm laughing at all the engineering geeks bash away at the MBAs.Do you really think your coding skills and cool technologies matter without marketing turning them into billion dollar cash cows?

Anonymous said...

What's Ray Ozzie's Gamerscore? It's rhetorical - it has to be 0. He obviously doesn't know that an Xbox 360 can play music and movies. Over 50 minutes on stage, he mentions Xbox Live four times. Never mentions Games for Windows Live - doesn't use the console on any of his slides. That would be fine if it was all about the enterprise, but how can you bring up Microsoft consumer products and not once say "Xbox"? Made me furious.

I'm also furious with the sound board guy: my ears are still ringing from the band's volume level and the two sound-mishaps. Being up in the upper levels makes you ear-level with the speakers so it was extremely painful to listen to the band.

And about the band: next year, get rid of the live people and bring in Rock Band. Have people try out if you want, but at least the music will be by the original artists and there will be something to do besides saying "oh, look, it's the band again". It would make the transitions entertaining - would make the warm up fun... maybe more people would be encouraged to get their earlier if there was a reason... If you don't want live players, hook up a Zune for all our sakes!

Aside from that, you're spot on with the demos. At least 60 minutes of the meeting was co-opted by the Live team showing me how to write an email and send an IM (yes, I was insulted) and the MBS team with their extremely boring product demo. I mean, I can empathize with MBS, in that they don't get the spotlight often but what the hell? You take 20K employees that mostly deal with Windows, Office, or consumer products and you show them a) how to run an IT department and b) how to run a ficticious business using MBS software. Ouch. If I'm ever faced with either of these two career options, I will be buying a bullet and renting a gun - terribly boring even if you can move the unlabelled object around a report.

Lastly, I fail to see why they didn't show off Zune 2. Apple has announced their holiday line up... you have a 20K person "audience" that wants to support a product... why not give them a preview? Most of the public won't wait to see what Zune 2 is... I just don't get the decision to keep it secret from us (and the rest of the world) at this point, now that company with the largest market share has aleady shown their hand.

Aside from the above, it was better than last year and far better than the year at McCaw Hall. I like the later start, I like the shorter scheduled time, I really like the fact that our executives assume that we can read a 10K to get financial information (and left the rehash out of the speaches). I thought Steve spoke better than he has for the last two years - I was happy to see Bill talk about his vision and that he will still be involved with the company, if only part time. Overall, I thought it was worth the time I invested in it... even if there wasn't much swag this year!

Anonymous said...

I didn't come to Microsoft to work on software as some sort of academic exercise or to build average software either. I am here to build THE best software in the world, acknowledged by both friends, our detractors, and, yes, even our competition. If that's not what you're after, help support Microsoft by working for one of our competitors. (I hear Google is hiring.) Thanks!

you're a recent campus hire, aren't you?

if you came to microsoft to build the best software in the world, then someone sold you a line that even my grandmother wouldn't have bought. when you focus on beating the competition in software development you *do not* create the best software in the world, you create an almost-ran piece of utter crap like zune that "beats the competition" based on a set of random criteria determined by execs with specific commitments.

that's not making great software.

nintendo didn't set out to beat the competition with wii, they set out to do something that hadn't been done before and do the right thing for customers -- and they won. DS? same thing. ipod? same thing.

of course, competition plays a role in this because there will always be someone ahead of you or right behind you. but you can't ever lose sight of the fact that it's the customer who determines the winner at the end of the day. and they are generally absent when we plot and scheme how we're going to beat our competition.

and so, zune. welcome to the social.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, I fail to see why they didn't show off Zune 2. Apple has announced their holiday line up... you have a 20K person "audience" that wants to support a product... why not give them a preview?

Could MSFT be getting ready to buy RIMM? I know this rumor has been talked about a lot, and I didn’t believe it at first. However, credible sources on Wall Street have resurrected rumors about MSFT getting ready to make its biggest acquisition yet. I don’t know if it is RIMM or someone else. It’s not YHOO since they are actively shopping around to tie up with a media company or even merge with ebay.

http://www.thestreet.com/s/kass-g-phone-and-other-street-chatter/markets/activetraderupdate/10378095_3.html

Anonymous said...

>> Do you really think your coding skills and
>> cool technologies matter without marketing
>> turning them into billion dollar cash cows?

Do you think your marketing can turn something into a billion dollar cash cow without our cool technologies and coding skills? How's that working with Search and Ads so far?

Right back atcha.

Anonymous said...

How's that working for ya?

Pretty well. One of our major competitors recently had to pull out of a few markets because they were running out of money. I'd like to think I had a small part in helping keep us out of a similar situation. We might even be able to snap those markets up if all goes well. Thanks for asking!

Sorry to hear that things aren't working out as well for your product or service. I'm sure with continued effort, it too can become #1 in its market.

Anonymous said...

Dude, Debra Chrapaty is a visionary leader and she has much upside at Microsoft. She being considered for Sr VP of HR along with JawadK when Lisa becomes president.

Steve Ballmer said...

Don't interpet me!

Anonymous said...

RE: Right back atcha.

Oh boy, Here we go again. Yes, yes, we all know that coders are god, everyone else is, well, not...

Puhleeeze.

When we can work together as a team and play off each other's strengths instead of just flexing for each other, maybe we'll get somewhere.

Anonymous said...

For those looking for the on-demand links, have you thought of typing "companymeeting" into your browser while on corpnet?

Anonymous said...

Dude, Debra Chrapaty is a visionary leader and she has much upside at Microsoft. She being considered for Sr VP of HR along with JawadK when Lisa becomes president.

Wow, there is an awful lot of humor packed into that one post!

To the anonymous soul that wrote that, thank you so much. I really needed a great laugh!!

Anonymous said...

" their goal is not to serve the customer, but to defeat the competitors (Google, Apple, etc). This is really sad and immature. "

EXACTLY!

That's what I've been saying about MSFT for at least ten years now. Competition is incidental to seerving one's customers. Focus on the customer, not on the competition, or you just turn into IBM in the 1980s.

Oops, too late.

Anyhow, this fixation on the competition is something I've seen at many companies, and it comes from the frat boys. In most companies, the frat boys are confined to sales. In companies that are on their way to the ash heap of history, the frat boys are put in charge of engineers.

Anonymous said...

"With a fair chance to win, if what I saw at the meeting was for real."

Don't kid yourself. If what you saw at the demo was in the hands of any other company, it might have a chance to make a dent, but where it is now, it will never be more than a distraction from the company's main line of business.

Anonymous said...

"Humans live for competition."

Speaking as an Apple shareholder, I hope that your attitude is pervasive throughout Microsoft. Please, keep focusing on the people who are kicking your ass, and let Apple and Google concentrate on the customers.

Hey, here's an idea: why don't you clowns by Research in Motion? I'll bet someone like you would be thrilled to mix it up with Apple in the cell phone business. You'd have all the adrenalin you could eat, while everyone who's worth a damn at RIM cashes out and leaves you the empty husk of a once-great business.

Anonymous said...

"I am here to build THE best software in the world,"

Man, did you ever join the wrong company.

Anonymous said...

"Bill Gates. The Road Ahead."

Whoever the ghost writer on that book was, he's quite perceptive.

BTW, do you think BG ever even read it?

Anonymous said...

" I fail to see why they didn't show off Zune "

I'm going to go way out on a limb here, and suggest that they chose not to embarass themselves and their audience.

Zune cratered. Get over it.

Homer Simpsonizer said...

Notes from the Homer Simpson School of Management:

The last two posts from the previous Mini topic Microsoft Company Meeting Ahoy! were substantive and important in my opinion, and should you wish to discuss strategy instead of things like reviews and open private offices, it might be a good topic for further mention, i.e., Ozzie gets it. Does he?

I'm not an employee, so I did not hear any of the company meeting speeches, but the idea of out doing Google by insuring privacy is a deeply rooted American tradition (the privacy part). I think it would resonate with everyone, not just over twenty five crowd. Once people understand what is being and has been lost over the last ten years of internet growth and the development of search and ad based data mining technologies.

Ok. enough of that. Here is an idea worthy of the Bill Gates Award (does it go to customers?): how about a reader-verbal-voice reader to take a specially crafted news aggregator (say a really well done Live News site) and have it read off the news in a clear human like customizable voice of pre selected RSS topics like world headlines, what's new on Mini, Latest donut shop in Springfield etc. The idea is to replace network cable news with an audio feed of the morning's headlines one could listen to in place of turning on the tv. Just playing my small part in helping build a better Microsoft.

(waves arm with finger extended in a circle) "I think he just made the international sign of the donut!"

Anonymous said...

Someone anonymous said:

"I didn't come to Microsoft to work on software as some sort of academic exercise or to build average software either. I am here to build THE best software in the world, acknowledged by both friends, our detractors, and, yes, even our competition."

Heh. I think you came to the wrong place, friend.

Anonymous said...

nintendo didn't set out to beat the competition with wii, they set out to do something that hadn't been done before and do the right thing for customers -- and they won. DS? same thing. ipod? same thing.

Uh, Microsoft had motion-sensative controllers in 1998... they promoted the hell out of the Wii and the "campy" games of WiiSports and WiiPlay have driven sales. In a years time, if their games-attach rate is still 1.0, I wouldn't call it a "total victory"... and I say this because my Wii hasn't had a game to play on it for months.

As for DS and iPod, you're very correct: they did something new for the hell of it, which is very similar to Surface. Oh wait, that's a Microsoft product, so you'll probably choose to ignore that.

Anonymous said...

Great meeting, Great Company!!!

Feedback:

Only demo the cool stuff. Dynamics looks great but it is not fun and we are not individuals who will be buying it.

Suite alignment. This company needs to focus on less options for people and a better buy up story. The new desktop live mail products look cool but why not give away something like Outlook...

When you are 2 hours over already, cut scope and get on with it. We needed to cut some of the middle junk out (like the lunch break) so Steve could come out on time.

I do agree with Steve though - I love this company.

Anonymous said...

Dear God! JawadK is being considered for Senior VP of HR? Could there be anyone more poorly suited for that position? Gack!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the summary. Being in the field, I don't get to come out for things like this. I was at TR a few months back, and it sounds like it was similar to all of the general sessions there - a bunch of people trying to sell us stuff we don't need to be sold.

The funniest part at TR was the people demoing all the amazing things you could do with Silverlight - and advertising. Wow! You can overlay Ads! Wow! You can get ads in HDTV! Wow! You can resize the ads to be full screen! Anytime the presenter has to say, "Come on guys, this is cool stuff!" while the audience just stares...

And the hiring number doesn't surprise me. My hiring group from last year had over 450 people in it. On the same day. They actually had to split us into 2 groups.

Anonymous said...

>> similar to Surface. Oh wait, that's a Microsoft product

That's not a product. Product is something customers can buy. iPhone, for example. Surface at this point is a research project, nothing more. And even if it gets released, I don't see consumers buy it. To see why, wave your hands over your table for 10 minutes. It should be sold as an exercise device.

Anonymous said...

>> Oh boy, Here we go again. Yes, yes,
>> we all know that coders are god, everyone else is, well, not

That's not what I said. What I said was that engineers are essential to this company's success. I didn't say marketing is not essential. I just said that on its own marketing can't do shit if the product is subpar or if there's no product at all.

Anonymous said...

So it's out. You're an HR troll for MS. Nice one.

Anonymous said...


Lastly, I fail to see why they didn't show off Zune 2. Apple has announced their holiday line up... you have a 20K person "audience" that wants to support a product... why not give them a preview?


It wouldn't surprise me if this was actually in the works, but looking at the iPod announcement the day prior Exec Mgmt decided to pull everyting Zune related.

It wouldn't surprise me because I suspect that iPod will have taken the wind out of Zune's sails (sales?) and with at least 2 months until Zune 2 launch, no one wanted it leaked that the product was going to be stillborn.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Microsoft had motion-sensative controllers in 1998...
As for DS and iPod, you're very correct: they did something new for the hell of it, which is very similar to Surface. Oh wait, that's a Microsoft product, so you'll probably choose to ignore that.


I'm not the original poster but I will choose to ignore that. Rear-projection multitouch surfaces were around long before "Surface." You can do most of the stuff shown in the Surface videos exactly the same way on an iPhone, of which Apple just sold a million. Wake me when Microsoft makes an innovative product that customers love.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Microsoft had motion sensative controllers in 1998... they promoted the hell out of the Wii and the "campy" games of WiiSports and WiiPlay have driven sales. In a years time, if their games-attach rate is still 1.0, I wouldn't call it a "total victory"... and I say this because my Wii hasn't had a game to play on it for months.

do you even play video games? metroid prime corruption released recently for the wii, and along with bioshock on 360 on PC/Xbox it's currently a contender for game of the year and helpig to drive sales. zelda? warioware? super paper mario? yep, all driving console sales for wii.

wii also makes money on their hardware, and so when they sell millions of units they *make* millions of dollars instead of losing millions of dollars like us. this is why they don't need a 10x multiplier on their attach rate to break even like we do.

that said, i love my xbox and we've won the hardcore gamer battle for this generation. but we didn't do it with our hardware -- that is, the thing that competes most directly feature-for-feature with sony -- or because we were trying to beat specific things sony was doing in their games... we did it because we have the best games for hardcore console players. We gave the customer what they wanted, we didn't try to beat sony feature-for-feature.

