Monday, December 29, 2008

No Layoffs at Microsoft, and a Round-up of other Recent Comments

NO LAYOFFS: first, I think it's fair to give some time to comments in the last post that wanted to absolutely dismiss any sort of Microsoft layoff rumor, starting off from one from 12/28/2008 (various comments edited to be condensed a bit):

NO LAYOFFS @microsoft

Yes, Executives are looking for measures to cut cost. And that can be done without any layoffs. Current hiring rate is slow at MS and considering the natural attrition, we will have lesser workforce at the end of FY09.

We are not immune to recession and our bottom line will see a hit for few quarters. We expect a full recovery by FY10 Q3. We are very optimistic that this recession is an opportunity for us and we will play our cards well. Urge all Microsoft employees to stay focus and keep doing the great work. You will hear more from SteveB soon on his plans. Thank you !!

and another from 12/27/2008:

For the last time folks -- THERE ARE NO LAYOFFS HAPPENINGS IN JANUARY..[...] beyond Jan...well we dont have a crystal ball -- but if the economy doesnt improve and the company misses targets -- it would get uglier for everyone -- from no raises/no bonuses to {maybe}cutbacks/layoffs... but then, those are the rules of the game in corporate America..

so for now -- enjoy your holidays, have a new year blast and then get back and work your ass off in the coming months --- for the overwhleming majority of you there -- things would be just fine!!!! PLEASE DONT PANIC!

From 12/23/2008, a more likely scenario that feels like a layoff but gives corporate cover:

MS will not do straight layoff. It will re-org, and cut groups/projects. Say 2000 FTE are given 4 weeks to land a new job within MS, I bet 1500 will find nothing and will be forced to leave. So no layoff, let's call it "reorg-off" and MS can even save layoff package.

In-line with that, from 12/21/2008, bringing up an interesting point about H1Bs:

[T]his company simply could not go through a round of layoff (mind you I did not say a RIF, as we've all seen those) but the H1-B rules would force all of the cheap labor to be shown the door first, regardless of ranking. And Microsoft lives for ranking. Microsoft wakes up in the morning and get an enormous boner over rankings. So don't suggest for a second that there is some dismal, far reaching lay off coming down the river. Microsoft would never give up the chance to use selecting RIF'ing to demote the lowly ranked. If anything there will be selective investments, as has been stated time and time again. But no, Microsoft will not be showing the H1-B employees the door. Never going to happen, in my opinion.

When is a layoff not a layoff: which teams are at risk to re-orgs / cut-backs / RIF'ing? This comment from 12/29/2008 talks about Entertainment and Devices:

We (E&D management) had a meeting with Ballmer around eight-weeks ago. Ballmer discussed the GE approach to laying off the bottom 10% every year. When asked how Wall Street would respond to our layoffs, he said they would be happy.

We will be handing out a list of names to teams within E&D. This list will contain the 20% / Exceeded from the last review period. Teams will cherry pick who they want.

The original plan was to announce the layoff prior to Christmas. When we notified the [governor], we were asked to hold off until after the holidays.

Other things going on (from 12/27/2008):

  1. Several big customers have not renewed SAs. This isn't just Vista, but also Exchange and other major revenue-generating products. Several contracts are going from being in the top-5 to zero. 2009 Q1 and Q2 are going to be horrific.
  2. The whole worldwide economy is in a major slump. Toyota is losing money, for crying out loud. Microsoft leadership is working very hard to avoid mass layoffs -- unlike many other software companies that are cutting even if they don't have to. There's lots of creative thinking going into finding ways to cut costs without harming employees.
  3. One of the more likely solutions to be employed is no bonuses in 2009 reviews. What are you going to do, quit?
  4. Hiring is way, way down. Except for a scattered few positions here and there (SQL Server, Live Services, Search, etc.), Microsoft has almost no openings for external hires.

From 12/24/2008:

One of the "rumors" I've heard around the watercooler is that we are looking at a 10% layoff, and part of those heads will come from the open headcount that is out there.

I'm on one of the teams that are still caught in the middle of a re-org that keeps getting postponed and our Director has told his direct reports to start looking for other positions. Outside of that, nothing has funneled down to the individual teams.

Contractors are being dropped (from 12/22/2008):

I have been asked to let go of two of my contractors end of the month even though they have a month remaining in their contracts. Funny because on Dec 1 we were talking of renewing their contracts. Something big seems to have happened in the past couple of weeks, I suppose. However I still see our Director of Development hanging on in the team despite having no work. He was removed from the team about 6 weeks back and has no one reporting to him or no say in the product.

Regarding what's going on the the Field (12/22/2008):

Thanks to the wonderful mergers in the financial world…Technical Account Managers at Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, and Morgan Stanley were kicked out of those accounts. In central region the automakers basically kicked every Microsoft rep/engineer/consulting out till Mid 2009. And let’s talk about the rest of the field…ya know the people who support our customers and our products….people in Premier/Consulting/DPE. As our customers are cutting back our PFEs and consulting FTE’s have been forced to fight with each other on getting meager engagements with customers. Services management was talking as recently as August about hiring upwards of 2000 in FY08. Now with so many people sitting on the bench and not engaged at customers…is it the fault of the services employees or Corp’s fault for over hiring? There have been several internal calls within the last week where RIF planning was discussed.

Comment from 12/22/2008 regarding Microsoft Advertising:

Rumor confirmed from Microsoft Advertising. There are several areas within the organization that I can confirm an upcoming "reorg." Leaders of undisclosed groups have been asked to represent materials around their groups' long term plans and feasibility. I think this one is going to be big, hopefully they just cut the fat. There is plenty of it from my experience.

On cost-cutting:

Groups everywhere are being forced to cut costs - but good thing the Zune guys had a nice holiday party. At least they're profitable so they can cover the costs... oh wait. Probably cost as much as the annual salary of a couple L60-61s

And to the commenter about Robbie's group being on a hiring freeze for awhile - true, but the only reason they got there is because of "crazy hiring"... 800+ people in Zune alone?

Teams not at risk? Office seems to be at the top of that pile. OfficeGuy writes on 12/29/2008:

Layoffs: Office and Windows are unlikely to reorg/lay people off in the near future and are [relatively] safe - we need to ship a high quality product soon (and we will this time, no doubt), so losing even the bottom 10% or whatever could have a negative effect on these two cash cows (and it is too late to replace the fat with new blood this late in the cycle). Having spent a few years in Office I can say that this org is huge but I haven't seen real slackers or dumb useless people (maybe I'm just lucky). By looking at my team that has a lot of junior developers/college hires, I'd hate to lose even the bottom 10% - all these folks do try hard and the team is really respectable in Office.

Office again (from 12/22/2008):

College recruiting (at least in Office) is still firing on all cylinders - managers are being told that there will be a seat ready for every great college candidate we want to hire. The pool of highly qualified grads desperate for a job is as deep as it's ever been in recent years.

So if that is true, I'm skeptical that MSFT will announce anything that even remotely sounds like layoffs. Can you imagine the lawsuits if people are ushered out one door with a pink slip while fresh college grads walk in the other door?

Instead we'll see tightening of performance standards and aggressive managing-out of the low performers. The last thing anyone is going to call it is "layoffs"...

One commenter from 12/22/2008 warns:

Don't assume that firing 10%'ers == 10% cost cutting - it doesn't. To reduce salary costs approx 10% requires cuts into the bottom of the 70% bucket too.

January 15th: so do I think anything is going to happen January 15th? Well, it is after CES (we certainly don't want any bad news before that - though look carefully at the groups there and not there) and before quarterly results (no bad surprises delivered with results - check). But after the rather alarming attention the previous rumor-driven post got, even if something was going to happen January 15th I'd completely expect that's off the table now. Sorry, Oppenheimer & Co.

Gossip Grrrls: did I hear any solid facts during all the snow parties I slushed around at during the Christmas holidays? Nope. Just still a bunch of second hand rumors, probably filtered through people's own agendas and likes and dislikes. Stuff like:

  • Pffft, layoffs, come on! That jerk-ass blogger. Don't-worry-about-it, it's just the loss of open headcount and no backfill for attrition.
  • It's not just the bottom 10% being moved on but also folks in the lower Achieved/70% range (like people who worked themselves up from 10% or are on the way down to 10%). A commenter above had the same observation.
  • Some products and some teams are just gone.
  • Note that we've read a lot of comments about Entertainment and Devices and Server and Tools. All the gossip I hear swirls around them.
  • Prototype, redundant, and pie-in-the-sky teams are going to be re-org'd into everyday meat-and-potato teams. We're going to have a bunch of spare code names soon.
  • It's a layoff masked as rhythm-of-business reorganization plus performance management plus Not To Exceed staffing budgets being strictly enforced.

That last point is interesting around labor laws that I don't begin to know anything about, laws like when a layoff comes that the H1B hires are supposed to be the first to be let go and the Working Adjustment and Retraining Act one commenter brought up. If this is a stealth layoff due to a lot of RIF'ing and those people leave because there are no matching open positions, does Microsoft have legal cover against this being an honest to goodness "layoff?"

I think a requirement like having to shed all the H1B hires absolutely nullifies Microsoft doing a classic layoff. We just wouldn't let go of those people.

Oh, and in closing, the following question came in with a comment from 12/27/2008:

Mini - the entire premise of your blog is that MSFT needs to reduce in size, be more efficient, be more cost-effective. While the reason is not the ideal one (forced upon MSFT by outside economy, rather than developed as part of smart strategy), the end result will be the same. If MSFT is a capable company at its core at all, it will survive, evolve and thrive.

If there truly is a round of layoffs, and MSFT ends up becoming the leaner, meaner, smarter, more innovative company you wanted... shouldn't you be ecstatic?

It's a pretty tempered ecstasy. Yes, I want a smaller Microsoft because I believe that Microsoft has exploded in size for no good reason. Going back to 2004. Even with the continued hiring binge since I started this blog, I had a small glimmer of hope that reason would be seen and discipline enacted to hire a limited set of high caliber contributors - and flush out the employees who are better suited working elsewhere. That never happened. And now we're in a, "golly-gee-wilikers the cash ain't coming in like it was and we've done gone and hired all these people! Yeep! How'd that happen?!?" mode.

In a year, when this all passes, we'll be back to hiring like crazy, learning nothing. Unless the leaders at Microsoft that run tight, well managed organizations can step up during this time and flush out the binge-hirers. There's my little glimmer.

(Edit: put in links to the appropriate sources for the comments I quoted above.)


553 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Mini,
MSN just cut loose at least 400 contractors. Volt alone cut 250 - last day is 31st of December. I know this is meaningless for FTEs, but Red West should have a lot of open office space soon.

Anonymous said...

Layoffs or no layoffs it may be a good time to announce the voluntary severance option to reduce headcount where it should be reduced first: those who don't want to be here anymore but won't leave without a nudge. This simple measure may thin the ranks enough to please wall street and the 5th floor of b33.

Anonymous said...

Firstly thanks, to the person whoever posted that there will be no layoffs and Steve Ballmer is considering it. God bless him/her. Hope it comes true and quick as i can surely say its affecting work hell lot.

Who can work if you are in a fear that you might be out of job after 15 days. God himself would be frightened in such situation. After all we are human beings.

Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. God bless Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

these rumors are definitely making me feel pretty bad. I have a new business that is estimated to make over 400 million a year (in the first two years) and help our image quite a bit, more than anything we've ever done, its taken alot of people and alot of pitches, but I have to pull the plug and take my idea to Silicon Valley instead. I'm a 10%er. I joined a team midyear, and work with great people, I do great work, but who is going to get the 10%? the new guy.

I feel disloyal, I miss the days before all these rumors where we were going to create a revolutionary new business that was going to change the world. Or work 60-80 hours a week on my day job so we can beat you-know-who, and Then work at night on revolutionary ideas. That was an amazing bonus to my day job, and its funny to think I would have given Microsoft in a heartbeat an idea that will make me many millions on my own. Maybe there's some miracle and those days will come back, but for now, I'm just counting down till the 15th.

they say 9,000 people are going to be show the door, its sad that alot of dreams for the company will be shown the door too, but those dreams will find a new home, and maybe that's a good thing.

There's going to be alot of fine engineers heartbroken with nothing to do, and alot of 10%ers just have the courage and guts to speak their mind, they're actually top notch engineers, but have worked on the outside and can't stand our oldschool development methodologies. These men and women will be free to start something, that they own, where you can make millions for your ideas and hard work. People that were never free before will be free to create the next big thing.