As for DS and iPod, you're correct: they did something new for the hell of it, which is very similar to Surface. Oh wait, that's a Microsoft product, so you'll probably choose to ignore that.

You really need to step-out of fanboy land and dunk your head into the cold water of reality if you want to help the company -- surface is not a microsoft consumer product and it's still years away from appearing on a large scale in the wild. I hope -- I really hope -- that we don't screw the pooch on it, but the fact is that surface computing has already begun appearing in the consumer space and we're seemingly years away from having any story here even though we have the potential to be true leaders in this space. I would really like us to help lead this charge, but I'm fairly certain that we'll be a day late and a dollar short yet again on this one.

I'd love to be proven wrong.

Anonymous said...

As for DS and iPod, you're very correct: they did something new for the hell of it, which is very similar to Surface. Oh wait, that's a Microsoft product, so you'll probably choose to ignore that.

The discussion was about focusing on the customer. Surface looks cool, but it isn't out yet so we don't know if MS is offering the customer what they want or just creating a cool gadget that makes for a nice demo.

There's no doubt that MS has the talent to develop incredible stuff, as Surface, Seadragon and Photosynth show (yes, that was through an acquisition, but the talent is at MS now.) Let's just hope that management doesn't screw it up by focusing exclusively on what Google is doing.

Anonymous said...

As an "ex" of some months, I didn't get to see the meeting and all the rah-rah. And while I'm curious about what Search has done, I'm pretty confident in saying that it's just not going to matter. Google won search. Game over.

This Mini post has featured a lot of arguing about how or even if Microsoft should compete with the likes of Google and Apple. Answer: no. When you are just huffing and puffing to keep up with the cool kids, and you're clearly a geek and a loser (in that context), you are much better off going away and doing something entirely different. Meanwhile, you just embarass yourself.

Microsoft was ironically lucky that almost nobody in the real world noticed the Zune, because it could serve only to lower people's opinions of Microsoft. You know, if they actually spent time to think about what Microsoft had done. A sad, pathetic "me too" product with an absurd catch-phrase. This is how Microsoft competes?

And Steve B talking about focusing on design? Har har! Like you can just conjure that up. I know, put it on some people's commitments: "create great genre shaking designs (see iPod, iPhone)." That will just make it happen, right?

Even if we have some genius designer somewhere in the hive, by the time his/her design gets through the PM process, the focus group testing, the multiple customer surveys (all the pointless junk PMs and marketing justify their lives with), it will have been turned right back into.... a Zune.

A word of advice to Microsoft marketing and PMs. Focus group testing just means you have no faith in what you do. You want a good focus group? How about every single person who ever saw an iPod or an iPhone for the first time saying "Wow! That is so cool!" I keep trying to get that same buzz from my Windows Mobile phone but.... nah ah.

My take is that Microsoft needs to realize what it is, what it's pretty good at, which is a company that makes software for IT departments. Exchange, SQL, Office. That kind of thing. Windows was a one-time fluke that captured the consumer market. Great. You got lucky. Milk that cow but don't spend much on that farm anymore.

What consumer success has Microsoft had otherwise? Instead, they have burned enough money to send a manned spaceship to Mars and to show for it they've got a crappy MP3 player that six people bought and a game console nobody wants anymore.

Microsoft doesn't have the mind, the attitude, the personnel, the structure or the processes to be a successful consumer company. Abandon those efforts entirely, and go be the best IT software company in the world. Port Exchange and SQL to Linux, for starters, and GET OVER IT already. You are NEVER going to play with the cool kids. It's time to concentrate only on being the serious hard-working dad that may not be much fun, but he brings home the bacon.

Anonymous said...

Regarding a few comments:

The "I am here to build THE best software in the world" guy is clearly nuts. I was a dev for many years. I couldn't be bothered with Microsoft as who wanted to get involved with the buggy crap MS has been churning out for years. Then after a while I switched into marketing. I made a beeline to Microsoft. I figured if MS's marketers could have made the company that rich by selling crap, I could sure learn something from them. I did learn a lot, and then left to get a big raise elsewhere.

As for the "Do you think your marketing can turn something into a billion dollar cash cow without our cool technologies and coding skills? " guy, yes, they can. I mean, Windows, Office, etc. All were terrible products: buggy, bloated and have been for years. Still huge cash cows. I've seen plenty of superior products come and go because big companies don't want to take a risk on a startup. Microsoft does a great job at playing the old "No one ever got fired for going with..." card.

Finally, as for the competitiveness thing, being competitive is great. However, Microsoft these days seems to win the battle and lose the war. I mean on the web, you beat Netscape and now are getting your asses handed to you by Google. If you beat them the next folks will beat you. If you just try to copy your competitor you will often win if you have a good name and a pile of money but you will never actually get ahead of the game. Get some vision--not just "we're going to out-Google Google" but what are you going to do that is fundamentally different?

Finally, all this talk about Xbox and Zune. Get over it. Microsoft is a modern day IBM. It doesn't make any money on consumer stuff, and it always gets killed by competitors (Wii, Ipod, etc.). It's a combination of a flight of fancy and a recruitment tool (getting you those extra 12,500 employees). Microsoft is not cool. Microsoft is a good and highly profitable provider of business software. Stop living in denial. Those boring pieces of management software you don't want to see demos of--that's your company. It's not sexy, but customers actually want to buy them (unlike Zune that no one outside of Redmond wants).

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft doesn't have the mind, the attitude, the personnel, the structure or the processes to be a successful consumer company."

I disagree. I believe that microsoft has all of the above, but it's buried under layers of incompetent management.

When I worked at Apple, I had occasion to meet any number of MS employees who really knew their stuff, as well as a couple of the management poseurs who kept the talent from achieving anything.

The best thing that could possibly happen for MS's customers, shareholders, and engineers would be if someone invented a fatal disease that only affected morons in suits.

Erik said...

Bart Starr? I'm flattered! Although as a Steelers fan I always aspired more to the Joe Greene standard. ;)

Thanks to everyone for the kind words, but let me give credit where credit is due --- we on the Search Team has all been working very, very hard and as announced at the company meeting is close to unveiling what we've been working on. It's a huge amount of work done by some great people.

As for me - yes, I'm not the PM for Relevance anymore. I've been working with another group of rock stars in search, and you'll be seeing what we've been doing very soon as well.

Anonymous said...

"Zune cratered. Get over it."

Glad to see someone found a use for it http://hideapod.com/

Anonymous said...

Everyone should have received the email for the company meeting survey...please fill it out...let's make some change happen.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft does a great job at playing the old "No one ever got fired for going with..." card."

Fired, no. Lost their jobs when their company went belly-up? You betcha.

Anonymous said...

Let me just add one more perspective here to the whole competition uber alles thread...

I'm the VP of engineering of a company developing a vertical market solution in a very profitable market. It fell to me to decide what our development and deployment platform would be. There are good market reasons to deploy on Windows, but development on the Mac is far easier to do.

Now, here's why I I'd have to be suicidal to even consider deploying on windows: MS is your best buddy until you start making a *serious* amount of money, and then they decide to cut your throat. WordPerfect, Lotus, Netscape(!), Palm, IBM, Intuit, and many, many others have learned this the hard way.

If I make our product dependent on a platform provided by a company that can't stand to see anyone else make money, then I will have committed a serious breach of my fiduciary duty to my shareholders.

I can just imagine the calls when a new rev of Windows makes my apps break, but somehow Microsoft's new entry into our field goes along just hunky-dory.

I don't see my new business getting as big as Google anytime soon, but if we even break $200M in sales in a year, I wouldn't put it past MS to try eating our lunch, and I'll be damned if I'll hand them the fork.

Show me MS getting along with Google, IBM, Oracle, Sun, and all the other vendors who have products on their platform, and maybe I'll change my mind. Until and unless that happens, I won't trust you as far as I could throw a chair with Ballmer sitting in it!

Anonymous said...

Okay so I'm an FTE but I don't know Jawad Khaki, I'm just curious why so much hating against the man? No serious, I mean if your going to trash someone at least give some reasons why. I'm not being fecetious, I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

"Everyone should have received the email for the company meeting survey...please fill it out...let's make some change happen."

I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole when it doesn't explicitly say it's anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know what to say about the meeting.

Then I came across this:
http://www.afl.org.uk/susieblog/?p=185
especially this:

"Actually, we are a bit untidy. For example, our cleaners have not been this weekend but are coming tonight. Sue our Finance and Admin Assistant said she realised they had not been as soon as she came in this morning. ‘I thought we’d been vandalised. Then I realised we hadn’t.’"

Perfect fit!

keeperplanet said...

>"Heh. I think you came to the wrong place, friend."

Pay no attention to those who failed to make their dreams work at -insert any company name here-. Half of all your successes will be destroyed by those too lame to be as good as you are anyway. You just have to deal with it.

In the school of life, people are made of four parts. Your career, e.g. what you do, your skills that sustain you, second, your family, (the social network)that reinforces you (or tears you down); third, the physical self, (body and how that interacts with the world) and finally, who you really are, the spark that keeps you going, that part that drives all the rest, not your soul, but your spirit--your life energy. There is a fifth part for those in faith in God, but that part is a long personal journey and it is different for each person.

In the real world most of us have had to deal with winning and losing the first three in whole or part at some point in our lives, usually a layer at a time inch by inch, piece by piece, it will all go someday regardless. So be careful what you throw away and what you commit to.

What you have left is who your are, what makes you who you are. And it isn't Microsoft.

Be the best you can be always no matter where you are. Ignore the rest if you can, except to move who you are forward in a positive and contributing way.

Microsoft and every other company will go on, or not, changing, becoming what people like you decide to do inside it, or not.

Anonymous said...

Mini,

How about an anonymous poll to see how many people would voluntarily accept a healthy severance package, if offered?

Let's say, one month's pay for every year of service and an advance on your August 2008 stock award vest?

I bet the number of employees who would gleefully accept such a proposition would be a real eye-opener!

There's really no exciting reason to remain at the company any longer (especially with this latest slap-in-the-face: "value-based stock awards"). For many, what was once a career is now "just a job." (i.e. Where's the upside?)

Offering voluntary severance gives Microsoft perhaps its best opportunity to get leaner and meaner while simultaneously realizing some tremendous cost savings by shedding a ton of dead weight.

Best of all, there's no ill-will if it's truly voluntary. I bet people would line up in droves!

This is more a future topic suggestion than a comment, so no real need to post this comment publicly if you're interested in blogging on it in the days ahead.

Thanks for considering it.

Anonymous said...

Severance package...count me in...

My desired one would be

1 week for every month (or every two months) of service
Perhaps some sort of multiplier/divider based on level
COBRA paid for that period
Advance payment for FMV of 1/2 of of all unvested grant shares

Do that and I'm gone tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

One comment - Eric Selberg of MSN Search is no more the PM for relevance nor has anythig to do with relevance

Yep, I think the two new sheriffs in Relevance Town are now Luke Delorme and Rangan Majumder...

Anonymous said...

Severance? WHERE DO I SIGN?

Anonymous said...

Zune 2 was designed well after the rumors about iPhone/iPod moving to WiFi and a full-screen multi-touch screen interface were public.

For the last year the Zune team must have known that the Zune 2. with it's rumored touch-pad UI (see Engadget) was going to be dead on arrival.

Why did they keep going? I guess they felt they had to have some product out this year.

I wonder if the Zune business plan starts "assume a meteor strikes Cupertino"...

Anonymous said...

"Offering voluntary severance gives Microsoft perhaps its best opportunity to get leaner and meaner while simultaneously realizing some tremendous cost savings by shedding a ton of dead weight."

Two problems:

1) Historically, the risk with voluntary severance programs is that the best go (because they're confident they can find another position) while the deadwood stays.

2) Ballmer would have to admit that the massive ramp up in headcount that he authorized was a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Re: voluntary severance

That would be suicide for MS. Who would leave? The ones who are sure that they could get a good job, with good pay, somewhere else. Who would stay? The ones who are sure that they couldn't come close to doing as well anywhere else.

In other words, the deadwood would stay, the real talent would leave.