If your a 10% and know your good, don't worry, if we all go, there will be amazing opportunities for those who can dream and work hard.

Anonymous said...

"Who can work if you are in a fear that you might be out of job after 15 days. God himself would be frightened in such situation. After all we are human beings."

We are all, always, potentially out of a job in 15 -- you are foolish if you believe otherwise. I've watched friends get laid off year after year for countless reasons. It's your duty to remain competitive and be prepared for the unexpected... this moment in history is more pronounced but not materially different than any other when it comes to job security.

"Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. God bless Microsoft."

I doubt that God has an interest in blessing our happy enterprise -- but I surely hope the FSM smiles upon us! May He touch Steve with His noodly appendage.

Anonymous said...

If we go through with this, Microsoft is going to find layoffs damaging to morale. If you look around, I bet you can see the damage already just from the rumors of layoffs.

Unless layoffs are done perfectly -- and they never are -- they create fear and panic. People will see their friends and colleagues pushed out the door, often for reasons that make little sense to anyone. Everyone who is left will fear for their future and start planning for their own escape, plans that usually will not include Microsoft.

Good people easily will find positions elsewhere. What will be left is those that have few other options and those that see opportunities to exploit the reorganization for their own personal gain.

A better solution would be to raise expectations. Make it clear that, to be at Microsoft, you have to work hard to build things that matter to customers. People who are not up to that will leave. The best people will be excited by the opportunity for recognition and success.

The company should also keep hiring during this time of recession. This is an opportunity for Microsoft. With chaos, layoffs, and reorgs at other companies, truly phenomenal people are now coming on the market that normally cannot be hired at any cost. We should set a very high hiring bar, but keep hiring, taking these rare finds while they are available for the taking.

Anonymous said...

I can confirm the "Some products and some teams are just gone." My team of 130 people inside E&D is being dismantled. They are still working out what, if anything, rises from the ashes.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance. We are going to end up losing a lot of good people and keep plenty of bad ones.

Anonymous said...

Layoffs or no layoffs it may be a good time to announce the voluntary severance option to reduce headcount where it should be reduced first: those who don't want to be here anymore but won't leave without a nudge. This simple measure may thin the ranks enough to please wall street and the 5th floor of b33.

I second that. Voluntary severance accompanied with surgical expulsion of the gangrene is a fine idea. First, ridding the place of deadwood is necessary for the sake of the company's health. Beside that, a sweet voluntary severance package can motivate those who are wanting out (and perhaps will eventually leave) to accelerate whatever their plans are and leave with goodwill. And the company gets to meet its lowered operating expense targets also. A win-win situation to talk about for those senior managers / executives when justifying their massive paychecks!!

Anonymous said...

january 15. ~3,000 heads. book it.

Anonymous said...

"I can confirm the "Some products and some teams are just gone." My team of 130 people inside E&D is being dismantled. They are still working out what, if anything, rises from the ashes."

I know that Robbie sent out a harsh email in October (I think it was October) to halt hiring, there was a group in E&D that was hiring assuming Steve was going to approve the project. Can you confirm if this was a new project?

I wonder if that is a case of E&D hiring for what they didn't have approved, or if is something else

Anonymous said...

Someone should tell anonymous 10%er with the 400mm$ idea that if s/he pitched it to enough people, it belongs to MSFT now. They may be in for a surprise after taking it to Silicon Valley.

Anonymous said...

Instead we'll see tightening of performance standards and aggressive managing-out of the low performers. The last thing anyone is going to call it is "layoffs"...

---

yep and some "artificial" performance feedback (aka: constructive dismissals) will occur (which seem to be happening per some of the comments here so far and in some discussions with soon to be former colleagues)

Anonymous said...

"It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance."

these aren't mutually exclusive

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance.

At higher level, it's easier to cut products/services with no potential or simply a prototype.

This way, good/strong people can find a position in no time and bad/underperform employee will find it hard.

Individual performance it's being track by review and constantly pushing underperformer out of the company.

Anonymous said...

I work in MSIT and was asked by my skip level manager to consider moving to IDC, Hyderabad. He wasnt sure how long the current project will remain funded. Are there others who have been asked the same?

Anonymous said...

Entertainment and Devices

Just axe the entire boat anchor of a divison. Have security escort Robbie Bach out the front door.

Find somewhere to stick the keyboard and mouse people. Windows Mobile should stay with someone competent enough to compete with Apple and Google. I am shocked at how many cellphone companies are rapidly moving to make Android their target platform.

Xbox - kill it outright. Put an end to the 8 billion dollar 8 year long train wreck of a product.

Zune - kill it or restart from scratch with new leadership. More and more people are using their cellphones for their music. Five years from now is there going to be a significant dedicated portable music player market to even put resources into to try to capture?

After the Xbox mess is gone put some of that money into reviving the PC game market. We've let that vital pillar of Windows marketplace domination decay from neglect since this Xbox fiasco started. Being able to play the latest and greatest PC games only on a Windows pc is one of the major factors of why Microsoft has the hearts of minds of so many young IT guys out there. If the PC gaming market dies out we risk having huge marketshare losses to OS X and Linux.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance. We are going to end up losing a lot of good people and keep plenty of bad ones.

Its better to lose entire groups that are money pits even if we lose a few rock stars instead of nickel and diming the cuts to end up hurting morale and performance across the company.

If the people are really rock starts they can find a job elsewhere at the company or somewhere else in the area.

Anonymous said...

Layoff has been confirmed.. 17% cut

http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11142&Itemid=1

Anonymous said...

It's a pretty tempered ecstasy.

---
Dude, pay attention to the families of some of these people. It is not their fault. The execs should take a pay cut too for their wrong decisions.

Anonymous said...

Please: cut poor performers and/or non-profit making groups rather than Peanut buttering bonus reductions / pay cuts or other moral destroyers around everyone.

An n% salary reduction for everyone is NOT an n% lifestyle hit for everyone.

For example: if a L62 looses their bonus they might not be able to send one of their children to their school of choice - a pretty significant lifestyle, and therefore morale hit.

If a L70 get's their bonus reduced or removed...well I guess that they will have to resist the temptation to car sports-car shopping this year. Let's face it - not the same hit.

Anonymous said...

>there was a group in E&D that was hiring assuming Steve was going to approve the project.

A lot of teams were doing this within E&D. A lot of hands were slapped.

Regarding the Zune being 800 strong. Zune did not hire 800 people. They grew that large in part due to the AmirM departure. Several DMD teams were re-orged into Zune.

Roughly 80 of the 800 are L65 and above.

Anonymous said...

"I can confirm the "Some products and some teams are just gone." My team of 130 people inside E&D is being dismantled. They are still working out what, if anything, rises from the ashes."

I know that Robbie sent out a harsh email in October (I think it was October) to halt hiring, there was a group in E&D that was hiring assuming Steve was going to approve the project. Can you confirm if this was a new project?

I wonder if that is a case of E&D hiring for what they didn't have approved, or if is something else


i believe the team in question was the "yona", aka System Center Mobile Device Management Server. they were dismantled.

Anonymous said...

Dude, pay attention to the families of some of these people. It is not their fault.

Dude, get it through your head that Microsoft is not a charity organization. It has no obligation to individuals, families, communities, or anyone else other than its stockholders. It's primary goal is to maximize profits, and if it has to do that by de-bloating, then so be it. Yeesh. Grow up and quit whining!

Anonymous said...

"Someone should tell anonymous 10%er with the 400mm$ idea that if s/he pitched it to enough people, it belongs to MSFT now. "

This is not true if you pitch a "vision" instead of an idea.

Vision, can not be owned.

Anonymous said...

How many people owned the XBOX V1 and hack it to run XMBC? Do you love your XBOX V1 console with a huge hard drive that has HD output?

XBOX should combine with Home Server, and Windows Media Center and make it an open platform that more 3rd party apps besides games can run on it.

XBOX 360 has powerful CPU and GPU. It can definitly do anything that a PC can do! Why do I need a XBOX 360 console, a Windows Home Server and a Media Center PC?

Anonymous said...

Some Anonymous Poster said...
"I can confirm the "Some products and some teams are just gone." My team of 130 people inside E&D is being dismantled. They are still working out what, if anything, rises from the ashes."

Ah, well then. If ANONYMOUS can confirm it, then it must be true.

AND the rumors are confirmed on Fudzilla. Well, then, excuse me while I go polish up my resume.

Come on, everyone. This is getting silly. Self-referencing rumors do not constitute proof. The plural of (anonymously presented, evidence free) anecdote is not data.

Anonymous said...

>>Layoff has been confirmed.. 17% cut

>>http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11142&Itemid=1

who is this fudzilla guy? so far all the rumors has been reported based out of mini-msft, this is the first time someone spoke with 100% confidence. 15000 is a humungus number this will sure be a shock and awe for many of us who think our job at MS is safe. I wonder how much it would cost us in severence pay.

Anonymous said...

As for the fudzilla article referenced by another anonymous poster... What are the sources on that article? It says "Microsoft staff has been informed"... Uh... I didn't get any email on FTE all or some alias like that...

Anonymous said...

Nic Hoover on Microsoft Layoff

http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2008/12/microsoft_layof.html

Anonymous said...

This really isn’t much different from 2002-2003...

I suspect we will again see no or very little bonus for average performers (low performers already don’t get a bonus), stock grants probably fairly low as well other than for top 20% and re-org driven RIF's combined with extended hiring ramps... pretty typical so am not sure what the hype is all about this time.

One difference this time is that we have a few new exec leaders in the mix that frankly I have more confidence in then the ones in place back in 2002. I feel KT is tough but fair and knows how to manage sales and operations through a downturn and he is the biggest dial the company has at our disposal in order to cut costs and maintain some revenue. The product group RIF's will certainly help contain costs but are more likely just taking advantage of the economy to prune dead weight projects...

Anonymous said...

Accountability is hard. Very often the folks who make big bad wrong decisions get hugely rewarded for being on top of an org that cleans up behind them while the folks who warned early and often and ended up doing the cleanup get penalized (because they weren't onboard with the original vision and are an embarrasment with they whining about having told everyone how wrong they were).

Anonymous said...

Cutting the bottom N% is hard in a company which has such a bad track record of identifying the true bottom performers.

I'd be interested to see the breakdown of the bucket distributions in management and nonmanagement functions.

Killing the corp wide bottom will likely result in a heavy skew towards bad management... with all the obvious consequences.

Anonymous said...

I've been a PM in Windows for past year. Morale is already low b/c of Vista. Now even lower b/c of imminent layoffs (at least 10%) in Windows org.

Anonymous said...

Entertainment and Devices

Just axe the entire boat anchor of a divison. Have security escort Robbie Bach out the front door.


Perhaps you have not been following our quarterly earnings reports- "Revenue surpasses $15 billion with healthy sales of enterprise software and Xbox 360 consoles"

Xbox returned a nice profit this past year with continued growth this past quarter. We've been leading our calls with the growth in E&D and forecasts of a growing Xbox Live business.

Why would you kill a business that is growing and winning against Sony?

Anonymous said...

After the Xbox mess is gone put some of that money into reviving the PC game market. We've let that vital pillar of Windows marketplace domination decay from neglect since this Xbox fiasco started. Being able to play the latest and greatest PC games only on a Windows pc is one of the major factors of why Microsoft has the hearts of minds of so many young IT guys out there. If the PC gaming market dies out we risk having huge marketshare losses to OS X and Linux.

LOL. Where have you been? PC Gaming is dead. Why would you continue to pay for new machines to game when you can play the best games on a console. Not to mention, strategically the living room is more valuable than the office. Apple, Sony, and Nintendo are invested heavily in extending their products into the living room. Xbox Live and Xbox are Microsoft's only shot and we have a lead.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure H-1Bs have to go first in a layoff? They didn't in 2002 when Sun was doing layoffs.

http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/200206/msg00108.html

Anonymous said...

"I've been a PM in Windows for past year. Morale is already low b/c of Vista. Now even lower b/c of imminent layoffs (at least 10%) in Windows org."

You must work in some hidden part of Windows -- go ahead and name which team. I'm working on Windows User Interface and morale is super high. How could it not be when Windows 7 (pre-beta!) is getting excellent reviews?

Anonymous said...

Windows Mobile: 5+ veteran here, I'm seeing lot of pressure to cut back on CSGs ("You have 2 CSGs..could you do with 1?") but nothing more. Besides that, lot of org churn around the corner, if you're in Mobile you know exactly what i'm talking about...

MCSInTheField said...

To the XBox fanboy who said, "We have a lead".

Have you seen the sales figures for Wii or even simply played one? Yeah graphics are primitive but kids and adults love how it works. XBox & PS3 are both far behind it.

XBox needs to be fixed re: scratching DVDs and made quieter and cheaper along with better gameplay

Anonymous said...

"After the Xbox mess is gone put some of that money into reviving the PC game market. We've let that vital pillar of Windows marketplace domination decay from neglect since this Xbox fiasco started. Being able to play the latest and greatest PC games only on a Windows pc is one of the major factors of why Microsoft has the hearts of minds of so many young IT guys out there. If the PC gaming market dies out we risk having huge marketshare losses to OS X and Linux."

Please go back to 1999 -- you'll be a lot happier. Saying something like this in 2008 just paints you as a seriously out-of-touch 40-something longing for the glory days.

Also, please review recent Xbox profit data, including our massively healthy and rapidly growing LIVE business -- you might change your tune.

Anonymous said...

Why would you kill a business that is growing and winning against Sony?
-----------------
Bobbie Rach and this great business will be spun off as an independent company.

Anonymous said...

VPs are already leaving. Look for Lewis Levin or Richard Mcaniff (richardm) in the address book or on the web site. They are already gone. So I think executives will be axed also. I'm not sure why everyone thinks product groups will get the big axe. Did you forget about MSIT, or product support? There must be 3000-4000 people in MSIT and product support across the world. Also just letting all CSGs and vendors go would be a huge savings.

To the poster on the other thread who said that CSGs do all the work. He must be in a group that will be let go soon. Look at Office most of the dev teams have no CSGs on them. Also I think most devs will be save (on good products). Writing software is our core if we start laying devs off that will bad. Sales people, evangelist, support, IT... good luck.

Anonymous said...

It has no obligation to individuals, families, communities, or anyone else other than its stockholders

---
Tell that to the EU, China or India.

Anonymous said...

E&D is losing money if hardware and mac business unit is excluded.

Q1 FY08 revenue, profit:
1929 million, 167 million
profit margin: 8.7%
Q1 FY09 revenue, profit:
1814 million, 178 million
profit margin: 9.8%

The profits came from hardware division and Mac business unit. E&D is still making losses. From the 10-Q,

The Entertainment and Devices Division (EDD) is responsible for developing, producing, and marketing the Xbox video game system, including consoles and accessories, third-party games, games published under the Microsoft brand, and Xbox Live operations, as well as research, sales, and support of those products. In addition to Xbox, we offer the Zune digital music and entertainment device; PC software games; online games; Mediaroom, our Internet protocol television software; mobile and embedded device platforms, Surface computing platform; and other devices. EDD also leads the development efforts of our line of consumer software and hardware products including application software for Macintosh computers and Microsoft PC hardware products, and is responsible for all retail sales and marketing for Microsoft Office and the Windows operating systems.

Products. Xbox 360 console and games; Xbox Live; Zune; Mediaroom; numerous consumer software and hardware products (such as mice and keyboards); Windows Mobile software and services platform; Windows Embedded device operating system; Windows Automotive; and Surface computing platform.

Competition. Entertainment and devices businesses are highly competitive, characterized by rapid product life cycles, frequent introductions of new products and titles, and the development of new technologies. The markets for our products are characterized by significant price competition. We anticipate continued pricing pressure from our competitors. From time to time, we have responded to this pressure by reducing prices on certain products. Our competitors vary in size from very small companies with limited resources to very large, diversified corporations with substantial financial and marketing resources. We compete primarily on the basis of product innovation, quality and variety, timing of product releases, and effectiveness of distribution and marketing.

Our Xbox hardware business competes with console platforms from Nintendo and Sony, both of which have a large, established base of customers. The lifecycle for video game consoles averages five to seven years. We released Xbox 360, our second generation console, in November 2005. Nintendo and Sony released new versions of their game consoles in late 2006. We believe the success of video game consoles is determined by the availability of games for the console, providing exclusive game content that gamers seek, the computational power and reliability of the console, and the ability to create new revenue sources such as advertising and downloadable content. We think the Xbox 360 is positioned well against competitive console products based on significant innovation in hardware architecture, new developer tools, expanded revenue sources, and continued strong exclusive content from our own game franchises such as Halo.

In addition to competing against software published for non-Xbox platforms, our games business also competes with numerous companies that we have licensed to develop and publish software for the Xbox consoles. Zune competes with the Apple iPod and other digital music and entertainment devices. Our PC hardware products face aggressive competition from computer and other hardware manufacturers, many of which are also current or potential partners. Mediaroom faces competition primarily from a variety of competitors that provide elements of an Internet protocol television delivery platform, but that do not provide end-to-end solutions for the network operator. Windows Mobile software and services faces substantial competition from Apple, Nokia, Openwave Systems, Palm, QUALCOMM, Research In Motion, and Symbian. The embedded operating system business is highly fragmented with many competitive offerings. Key competitors include IBM, Wind River, and versions of embeddable Linux from commercial Linux vendors such as Metrowerks and MontaVista Software.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure H-1Bs have to go first in a layoff?

No, because other than for unauthorized aliens, immigration law prohibits citizenship discrimination in employment. Employers cannot selectively fire people based on citizenship or immigration status.

http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/35th/milestones/1986.html

Anonymous said...

Only reason Mac BU was made part of E and D is because Balmer didnt want to fire someone, who had pledged to make the division profitable by FY08 or quit.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the sales figures for Wii or even simply played one? Yeah graphics are primitive but kids and adults love how it works. XBox & PS3 are both far behind it.

XBox needs to be fixed re: scratching DVDs and made quieter and cheaper along with better gameplay


I love how no one can mention any of Xbox' accomplishment without someone throwing down the Wii trump card. Wii is doing great having found a new market. The original gamer still prefers a next-generation console with more immerses, more involved games over a gimmicky remote. The winner of the next-gen systems is important, and it
is and accomplishment.

Obviously you are not a gamer if you think Xbox are scratching disks or that Wii has better gameplay. Retirement homes and kids
under the age of 12 think it has better gameplay (ie: non-gamers).

Anonymous said...

The company should also keep hiring during this time of recession. This is an opportunity for Microsoft. With chaos, layoffs, and reorgs at other companies, truly phenomenal people are now coming on the market that normally cannot be hired at any cost. We should set a very high hiring bar, but keep hiring, taking these rare finds while they are available for the taking.

Obviously this genius hasn't
heard the news about Qi Lu.

Anonymous said...

This is not true if you pitch a "vision" instead of an idea.

Vision, can not be owned.


"Vision" is not a $400mil product.

Anonymous said...

I think you guys need to just take a break from reading this blog. It's just going to stress you out and make you panic and will have a ripple effect. Every person I have ever known who was laid off has always said it was the best thing that ever happened to them. It made them pursue other oppurtunites that they would not have had if it wasn't for being forced to move on. Regardless of what happens in your company, it always works out in the end. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Microsoft getting ready to lay off 17% of staff

Worldwide cutbacks

The rumor that Microsoft was set to lay off people on January 15th, 2009 is no longer a rumor but a fact. Staff at Microsoft have been informed that the company is readying major layoffs to its worldwide operations and it's not a small cut, either.

Currently Microsoft employs about 90,000 people across the world and from what we're hearing, some 15,000 of those are expected to be giving marching orders come January 15th. That's almost 17 percent of Microsoft's total work force, not exactly a small number.

So far, we haven't managed to confirm what departments or regions will be hit the worst, but we're hearing that MSN might be carrying the brunt of the layoffs. We're also hearing rumors about the possibility of somewhat larger staff cuts at Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

It's unlikely that Microsoft will be laying off a lot of people in departments and regions that are doing well, and considering the recent upturn in console sales, we have a feeling that at least most of the people working in the Xbox 360 departments will be pretty safe.

The layoffs will take place a week before Microsoft's Q2 earnings report, which takes place on the 22nd of January 2009, and it doesn't seem like the date set for the layoffs is coincidental. We'll bring you more on this subject as it unfolds.
--From Fudzilla http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11142&Itemid=1

Anonymous said...

"Accountability is hard. Very often the folks who make big bad wrong decisions get hugely rewarded for being on top of an org ..."

Very true - see where the leaders of WinFS ended up in the SQL division.

Anonymous said...

"Dude, get it through your head that Microsoft is not a charity organization. It has no obligation to individuals, families, communities, or anyone else other than its stockholders. It's primary goal is to maximize profits, and if it has to do that by de-bloating, then so be it. Yeesh. Grow up and quit whining!"

Dude, I call BS! What a callous cynical remark. Your statement is such an over simplification of what a corporations purpose for existing is.

The Microsoft Empire was built on the backs of it's employees. MS is not manufacturing company it is a knowledge worker and IP company.

MS invests a lot of money into the recruiting, hiring and development of it's workforce

A major company also has a responsiblity to the customers first, the community and then the stock holders. Hey, let's just get rid of Community Affairs while we are at it. I am sure that Washington DC is happy to spend their money somewhere else besides on Microsoft.

Microsoft became successful because it built products that a lot of people wanted to use, listened to their customers and improved their products. As a result their stock price went up. A lot of the stock holders are also employees.

When Bill Gates and others that started and built this company to what it isthey were about providing customer value. The didn't spend their time looking at the freakin stock ticker!

Let's just outsource every freaking job to other countries because that way we can get a lot more or a lot less and make our stockholders happy!

Never mind that the US will become a third world country because most of the jobs are outsourced but hey, our stock holders are happy and that is all that matters.

If you subscribe to the fact that the only reason a company exists is to keep it's shareholders happy, I feel sorry for you because you are then nothing but a piece of software with no real soul... soul...

Anonymous said...

Xbox returned a nice profit this past year with continued growth this past quarter. We've been leading our calls with the growth in E&D and forecasts of a growing Xbox Live business.

Xbox returned "a nice profit" in FY08 only if you conveniently ignore the cost of the RROD fiasco which was announced in FY08 but tucked into the previous FY's numbers purely so FY08 could be reported as "profitable." Never mind that Xbox execs spent the totality of FY08 denying that a significant problem existed.

Why would you kill a business that is growing and winning against Sony?

Sony beat themselves this generation with their insistence on including Blu-Ray with the PS3. The price was too high in the beginning because people didn't want to pay the extra money and end up with a losing hand if HD-DVD took off and it's too high now because standalone Blu-Ray players are a bargain.

Plus unlike you, they were also competing against themselves given the deep entrenchment and ongoing support the PS2 still enjoyed while the PS3 was getting rolling.

And while you're "winning" against Sony, how's that Wii doing?

Anonymous said...


Also I think most devs will be save (on good products). Writing software is our core if we start laying devs off that will bad. Sales people, evangelist, support, IT... good luck.


Spoken like a low level dev. :) (sorry, no offense meant.)

Bottom line: no. I've worked in many roles both in and out of the company. There is fat that can be cut everywhere. I'm not in sales, but sales (for example) is critical. Granted, it may get scaled back if there are people on the bench, but this is regional based on economic factors.

Some of the field orgs (in the US, anyway, not sure about elsewhere) have less total staff than the number of bottom 10%'ers on many product teams. Again, not immune, but don't get caught up in the "dev is core to the biz so we're safe" mentality. There were some pretty big changes in the Windows org circa beta 2 of Vista.

Anyway, it's unfortunate when rumor mongering spreads because it affects moral, but frankly, everyone should think where they'll land if/when layoffs come, even in the brightest times.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff so far, I'm seeing less trolls and a bit more in the way of substantive information.

I read somewhere else that a lot of companies in Silicon Valley (Sun, Seagate, etc) are actually drawing up the lay-off lists over the holidays, and they will all be announced after New Years. It may or may not be the same here at MSFT, but thankfully the wait will be over soon and we'll know for sure in 2 weeks time.

Just a note on the economy. Since the retail sales this season were horrible, expect a lot of shops/stores/malls to close during 2009. Retail will be the next big shoe to drop. This means more layoffs, and of course, it will feed on itself and affect other parts of the economy. If not Jan, we won't be out of the woods yet. Who knows what will happen in Q4, or FY10 Q1, Q2. Always have a plan B, and if and when you survive the layoffs, just continue doing the best you can.

Anonymous said...

Are we sure H-1Bs have to go first in a layoff? They didn't in 2002 when Sun was doing layoffs.