MSS

Anonymous said...

to poster asking about jawad. here is a little story.

jawad goes to one of his pums and says "i need this, this, and this, done by such and such a date"

the pum goes off, looks at some details, his team, time, resources, etc. comes back to jawad and says "i need this many people, this many resources, etc, to get this done"

jawad's response "no, you don't get any of that. get it done, now"

pum "but my entire org is running at capacity to do more projects and get more done i need more people, more office space, more machines, etc."

jawad "no get it done, conversation over"

this was jawad's SOP with all things, the pum left shortly there after, was no point is staying, too bad he was a great guy.

one more story. jawad goes to a big meeting with his org, talking about how busy we all are, how time is so tight, how the requirements keep pilling up, how his org keeps loosing people. then says, "but i know you can still do it all, i'm willing to step you up to the plate" no sh!t, he was willing to step us up to the plate, then dump us in the meat grinder and never look back.

if jawad is going to HR, seriously, run, run as if your life dependeds on it.

Anonymous said...

Even if we have some genius designer somewhere in the hive, by the time his/her design gets through the PM process, the focus group testing, the multiple customer surveys (all the pointless junk PMs and marketing justify their lives with), it will have been turned right back into.... a Zune.

This is funny because I know a couple UI designers at Microsoft and this is their biggest complaint. MS has what is arguably the largest and most talented software product design team on earth. What they are lacking is a mandate to deliver interfaces that actually improve experience.

They get close some times, the Office ribbon was a pretty good idea, the Zune's UI (at least the device UI) is frequently considered one of its best attributes and Vista has a lot of good ideas in it. On the other hand the ribon makes no effort to transition existing users, the Zune's desktop software is a nightmare and Vista has as many steps back as forwards. The most exciting interface in your arsenal, the Xbox 360 one was designed out of house by AKQA SF. Good product design is not arranging buttons and making icons. It's about commiting to delivering the most elegant solution possible and then adapting the technology to suit it.

You guys have the talent, let them do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Think you should have brought an iPod to that meeting to at least have some diversion.

Anonymous said...

Okay so I'm an FTE but I don't know Jawad Khaki, I'm just curious why so much hating against the man? No serious, I mean if your going to trash someone at least give some reasons why. I'm not being fecetious, I'm curious.

Another comment gave some good stories about Jawad in action. Something else to consider. JawadK has been in charge of all things Windows Networking for a decade or more. Windows Networking is terrible.

Anonymous said...

"Offering voluntary severance gives Microsoft perhaps its best opportunity to get leaner and meaner while simultaneously realizing some tremendous cost savings by shedding a ton of dead weight."

Why in the world would the company offer severance when all they have to do is fire you. One reason companies offer serverance is if the staff is unionized or another reason is if they were bought and they need the experienced staff to stay until the transition period is over.

Anonymous said...

Balmer said that it would cost too much to give people lunch. I have the solution for this:

1) Stop paying Kevin Turner $40 million undeserving $$$ Fire this guy!

2) Give everyone level 64 and below $10 per day in cardkey food credit. No free lunch for partners!

That should be enough for lunch in the cafeteria.

Anonymous said...

Interesting there's all this talk about severance packages and how great that would be (it's already been discussed how this would be 'shoot-yourself-in-the-head stupid' for the company to implement, so we'll just leave it at that.

But if there's all of a sudden talk about a RIF (which, generally includes severence packages), everyone gets all up in arms about it.

As my next target, I will rant about all you dumb f*cks who can't tell that talk of moving Jawad to HR was a troll. Please, that's so totally assinine, I can't even begin to understand how some of you even fall for this kind of crap.

You people are the reason I left the 'soft. The company I was proud to be part of retired (mostly) in 2001. I, unfortunately, did not join Microsoft to be part of the lottery winnings (make no mistake that while the bar was certainly higher back then, they were not "magical" people. There were just a lot less dunderheads around), so I could not join the vesting celebration. I was a couple years too late.

Anyway, I looked around and saw what I was reduced to in terms of people I had to drag along. To top that off, the bullshit ass-kissing and political infighting got so bad that I got fed up.

Anonymous said...

Balmer said that it would cost too much to give people lunch. I have the solution for this:

1. take the number of people at Microsoft, what's that, like 70,000 people? (Much less if you just do FTE in NA)
2. assume ~240 work days a year (there's less than this)
3. assume $10 a meal (probably less than this, but let's be generous)

By my math, that's $168M a year.

That's 1/10th of what we paid for the xbox 360 fuck up. Man, are our priorities screwed up.

Anonymous said...

Okay so I'm an FTE but I don't know Jawad Khaki, I'm just curious why so much hating against the man?

The fact that you posted this question shows that you've never worked with him, or heavens forbid, for him. I have stories that I could share, but I value my job too much to disclose them, as they'd reveal who I am.

Anonymous said...

Balmer said that it would cost too much to give people lunch. I have the solution for this:

1) Stop paying Kevin Turner $40 million undeserving $$$ Fire this guy!


Not to defend the guy, but more to make sure your facts are right, but I don't think Pop Tart makes $40M/year. It is more like $1M w/ a $7M signing bonus...
http://www.microsoft.com/msft/reports/proxy2006.mspx

Scroll about half way down. Also noticed $82K in moving expenses WTF? If it were you or me we'd be lucky to get a couple of grand in relocation.

But I'm with you, I do like or trust the guy. He would just as soon focus Wal-Mart tactics on my job if he figured he could. When I see him talk he just seems phoney.

Anonymous said...

12.8k new employees? Mini, you should change your alias to Bloated. Leaving MS soon. Sayonara!!!

There will be a MS in 5 years time or even 10 years time. But ratio of technical product development to non-technical will decrease. Which means MS is more likely to be an IBM-like company then.

Anonymous said...

"JawadK has been in charge of all things Windows Networking for a decade or more. Windows Networking is terrible."

I'm the original poster asking about JawadK. Come on guys, if everyone hated every exec that pushed their teams hard I don't think there'd be that many folks left. As to Windows networking, what are you talking about?? Have you ever tried configuring a wireless card in linux?

Anonymous said...

Speaking as an outsider, I don't quite see what your issue is with Kevin Turner. The man had quite a track record at Wal-mart, selling cheap shit for quite fair prices. In fact, I'd be far more inclined to trust him because he *didn't* come up from within Microsoft. Wal-mart has never had the monopoly advantage in any field they've entered, so they've had to do some serious work and earn their money.

Turner might even be the only competent manager in the top six levels of MS's hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

if jawad is going to HR, seriously, run, run as if your life dependeds on it.
>
Jawad can fix HR bloat, just give him the charter. He cant do any worse than Depetro.

Anonymous said...

"Why in the world would the company offer severance when all they have to do is fire you. One reason companies offer serverance is if the staff is unionized or another reason is if they were bought and they need the experienced staff to stay until the transition period is over"

Well, actually, you offer severance to avoid lots of costly wrongful dismissal lawsuits. Especially in places like Europe.

Still cheaper than continuing the current bloated course...

Firing is done for cause. Downsizing is a different matter.

Anonymous said...

"...Which means MS is more likely to be an IBM-like company then."

You mean it's not, right now?

Anonymous said...

"Herbold's Nine Traps"

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/archives/121619.asp

1.) Neglect: Sticking with yesterday's business model.

2.) Pride: Allowing your products to become outdated.

3.) Boredom: Clinging to successful branding after it becomes stale and dull.

4.) Complexity: Ignoring your business processes as they become cumbersome and complicated.

5.) Bloat: Rationalizing your loss of speed and agility.

6.) Mediocrity: Condoning poor performance and letting your star employees languish.

7.) Lethargy: Getting lulled into a culture of comfort, casualness and confidence.

8.) Timidity: Not confronting turf wars, infighting and obstructionists.

9.) Confusion: Unwittingly providing schizophrenic communications.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as an outsider, I don't quite see what your issue is with Kevin Turner. The man had quite a track record at Wal-mart, selling cheap shit for quite fair prices. In fact, I'd be far more inclined to trust him because he *didn't* come up from within Microsoft. Wal-mart has never had the monopoly advantage in any field they've entered, so they've had to do some serious work and earn their money.

Turner might even be the only competent manager in the top six levels of MS's hierarchy.


Have you LOOKED at Wal-Mart's business practices? They way they pound their suppliers/vendors/partners is a HORRIBLE way to do business. They actively drive the prices down from their suppliers (nearly to the point of bankruptcy for those same suppliers) so that they (Wal-Mart) can make a few more bucks. Their corporate office is one of the scariest places you could ever visit ("Please take one, every penny counts" signs on the paper towel dispenser in the wash rooms not withstanding). The South Park episode doesn't even come close to doing Wal-Mart justice.

If you think the various world governments are against MS now, just wait to see what they'd do with KT in charge and running us like Wal-Mart is run. We'd be put out of business by the governments.

Try being Target and attempt to buy a case of Kleenex at the same price that Wal-Mart does and you'll realize that they ARE a monopoly (only they're using their power against their suppliers instead of their customers; for now, at least).

Anonymous said...

Also noticed $82K in moving expenses WTF? If it were you or me we'd be lucky to get a couple of grand in relocation.

$82K sounds about right for relo. I've seen a few folks on my team (they were around 61 & 62) be relo'd and between what MS pays for closing costs (both buying & selling the homes), the moving truck, etc. the number is almost a bit low. One of my past managers once mentioned that our team took a 100-125K hit in the budget for every person relo'd (which is why they cut back on moving folks around to much and now try to hire people in the city for which they're trying to fill the job in).

Anonymous said...

Re: "Herbold's Nine Traps"

I can cite multiple Microsoft examples for all of these.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity how many people are currently working on defining their next year's "commitments"? How many people are struggling to come up with the required number of commitments? How many people feel guilty or inadequate for struggling to come up with the right number of commitments?

I've talked to several Microsoft folks who are in that spot right now and it makes me wonder what's going on. Shouldn't management know what they need their reports to be doing? Is it really a matter of the employees needing to define their roles and tell their management what they will be doing -- as if management has no clue? "Manage up.", so to speak? Or is this struggle to define commitments more a problem with the way Microsoft's "review" system works -- I.E., it's not practical for everyone to have 5-7 neatly/clearly defined commitments yet everyone is forced to try and fit into that same box?

I also think that's it's crazy that this year's review process started in, what, June? and here we are in September and people are still dealing with it like a cloud hanging over their head. Before you know it the company will be rolling out the "mid year discussion".

Don't you folks get tired of the overly burdensome review process? I know I sure did. Is it worth it?

Ex-Microsoftee said...

I used to work in MS for 5+ years as a FTE (fulltime employee) and contractor. I know the energy that MS has tried to build up in its workers. I think it works for a week or so. Then, most of the MS workers fall into old routine and etc.

I could see in my last couple years of working in MS that MS has been loosing ground to newer competitors such as Google, MySpace, FaceBook, Linux, and other old timers like Apple and etc. MS has been unable to "INNOVATE" and cannot produce solid quality of software product!

I have been felt very good when I left MS to join startup company where my base salary went up almost 20k!!! I hope MS can pay more to its FTE so they don't feel of being under paid!!!

What I hate most in MS is its crappy review process where leads and managers have typically given negative comments to their subordinates. I think this is the way for them to give their subordinates a little tiny pay raise in each year. So they can get more for themselves!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't you folks get tired of the overly burdensome review process? I know I sure did. Is it worth it?

All I know is this. The a$$hole ex-manager of mine who nearly ruined my career got screwed in his review from what I was told, and that just makes my day. It's well deserved (whatever the hell he got, Underperformed/10%) while I did superbly in his absence because my new manager went to bat for me.

I missed on the promo, but I'm sure I'll get it in mid-year. It'll take one more year to correct all of his wrongs, but I'm well on my way. For that, I'm thankful.

Anonymous said...

"As to Windows networking, what are you talking about?? Have you ever tried configuring a wireless card in linux?"

While I have previously stated my opinions on many MSFT topics as an ex-fte previously and those opinions havent change; meaning I dont have a lot new to offer on that. AND at the risk of introducing topic drift; I can't let this pass.

IMO, it isnt an apples to apples comparison. Linux developers do not enjoy anything like the advantages that msft developers enjoy when getting wireless hardware to work with the OS. The most commonly used hardware on laptops (broadcom) does not play well with linux because the manufacturer doesnt see fit to share the necessary info with the developers. And so the drivers are often either reverse-engineered or use a wrapper around the windows drivers. If you guys had to do the same, I bet it would be just as much a pain in the ass to configure those cards in Windows. And even then, it is a hell of a lot better now than it was in the past with respect to that segment of hardware.

However, if you try the *other* class of wireless hardware - the hardware that enjoys a better relationship between the manufacturer and developers - the experience is as good if not better in linux as it is in windows. I went through it recently with an older laptop. I did the 2 hours + of forum posts, how-to articles and such. Yeah the broadcom stuff was a pain in the ass and performed poorly. But I got a card that had a "known good" chipset and it took zero effort. plug, log in, go.

Granted, I am being only slightly less simplistic in my explanation than you are being. There are other issues too. But c'mon, let's be a bit more honest here; the linux effort is damned impressive considering they are essentially working with one hand tied behind thier backs with regard to cooperation from the hardware manufacturers. And getting better all the time.