Why should H1B be the first to go? Are they not as capable as others or did they not go through the same recruitment process to get a job here? Sounds more like Xenophobia to me.


Why are we even discussing this? If there is a layoff, it should be the bottom 10%, irrespective of nationality or immigration status. Only then would it be in the best interests of the Company.

Anonymous said...

What's going on with 30GB Zunes this morning? It sounds like a world-wide event, with folks waking up to bricked Zunes. Only the original 30GB device seems effected, but it's *all* of them.

Wow. Could this be another PR disaster in the making?!

Anonymous said...

Whats happening in SMSG???

Mini your posts and most of the comments seem to focus on product groups, operations and finance what about SMSG or the BMO. I work in the trenches and I have observed the bloating of numbers in the last couple of years while the quality of hires has consistently deteriorated. At best the quality is mediocre at worst downright disgusting. Some believe that their sole purpose of existence is to be aligned with "Sales Excellence" or "Operational Excellence" and licking their manager's and skip level manager's boots. I won't mind seeing that lot shape up or ship out.

However seeing the present culture of power centers and protecting one's flock would see at least some of them surviving and thriving... while high performers struggle to survive.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a low level dev. :) (sorry, no offense meant.)

Bottom line: no. I've worked in many roles both in and out of the company. There is fat that can be cut everywhere. I'm not in sales, but sales (for example) is critical. Granted, it may get scaled back if there are people on the bench, but this is regional based on economic factors.


As the dev he was responding to... no I'm not a low level dev. I'm a dev lead in Office on a core product.

Yes there is fat to trim every where and i'm sure devs will be cut some where. My point was that core dev teams that are making money (dev, pm and test) will be safe. Teams that are doing greenhouse projects (not research) but teams that are creating or have created stuff that never really caught on should start looking around.

I think MSIT will be hurting if this layoff is true. IT is always a group that gets hit in a layoff. Groups that are cost centers not profit centers like product support will be hurting also TAMS, PFEs etc.

When I said devs are safe I mean that we still have to build software. Software is the core compentency of Microsoft. Yes sales is needed. I'm not a person who thinks you can build it and it will sell by itself. I tried that in the mid to late 90's then the bubble burst and I came back to MS.

I also think that core product teams are safe. Windows and Office are close to shipping, i.e. 12 months or so. I don't think there will be big shake up in those orgs. However, I could be wrong since we are just guessing anyway.

But like I said look for VPs who are already gone, richardm, lewisl. Not sure who else is gone. I think that execs need to be worried also not just the front line.

Anonymous said...

Look at companies like Yahoo, which were in trouble a few years ahead of Microsoft (don´t know if I´d say they are in trouble) to get a sense of layoffs and RIFs. MSFT is cash rich and needs to invest in its future. This is a good time to do so because there is less competition from start up companies and from companies such as Yahoo that are sucking wind. I don´t think MSFT will be laying off aggressively. They may let contractors go -- they are called ¨temporary workers¨for a reason. They may stop hiring. But I doubt there would be indiscriminate 10 percent across the board layoffs. At least not yet. Revenues and earnings have to suffer demonstrably before that happens.

Anonymous said...

E&D embarassments again.

zune service status
Status:

Customers with 30gb Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware. We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it. Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!

And a comment from Mary-Jo Foley about Microsoft spending far too much time on consumers / search that they are always followers in than on their growing and successful Enterprise business.

Anonymous said...

Why should H1B be the first to go? Are they not as capable as others or did they not go through the same recruitment process to get a job here? Sounds more like Xenophobia to me.

the implication was that there is a law mandating this. dont know if this is true or not, but i think the discussion was predicated on the notion that there is such a law, and wasnt intended to pass judgment on the fairness of the policy...

Anonymous said...

Are we sure H-1Bs have to go first in a layoff? They didn't in 2002 when Sun was doing layoffs.

Why should H1B be the first to go? Are they not as capable as others or did they not go through the same recruitment process to get a job here? Sounds more like Xenophobia to me.

Why are we even discussing this? If there is a layoff, it should be the bottom 10%, irrespective of nationality or immigration status. Only then would it be in the best interests of the Company.


This is relevant because:

"I think a requirement like having to shed all the H1B hires absolutely nullifies Microsoft doing a classic layoff. We just wouldn't let go of those people." - Mini

However, it is illegal to discriminate for or against an individual based on immigration status, so Microsoft's heavy use of the H-1B program has no impact on whether or not there is a layoff at any point in the future.

Anonymous said...

Zune commits Zunacide

http://www.techflash.com/Zunes_commit_mass_suicide36932589.html

After XBox its now Zune. Looks like Robbie Bach should be given another promotion

Anonymous said...

remember what Johnny Ola said in the Godfather II:

Hyman Roth always makes money for his partners. One by one, our old friends are gone. Death, natural or not, prison, deported. Hyman Roth is the only one left, because he always made money for his partners.

Anonymous said...

Regarding H1Bs...

My understanding is that H1Bs are issued for positions for which there are no capable individuals already in the country.

I would imagine that as layoffs progress in the industry, that H1B status will have to be considered. If there are equally qualified candidates that have citizenship or immigration status not fast-tracked via an H1B, one would think they should have an edge.

And before people are up in arms with claims of descrimination or insular policies - this isn't jingoistic in the slightest.

The reality is that there will be a flood of capable workers in the market as a result of the layoffs, which places an additional burden on the government, which is passed through to the taxpayer.

While there are some truly unique hires that would still warrant an H1b candidate winning out, one would think they'd be fewer and far between - particularly for low level dev jobs.

Anonymous said...

What's going on with 30GB Zunes this morning? It sounds like a world-wide event, with folks waking up to bricked Zunes. Only the original 30GB device seems effected, but it's *all* of them.


HR decided they'd start the layoffs early by letting go of all the 30 Gb Zunes. Nothing to see here folks.

Anonymous said...

By JESSICA HODGSON
In an embarrassing glitch for the world's biggest software company, customers who have bought some models of Microsoft Corp.'s Zune portable music player flooded Internet talkboards with complaints that the players apparently froze en masse.

Customers say the 30 gigabyte version of the device is plagued by hardware issues. Blogs and bulletin boards noted that the digital music players get stuck on the Zune logo screen when loading.

A message on the Zune support Web site acknowledged the problem and informed customers Microsoft was working to address it, but didn't identify the cause.

"We are aware that customers with Zune 30GB devices are experiencing issues with their Zune device," a Microsoft spokesman, in a separate statement, said.

"We are actively working now to isolate the issue and develop a plan to address it. We will keep customers informed on next steps via the support page on zune.net."

Comments on the Microsoft Zune site indicated customers' frustration.

A forum, entitled "Help-frozen zune," currently registers more than 18,000 comments.

"Count me as one of the peaved [sic] Zune users with this problem," one poster, identified as Hamletd, said. "I have invested a lot of money in music through Microsoft's service and need to know when they are going to fix this."

Zune is Microsoft's attempt to win some of the market for portable music devices, which is dominated by Apple Inc.'s iPod. Apple dominates this market - in the first quarter of 2008 it had around 71% of the U.S. market.

Microsoft has recently beefed up efforts to win more Zune customers through initiatives such as allowing consumers who pay a monthly subscription to listen to music on a Zune to keep some of the music they download.

Anonymous said...

Groups that are cost centers not profit centers like product support will be hurting also TAMS, PFEs etc.


Part of the PFE org operates as a cost center (transactional PFEs/ROSS) - they don't have P&L, only contribution margin. Dedicated engineers (DSE) are paid for directly by the customer. The same is true for TAMs.

Keeperplanet said...

Happy New Year Whoda and Microsoft:

Sage advice to HR and Executive Management at Microsoft from an experienced designer and engineer:

1.The Buzz Word Manager. A manager often gets to their position by relationships, saying the right thing to the right people, learning from a young age that using the right words will get you where you want to go. Managing by buzz words does not a professional make. Insist on transitional management by actual results, correlated by the speed and accuracy of those actual results. Understand that the cause of market failures besides the usual outside influences is the manager, not the IC. When hype wins over truth and competence, everybody loses.

2.On discrimination. (when hiring and firing) An HR person will always say someone is not discriminated against on race or gender or age and in fact they are legally bound to not do so. The three words, however, function as a controlling feature in virtually all hires by both the manager and the HR person, not by intention and not directly but because people are uncomfortable with opposites and extremes of themselves. Discrimination systematically works against people who fit into the three categories whether you admit it or not, and to a rational person the action is almost undetectable in your decision process. It is about hiring people who are better than you or who have a skill you desperately need to succeed as a product group.

3.On depth of character. HR people can be one shovel deep shallow. Meaning their intellectual and background strength to understand a person almost always only goes as deep as one layer, one level of consideration, one shallow take on a situation. In the real world, the real person, the complexity of getting to success is thousands of layers deep. This is why the 10%er process is ineffective, because by definition, the 10%er often is the one who will bring the kind of results toward innovation and unique solutions if managed properly. It takes depth of character in the recruiter to see that.

4.On running downhill. When a RIF or Recruiting effort is underway, an HR person will reduce out the extremes. This means the HR person looks for those who stand out, who are infected with something different, or for people who think outside the bureaucracy, those who are difficult to get along with because their effectiveness is individually born, not group managed. These people have always been eliminated from the selection pool for hire and selected for the elimination pool for fire—it is basic politics. An HR person takes the path of least resistance, running downhill to insure a group is placated instead of insuring the group is effectively diversified. The process of managing people is very different for each one. Being versed in the skills of understanding divergent and convergent thinking processes that are required to increase the bandwidth to team is critical to succeeding.

5.Finding Godot. Samuel Beckett once wrote: “I cannot explain my plays. Each must find out for himself what is meant.” Find relevance in the new hire who does not fit your mode of acceptable comfort level is really really hard, especially if the person is really really competent, but you can't see it because you were expecting something else when Godot showed up. The truth is he will never come, he does not exist and that person you are looking for will be forever nowhere to be found. Placing faith in the ability of individuals to do great things with subtle yet firm direction is sometimes no more complex than the art of listening and reacting over the long term.

6.Results, Results, Results, is all that matters when the down-market comes, which would be now. The only determiner for an effective hire or fire is analyzing the actual results of that person's experience, feathered by a simple modifier of having a deep understanding of why there was success or failure of a great result. I once worked for an employer that for the life of them could not get to actual results, produced and manufactured products actually in the market making money. My personal nature is to drive results out the door and into the hands of the customers on an annual schedule at a minimum. I and my Employer did not see eye to eye. I was fired and that was at least four years ago. And no, the employer is still trying to figure out how to put a product on the market, even though they have expanded me by four people in that group to increase the number and effectiveness of results.

7.Remove your blinders, kill the tunnel vision. The corporation is a person with a personality and political bent. And in a RIF environment, the corporation wants to reduce costs, and is told to do so by stepping a series of statements from executive to cut costs down through the ranks until it hits the person with the least amount of power to defend themselves. Meanwhile the incompetent layer that caused the company to be in a position of reduction in force remains. Finding a way to let the right people go in such an environment is both fraught with political danger and filled with probabilities of failure, unless executive and you can remove your blinders in the same race at the same time.

8.The sleeping cat on the table. Clearly, I am a dog person, long story why, but in opposition to cats, every organization has someone who sleeps on the table top (where it can be uncomfortable for others to communicate effectively when meeting there), and the cat slowly stretches its legs so innocently until everything on the table has been pushed off. “This is my table” meow meow says, “and I control who and what is here”. Managing people is about managing the power of others to, well, push others out or invite others in.

9.Invention vs Common Sense. In the world of Microsoft, it is clear that invention must eventually take second seat to common sense, especially in a world where code must work and cool stuff (new invented) has to work even better to be accepted and successful. An inventor is usually a divergent thinker and a common sense driver is usually a convergent thinker. The designer or artist vs the engineer or manufacturer. The 10%er vs the 70%er. The new thing guy vs the product that sells off the shelves. Would you recognize a person who had both sets of traits and who could manage themselves well enough to switch hats like a chameleon? Have you focused your elimination process or your selection process to understand who you are eliminating or hiring and what the result will be?