FWIW, I had a mild interest in seeing how well ethernet over power would work in my house and shop. I got a common Netgear pair of outlet ports. To my surprise, the linux boxes work without a hitch, but my windows machine will not negotiate an IP at all. Strange. Possibly it has nothing to do with it. But it is an interesting data-point from my perspective.

Anonymous said...

Don't you folks get tired of the overly burdensome review process? I know I sure did. Is it worth it?
--
It provides employment to 3000 people department.

Anonymous said...

"IMO, it isnt an apples to apples comparison. Linux developers do not enjoy anything like the advantages that msft developers enjoy when getting wireless hardware to work with the OS."

Completely clueless. MS doesn't write drivers, the hardware manufacturers do. Go bitch at them if you want a driver for your copy of Linux, BSD, OpenVMS, UNICOS/mp, Multics, whatever.

Anonymous said...

>> Don't you folks get tired of the overly burdensome review process? I know I sure did. Is it worth it?

> It provides employment to 3000 people department.

Let's clarify something here. Those 3000 people are on the debit side of the ledger, not on the credit side. They are a cost, not an asset.

First, they cost simply by existing. They have salary, benefits, and building expenses. Second, they cost by getting in the way of people who are doing real work. Microsoft would be better off paying them to stay home and do nothing; they would be even better off getting rid of all 3000 people.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Let's clarify something here. Those 3000 people are on the debit side of the ledger, not on the credit side. They are a cost, not an asset.

First, they cost simply by existing. They have salary, benefits, and building expenses. Second, they cost by getting in the way of people who are doing real work. Microsoft would be better off paying them to stay home and do nothing; they would be even better off getting rid of all 3000 people.


Man, you're brain dead. You can slam the implementation (people) if you want, but don't slam the HR function, especially when it comes to recruiting and benefits, both of which are critical to getting us the people that "do the real work."

I'm sure HR has become as moribund as say, Windows, but could you imagine if we had great HR? Maybe the hotshots WOULDN'T be going to Google. Problem is that executives DON'T let HR do their jobs either. I know a GM who routinely abused the shit out of people for years, generating a mountain of HR complaints, and VPs protected him as he was a hatchet man who fired people left and right and kept his costs low. Those of you in SQLUE/Windows Server System UE know who I'm talking about. The guy in charge there now is no prize either.

HR works in an advisory capacity to management. When they fail, it's often because they are not given the tools to do their jobs either.

When I see people like Gretchen Ledgard leave (though I hear she's back), I'm sad, because smart high energy people like her bring us the talent that gets product out the door.

This attitude of saying everyone who doesn't write code is a cost goes against the team mentality the company needs to succeed. If this is your attitude, you need to learn a bit about business--code isn't a product--it's the basis of one--and a product is nothing without the code. But you don't get your code onto hundreds of millions of desktop without the contributions of everyone from the lowliest tester, support dude, or designer to the grand poobahs of marketing. Without that team, you're just a hotshot hobbiest. It's the team that makes product, that makes software development a profession.

Forget that, and you end up with a moribund organization, product, and stock price.

Rotsa ruck, dude.

Anonymous said...

>> Don't you folks get tired of the overly burdensome review process? I know I sure did. Is it worth it?

I dunno - I left work today still without having had my review; guess I'll be able to reverse-engineer it from my bank account balance tomorrow.

Is it just me, or does finding out how you did in this way seem a tad disrespectful?

Anonymous said...

All I know is this. The a$$hole ex-manager of mine who nearly ruined my career got screwed in his review from what I was told, and that just makes my day. It's well deserved (whatever the hell he got, Underperformed/10%) while I did superbly in his absence because my new manager went to bat for me.

I missed on the promo, but I'm sure I'll get it in mid-year.


i hate to rain on your parade, but overwhelming historical precedent would indicate that you're hitting the crack pipe if you believe you have a lock on a mid-year promotion.

it's all caprice and luck and voodoo, buddy and having a good manager is one factor among many that determine your success. don't ever lose sight of that.

It's the stock price stupid!! said...

Since when did "stock" or "stock price" become four letter words??? Enjoyed Ballmer's candidness but what about the stock price??? Did any exec talk about it at the meeting???!!! What did our CFO say??? They covered every freakin number and metric except this one! Last time I checked senior execs and CEOs are still also judged by how the stock price of their company is performing. I wouldn't really care but a substantial part of our compensation is still tied to it. If our execs are no longer focusing on improving our stock price..... give us cash not grants.... "IT'S THE STOCK PRICE STUPID!"

Anonymous said...

First, they cost simply by existing. They have salary, benefits, and building expenses. Second, they cost by getting in the way of people who are doing real work. Microsoft would be better off paying them to stay home and do nothing; they would be even better off getting rid of all 3000 people.

MSS


i'm no fan of MS HR, but if you get rid of them you bankrupt the company in about a month from the lawsuits.

HR drones are the gestapo bulldogs who keep the proles in check by making it difficult to get anywhere on shit like hostile work environment claims -- both the legit ones and the scams (and there are a bazillion of each waiting to happen).

all the performance review garbage is one more way to make sure the company can't be bled dry by its employees. don't ever kid yourself that the goal of this system is anything remotely concerned with your well being.

Anonymous said...

2 important date if you want to sell:

1)the week of Halo 3 launch.
2) 11/15 - dividend cut-off date.

either day, my fengshui master is saying dump the fuck out of your msft. good time to sell.

date to avoid selling:
----------------------
the 1-2 day after Zune2 release. Investors will be asking why the fuck bother especially ipod's price point is quite good. might as well donate those $$$ to charity.

Anonymous said...

Completely clueless. MS doesn't write drivers, the hardware manufacturers do. Go bitch at them if you want a driver for your copy of Linux, BSD, OpenVMS, UNICOS/mp, Multics, whatever.

You're the one who's clueless. The argument (which you have not followed accurately) goes like this:

1) "Windows networking is terrible" (Anonymous, 9/11/07)

2) Response that Windows networking is easier than Linux networking

3) Counterargument that Linux networking is only difficult in situations where SPECIFIC HARDWARE does not have available SDKs or drivers, so the Linux drivers are "either reverse-engineered or a wrapper for the Linux version" (Networking using "the other kind" of hardware is allegedly not difficult).

4) THEREFORE the statement: "Linux developers do not enjoy anything like the advantages that msft developers enjoy when getting wireless hardware to work with the OS."

In other words, Windows has an advantage in that the hardware manufacturers do exactly what you said; e.g. WRITE THE DRIVERS so that the Windows machines can use the hardware.

Learn how to follow simple reasoning before you call other people "clueless."

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see someone point out that Linux isn't as hard to use as some would like to think. I have a few Ubuntu installs, and frankly, the little networking widget on the top right tray is really easy to use on my Thinkpad. I didn't even need to read any HowTo's - just the install and wireless + wired became simple to switch between.

I'm not claiming that Linux is completely ready for prime-time, but the improvement from my first install in the early 90's to today is incredible - and has continuously accelerated. My latest experiences with Ubuntu, and the little demos to non-geek members of my family, makes me think that the old truths about running Linux are about to become more myth than truth - especially for the middle-of-the-road 32 bit dual-core hardware shipping these days.

For those that do not agree, this is just my opinion. But I think you really need to keep your Linux experiences up to date these days to have an informed opinion. The improvements in Ubuntu, for instance, are major and coming in 6 month increments.

jon said...

I very much agree with the comments here about Microsoft's competitive focus often leading us to define ourselves in reaction to our competitors. I was GM of Competitive Strategy in OSG for about a year, and it was very difficult to get people out of prioritizing based on the emotional reaction of "we're behind, we've got to catch up". When you view the world primarily that way, you not only shift the focus away from the users and customers, you also risk playing the game on the opponents' turf -- rather than looking to where you've got potential advantages. And in business, you almost never win by "catching up" to a well-executing competitor; you have to change the game -- as Google and Apple both have, very successfully (and as Microsoft has as well, of course).

The "Vince Lombardi" analogy was especially interesting in terms of this. One of the quotes he's known for is ...

"Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Hmm.

I'm not ragging on Vince; he was a great coach, and the Packers were among the most racially integrated teams of the time. And if you look at how he actually approached things in terms of coaching, he was extremely innovative and, well, game-changing -- two-a-day training, zone blocking, the way he used Paul Hornung ... he never let the Packers get defined by their opposition.

That's the kind of competitiveness we need.

jon

PS: belated off-topic response to MSS: you were very right in the other thread about a month ago. "Driving traffic" was a very poor choice of words on my part. "Drawing traffic" would be better, but is still deperonsalizing; I'm now thinking of it as "attracting people" -- and trying to use terminology more along those lines. Good catch, thanks.

jon said...

Following up on the internal blog thread I set up, here's a slightly-edited excerpt from the post-action reflection post I just made (full discussion here) for people at Microsoft):

....
It’s very interesting comparing [the internal thread] it to one on Mini. We actually had somewhat more comments on the company meeting, and despite the lack of anonymity on our site, people were equally willing to make critical comments – and unsurprisingly had more helpful suggestions.

However, there were a couple of very important things that came up on Mini that hadn’t independently come up: the perspective from an aQuantive employee at our first company meeting (which included the Vince Lombardi analogy), our attitude towards competitiveness. The competitiveness in particular is something that’s a lot more visible to outside eyes.

This matters a lot because one of major outcomes of this discussion was the excellent Competition and Risk paper. If you look at the company meeting thread, it’s really clear that the comments on Mini helped trigger a different perspective here.

So the combination of the two threads (as well as other more narrowly focused ones like the excellent discussion of Ray’s talk, software and services on Adam Barr’s Proudly Serving) has a lot more value than either thread would by itself; and the ability to cross link led to an “emergent behavior” merged discussion. As a special added bonus, we got about 400 page views from the thread on Mini, which is a sizable chunk of our traffic during this time.
...

I've sent the internal thread on to Lisa (who forwarded it on to the person responsible for the company meeting) and Ray; if anybody wants to add comments, please do.

The paper on Competiteness and Risk is extremely thought-provoking. The author really would like some feedback before sending it on to Steve and Ray, and so once again, I'd like to solicit input from any Microsoft folks reading this.

jon

PS: Thanks much to Mini for posting the link, and to whatever fragment of the 400+ Microsoft people who followed it posted there -- as well as to the anonymous posters here (except for the ones who veered into personal attacks; in my opinion, that’s really not helpful, and does both your fellow posters and Mini a real disservice). And to our insightful new colleague from aQuantive, I'd really like to be able to credit you by name for your excellent post -- please shoot me some email!

Who da'Punk said...

Please continue any further Linux hardware / driver / etc discussions in the appropriate forums, for which there is an abundance. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

>> Let's clarify something here. Those 3000 people are on the debit side of the ledger, not on the credit side. They are a cost, not an asset.

>> First, they cost simply by existing. They have salary, benefits, and building expenses. Second, they cost by getting in the way of people who are doing real work. Microsoft would be better off paying them to stay home and do nothing; they would be even better off getting rid of all 3000 people.

> Man, you're brain dead. You can slam the implementation (people) if you want, but don't slam the HR function, especially when it comes to recruiting and benefits, both of which are critical to getting us the people that "do the real work."

OK, let me clarify here. I'm not ragging on HR per se. HR has plenty of value to add, from recruiting the right people to lawsuit control. I don't deny that at all.

What I am saying is that the review process - at least in its current form - is not a value add whatsoever. It's a waste of people's time - both for HR and the rest of the employees - and also a waste of people's morale and good will.

So the fact that the process gives employment to 3000 people is no justification whatsoever for the existence of the process. Rather, it's a justification for the destruction of the process. That's my point.

Jon: "Drawing traffic" works just great for me. Yes, you could still consider it dehumanizing, but to me the key distinction is that you are thinking in terms of attracting rather than coercing. Attracting is great (as long as it's not based on deception). Coercion isn't.

Thanks for thinking about what I said.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Please continue any further Linux hardware / driver / etc discussions in the appropriate forums...

Excellent advice Mini. I'm the anonymous who originally said "Windows Networking is terrible."

I find it interesting that in the same thread where we're debating customer focus vs competitor focus, my comment about the quality of Windows Networking immediately spun off into a Windows-Linux debate.

Frankly, when I said "Windows Networking is terrible" I did not mean in comparison to Linux, or Mac, or any other competitor. I meant in comparison to what customers need/want/would love.

I've been running a small network (all Windows) for my new business (left a year ago) and I spend an inordinate amount of time keeping the network happy. It was easier keeping PMs, Devs and Testers talking to each other in my old group than it is keeping my computers talking to each other.

I've worked on lots of networking projects. I even very briefly worked for JawadK in a fun multi-stage reorg a few years ago. The engineering problems are not that hard.

So, SteveB had a scorecard at this year's meeting? Hmmm. I remember getting lots of good usability reports from ex-MSFT folks when I was there. I'd be happy to share mine. Us Exmsft folks are in a good position - we are now customers using MS products to get our jobs done, we understand the particular constraints and challenges so aren't unrealistic (like some columnists), but also no longer need to worry about being politically correct within th eorg and can call a turd a turd.

Maybe Steve should set up an advisory panel of ex-msft people who will score the various groups. Put that up at the company meeting next year. I'd participate.

Anonymous said...

All the problems with Microsoft described here result in pain for loyal customers.

From Rob Weir, “An Antic Disposition” blog
http://www.robweir.com/blog/index.html
“In practice, things are rather messy. I recently received an email from Julie Watson, a project manager who has been doing enterprise deployments & migrations for 15 years. She has spent the last few months working on a plan to migrate 18,000+ workstations, trying to find a way to have a gradual rollout while still maintaining round-trip collaboration between her Office 2003 and Office 2007 users. Julie has put together a nice report showing what works and what doesn't. Ignore the official documentation and ignore intuition, since neither will serve you well here. Take a gawk at the seedy side of reality in www.slideshare.net/funnybroad/office-2007-compatibility-mode-confusion/ Rob Weir, An Antic Disposition ”

From the outside it appears that Microsoft are just providing obsticles to people who want to spend money on your products. Please regain the customer focus you were famous for.

Anonymous said...

Jon, I'm the one who made the Lombardi analogy... 'When Pride Still Mattered' is one of my favorite books. and Selberg is still my #1 hero at Microsoft... because of what he did in search back in the day... before it was cool to be in Search.

I think that some people are very negative in Microsoft... and I think they lack imagination. I love software because I can think of something crazy and pull it off - I can see a couple years out of my own effort, and now that I'm Here... now that I'm Finally here after quite journey, from makinng it on my own in the search business, to a job with the greatest company on earth for an AI nut with a dream like me, I see hundreds of people who are just like me - who have a vivid imagination, insane ideas, and maybe they think, what if I took my ideas and talents, put them up with yours, what kinds of things are possible?

I would give anything to whisper in Ballmer's ear 3 words - what the future of computing is going to be - a big change is about to happen in software and Microsoft can be the leader - we're in a good position because of some different groups... the OS, the software running on it, advertising, search... I see the future and its incredible - and I want it now.

I'm talking about a whole new paradime - the cool thing is, the future hasn't been invented yet. The negative people, they see what we have today and aren't happy with it. The dreamers like me, we see tommorrow, and in 3 words, something I'm keeping my mouth shut about... I'll tell Jon what they are, I'm not sure where else to put them...

Every single 9 year old nerd is going to want to be a Microsoft engineer when they grow up... I've been preparing for the shift for a year now... I can't even hint at what skills

Right now I imagine the evil grin on Steve Ballmer's face, when the company come's out with something so simple, so cool, and so revolutionary that it changes the world again just like windows did back in the 90s.

Thanks Jon for the Lombardi info - thats what we need to do, not to do what Google does better, but make a whole new playing field. I wonder if we can do that? lol

There wouldn't have been the Vince or Bart that we know if there hadn't been the Bears. Google is a worthy competitor, and I love them for the game! I'll cut it with the football analogies now ;)

Paul from Rich Media

Anonymous said...

big change is about to happen in software... I see the future and its incredible - and I want it now...I'm talking about a whole new paradime ... The dreamers like me, we see tommorrow, and in 3 words,...I've been preparing for the shift for a year now... I imagine the evil grin on Steve Ballmer's face...

So quit yakking about it and go do it. What Microsoft dearly needs is to return to a culture that rewards delivering something great, rather than just promising something great. if your three-word mojo really is great and you deliver on it, you might just save the company. No matter how great it is, if all you do is jabber about it, you'll just be another part of the problem.

So quit surfing the net, go find a mentor, and figure out how to cut through the bureaucracy and fiefdoms so you can make your dream come true.

Oh, and you probably need to learn how to spell paradigm shift before you make one. Maybe not, but it might help.

Anonymous said...

About "compatibility mode confusion in office 2007"

Why on earth are people upgrading to office 2007 when they want it to look and behave exactly as office 2003? If they don't want to educate 18 000 people on the new software (in which case they can't use any new features anyway) why bother? Am i missing something?

The only reason i can think of why they are upgrading in spite of that is that some "MSFT lock our customers in" feature triggered at some other end of their IT-department.

It never cease to amaze me that the first person upgrading to a new office version is a person that utilizes less than 1% of it's potential. Why don't stick with wordpad?

Note: no offence to the OP, it was more of a reflection on the link hi posted, sort of...

Anonymous said...

I would give anything to whisper in Ballmer's ear 3 words

I'll bet those three words are "aluminum foil hat".

Anonymous said...

>> paradime

Somehow I'm happy that folks who can't spell "paradigm" have no effect on the direction of this company.

Anonymous said...

>About "compatibility mode confusion in office 2007"

>Why on earth are people upgrading to office 2007 when they want it to look and behave exactly as office 2003? If they don't want to educate 18 000 people on the new software (in which case they can't use any new features anyway) why bother? Am i missing something?

Yes, you're missing the key point: this organisation wanted to roll out Office 2k7 in phases across 18k desktops, and a critical requirement was to be able to keep compatibility with the previous version (2k3) during the roll-outs. Hence the whole issue about Compatibility Mode not really being so compatible.

Read the presentation (or just skim it like I did) for an object lesson in bad UI and help in the same function across three Office apps. This does not help the customer upgrade to 2k7, and Microsoft really needs that to be as seamless as possible.

Anonymous said...

Paul from rich media - your enthusiasm is great. What products are you talking about, what revolution is coming? Just being excited about a nebulous something isn't enough. If that something doesn't appear soon, the excitement you engender in others will vanish.

Whisper three little words into Steve Ballmer's ear and see the entire monolith of Microsoft turn on a dime to meet the new challenge? Really? Is Microsoft currently a great place to promote new ideas, a crucible of change? Are the people at all levels of management accepting of all ideas and open to being challenged (and challenging back)? Do people remove roadblocks wherever they find them, or do they reinforce them?

And how do you know that the highly creative environments at Google or Apple haven't already begun work on the next Big Thing?

Anonymous said...

>> paradime

Somehow I'm happy that folks who can't spell "paradigm" have no effect on the direction of this company.


He was referring to twenty cents. What are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

"Have you LOOKED at Wal-Mart's business practices?"

Yes I have, actually.

"They way they pound their suppliers"

Bullshit. They have enormous purchasing power, and they offer what they're willing to pay. They don't put a gun to anyone's head, and the suppliers can take it or leave it.

Wal-mart always looks to cut costs wherever they can, and the result is that most of what they carry is offered to the public at far cheaper prices than are available at other stores.

I happen to like higher quality products myself, but back when I was broke in my 20's, it would have been pretty damn handy to have a Wal-Mart in the neighborhood.

I also wouldn't want to work there, but if my choices were between Wal-mart, welfare, or digging ditches, Wal-mart looks like the win. People who have minimal job skills are lucky to have that choice, too. (And don't even TRY to talk to me about unions. They destroyed Detroit, and the UAW is getting everything it bloody well deserves.)

I don't get how the same people can bitch about Wal-Mart, and then turn right around and bitch about other businesses that have higher prices. You're damned if you have low prices (Living wage! Wah!), and you're damned if you have high prices (Price Gouging! Double Wah!)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the stock price, when's the last time MSFT outperformed the S&P 500? Before Ballmer got the gig, wasn't it?

The man's an underperformer, and that's basically all there is to it. Can him, and keep canning people on down the org chart until you start getting results.

Anonymous said...

Three words? I like this game...

"Three Dimensional Porn"

Anonymous said...

I think I found my mentor. And I found Jon's blog, this is probably not the right place to be hinting at paradigm shifts. I have no clue how to spell it and nor do I care... I care about the meaning not the spelling ;)

I'm hoping that Astra blog is the right place to yap about changing the world. If you find my email address by reading my posts on Astra blog and want to know about the paradigm, I'll be more than happy to email you the details - its going to be incredible to watch it go from idea to revenue streams.

Signing off from Mini, and onto the intranet where this stuff belongs :)

Anonymous said...

1) Stop paying Kevin Turner $40 million undeserving $$$ Fire this guy!

Not to defend the guy, but more to make sure your facts are right, but I don't think Pop Tart makes $40M/year. It is more like $1M w/ a $7M signing bonus...


Well, he did receive 630K shares in the SPSA shower of gold per http://www.secinfo.com/d14d47.vw.htm. When he signed on, per http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB112318844764605300-FH88TawWTj172cGiNAedkxgias4_20050903.html, he got 320K shares. Those shares add up to about $27 million.

He does know how to make clueless statements like '"Enterprise search is our business, it's our house and Google is not going to take that business" from http://www.news.com/2100-1012_3-6094002.html. I guess he hasn't a clue how bad msweb and Sharepoint search are.

Anonymous said...

About "compatibility mode confusion in office 2007"

I am the OP on this topic. The previous poster on this topic has completely made my point for me by failing to see the customer point of view.

Of course businesses want to use the new features in Office 2007, but they cannot in many cases untill EVERYBODY in the company has migrated. In a large organisation this may take a year. Document interchangability has to be maintained the whole time, for instance so that Engineering can respond to requirments documents produced by marketing. This is why the issues in the migration documentation in my original post are so annoying.

Anonymous said...

Reason our products are unpopular is rooted in belief that teams consist of number of run-of-mill replacable B type contributors and A type heroes.

We force team into schema and compensate accordingly. "B types" quickly figure out they can contribute anything, they will always get economy class rewards while some clown gets showered in gold (for very little - it's hero cultism). Most of team signs out and serves 8/5 by book, thinking "if you asked, this is what you should have done and this is how I'd do if I cared".

For great product, engage and involve contributors. Increase ownership and add high level team comp shared equally.

jon said...

> I think that some people are very negative in Microsoft

Yeah, really. It's the kind of place where people will make a bunch of posts mocking somebody for a spelling error rather than thinking about what they're saying.

In all seriousness, I do think the negativity around Microsoft is a huge problem. Of course skepticism is certainly justified, and there's plenty of places we need to be more self-critical (combining negativity with rose-colored glasses is not actually the best of both worlds). Too often, though, this attitude becomes a barrier: people immediately attack any new idea by focusing on what's wrong with it rather than trying to see how it could be useful. Also, for a lot of people cynicism becomes another barrier to action -- like the poster discouraging people from responding to the company meeting poll.

> This attitude of saying everyone who doesn't write code is a cost goes against the team mentality the company needs to succeed.

Well said. Looks like that's not what MSS was trying to say in this case, but it is an attitude I hear a lot -- at Microsoft, and here. Writing great code matters; it's far from the only thing that matters ... and the "cult of the code" at Microsoft is another major roadblock to moving forward. (Those of you who are Microsoft FTEs should check out some of the ThinkWeek papers on design, which discuss topics related to this.)

> I find it interesting that in the same thread where we're debating customer focus vs competitor focus, my comment about the quality of Windows Networking immediately spun off into a Windows-Linux debate.

I thought that was interesting too.

> Maybe Steve should set up an advisory panel of ex-msft people who will score the various groups.

Interesting suggestion! I think you're right that ex-msft folks do have a unique perspective ... I'll pass the idea along.

jon

Anonymous said...

Reason our products are unpopular is rooted in belief that teams consist of number of run-of-mill replacable B type contributors and A type heroes.

Yes, absolutely. Teams should be rewarded, not individuals. But most people disagree with me about this:

"What about underperformers who don't deserve it?" Right now, if your team has a bad employee, there's no incentive to get rid of him. In fact, people probably want him around to make themselves look good and make their org bigger. But they would change their tune if they had to evenly split their team reward with the deadwood.

"What about superstars that deserve way more?" Being a superstar is about doing a bunch of work by yourself, which is worse for the company than if you were focused on teamwork and making sure the entire product was great.

The other thing about Microsoft is that compensation is based on vague, arbitrary qualities and has absolutely no relation to how much MONEY your team makes. People at Microsoft are free to make terrible products and pursue strategies that would RUIN a smaller company and nothing bad happens to them. We need to close this loop. People in XBox should be getting paid half of what people in Office get. Harsh right now, but maybe it prevents more XBoxes.

If this is going to be done, it'll be necessary to keep track of who worked on what product and when. That'll prevent situations where "superstars" ruin a team and switch groups before the fallout hits. It'll also allow people who worked on a great team to get rewarded accordingly even if they switch groups.

I really think that team compensation is the solution to all of Microsoft's problems. Instead of a company that's focused on internal politics, we'd be a company full of people who are fired up about getting rich from working with their teams to make great products.

Anonymous said...

People in XBox should be getting paid half of what people in Office get.

Well, there's something to be said for the risk/reward thing there - that folks who went to Xbox from their stable gig in Windows or Office deserved at least what they were getting before, if not a significant bump to acknowledge that they were entering an arena where failure might result in them losing their job altogether.

Unfortunately, as we've seen, there was no such "risk" for the executives over at Xbox. The rank and file have been through the RIF machine, but Robbie and J just keep on keepin' on.