10. The Play's the thing. Steve Jobs can be considered a hardware junkie, and his world is built around sustaining the habit of focusing on the object of perfection in all ways to the delight of those who seek the physical object of perfection. Conversely, Bill Gates is a rogue playwright, focusing on the idea that the Play's the Thing (in reference to Hamlet where the play revealed His king uncle killed his King father). Bill Gates and subsequently, Microsoft has a personality (corporate culture) of the pursuit of grand ideas that please him, without the skill or experience to make it really happen, and consequently, when personnel changes happen they often happen without the recognition of the real cause. Gates has always had to rely on the talent of others to realize his ideas, even if unwittingly, to eventually build his own object of perfection, his thing. Consequently, the two companies, Apple vs Microsoft, one a builder of products and the other an enabler of products couldn't be more different, yet both men spend a lot of time obsessing over lifting success from the other. While both men also are close to finally passing the hat to a new generation, the complexity of selecting new people and letting go of others should be more about changing the culture and brand to allow the next king to do the right thing without all the deception and self delusion.


I want credit Guy Kawasaki for the idea of putting recruiting into a list of ten. Here is his list: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/the_art_of_recr.html, although his ten steps are more for recruiting than managing a reduction in force.

This document was written in OpenOffice.org 3.0

Anonymous said...

I believe that the law states that there is no preference for H-1B's in layoffs at a firm unless the firm is "H-1B dependent", which means that 15% or more of the employees are H-1B holders. In that case the H-1B's do go first.

Anonymous said...

Those folks who think MSIT and Support should be slashed...what do customers do then? It isn't all about just selling. You also have to support your products. That being said, I do think some aspects of MSIT (COE) should be merged with the Dev teams and products should be produced, instead of specialized internal applications with 2-3 lifespan.

Anonymous said...

>>Why should H1B be the first to go? Are they not as capable as others or did they not go through the same recruitment process to get a job here? Sounds more like Xenophobia to me.


Why are we even discussing this? If there is a layoff, it should be the bottom 10%, irrespective of nationality or immigration status. Only then would it be in the best interests of the Company.

Oh gosh, H1-B again. Folks, please acquaint yourselves with the facts:

I was an H1-B holder for my first 6 years, then green card for the last 6 years.

The ostensible rationale for H1-B is *non-availablity of qualified US workers*. That is increasingly hard to justify given the economy and number of jobs already lost, so yes, under the terms of the H1-B, it is reasonable to expect that those folks would be replaced with now-available citizens. Whether that truly happens due to the lack of accountability of the program is another matter.

Regardless of parity of qualifications and the fact that H1-B folks go through the same interview process, *it isn't supposed to be a level playing field*.

The other often-mentioned nonsense is the "cheap labor" assumption. Again, if H1-B folks are being paid less than the "going rate" for the area they are working in, this is *illegal*. Personally, I earned as much and in some cases more than my peers, regardless of nationality. This is across 3 different companies, not just Microsoft. Sure, there are employers that abuse this, but cheap labor is not a legitimate benefit of H1-B.

I have no idea how Microsoft will deal with this, but I'd be surprised if class action suits don't follow if we have H1-B folks doing jobs that laid-off citizens could be doing.

Anonymous said...

The Zune fiasco is a perfect example of how things are poorly coded, improperly tested and shipped by the executives. A few months back the Search cashback failed due to heavy traffic on Black Friday and now this. Dont the testers in these teams check for boundary conditions

Anonymous said...

At higher level, it's easier to cut products/services with no potential or simply a prototype.

This way, good/strong people can find a position in no time and bad/underperform employee will find it hard.


Under normal circumstances this works just fine, but if a lot of groups are cut at the same time and headcount is reduced or even held flat, it becomes much harder for the solid performers to find a place to land in all the noise. Probably most of them will, but we will end up tossing a fair amount of baby out with that bathwater.

Anonymous said...

Layoffs have nothing to do with performance, unfortunately. The suits will just look at some spreadsheet, in the yr$ column, highlight some rows that add up to the target cut and send them the pink slip.
Also, layoffs are rarely done in one shot. If it happens, will probably be less than speculated, the suits will swear the cut enough to not need to cut anymore, then they'll cut again. They expect some people to look for another job even if they are not caught in the first layoff round. This secondary wave of self-elimination will help meet the target $$$. Unfortunately, these secondary waves tend to carry some of your best to greener pastures.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous @ "Wednesday, December 31, 2008 8:17:00 AM" above - who cares what Mary Jo foley thinks?

She's part of an entire class of bottom-feeders who make their living getting leaked schedules and screenshots, and passing around comments from other bloggers. Most of her kind of "reporter" is the type of person I really wish the recession woudl affect, quickly. We'd need a third of the PR folks (FTE and hired firms) that we have now, if it weren't for the chattering classes.

I don't take anything she has to say as a serious sign of any problems.

An entire product line bricked simultaneously? Now THAT speaks volumes all by itself.

Multiple checks and balances, and multiple people, had to fail in order to see something as huge as Zunepacolypse was today. It's a very obvious place to go hunting for people to lay off, I mean downsize, I mean RIF...

Anonymous said...

My guess is that most of the contractor cuts are a- agency employees with some v- in there. Volt and the like are raping Microsoft and the worker by the rates they charge for a- talent. v- contractors are much more entrenched in critical areas of the business, often times replacing FTE positions when the manager doesn't have the time for full interview cycles or wants to save the head for someplace else in the org. I'm own a company that is a vendor to MS and am a v- and, ironically, the environment has been very good for us -- we've been growing, but I'd say it's more because we maintain good relationships with our MS contacts, know our stuff, and are willing to do things with little or no notice which MS can't even get their FTEs to do.

Anonymous said...

The Zune thing warrants a new post. What a huge embarassment.

Anonymous said...

This zune leap-year bug (seriously! leap year bug! we've been making software through 6 leap years or so now?) is an unbelievable embarassment -- do we really need bad zune pr?

Would it be too much to ask, if there are layoffs, to have a teeny bit of accountability and have those that let this slip by get demoted/fired?

Nah, accountability's wishful thinking.. I imagine the buck-passing for this one will be hilarious too.

Anonymous said...

http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11142&Itemid=38

Anonymous said...

This zune leap-year bug (seriously! leap year bug! we've been making software through 6 leap years or so now?) is an unbelievable embarassment -- do we really need bad zune pr?

Would it be too much to ask, if there are layoffs, to have a teeny bit of accountability and have those that let this slip by get demoted/fired?


Yeah, it would be too much to ask. We have had to clean up after Zune engineers' curiously inefficient arrogance for over two years now: rushing products out before ready, completely turning a deaf ear to the ideas of anybody in the office outside themselves... they believe they're going to get out of this bad PR through force of will. They're in a rush to get the neat little gadgets out there in a hurry without a single concern as to whether they will actually work long-term.

There are probably more than a couple of us who hope Zunepocalypse scared the techies out of their pants and will send their egos crashing back down to earth. Unfortunately it makes everybody else in the office look bad.

Anonymous said...

Zune leap-year bug makes me think of this February '08 comment:

Top Developer means you have patents, you are a giant throbbing brain and your 14 years of experience is stellar and blows my hair back. That's the kind of Dev I hire -- these people were top in their graduating classes at highly rated programs, they have patents and they will create more patents because they're brilliant.

Folks, these giant throbbing brains are giving you grand products like the Zune. How embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

The Zune was a definite PR embarassment. Search for "30 GB Zune" on google news and you can see the sarcastic headlines everywhere.
My personal favorite was

IPod killer commits suicide

Anonymous said...

>>Dont the testers in these teams check for boundary conditions

Didn't you hear? We fired them all a couple of years ago and replaced their talents with automation...

Anonymous said...

I was an H1-B holder for my first 6 years, then green card for the last 6 years.

The ostensible rationale for H1-B is *non-availablity of qualified US workers*.


The anti-displacement provisions of the H1-B and green card program are one time tests that apply during the hiring process. The tests are done once when making the job offer, and there is nothing in the law that requires non-citizen employees such as those on H1B or green cards to be the first to go during a layoff.

There is a FAQ here -

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/2920982/Immigration-Issues-Related-to-Layoffs-and-Corporate-Downsizing

Anonymous said...

Part of the PFE org operates as a cost center (transactional PFEs/ROSS) - they don't have P&L, only contribution margin. Dedicated engineers (DSE) are paid for directly by the customer. The same is true for TAMs.

Exactly... when the customers stop renewing these contracts it is time to cut back sharply. PFEs, ROSS, and DSE work on products that have been writen by core product teams (dev/PM/test). Like I said earlier core product teams on a strong product i.e. Office and Windows are the best place to be... Not safe but the best place in the company right now.


Those folks who think MSIT and Support should be slashed...what do customers do then? It isn't all about just selling. You also have to support your products. That being said, I do think some aspects of MSIT (COE) should be merged with the Dev teams and products should be produced, instead of specialized internal applications with 2-3 lifespan.

I never said MSIT and support should be cut completly but they should be scaled back sharply. We have support people in Charlotte, Los Colinas and Issaquah (other places to but i don't know all of them). There have been rumors of the Charlotte site get shutdown for years. Now is a great time to actually cut back in those areas.

MSIT... come on anyone who has not spent their complete adult life in MS has probably worked in IT somewhere else. If you have then you know that IT is full of fat more than other orgs. MSIT is no differt than other IT groups. It is the same thing. Each year roll out a new IT product that will save the company billions of dollars. When in actuality it is only the devs writing new stuff because they have nothing else to do.

Most IT organizations can survive on old technology.

Having said that this means that at some point the knife will be held to the throat of core Office and Windows. Once companies start cutting back on their IT budgets it will make a ripple effect that at some point will hit core MS product teams.

However that would be 1-2 years down the road after cuts in V-, A-, MSIT, PSS and sales.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in MS for 8 years and I think it is the right move to lay off the bottom 10% in each team in this economy.

Apart from this MS should also take a good look at the low performing teams and consider possible cut of the management.

Over years MS has grown too big too fast and health checks like this will benefit the company in the long run. I also feel at times in the last few years the bar of MS for hiring SDE's has fallen a lot and some people made their way as developers. This move will help to rectify that.

-SDET Lead

MSFT 1998 said...

Someone pointed me to this blog post at work today. This is the first I have heard of layoffs. I know quite a few folks(including in HR) and none of them have any info on this. I very highly doubt there are going to be any major layoffs.
I wish there was a online prediction market where we could bet on whether there would be layoffs or not on Jan 15th.

Anonymous said...

is the Zune glitch necessarily a bad thing? It resolves after a day. We made the headlines on many major news sites, many people heard about Zune for the first time today. Yes it is bad press, but to get that much advertising would be extremely expensive. Maybe this will hurt sales short term, but wouldn't this actually be a great thing long term, granted the Zune team makes some positive headlines in future releases?

the Zune is a great device, the marketplace is great and 15$ a month for millions of songs, and the social networking site is getting there... But hardly anyone knows what the heck Zune is.

If people remember it as the iPod like device that stopped working, that's really really bad, but if people remember that it only stopped working for a day, then, there may be a positive side to this embarrassing glitch

I'd say this is alot better than a 0 day exploit or a red ring

Anonymous said...

"Over years MS has grown too big too fast and health checks like this will benefit the company in the long run. I also feel at times in the last few years the bar of MS for hiring SDE's has fallen a lot and some people made their way as developers. This move will help to rectify that."

I buy what you have to say here, but I'm not sure you need to point out SDEs. I've seen a lot of lousy testers and program managers along with the lousy devs.

Anonymous said...

The Fudzilla rumor is nonsense. They don't even have the Microsoft headcount close. Seattle Times pegged at 95k last summer.

Anonymous said...

I don't get some of the finger-pointing back stabbing.

Especially this one guy who keeps saying MSIT should get the biggest boot, while he and his ilk at the product groups should be safe.

You remind me of a guy who, among others, would kick and step on the women and children, in order to save his own skin from a sinking ship. What a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

There isn't a hiring freeze -- I just accepted a job at Microsoft last week.

Anonymous said...

I don't think people are thinking very much here. A typical employee cost Microsoft around $60k a quarter if you average out the costs. Some of those costs will be fixed, but most are in wages, benefits, bonuses and stock compensation.

These costs are before taxes so the after tax cost is less then $45k per employee per quarter. With 9B shares outstanding (est) that works out to $0.000005 a share per quarter per employee. So a 2000 persons reduction is needed to just increase earnings by 1 penny per share. That is after all the costs associated with a layoff are paid for.

That works out to a very deep cut for very little profit gain. In short it doesn't make sense. What does make sense is for Microsoft to let poor performers go and maybe cut back on vendors and contrators. Just slowing the hiring and letting normal attrition reductions take place is nearly as good as a massive destructive layoff.

I worked in several companies where painful layoffs occured sometimes multiple time. The results were never positive. By not embracing layoffs, Microsoft is taking a positive position. Sure there may be a lot of fat, that can be trimmed quietly and without scaring everyone.

Also some people are calling for Sales/support/developer reductions. That is simply crazy and they must want Microsoft to fail. Sales/Support are needed short/term long term to keep sales coming in and without developers there isn't any future for Microsoft. I don't have any comment about MSIT, etc because I don't fully understand thier role in the company or the size of those groups.

Anonymous said...

Ok, laying off now!

Anonymous said...

These costs are before taxes so the after tax cost is less then $45k per employee per quarter. With 9B shares outstanding (est) that works out to $0.000005 a share per quarter per employee. So a 2000 persons reduction is needed to just increase earnings by 1 penny per share. That is after all the costs associated with a layoff are paid for.

Let's say that your estimates of employee cost are off by a factor of 2 overall.... If so, then the Oppenheimer suggestion that laying off 10% of the workforce would increase earnings ~$0.10/share is about right.

Not saying that layoffs as such are a good idea at all, and ABSOLUTELY not that MSFT should take their cues from Wall Street analysts... Just pointing out that your math alone doesn't show anything.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"There isn't a hiring freeze -- I just accepted a job at Microsoft last week."


Are you college hire?

Anonymous said...

Clarification to my previous comment on the math:

The Oppenheimer analyst, Brad Reback, said that cutting 10% of the workforce would mean ~$0.10 per share per year. By the math given, a 10% cut (call it 9000) is 4.5 cents per quarter, or 18 cents per year. Minus associated costs of the layoff and allowing for the guestimates made here, that works out about right.

Anonymous said...

http://www.fudzilla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=11142&Itemid=38


One should expect no less from a site with FUD in its URL.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I'm in STB (DevDiv more specifically) and have heard nothing about this.

My wife asked a good question the other day -- the construction work on the west campus expansion is still going. If they're thinking of reducing the workforce, shouldn't work on building new office space be one of the first things to be cut? Are teams really still tight on office space?

Anonymous said...

One can easily shave a billion from G&A, may be more.

From 10-K

General and Administrative

(In millions, except percentages) 2008 2007 2006 Percentage
Change
2008
versus
2007 Percentage
Change
2007
versus
2006
General and administrative $5,127 $ 3,329 $ 3,758 54% (11)%
As a percent of revenue 8% 7% 8% 1ppt (1)ppt

General and administrative costs include payroll, employee benefits, stock-based compensation expense and other headcount-related expenses associated with finance, legal, facilities, certain human resources, other administrative headcount, and legal and other administrative fees. General and administrative expenses increased during fiscal year 2008, reflecting increased costs for legal settlements and legal contingencies, increased consulting and professional fees, and increased headcount-related expenses. We incurred $1.8 billion of legal charges during fiscal year 2008, primarily related to the European Commission fine of $1.4 billion (€899 million) as compared with $511 million of legal charges during fiscal year 2007. Headcount-related expenses increased 7% during fiscal year 2008, reflecting an increase in headcount during the year. During fiscal year 2007, we incurred $511 million of legal charges primarily related to antitrust and unfair competition consumer class actions, intellectual property claims, and extension payment to Sun Microsystems, Inc. as compared with $1.3 billion of legal charges in fiscal year 2006. Headcount-related expenses increased 15% during fiscal year 2007, driven by an increase in headcount during the year.

Anonymous said...

>If they're thinking of reducing the workforce, shouldn't work on building new office space be one of the first things to be cut?

MSFT has cut building space in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

Cutting R&D by 10% will save 1.5% of cost. It will improve earnings by 2.8%.

Research and development expenses include payroll, employee benefits, stock-based compensation expense, and other headcount-related expenses associated with product development. Research and development expenses also include third-party development and programming costs, localization costs incurred to translate software for international markets, the amortization of purchased software code and services content, and in-process research and development. Research and development expenses increased during fiscal year 2008 reflecting increased headcount-related expenses, increased product development costs, and in-process research and development expenses related to acquisitions during the year. Headcount-related expenses increased 12% during fiscal year 2008, reflecting an increase in headcount during the year. Research and development costs increased during fiscal year 2007, primarily due to increased headcount-related expenses which grew 8%, reflecting growth in headcount during the year.

Anonymous said...

My wife asked a good question the other day -- the construction work on the west campus expansion is still going. If they're thinking of reducing the workforce, shouldn't work on building new office space be one of the first things to be cut? Are teams really still tight on office space?

Yes. I work in Office as an FTE, and I have TWO officemates. That's not uncommon either.

Anonymous said...

I am from outside and can say that some of my friends's friends have been given the 4 weeks notice. At the same time, I have an interview coming up in the next 3 weeks. I have been trying to get into MS and have been seeing at least a handful of openings every day starting Oct 13th.
It definitely looks like hiring has not stopped.

I don't know what kind of message you can take from the above, but just wanted to share with you ...

Anonymous said...

At the same time, I have an interview coming up in the next 3 weeks.

This depends on when the interview was scheduled. I was recently asked to interview a candidate because the interview was scheduled prior to the hiring freeze. It was no surprise that the decision was 'No Hire'

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year !!! Welcome to 2009.

FTEs shouldn't be worried about the rumoured layoff. It will not happen. Re-orgs will come and some cost cutting overall. It is normal for any company in this market.

Anonymous said...

"My wife asked a good question the other day -- the construction work on the west campus expansion is still going. If they're thinking of reducing the workforce, shouldn't work on building new office space be one of the first things to be cut? Are teams really still tight on office space?"

Yes. I work in Office as an FTE, and I have TWO officemates. That's not uncommon either.


We've taken-over conference rooms as temporary offices. I'm sharing an office with my boss, who kicks me out several times a day when he needs to have private meetings or conference calls... *everyone* in my org is doubled or tripled including senior management.

I can't speak for other groups, but the space crunch for us is crippling our productivity.

Anonymous said...

""There isn't a hiring freeze -- I just accepted a job at Microsoft last week."

Gah, I hate logical fallacies.

Just because *you* were hired does not mean there is not a hiring freeze -- there are always exceptions.

My group has been largely exempt from the "freeze", but we're an exception in our division. Based on what I see within E&D, I'd say hiring has decreased by more than 90% -- that meets my definition of a freeze.

Anonymous said...

Two points about the Zune fiasco.

1. What in the world is going on with the Zune software that they're rewriting the time-handling code?!?! How could that possibly be good engineering?

2. To the guy above saying that the 1-day Zune outage isn't so bad: well, if you know what the problem is and how long it will last, it's arguably not so bad. But let's say you don't. You're going to spend hours trying to fix the device, or spend hundreds of dollars replacing it. I'd like to see you spin that as a good customer scenario.

Anonymous said...

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_11345379?source=most_emailed

Anonymous said...

PC sales expected to decline.

http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/65357.html

Anonymous said...

is the Zune glitch necessarily a bad thing? It resolves after a day. We made the headlines on many major news sites, many people heard about Zune for the first time today. Yes it is bad press, but to get that much advertising would be extremely expensive. Maybe this will hurt sales short term, but wouldn't this actually be a great thing long term, granted the Zune team makes some positive headlines in future releases?

It's a first impressions thing for people who've not heard of the Zune before now.

The very first thing they hear is how Microsoft failed to know that the year was ending, or how the Zune commited 'Zunacide' or some such pithy headline.

It's atrocious PR for Microsoft, and will require a lot of really great headlines to turn around. In the last few years there has not been any of those for the Zune and with the rise of the iPod Touch and iPhone, the Zune is looking more and more like last year's news.

So... Zune developers... anything massive on the horizon? You *really* need something.

Anonymous said...

>>Dont the testers in these teams check for boundary conditions

Didn't you hear? We fired them all a couple of years ago and replaced their talents with automation...

TOO FUNNY, but sadly TOO TRUE

Anonymous said...

http://blog.seattletimes.nwsource.com/techtracks/2008/12/31/more_speculation_on_microsoft_layoffs_contractor_c.html

Anonymous said...

is the Zune glitch necessarily a bad thing? It resolves after a day. We made the headlines on many major news sites, many people heard about Zune for the first time today. Yes it is bad press, but to get that much advertising would be extremely expensive. Maybe this will hurt sales short term, but wouldn't this actually be a great thing long term, granted the Zune team makes some positive headlines in future releases?

Yes, this is as good as the "Audi's accelerate when braking" press was for Audi, I'm sure. Audi's resurgence has nothing to do with their design and engineering improvements. It was all about the bad press they got, and how it stuck the brand in peoples' minds.

Anonymous said...

zune leap year - are you kidding? we are the world's largest software company. somebody needs to be fired to set an example on that.

We need to clean house on the crap businesses here - give them a pre-set amount of funding, a pre-set lifespan and let them go. Search? Advertising? Xbox? Zune? What are these businesses worth on their own? Meanwhile we continue to milk the daylights out of the SMSG business which continues (at least pre-tsunami) to be an engine although the cracks are showing on windows.

We need to be tough parents on some of these businesses. We can't go on funding very speculative things on the back of the core commercial and oem businesses without a breakthrough at some point. So far the only cash flow positive things i see are incremental commercial businesses like sharepoint.

We also need a killer win 7. No pressure BillV since you "live and die for windows" you shameless huckster. Deliver or we're all pretty much screwed. And, by the way, the netbook is real. don't fail to deliver a netbook solution that isn't xp, fruitcake ha ha.

Anonymous said...

Why haven't I heard anything about marketing or CMG? You'd think after the disaster marketing effort behind Vista and the Jerry and Bill ads MS would take a serious look at their marketing departments. More often then not the CMG's processes get in the way of success. If I was making they calls I'd start there.

Anonymous said...

"Just pointing out that your math alone doesn't show anything."

What the math shows is there is little to be gained from even a very large layoff. Still there is a lot of future profits to be gained by keeping the headcount below revenue growth. I just don't think blanket layoffs help. I been is companies that did layoffs and in fact have been in 3 layoffs myself. None of the companies ever recovered that those times. Layoffs is a short term bandaid that doesn't fix the basic problems.

Anonymous said...

"some of my friends's friends have been given the 4 weeks notice"

--

this happened with a few people mid-december so they had time to work the system to ensure they had a job when the formal annoucements occured.

Smoe of us know the "4 week word" is coming but they won't formally do it so there is no time for us to land anything.

Anonymous said...

I am a partner in a division that will not be named. MSFT's incentive scheme is seriously broken at all levels. Employee bonus should be tied to division performance. Employee bonus, stock should be tied to division profit/loss. Why should Zune person's bonus, stock be paid by Windows performance or vice-versa?

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, aside from the current issue with the 30GB Zunes, the people I know that have purchased them are very happy with the devices. Yes, I know this is anecdotal evidence.

Also, I am personally on my second IPod Nano. The first one bricked on me with a firewire error after about a year, and I'm really not all that happy with this second one for various reasons, mostly related to functionality.

My point is that Apple isn't perfect. The dragon can be slayed.

Anonymous said...

Keeperplanet said…


…by definition, the 10%er often is the one who will bring the kind of results toward innovation and unique solutions if managed properly.

Finding Godot. Samuel Beckett once wrote: “I cannot explain my plays. Each must find out for himself what is meant.” Find relevance in the new hire who does not fit your mode of acceptable comfort level is really really hard, especially if the person is really really competent, but you can't see it because you were expecting something else when Godot showed up. The truth is he will never come, he does not exist and that person you are looking for will be forever nowhere to be found. Placing faith in the ability of individuals to do great things with subtle yet firm direction is sometimes no more complex than the art of listening and reacting over the long term.

…in a RIF environment, the corporation wants to reduce costs, and is told to do so by stepping a series of statements from executive to cut costs down through the ranks until it hits the person with the least amount of power to defend themselves. Meanwhile the incompetent layer that caused the company to be in a position of reduction in force remains. Finding a way to let the right people go in such an environment is both fraught with political danger and filled with probabilities of failure, unless executive and you can remove your blinders in the same race at the same time.

Invention vs Common Sense. In the world of Microsoft, it is clear that invention must eventually take second seat to common sense, especially in a world where code must work and cool stuff (new invented) has to work even better to be accepted and successful. An inventor is usually a divergent thinker and a common sense driver is usually a convergent thinker. The designer or artist vs the engineer or manufacturer. The 10%er vs the 70%er. The new thing guy vs the product that sells off the shelves. Would you recognize a person who had both sets of traits and who could manage themselves well enough to switch hats like a chameleon? Have you focused your elimination process or your selection process to understand who you are eliminating or hiring and what the result will be?