So yeah, given where the division is now, I say start the salary cutting at the top. It's absolutely infuriating to me that Robbie Bach, a guy whose division is responsible for pissing away so much money, is also allowed to be the biggest beneficiary of stock sales this side of Gates. Shouldn't there be some kind of reins in place so an executive whose division is bleeding money and is thus partially responsible for the stock's sour performance cannot then worsen the situation by flooding the market with his seemingly-unending insider sales?

Or is this just one of those situations where nobody bothered to suggest such conditions as they figured no exec would ever demonstrate so little class?

Anonymous said...

jon said:

In all seriousness, I do think the negativity around Microsoft is a huge problem. Of course skepticism is certainly justified, and there's plenty of places we need to be more self-critical (combining negativity with rose-colored glasses is not actually the best of both worlds). Too often, though, this attitude becomes a barrier: people immediately attack any new idea by focusing on what's wrong with it rather than trying to see how it could be useful. Also, for a lot of people cynicism becomes another barrier to action -- like the poster discouraging people from responding to the company meeting poll.



Hey Jon, remember a few mini posts back when I said to you, "This is who we are" and how we've come to be this way?

Well, this is STILL who we are, and while you seem to agree, you haven't offered up any plan on how to change the company culture.

A friend of mine left not too long ago and joined up with another software company that also does large shrink-wrapped software projects. His experience with the development practices and company culture there are pretty eye-opening. What's very clear is that you can be successful making complex, innovative products working in a collaborative manner rather than a combative one. SHOCKING! "Bite your tongue!" I tell him. Say it ain't so because I just don't believe it. Nevertheless, it appears to be true.

So, ad astra and all its fuzzy goodness aside, how do YOU plan on fomenting change in the cultural DNA of this company? Do you think taking BrianV out and shoving StevenSi in his place is going to do it? Because I'll tell you what. However bad it is around the company, the backstabbing fiefdoms are the absolute worst in Windows compared to any other org.

Anonymous said...

"Speaking of the stock price, when's the last time MSFT outperformed the S&P 500?"

Last calendar year, genius.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft would be better off paying them to stay home and do nothing; they would be even better off getting rid of all 3000 people.
>
You save bucks by outsourcing this department. You surely can fire > 50% of the finance department and do fine. They suck the life blood out of the company.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the stock price, when's the last time MSFT outperformed the S&P 500? Before Ballmer got the gig, wasn't it?

There is no way to fire him since he and BillG control a lot of shares and the board is basically a rubber stamp organization.

This stock will continue to trade between $28-$31 until late next year when corporations start implementing vista. In the mean time all the employees will continue to dump their shares once the price crosses $30.

jon said...

> Hey Jon, remember a few mini posts back when I said to you, "This is who we are" and how we've come to be this way?

Indeed. If you get a chance, could you add your perspectives to "The Good Old Days" on the blog?

> you haven't offered up any plan on how to change the company culture.

Actually I have, just not here. (Apologies to the non-Microsoft people here; I still haven't figured out how to talk about most of this publicly yet without discussing confidential information.)

On the intranet, the Holistic System of Systems video from June 2005 on resnet gives a high-level overview, and there's a lot of stuff on the blog and wiki about the last year's progress. For potential next steps, see the FY08 pitch on the Ad Astra wiki for an approach focusing on collaboration and improving our internal communications, and the Future of ThinkWeeks ThinkWeek paper [ooh, recursion!].

This stuff's hard to measure, but we're getting strong evidence that the different culture we're creating leads to much more collaborative behavior.

Of course there's no guarantee it'll work. Seems to me it's worth a try. As well as voting with your feet and finding the managers who are really committed to creating the kind of organizations you want to be in, getting involved in grassroots initiatives is -- at least in my opinion -- one of the most effective ways that individual people at Microsoft [as opposed to executives] can help create change.

What's your plan?

jon

Anonymous said...

>> People in XBox should be getting paid half of what people in Office get

Step away from the bong, dude. While you're hallucinating, let me offer an even more radical plan. How about we charge folks for coming to work? That's the ticket!

It's not like folks in XBox are doing a bad job. In fact they're brutally kicking ass - ask just about any gamer out there (and then name another Microsoft BU which has such strong customer satisfaction). They're let down by poor business plan, though. How is this their fault? Now, I'd be more supportive of a plan which suggested that _execs_ should be paid 1/3rd while BU operates at a loss, and then 1.5x when Xbox has two full quarters of profitability.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why we are paying a legal team that loses every single law suit? Would explaining to the court that every single desktop OS in existence comes with a media player have been so hard?

Anonymous said...

>"This stock will continue to trade between $28-$31 until late next year when corporations start implementing vista."

I had thought the big story and a big negative stock driver would be the EU tag yesterday, but I imagine Microsoft will sneeze a few million dollars and it will all go away.

No the bigger story is this NY Times article (and a couple others elsewhere on the same subject):
'A Window of Opportunity for Macs, Soon to Close'
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/technology/16digi.html?ref=business

While Microsoft is having trouble on the 'serving your customer fron', Apple has a similar problem in reverse: theirs is created by vanity and pride: failure to drive Macs nationwide through expanded retail channels has kept their overall market share down according to the NYT. And of course the NYT failed to bring up Apple's failure to port it's OS freely like Microsoft does.

Please, all you Apple wanks out there I don't want a tit for tat match here, just making the point that Microsoft management should get on its knees and thank the maker for their dumb luck of Apple failing to take advantage of the `window of opportunity' as much as it could have.

Anonymous said...

I suggest we close all the European offices. Gets rid of a lot of headcount. Let those socialist leeches build their own software suite, or run the continent on Linux.

Anonymous said...

>"Would explaining to the court that every single desktop OS in existence comes with a media player have been so hard?"

I don't even work for Microsoft and even I know what the suit was about. R E A D and L E A R N, then comment.

Here's a start from Business Week:
http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/sep2007/gb20070917_608668.htm?chan=globalbiz_europe+index+page_top+stories

The media player issue is a minor one, though it is an old one going back a very many years. The big issue is sharing code, opening up precedent for the latest round of complaints to the EU by Oracle, IBM and Nokia, and forcing Microsoft to change forever its practices (something DOJ failed to do in their slap on the wrist judgment).

Anonymous said...

People in XBox should be getting paid half of what people in Office get

Step away from the bong, dude. While you're hallucinating, let me offer an even more radical plan. How about we charge folks for coming to work? That's the ticket!

It's not like folks in XBox are doing a bad job. In fact they're brutally kicking ass


Uh, who's hallucinating here? The last time I checked, Nintendo was the one "brutally kicking ass" by surpassing the 360's total number of sales despite only being on sale half as long.

Oh, and actually making money on every console sold.

- ask just about any gamer out there (and then name another Microsoft BU which has such strong customer satisfaction).

How satisfied were the customers when their 360s were suffering a 20-30% failure rate while we were denying there was a significant problem? How satisfied were they to find out they'd been lied to?

So you want to compartmentalize the discussion and talk software only? Okay, I'll grant the games are better overall than they were on the first Xbox. But then again, that's not so tough to do when you publish three games at launch and then wait almost a year before publishing anything else. Again, the 360 costs us money with each console sold. We need a high attach rate and the meager tricklings out of MGS forced by the rampant RIFs over there aren't going to accomplish that.

They're let down by poor business plan, though. How is this their fault? Now, I'd be more supportive of a plan which suggested that _execs_ should be paid 1/3rd while BU operates at a loss, and then 1.5x when Xbox has two full quarters of profitability.

I was with you for the first part. As for the second, though - Bach has stated the Xbox division will be profitable in FY 08 and I have no doubt they'll find a way a massage the books to make that a "reality." Tucking the billion dollar hit to make good on all the expected RROD repairs into last year's books was definitely part of that.

No, I don't expect Halo 3 alone to spur four consecutive quarters of profitability, but I have no doubt we'll expected to swallow that story at the next company meeting. And since that fairy tale will satisfy your requirements of two quarters of profitability, would you consider the resultant 1.5x pay to the execs as appropriate? I sure wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

I suggest we close all the European offices. Gets rid of a lot of headcount. Let those socialist leeches build their own software suite, or run the continent on Linux.

If we hadn't already paid the fine, I would completely agree with you. Plus, you know that Balmer is just crazy enough to do it!

I wonder what it would've cost us to relocate all of our EU employees.

Doesn't seem like we got any credit for bending over backwards and releasing the N versions of the OS (which last time I saw numbers, NOBODY was buying).

I was surprised that we didn't announce whether or not we were going to appeal today. I'm sure we've already made that decision.

I'm with the other person on the lawsuits. We seem to win the tiny ones, but not the ones that really screw us.

Anonymous said...

I don't even work for Microsoft and even I know what the suit was about. R E A D and L E A R N, then comment.

Here's a start from Business Week: [...]


I am glad you don't. Read the article you linked. The small media player issue years back was what brought the EUs suit and what the million dollar fine was for. The protocols were added on later. There's this thing called google you can use to find information on the innertubes.

There's also a thing called wikipedia which is a good first stop for information if you are clueless:

In 2003–2004, the European Commission investigated the bundling of Windows Media Player into Windows, a practice which rivals complained was destroying the market for their own products. Negotiations between Microsoft and the Commission broke down in March 2004, and the company was subsequently handed down a record fine of €497 million ($666 million) for its breaches of EU competition law. Separate investigations into alleged abuses of the server market were also ongoing at the same time.

Anonymous said...

"Last calendar year, genius."

Ok, I just checked out the comparison charts on Google finance, and I see that over 2006, the S&P 500 was up 13.61%, and MSFT was up 14.46%. For a difference of ....drum roll.... 0.85%! Woo, hoo! Break out the champagne!

Of course, MSFT was underperforming the S&P for most of that year until the very end, which is when the Vista pimple popped, and the shares went up for a little while.

I'm still underwhelmed.

If MSFT isn't a growth stock anymore (and it's not, don't kid yourself), then it's time for it to become a dividend stock. When Ballmer blows a billion bucks on his failure of the week, that's *shareholder* money he's wasting.

Anonymous said...

so, to use X-Box as an example of MSFT future business plans: MSFT is going to buy their way into a market to the tune of 6+ Billion dollars, then, in one quarter, actually make a few bucks more than they bleed/spend.

And that will be considered a success?! I guess I slept through that class in Accounting.

I'll tell you what. Give me $6,000,000,000. I'll give you back $10 and you call it a profit and a success!

Win-Win!

The sad fact is Microsoft is too big and clunky to compete in the consumer hardware space. Consumer electronics require new products much more often then every couple of years and MSFT just doesn't seem to be able to move that fast.

The Wii is a success because it's a game box. period. The X-Box, on the other hand has to be not only a game box but the living-room console of the future so it's more expensive than it needs to be just to run games. Sony made the same mistake with the PS3 by putting in the BluRay DVD. A regular DVD would have been fine for a game box, but they, too, wanted to make it the living-room console of tomorrow.

While those are cool engineering ideas and great things for gearheads, the gearhead demographic is comparatively small. The Wii hits a broader, albeit far less 'cool,' demographic at a lower, yet still profitable, pricepoint. That equals not only more sales but more profit.

It doesn't take a complicated spreadsheet to figure that out.

Anonymous said...

How is everyone liking their dollar-based stock awards?

How do they compare to previous stock awards you've received?

When you look back five years and compare this award to the size and value of your very first stock award (the stock was trading at $24 at that time), do you see a clear difference between how the company "valued" you then versus now? Have the size and value of your grants kept pace with your promotions, salary adjustments, expanded scope, and career growth?

Is the "value proposition" of pursuing a career at Microsoft better or worse than it was five years ago?

Anonymous said...

"Ok, I just checked out the comparison charts on Google finance, and I see that over 2006, the S&P 500 was up 13.61%, and MSFT was up 14.46%. For a difference of ....drum roll.... 0.85%! Woo, hoo! Break out the champagne!"

A simple "you were wrong" will suffice, genius.

Anonymous said...

>>I suggest we close all the European offices. Gets rid of a lot of headcount. Let those socialist leeches build their own software suite, or run the continent on Linux.

>If we hadn't already paid the fine, I would completely agree with you. Plus, you know that Balmer is just crazy enough to do it!

Pulling out of a market about the size of the US would be an amazingly bad move. Not only would there be a crippling revenue hit as an *entire continent* ditches Windows and Office, but it would drive these people straight to Linux and Apple.

Ballmer might be crazy enough to do it, but it would be the worst possible outcome for Microsoft, a catastrophe far worse than the fine itself.

At the end of the day, Microsoft needs Europe and must play by the local laws. The European laws aren't the same as US laws (why should they be?) and it's astounding that senior management never really considered this in their strategies. EU laws on competition are very strong, and unlike US laws, they enforce them with actual penalties.

Finally - put it into perspective. The fine is much less than the XB360 repair bill. Management shrugged that bill off, so I assume they'll cheerfully pay this one.

Anonymous said...

While Microsoft is having trouble on the 'serving your customer fron', Apple has a similar problem in reverse: theirs is created by vanity and pride: failure to drive Macs nationwide through expanded retail channels has kept their overall market share down according to the NYT. And of course the NYT failed to bring up Apple's failure to port it's OS freely like Microsoft does.

Apple is also in a perfect position to 'whitebox' the Mac and introduce it to the enterprise now that it is ported to Intel and will also run Vista; doubt that they'll get around to it, though.

Anonymous said...

Dollar based stock awards you ask? My award this year was less than other years in the past, not just because budgets were lower, but I'm guessing because of the dollar basis.

And get this...the number of shares that I actually ended up getting granted was 666. Is that some sort of subtle hint to just go?

Anonymous said...

Recipe for a Kim

Ingredients:
1 superstar with track record
1 company-critical role
1 new manager with a beef against the superstar, suddenly added to the mix 11 months after beginning of prep, when it's too late to escape
Dash of universal randomness

Combine the ingredients in the obvious manner.

Collect one polite but completely unspectacular review.

How one can have super potential one year and at mid-year, and then the next year at the same level merit a shrug, after producing perhaps the best results of one's career, I do not know. It's clear where the initial rating came from, based on the ingredients. Less clear to me is how this got up the chain without being questioned.

I do not desire to be tagged by my present employer as a Kim. Changing the review seems impossible, so it appears necessary that I change present employers.

Why isn't there some sort of HR failsafe for situations such as this, and for the one mentioned by the poster whose manager and skip-level both bolted during reviews?

Mini: add another tickmark to your "pending departure" column.

Anonymous said...

getting involved in grassroots initiatives is -- at least in my opinion -- one of the most effective ways that individual people at Microsoft [as opposed to executives] can help create change.

What's your plan?

jon


This is exactly what is wrong with the company. ICs are expected to grass roots change, initiate new products, advertise all of their work to all corners of their influence, manage up the chain, and drive their future career.

Let me ask you this: why do we need any of the management in the first place when it is on our shoulders to make everything happen? One mass exodus of smart engineers is all it takes to start the next big thing. Microsoft was a great place to work back in the day because managers were former engineers.

You say pushing BrianV out was needed to change the culture? That was the final nail in the coffin of Microsoft A Great Place To Work.

With all due respect, Jon, your poseur ideas about recapturing The Good Ol' Days are a hollow load of BS and a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

>> People in XBox should be getting paid half of what people in Office get

Step away from the bong, dude. ... It's not like folks in XBox are doing a bad job.


Okay, it was a flippant suggestion. People joined XBox under the current rules, namely, join the group that's new, cool, popular, and well-funded. That's fine. I don't really want to cut their salary for playing the game.

But the rules need to change. Employees, from executives to the rank-and-file, need to be focused on MAKING MONEY. That means they have to have a tangible financial stake in how well their products do. Hardly anybody would have joined XBox at the outset if this were the case and the project would have been cut almost immediately, to Microsoft's advantage, because it's a stupid business plan. Spend billions on development, hundreds of millions of marketing, and lose money on every sale so that you can POTENTIALLY dig yourself out of that financial hole sometime in the following decade? Sorry, not interested.

Anonymous said...

"With all due respect, Jon, your poseur ideas about recapturing The Good Ol' Days are a hollow load of BS and a non-starter."

Pretty harsh. He simply asked what your plan was. It's totally legitimate to question why this push for change isn't coming from management and to point out that w/o that support it will be much more difficult. However, what's the alternative? Ans: no change. Additionally, change from the bottom, while more difficult, is also more enduring because everyone is bought in vs being told to do something. Be thankful that Jon is at least lending his weight and credibility to the cause...

Anonymous said...

>Pulling out of a market about the size of the US would be an amazingly bad move.


You could pull out but OEMs could still sell your products in some sort of gray market.

I think a closure of a few offices and an announcement of significant layoffs in Europe because of the added costs of doing business there would be appropriate. If there's an office in Neelie Kroes's hometown, it would be the first on my list.

Anonymous said...

"Spend billions on development, hundreds of millions of marketing, and lose money on every sale so that you can POTENTIALLY dig yourself out of that financial hole sometime in the following decade?"

That puts you out of a lot of industries and projects that require long term investments. And, yes, each of those are just as much of a gamble.

"Sorry, not interested."

Sorry, you're not in charge at MS. A fact for which I'm supremely grateful.

We don't need anymore CEOs focused just on the next quarterly earnings report. Especially since you're more motivated by lining your own pockets rather than protecting the shareholders.

Anonymous said...

Bach has stated the Xbox division will be profitable in FY 08 and I have no doubt they'll find a way a massage the books to make that a "reality." Tucking the billion dollar hit to make good on all the expected RROD repairs into last year's books was definitely part of that.

And so is this...

http://forums.shadowrun.com/forums/126659/ShowThread.aspx#126659

FASA Studio is no more. That's fifty or more FTEs and a gang of contractors who won't have to get paid in FY08, never mind that they'd have presumably been working on a release or two for FY09 and beyong that might have actually made money. It's all about making the FY08 numbers look good, baby.

Next thing you know, they'll be selling off Ensemble and encouraging Bungie to take themselves private.

(Lionhead they're pretty much stuck with).

Anonymous said...

But see, here's the problem. You say that we should pay everybody less when they start to work on something like Xbox, so that it gets killed quickly.

That's fine for Xbox. But rewind 15 or 20 years. What if you applied that rule when Word was getting started? Hey, not much revenue. WordPerfect is killing it. Make it so nobody wants to work on it, so Word gets killed.

Microsoft rode out the early failures of Word. In retrospect, it was the right move. Now they want to ride out the early failures of Xbox. You're saying it's the wrong move. I actually agree with you. But your proposed solution would have severely hurt Microsoft if it was used in the past. Maybe it's not such a good idea for the future either.

MSS

Anonymous said...

You say pushing BrianV out was needed to change the culture? That was the final nail in the coffin of Microsoft A Great Place To Work.

oh, nice -- a brianv fanboy!

after having spent time in countless meetings with brianv, i can say with certainty that he represented everything that drove microsoft into the ground: he was brilliant but a raging asshole with crappy people skills, he was disrespectful in the same manner that billg is disrespectful and he created a culture of ripping things apart by chewing throats out that has made almost the entire world hate us.

brianv and his ilk are *directly* responsible for the shitfest that working at microsoft is today, because they were engineers who were brilliant technical minds but had zero ability to lead people and products... so when it all hit the fan when we became a certain size, we pendulum swung and brought in a bunch of complete losers to fix the savant engineer's management mistakes.

brian was not what made microsoft a great place to work -- he was merely one of the interesting characters that our culture allowed to flourish, and *that* was great. when people like brian who should never have been placed in a people management role began running 1000-person divisions, that's when everything began to suck.

Anonymous said...

My stock award grant size this year was my lowest ever in terms of number of shares despite multiple promotions since MS began giving stock awards 5 years ago.

In dollar terms, it's only moderately higher (~15%) than my 2002 grant.

I worked my tail off for those two promototions and all it netted me was a few thousand dollars ... but paid out over FIVE YEARS.

What a farce!

Microsoft = ZERO risk / ZERO reward

Error: Divide by zero

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what is wrong with the company. ICs are expected to grass roots change, initiate new products, advertise all of their work to all corners of their influence, manage up the chain, and drive their future career.

Let me ask you this: why do we need any of the management in the first place when it is on our shoulders to make everything happen? One mass exodus of smart engineers is all it takes to start the next big thing. Microsoft was a great place to work back in the day because managers were former engineers.


I could not agree more. If the "Partners" are expecting the IC's to run the show then why are we paying the "Partners" so damn much money?

Anonymous said...

jon says:

Of course there's no guarantee it'll work. Seems to me it's worth a try. As well as voting with your feet and finding the managers who are really committed to creating the kind of organizations you want to be in, getting involved in grassroots initiatives is -- at least in my opinion -- one of the most effective ways that individual people at Microsoft [as opposed to executives] can help create change.

What's your plan?


My plan? I plan to continue doing above-average work and ensure that I keep the CLM rhetoric under the radar. Why? Because the review process is so authoritarian that your typical line-level IC or Lead (sub-65) should NOT be rocking the boat if they want to continue progressing.

Now, I'm not saying that's not a copout at a certain level. But let's see why it's hard to "vote with your feet":

1 - Leaving a bad manager is difficult because of the HR process.
2 - Failure to leave a bad manager is career-limiting.
3 - Good managers don't have infinite reqs.
4 - Some good managers don't live in desirable locations, so job satisfaction may go down even though you may like who you work for.
5 - Punishment for bad management is non-existent. So, bad managers continue existing just like bad IC's continue to exist.
6 - A manager's accountability is UP. Never down. The motivation to be a good manager, therefore, exists WITHIN the person and not as part of the job function. That's great when you have a good person, but not so great when your L64 Lead PM/Dev/Test is so focused on clearing the L65 bar that nothing is going to get in the way of that, not even actually needing to grow lower level people.

Now aggregate up and look at the population holistically. Each step in the hierarchy is so focused on reaching that brass ring that someone (or a group of someones) BELOW you looking to upset the foundation of the pyramid can be nothing but BAD for YOU (regardless of how good it is for the COMPANY). So what do you think the natural inclination is?

This isn't a democracy, and we cannot rise up and guillotine the aristocracy. This is a corporation, and one of the worst sort - a corporation whose leaders actually believe that Jack Welch's management theories produce healthy organizations.

So what's my plan? I plan to kick ass for myself so that I can buy new furniture for the house and afford that ski vacation to Whistler this winter and still be able to sock away money every month for my kids' college funds. I'm not going to be a partner, though it's clear I will bridge the gap to Principal. Why should I risk that? I didn't win the MSFT 90's lottery.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why we are paying a legal team that loses every single law suit?

Yeah, its the same reason Waggener-Edstrom still handles our PR. And we all know what wonderful state our PR is in...

Anonymous said...

the word is that people at amazon are shocked at how political brian and his ex-msft group is, and are worried about what it will do to amazon.

Anonymous said...

So what's my plan? I plan to kick ass for myself so that I can buy new furniture for the house and afford that ski vacation to Whistler this winter and still be able to sock away money every month for my kids' college funds. I'm not going to be a partner, though it's clear I will bridge the gap to Principal. Why should I risk that? I didn't win the MSFT 90's lottery.

you would appear to be my identical twin... as an L64 with probably 2 or 3 more levels left in me but zero desire to dance the partner couplet, i find myself in a rather unique position. and it's really not so bad :)

jon said...

> Pretty harsh.

Thanks, I thought so too.

Also apparently misunderstnding my point. The name of the thread was "The Good Old Days" that doesn't mean I in fact think they were the good old days. I was at a startup in the Valley in the 1990s; the people I knew had a view of Microsoft closer to Microserfs. Here's what I said kicking the thread off:

A lot of relative newcomers to Microsoft -- and I'd include myself, because I've "only" been here eight years -- have a very strong visceral reaction when we hear long-terms talk about how great things used to be back in the glory days (until the mid-90s or late-90s, depending on who you talk to).

It's not a matter of lack of respect; and culturally there is also a lot to salute and savor and take forward – and even recover: a lot of people say communications was a lot more direct then. And of course the stock price was steadily booming; that’s a good thing too.

However, depending on who's saying it, talking about "The Good Old Days" can have overtones of "I'm not really aware how different things are today" or "I miss the way it used to be when we didn’t have to be so aware of cultural differences or customer-focused."

...

Respect the past, learn from it: but don't get stuck there -- and realize that others may perceive the past very differently than you.


How do you get from that to "your poseur ideas about recapturing the good ol' days"?

jon

jon said...

I agree that in many cases it's hard to vote with one's feet (I had thought of putting "to the extent possible" in that sentence but decided not to; in retrospect, maybe I should have). A lot of people I know have managed to; it often takes a while, may require a lateral move [or worse] when a step up is justified, and can get extremely successful. A lot of people are stuck in very difficult situations.

Many others, however, allow themselves to be stuck because of risk aversion. I was hanging out with a couple of friends tonight and we agreed that almost everybody we knew at Microsoft has the skills to get another job elsewhere if they had to and are willing and able to make a few compromises.

I know many people who advocate the "heads down" described here. Some find that it works very well; a lot of them seem very bitter and unhappy to me. A lot depends on your risk profile and constraints.

One good thing to ask yourself is whether it has a good chance of leading to success and happiness as you and your family define it -- and are you comfortable with whatever compromises you have to make in the process (so for example I know that working that long with fear that making waves would be a CLM would exert too much of a psychic cost; it wouldn't be the right tradeoff for me).

If so, great; if not, then it's worth looking for different approaches.

jon

Anonymous said...

Microsoft really does not get it in China or can't keep their all-stars players. Honestly, is Tim Chen's departure really a big surprise?
It was obvious that he was just passing through without anything
challenging for him to keep him here at MS. Give him a big title, but no real muscle. Sounds like a familiar story at MS: promises, promises, but no wedding.
MS: you just lost a true leader with vision and understanding in China and Asia.