Just want to give a thumbs up to these insightful comments by Keeperplanet.

It’s important to understand who the 10%ers are and why they are in that bucket. Some of those people (and I know a few) definitely need to go. But there are others that are simply having a bad year or maybe they’re in the wrong job. Still others simply aren’t being managed correctly. I think everyone reading this is aware of the general level of managerial competence throughout Microsoft.

Realistically, the 10%ers aren’t the problem. The BIG, BIG, BIG problem at Microsoft is lack of discipline and focus on execution processes. MS will probably have a bad year in 2009 along with everyone else. So what? We have more money than God. Use 2009 as a wake-up call to rethink how we manage projects, how we do marketing and sales, how we release and launch products (I just went through a release that was complete chaos), how we manage customer and partner relationships, etc.

Figure out how to become a truly great company.

Anonymous said...

It’s important to understand who the 10%ers are and why they are in that bucket. Some of those people (and I know a few) definitely need to go. But there are others that are simply having a bad year or maybe they’re in the wrong job. Still others simply aren’t being managed correctly. I think everyone reading this is aware of the general level of managerial competence throughout Microsoft.

--

yep and HR or the system will not help these people get out of their situtation.

Anonymous said...

CRM online = gone?

jcr said...

zune leap year - are you kidding? we are the world's largest software company.

What does being large have to do with it? If thee's one thing that Microsoft has proven again and again over the last couple of decades, it's that having a high body count doesn't mean you can get the job done.

BTW, for a bit of historical perspective. The biggest software project failure before Longhorn was IBM's Office Vision project. Around 800 million spent, nada delivered.

-jcr

jcr said...

The BIG, BIG, BIG problem at Microsoft is lack of discipline and focus on execution processes.

In other words, pervasive management incompetence.

-jcr

Anonymous said...

my boss just got asked to participate in member bench .. what the heck is that

Anonymous said...

1. What in the world is going on with the Zune software that they're rewriting the time-handling code?!?! How could that possibly be good engineering?

Poor QA /Testing. A clear result of outsourcing testing tasks to China - to put it simply: bad quality.

Anonymous said...

If you subscribe to the fact that the only reason a company exists is to keep it's shareholders happy,
Yep, that's the way it is. A public company owes its existence to its shareholders. And for the last decade it has been disastrous.
The Community Affairs dept. just serves PR purposes -- basically they just pretend "they care".

Anonymous said...

Member bench doesn't sound related to layoffs - I found a previous post on Mini Microsoft that describes what it is:

"Blue Chip is not that big of a deal - it's a campus potential hire that is deemed by a recruiter to be in the top {small number}% of all campus hires that year. Therefore more attention will be paid to trying to get that person to join.

For partners, if you look at the career stage profiles that were rolled out last year you will see the top in each stage called partner, and it says L68+. The compensation is a bit of a mystery but what I do know is that partner compensation is dependent on the company-wide CPE metrics that you sometimes hear about. Meaning that partners' compensation (probably mostly stock awards based on the SEC filings) varies per year, based on how much the company makes, how satisfied the customers are, etc.

Bench is a leadership training program. You're right that it's the people who could take over as VPs but that's long term. There are two benches: normal bench for <68 and partner bench for >=68. That is what they call the "corporate bench". There are also per-team/division bench programs, which allow these types of programs to reach down to lower level people (you generally have to be 66-67 to get into the corporate bench). I know of several of these programs, in different divisions. If you want to be a VP some day, you should ask your manager if yours has such a program and when you can get into it."

"the bench - this is the set of partners who can take over vp job...

Not exactly. This iteration of the bench program (which I believe is the 3rd since I've been in HR?!) actually has two tracks: one for partners aka "Partner Bench" and one for lower folks aka "Member Bench". The idea is that people chosen for Partner bench are on track to make VP and generally already level 68+ ("E" potential). Member bench is the same thing for people on track to be partners ("P" potential).

But don't tell ANYONE! If employees knew about this, managers would have the tough duty to actually manage and explain to their people why they aren't in the Bench and *gasp* give them feedback on how they could get there or *gasp**gasp* that they never could."

-http://minimsft.blogspot.com/2005/12/post-break-dividend-bench-brummel-and.html

Anonymous said...

mini - Please CRF anymore fudzilla/zune posts. We got it already. They're off topic.

MSN just cut loose at least 400 contractors

Wow! What did they all do? Do they have a contractor assigned to each dev to give them handjobs all day or something? I don't see the efforts of 400 people in any of the MSN products.

I have a new business that is estimated to make over 400 million a year (in the first two years) and help our image quite a bit

LOL One big problem with your post: Nobody has any money to spend on whatever this is (I know it's not power, air, food, water or shelter).

It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance.

I like this idea a lot more. If you make tiny cuts across all of the product groups, everyone suffers (product quality/release date). The top performers in those groups will still be able to get jobs in other teams.

Those folks who think MSIT and Support should be slashed...what do customers do then? It isn't all about just selling. You also have to support your products.

Most of MSIT is already handled by contractors. Many problems would be much more efficiently dealt with on internal DL's (1:many support instead of 1:1). Everyone I know will only contact MSIT as an absolute last resort, because the experience is so awful. Their average time to close issues is ridiculously high.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the cuts appear to be happening by axing entire groups rather than individuals for performance.

I like this idea a lot more. If you make tiny cuts across all of the product groups, everyone suffers (product quality/release date). The top performers in those groups will still be able to get jobs in other teams.


--

I like this model as well, it was used at companies i used to work at before joining MS and works very well. It also forces top down accountability ... your struggle is picking an effectively leader to ensure your group will be around vs. the problem we have at ms where the top hides problems and people under are protectd by protecting the emperor's lack of clothes.

Anonymous said...

If you take a look at the address book, 50% of the dev managers in Search are partners. One of them has no reports. What exactly sets these dev managers to become partners while the dev managers in other product groups are just principals.

Anonymous said...

I quit Microsoft recently after working there for 5 years. I still like the company and would love to come back some day.

Layoffs at Microsoft will be really sad. However, if they are going to happen, I hope the cuts are performed at all levels and not just at lower levels. I have seen many 'partners' who are not performing. Moreover, since the 'partners' get profit sharing, it is only fair that if the company is doing badly, their heads get rolled too.

Anonymous said...

Poor QA /Testing. A clear result of outsourcing testing tasks to China - to put it simply: bad quality.

--

due to the fact the "test lead" is here and getting promoted and showing "cost savings" .. test managers do this with new leads all the time ...

god help we actually get indicator packages which make sense vs. overall BVT and bug counts which never reflect e2e.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I am watching people play on a Ouija board... people swearing that someone is moving the planchette but no one can actually identify who or what is causing it to move.

It would be great if anyone working in HR, or someone level 66+ in any group, who took part in official meetings regarding real layoffs could let us know what's going on. There seems to be a ton of speculation, and as a result widespread panic. It is sad that one of the main authoritative sources of information is something or someone called FUDZILLA. Could the HR and level 66+ folks out there help clear up any of these rumors?

Anonymous said...

I know of about 6 people who are now actively being managed out under the guise of "performance management"

- In most cases it is a matter of personality conflict with someone who is in charge and is covering their own a** for poor execution of their own deliverables

- There are two cases where the person is in the wrong role and the manager is not supporting a transfer within the same team (good fit but bad role (should be a dev)

- One case where the person simply is over qualified and scares the bejezuz out of his manager since the person would exceed him quickly and is being pushed down.

Why are managers being allowed to do this? Whyis HR ignoring feedback from the ICs in this case who have evidence to a counter affect.

Lisa if your reading this look for some these people who are misusing the system again.

Anonymous said...

The Zune bug doesn't necessarily mean they rewrote time handling code... maybe someone just assumed there are 365 days in a year. (Probably in the DRM code, who else would care).

On another topic, I never see any discussion of price cuts here but I would suggest that Windows and Office pricing needs to come down a bunch. Possibly related to the issue of budget cuts.

Anonymous said...

A public company owes its existence to its shareholders. And for the last decade it has been disastrous.
The Community Affairs dept. just serves PR purposes -- basically they just pretend "they care".

What a load of BS. Who are the majority of the shareholders?

The scary fact is that there are actually people like youthat buy into this empty and shallow philosophy. If that is the case, then over 100 thousand people that work for MS have a pretty shallow and meaningless existence.

It is easy to understand how people like Stalin and Hitler were able to come to power.

It is a responsibility to provide value to it's customers first and foremost. If a company wants to be successful it has to provide the public products and services that people and other companies will want to use and to provide value to communities, education etc.

If that is not the objectve, it will be reflective in the stock price. Which it is currently is and has been for the last 10 years.

How many opportunites to be an industry leader have been squandered by Microsoft's leadership? Search, Services, Digital Media and the list goes on.

Have another glass of cool aide so you can wash down the hateraide.

Anonymous said...

"If you subscribe to the fact that the only reason a company exists is to keep it's shareholders happy..."

Yep, that's the way it is. A public company owes its existence to its shareholders. And for the last decade it has been disastrous.
The Community Affairs dept. just serves PR purposes -- basically they just pretend "they care".


+1 -- Microsoft would reverse any position in a heartbeat if it was no longer in the best interest of the company's bottom line, including any and all community outreach and "global citizen" nonsense.

You might remember the Washington State HB1515 debacle a few years ago when Microsoft stopped supporting anti-discrimination for gays and lesbians due to pressure from conservative groups... it was only when the press backlash became so loud and embarrassing that we switched our position back to what it was. This is notable if for no other reason that Bill and Steve had explicity stated for years that Microsoft would always publicly champion GBLTQ anti-discrimination.

Make no mistake -- if Microsoft could advance as a corporation by hacking off your grandmother's legs and we could get away with it, your grandmother would be wearing prostheses by tomorrow morning.

Don't ever for a moment believe that Microsoft gives a rat's ass about you or anyone else. The "company values" are 100% public relations.

Anonymous said...

Today I met a senior colleague who has good friends in higher levels and HR. He flatly denied any massive layoffs coming. In fact he laughed at the thought. But there will be cost-cutting measures across the board (which means fewer free food and morale events).
So "NO LAYOFFS" -- hopefully!

Anonymous said...

zune leap year - are you kidding? we are the world's largest software company. somebody needs to be fired to set an example on that.

You are absolutely right. And I work at Zune.

The fact is, J Allard's departure removed any validity our company may have had as a visionary company. I mean, jeez, even our inventor gave up on us.

And now we're stuck in the morass of bean- and head-counting. Until we listen to the right voices, we're dead. True, all this Zune 30 stuff most likely had its origins two years ago, but we obviously didn't care enough then either.

The technicians at Zune do not give one good goddamn about the brand's validity in the marketplace. They care about a paycheck. And there are far more people like them at Zune, than people who realize how much this brand is capable of achieving. Zune has its true believers, and we're sick and tired of the carpetbaggers who throw their hands up and concede. This is totally emblematic of our failures so far.

Everybody else in Microsoft hates Zune. We change that hatred by not being a typical Microsoft company. But we don't trust our visionaries, because the main visionary we had doesn't work here anymore.

We need to clean house on the crap businesses here - give them a pre-set amount of funding, a pre-set lifespan and let them go. Search? Advertising? Xbox? Zune? What are these businesses worth on their own? Meanwhile we continue to milk the daylights out of the SMSG business which continues (at least pre-tsunami) to be an engine although the cracks are showing on windows.

I think you're right. Zune can be successful as long as everybody's down with the vision. We have a great idea. But how the hell are we going to succeed in that idea, or that vision, when we can't even see two years into the future when a light-year mishap may have been a problem?

If Zune wants to play with the big boys, they need to recognize just what market they're in. It's a market that can ill afford to be down even for a day. The cynicism of everyday Zune employees is astounding. This wasn't what they bargained for.

We need to be tough parents on some of these businesses. We can't go on funding very speculative things on the back of the core commercial and oem businesses without a breakthrough at some point. So far the only cash flow positive things i see are incremental commercial businesses like sharepoint.

Please trust some of us in Zune. The New Year's Eve glitch absolutely repulsed those of us who weren't directly responsible for it. We're really trying to change the culture here at Zune. And we're frustrated and angry that we keep being shot down, or rebuffed, or beaten down by the Microsoft Way. Some of us can see who we can really be, and at some point one of us is going to have to take that vision by the horns and make it possible.