LisaB: Are you reading this? Remember the Asian leadership conference at MS? Was it even a slide at the leadership retreat?HA!

NBA: Tim is going to build you some serious cash. Good luck, Tim.

MS: Take care of Ya-Qin. Honestly,
your line-up in China is quite shallow.

p.s. Yeah, I remember the airplanes from the upper deck. Sadly, one of the happier moments at MS.

Anonymous said...

My plan? I plan to continue doing above-average work and ensure that I keep the CLM rhetoric under the radar.

After reading the rants, I can't help but think that it's deliciously ironic that I was called crazy for wanting "to build THE best software in the world" by this collection of embittered, hollowed-out Dilberts. They hate the environment but continue to suckle greedily at the Microsoft teat because they are too cowardly to go somewhere better or to even to try to change things. They mouth off anonymously to people like Jon who are actually standing up for change, even though, or maybe because, they can't do anything better. That's even crazier if you ask me, but what do I know?

Friends, that sound you hear is the sound of bitterness eating away your souls and it makes me laugh. I hope that you enjoy that sound, because you'll hear it for the rest of your career at MS.

jon said...

In terms of the grassroots stuff, I certainly wasn't trying to let partners and executives off the hook. Unless you're a partner or executive, though, there's not a heck of a lot you can do about their behavior other than supporting the ones you think are making positive changes. Voting with your feet is one way to do that, and so is giving feedback through various channels -- both to the extent possible, and keeping safety in mind.

You can also put your own individual energy towards something that benefits your career. One of the reasons I recommend getting involved in grassroots activities is that the networking, skills development, and (occasionally) visibility can really help your career. There are no guarantees of course, and it is less likely to be directly rewarded than additional contributions directly towards your group's goals; still, in many cases it's a viable option.

An advantage of this is that at the same time your energy can potentially be aggreagated along with a bunch of others and add up to a significant force for change -- to supplement and reinforce the partners are doing their share of the heavy lifting and [unfortunately, but necessarily] make up for those who aren't.

jon

Anonymous said...

Waggener-Edstrom and Microsoft's legal department is filled with cronies who care nothing about Microsoft’s success, but are lining their pockets as quickly as they can, while they still can.

Anonymous said...

Here's what mystifies me about Brian Valentine: the man was responsible for major parts of the longhorn train wreck, and Amazon offers him a job? I will never understand how a clown with a history of failure on a multi-billion dollar scale can find employment in any company in the English-speaking world.

Anonymous said...

>"You could pull out but OEMs could still sell your products in some sort of gray market."

Stupidity is always an option too. Look you softies need to get a grip on a basic reality. Your monopoly days are numbered. Period.

Several strong CEO level directives have to come down--the sooner the better, but probably wont until the flywheel spins down with no funds to spin it up again. There will be a day when the directives go something like this:

a) Microsoft is changing from its traditional basic leveraged service structure to a customer based service structure.

b) That means serve the customer first. Your customers are at three levels: end users, OEM/distribution, and governments. Adjust your product strategies accordingly, but do not use illegal leveraging of advantage to make it work. The long term damage will be worse than the short term correct strategy.

b) that implies that all divisions are independent profit centers and should not rely on being subsidized by previous monopolistic or other product gravy advantages.

c) it means that if you build a product, you must make it sustain itself or don't build it.

d) it means that investing in the long term will still occur, but there cannot be products like XBOX, and other projects that have no prospect of being profitable regardless of the leveraged justification.

e) free services offered like endless upgrades, service packs, replaced faulty hardware, etc., are indications of poor product design. There must be a change in the way products are designed, software, hardware and otherwise, to eliminate endless cost after delivery.

meow.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why we are paying a legal team that loses every single law suit? Would explaining to the court that every single desktop OS in existence comes with a media player have been so hard?

Boy, talk about oversimplifying the issues. Do you really think that suit has anything at all to do with Media Player, or even Windows?

You have no idea what the legal team does, what they did in this case, and how the outcome relates to their performance. But, Microsoft is nothing if not a bunch of blowhards sounding off on subjects they know nothing about, right?

Anonymous said...

How about the disaster we've kept, Robbie Bach. Any sign of that 'accountability' beyond his saying the multi-syllable word? I wish he'd take a job at Google and burn their money.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting topic to bat around. I don't want to raise the "union" spector again, but think about this. By law, Microsoft cannot black ball an employee when they leave the company. When a potential employer asks about you officially, Microsoft can only acknowledge your existence as an employee. But what about internally? You get an "underperformed" (let's not say why, but we all know there are many bad managers and many undeserved "underperform" ratings handed out). Now you're stuck. You can't interview without heavy HR intervention (a difficult thing to get). You are also likely now stuck in a group that is sub-par, with a manager that probably hates you, and that manager/employee relationship just got really hard...some could even say hostile. Now what do you do, you can't interview and you certainly aren't going to like putting up with a hostile/uncomfortable work environment. And there you have the Microsoft black ball. I wonder at what point a group of those "underperformers" gets together and files a class action suit alleging discrimination, hostile work environment, etc. I will tell you that it needs to change...post haste.

Anonymous said...

Here's what mystifies me about Brian Valentine: the man was responsible for major parts of the longhorn train wreck, and Amazon offers him a job? I will never understand how a clown with a history of failure on a multi-billion dollar scale can find employment in any company in the English-speaking world.

BrianV rescued NT V (aka Windows 2000) from a five-year long train wreck. It was impressive.

Ironic that he then led the Windows org into a five-year train wreck with Vista. Not all of that blame goes to BrianV though - JimAll get's the majority. The various Jr. VPs and GMs get a big share too, but there is where BrianV really failed - he didn't clean house and replace his lieutenants with competent people.

BrianV has his strong skills. But like so much of MSFTs senior management, he has huge gaping holes. The company doesn't develop rounded leaders.

Anonymous said...

Here's what mystifies me about Brian Valentine: the man was responsible for major parts of the longhorn train wreck, and Amazon offers him a job?

Say what you will about his failings. My contacts with Brian at the WIMs were directly responsible for moving blocks out of my way in other parts of the Windows org to resolve bugs, when nothing else I tried worked. The man directly helped me ship, which is something that can't be said about any other exec with whom I've interacted.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying some of that, Jon. I pick up what you're laying down better.

Still find alot of the comments outrageous. The prevailing trend is that if you are not happy it is your fault; there is nothing wrong with Microsoft. You are a bitter soulless Dilbert if you are have been shafted by management? This is management justifying its own existence, usually accompanied by the sound of enourmous sucking wind.

I think what alot of people want is to regain control of their products from management. They don't want to grassroots a new campaign; we just want powertoys for Vista, Ultimate extras, HD content to be treated correctly, SPDIF support, etc... They don't want management to gift them lottery bonuses, they want management to get the hell out of the way.

RE BrianV: You can blame him for every failure for the past 10 years if you like, it doesn't change the fact that he is the only VP capable of earning the respect of ICs. When you can pull that off I will listen to your blathering about his asshole personality.

Anonymous said...


Friends, that sound you hear is the sound of bitterness eating away your souls and it makes me laugh. I hope that you enjoy that sound, because you'll hear it for the rest of your career at MS.


Let's not confuse bitterness with cynicism, son. Make no mistake, things are going pretty well for me, and I'm not "bitter" about what that takes.

I am, however, cynical about what that takes. It's not nearly the ideal method of advancement, though I have to say that thinking about it, there doesn't appear to be an "ideal" method of advancement.

I suppose you could say that a true meritocracy would be that ideal, but even that has problems when you try to measure "merit".

Is it soul-draining? A little, but I think we all sell our souls a little for a chance at the "good life". If I could make $1M selling comic books or records in a small shop playing my records all day, I'd probably do that instead. Barring that, this is good enough. I'm probably good to about L66, and that's just fine. I'm not killing myself to do that, so it's a pretty good trade-off.

Anonymous said...

RE BrianV: You can blame him for every failure for the past 10 years if you like, it doesn't change the fact that he is the only VP capable of earning the respect of ICs. When you can pull that off I will listen to your blathering about his asshole personality.

You really need to get out more. Lots of VPs have earned IC respect... Dave Treadwell is one who comes to mind. Great engineer, great leader.

For every IC you know who liked BrianV, there were probably 1000 who wished his death daily. The man was an ass and everyone *I* know thought he was a total joke and an industry dinosaur unable to understand how modern software development works.

And now he's at Amazon, and will likely screw the pooch there. That's fine. :)

jon said...

> The prevailing trend is that if you are not happy it is your fault; there is nothing wrong with Microsoft. You are a bitter soulless Dilbert if you are have been shafted by management?

I really hope that what I'm saying doesn't come across that way. There are plenty of things that need to change at Microsoft; there are plenty of people who have been shafted -- by management, by fellow employees, sometimes just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of people are unsurprisingly bitter as a result; and as the cynical-but-not-bitter poster above pointed out, keeping your head down and focusing primarily on avoiding getting shafted can be soul-draining.

The question is what to do about it: resign yourself to it, hoping for a miracle coming down from above? It's easy to say "what's the point in trying?" and give up; even worse, not to take the time to understand those who are trying, or belittle their efforts and ignore the real signs of progress. This self-fulfilling prophecy very often leads to more reason for cynicism and soul-sucking ... and so many people do become bitter soulless Dilberts, at least to some extent.

I was talking with somebody last week who had been in a situation where after a reorg (a classic situation where people get shafted), he had a severance letter, a one month old baby, and a green card that was tied to his Microsoft employment. I don't know the backstory, but he told me that he was feeling bitter -- and who can blame him? Then he realized that wasn't doing him any good, and in fact was leading him to think of himself in the victim role. He took the time and energy that was going to bitterness and feeling sorry for himself and put it into his job search, and wound up in a position that he's pretty pleased with. Of course it's not just the attitude; but it very often makes a huge difference.

> They don't want to grassroots a new campaign; we just want powertoys for Vista, Ultimate extras, HD content to be treated correctly, SPDIF support, etc...

Well, yeah; getting involved in a grassroots effort is additional time and energy, and most people who haven't reverted to cynicism have 150% of their time committed already. And for any one of the specific product engineering issues like you bring up, a grassroots campaign isn't the right approach. Where I think it grassroots efforts do make sense are in the broader areas of innovation, collaboration, and culture.

> They don't want management to gift them lottery bonuses, they want management to get the hell out of the way.

It seems to me that this is is setting expectations way too low: management needs to lead, not just get out of the way. [It's also ignoring the complexities of running an organization as the ones we have; even at my 30-person startup, when we "got out of the way" in a particular area things would only stay on course for about three months.] In any case, though, if this is what you want ...how do you expect it to happen?

jon

Anonymous said...

I just couldn't bring myself to go this year to the company meeting - not when some exec will sit there and start in on singing the praises of Vista. No way. IT'S AN EMBARASSMENT! FIX IT! YOU CAN'T SWEEP IT UNDER THE CARPET!

Anyways, I went to work instead and got of a bushel o' stuff done.

Signed - A loyal MSFT employee who is loyal to the company and is seriously starting to the second guess the leadership.

Anonymous said...

" I was called crazy for wanting "to build THE best software in the world" by this collection of embittered, hollowed-out Dilberts."

Dude,

You're not crazy for wanting to do that, but you're delusional if you think you can do it at Microsoft. You are in the black hole of management incompetence, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. Microsoft is an end-stage company, and their chances of ever becoming a growth company again are somewhat less than Silicon Graphics.

I'm one of the people who called you nuts, and I'm not an embittered Dilbert by any stretch of the imagination (probably because I've never worked for MS).

I'm an Apple alumnus, who left to start a new company that's going to work very closely with Apple filling a customer need that's not big enough for Apple to pursue themselves. I had a great time at Apple, and I'm having an even better time now.

Anonymous said...

" IT'S AN EMBARASSMENT! FIX IT! YOU CAN'T SWEEP IT UNDER THE CARPET! "

Sorry, I have to differ with you on that. Vista is a stunning achievement, which has been responsible for dramatic growth in Macintosh sales. I'm convinced that the entire Longhorn train wreck was a brilliantly executed plan by Apple loyalists who infiltrated the Evil Empire. (At least, that's the only explanation that doesn't require a torchlight parade of the shareholders to lynch Ballmer.)

Anonymous said...

Hi, there.

Great summary of the Company Meeting, I agree with you in most of it... except from the sarcasm about the Brazilian manager of the year. What's the problem about it? There are good managers there too !! If you tell me you disagree with the methodology used to choose the manager of the year I would agree with you, but don't understimate my country :).

Thanks !

Who da'Punk said...

except from the sarcasm about the Brazilian manager of the year. What's the problem about it?

It's no slam against Brazil. Nor against the manager. It's just surprising that, from the heart of Redmond and the biggest collection of Microsofties and managers, we have to go alllllll the way down to Brazil to find the best managers.

Yeah for Brazil!

Poor us.

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