But it's hard, man. It's hard seeing this stuff keep happening. And I for one can't justify keeping an eye open for some other opportunity -- especially in a time when such opportunties are really, really hard to come by.

Anonymous said...

The Microsoft layoff rumors are spreading like wild fire now panicking even people in UK.
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-business/article-23610388-details/UK+fear+as+Microsoft+'poised+to+axe+15,000'/article.do

Almost every newspaper has caugt this story.
I hope the MS management wakes up from its slumber and acknowledges or denies the rumors

David Gerard said...

Microsoft Corporation is headed for swingeing layoffs in mid-January and has called for a government bailout in the face of the credit crunch.

"Vastly popular operating systems like Vista just aren't selling," said marketing marketer emeritus Bill Gates, "and it's all because people aren't confident to spend their money. In fact, they didn't start buying it in 2007 because they were expecting this even then. A subsidy to buy good, honest American computer operating systems is essential to the health of the economy, or my part of it anyway."

Hiring in most Microsoft divisions has frozen in the last six months. "The workload's impossible to keep up with," said blog evangelist Gary M. Stewart. "I've even been answering Slashdot comments on Boycott Novell. It's impossible to keep track of! Anyway, you're just another Twitter sockpuppet. Or Mini-Microsoft."

Should the Big One of American virtual office supplies fail, economists predict that it could free up millions of dollars in business spending and provide a devastating boost to an economy reeling from the impact of the credit crunch.

Additional bailouts have been hooked on the bill as riders for HD-DVD, eight-track cartridge manufacture, 78rpm gramophones and Babbage analytical engine gear manufacturers.

Government advisors have said they will only bail the company out with a change in top management. "What the shit," said Linus Torvalds as his draft notice arrived.

(To appear here later today.)

Anonymous said...

We also need a killer win 7. No pressure BillV since you "live and die for windows" you shameless huckster. Deliver or we're all pretty much screwed. And, by the way, the netbook is real. don't fail to deliver a netbook solution that isn't xp, fruitcake ha ha.

Obviously, you are not working in Windows... Win7 works great on netbooks.

There is plenty of netbooks (various makes) in COSD and they run Windows 7 flawlessly -- all drivers are inbox. 1 GB or RAM is good for Win7. 16 GB of SSD is working great for installing from network, but someone already succeeded installing Win7 on 8 GB SSD (with small trick to free additional 200 MB of disk space).

Anonymous said...

>> The New Year's Eve glitch absolutely
>> repulsed those of us who weren't directly
>> responsible for it.

You're talking out of your ass. The bug was in the code that Microsoft didn't even write, so no one is "responsible for it". It was in Freescale's driver for system clock.

http://www.zuneboards.com/forums/zune-news/38143-cause-zune-30-leapyear-problem-isolated.html

Keeperplanet said...

>"The fact is, J Allard's departure removed any validity our company may have had as a visionary company. I mean, jeez, even our inventor gave up on us."

I am assuming you are referring to Allard's elevation to CXO, and that he did not leave Microsoft?

Regarding Zune and your claim he is your inventor, then he should have left, as he seems to have missed more than one opportunity to slam-dunk Apple and iPod and PS3 and Wii with a group of truly visionary products, assuming he had the power there to offer those inventions. A true visionary would have created a cadre of products that are unlike anything the market has yet seen, created must have devices that would make marketing's job a breeze, and would have delivered Microsoft to no 1 status in the player and gaming markets. Not to mention, the missed opportunities for other as yet non-existent devices more in keeping with a true visionary.

You seem to be looking for a direction in the wrong place.

Anonymous said...

"What are you going to do, quit?"

Yes as a matter of fact I will. I was on a "reduced" team recently, found a job immediately. Unfortunately so did everyone in the bottom 10%. Meanwhile the hard workers who did their jobs well and achieved or where stretching into the top 20 actually LOST their jobs. (They are ALL back as contractors now making more cash... HMMM.

Given that, and a string of second rate products in areas that aren't monopolies with no road but one filled with potholes and defects to the future(Zune, WinMo, etc)... Yes I'll be taking my top reviews elsewhere. Microsoft can get mini with the bottom 10, they seem to believe that's the way to go.

I loved Microsoft when I started a decade ago, but they have lost their way.

Anonymous said...

"One case where the person simply is over qualified and scares the bejezuz out of his manager since the person would exceed him quickly and is being pushed down"

I call bullshit. I've been a manager at MSFT for over a decade, and I've never seen anything like this happen. Even if a manager tried something like this, the other managers in the calibration meeting would call him or her on it. If a person is "being pushed down", it's because they aren't getting their work done, or they have a personality issue. Trust me, if someone is a star at Microsoft, teams will do *ANYTHING* to keep that person happy.

Anonymous said...

People in Redmond shouldn't be nearly as worried as those in regional offices whose value is tenuous at best.

Anonymous said...

I think Zune is extremely important for us. Most people here believe Zune is the iPod, but Zune is actually an entertainment service, which happens to have a device.

Microsoft is in big trouble right now. Looking at the developers on my team (I am a dev on office), 9 out of 10 have macs (except for me), about 8 have iPhones (except for me), and everyone has Zunes.

I hate to break the news, but even Microsoft developers do not like Vista or mobile and love their macs. Zune is the one Microsoft product all these people us. Everyone uses Google.

Zune does need a big vision, its our hope of being cool again. And Windows 7, God we need Windows 7. Things don't look good for Microsoft right now, don't knock Zune, its going to help us survive, and if it can become the entertainment service I hear it will, it will help win back people who are leaving us in droves and going to the Mac store...

As many of you want to Axe Zune, you may as well as axe all of Microsoft, our customers are going to go with what is cool and fun and gives them what they want. And look at developers on any team, they don't want windows, live search, and mobile, but they do love their Zunes.

Anonymous said...

Actually rumours are correct but it would not happen on Jan 15 but soon after that.
Being indirectly associated with the team who was working on this plan with Chris Laidell. Though I am not sure what is the current status of this proposal plan but here was the proposal when I went on vacation:

Microsoft Support Organization: Huge money is being spent in microsoft support organization i.e. MSIT, GFS, XBOX Support, Worldwide Services etc.

Proposed Plan - cut workforce by 19% by 1:) Removing any projects which are critical to Microsoft's charter 2:) Disolving any Problem Management or any such horizontal programs 3:) Reducing the middlem management tier 4:) Eliminating anyone who has 10% ers two times in their career in MS.

MSN:There are lots of new companies which are acquired by MSN that has similar products now. This should happen pretty fast.

Proposed Plan - Cut the workforce by 17% by 1:) Killing any redundant product 2:)Eliminating anyone who has 10% ers two times in their career in MS.3:) Optimize the middle management tier.4:) Remove any remote office location

Windows: Cut work force by 10% by 1:) Eliminating anyone is 10% er in the past two year 2:) Middle Management layer optimization.

Worldwide Sales Organization: Cut the work force by 12% by 1:) Optimizing sales and account management layer. BTW - This layer is very expansive for Microsoft because of the bonus associated with it.

Higher Managerment Layer (Principal PMs, Group Managers, GMs, VPs and SVPs): These folks are already identified and probably will be asked to leave based on their performance in the past couple of years.

There are few more groups like Window Live (office, meeting etc.), Zune (30g will completely be dissolved), IE and some more critical group will take a hit.

Basically main axe is on Microsoft support, MSN, Windows and sales organization. Also they are seriously looking for 10%ers across the company.But this will not happen in a single day and I don't know how this got leaked but this will not be named as "layoffs". Basically this will be named as adjustments for optimization.

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend and I both work at MS. Two weeks ago she was told by her manager to begin cross-training a CSG in every aspect of her job by January 15th. When asked why the urgency or the 15th, she was not given an answer. After reading these posts, I think we now know exactly why.

As for me, my entire project has been scrapped (although it has not been made public yet), all CSGs let go, and FTEs are scrambling to find work on other teams.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy isn't it true: God knows the truth, but waits. MS is NOT in a bubble. We are not "too big to fail". The economy this year, well, we could be looking at a Depression unlike anything we have ever seen. Customers DO matter to MS because these are the ones who buy our products..and alot of those customers are going to either be shutting down or are going to move to free software. These are hard times ahead and they are not under Microsoft's control. All of us are going to be hurting. We have all been living in a world where VALUE doesn't matter much, or at least we don't have to output 100% value. We have felt that can throw away the "bad" parts of the chicken..and keep the rest. Who cared? That attitude will change. If anything, Microsoft will have to relearn how to create value and to hire people of value. If it doesn't and cannot re-learn this skill it WILL fail. We, MS employees are more likely to succeed in this climate than MS is. I have more faith in that. Whether you are layed off or not, you have valuable skills in some shape or form...and when the survival instinct bears its teeth, you will go in for the successful kill. MS should be retaining people who CAN produce and who CARE to produce a quality product. We need commitment and determination and focus. We need people who are willing to do the dirty work. I have a manager right now that reamed me for being too detailed and focused on "just coding" (I am a dev, the manager is a title that I don't even understand). Because of this, I may be seeing a pink slip and my manager will continue to rake in the $$$. I will have the last laugh anyway.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not these rumors are true, the impact on employee morale and confidence is definitely there to stay.

For example, I could see my response to the first work emails this year being influenced by the possibility of an imminent layoff.

Also, I can see the rumor affecting my willingness to take risks. After all, risk taking for the greater company good can lead to short term conflict - with management, colleagues, the field - increasing chances of being considered a candidate for a layoff if and when it happens.

Consider what happens come Jan 15th -

If there are major layoffs, then the company goes through the expected cycle of lowered morale, etc. And the fear of further layoffs will influence each employee directly.

If there are minor layoffs, then the speculations of further layoffs will take off.

If there are no layoffs, there will be speculations of the layoffs being deferred for some reason or the other.

The only thing that can even partially address the impact on morale is an official statement from management, one way or another.

Even then, there will be skepticism, since the company can always go back on its statement - in fact, there have been companywide statements by management in the past that there will never be any layoffs at Microsoft - if I remember right, one such was by SteveB at a company meeting in the early 2000s. So, any layoff at all would be contradicting a past stance, anyway).

However, the company coming out with as concrete an official statement as possible (at least internally) is the best they can do to minimize the growing impact of these rumors on employee morale. The earlier and more concrete, the better.

Anonymous said...

The technicians at Zune do not give one good goddamn about the brand's validity in the marketplace. They care about a paycheck

The problem you described above exists in every team in Microsoft not just Zune. There are a lot of people who are just passengers in a team (majority PMs, Architects, Partners, multiple GMs) who are never seen in office after 4:00 PM. This creates an angst between the low level devs who are made to work tirelessly and the higher ups and gets reflected in the employee morale. Things were not like thins in 2000 when there were fewer "passengers", fewer products and good morale.

Anonymous said...

Being indirectly associated with the team who was working on this plan with Chris Laidell

I call bull on this one. First it is Chris Liddell and not Chris Laidell. If you were working so closely with him you would have known to spell the name correctly. Second there wouldn't have been a lot of people working with Chris on this one. I assume you wouldnt be stupid enough to go public on this one without fearing that it might be possible to identify you

Anonymous said...

Regarding Zune and your claim he is your inventor, then he should have left, as he seems to have missed more than one opportunity to slam-dunk Apple and iPod and PS3 and Wii with a group of truly visionary products, assuming he had the power there to offer those inventions. A true visionary would have created a cadre of products that are unlike anything the market has yet seen, created must have devices that would make marketing's job a breeze, and would have delivered Microsoft to no 1 status in the player and gaming markets. Not to mention, the missed opportunities for other as yet non-existent devices more in keeping with a true visionary.

You seem to be looking for a direction in the wrong place.


Whether or not you agree with Allard leaving, or his "vision," you (referring to the apparent Zune employee who brought this up in the first place) need to get out of introspective mode and start figuring out how to make the brand work. Companies have to be able to figure out how to survive the loss of a key member and Zune's no exception. I personally haven't noticed a huge difference in my particular job or temperament since his or anybody else's departure. We're professionals, dude. Or ma'am.

No comment on any of the other stuff.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Microsoft's share is going down across the board. Search, Zune, Windows Mobile and now IE too has lost share to Safari and Firefox

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9124678&intsrc=hm_list

Anonymous said...

"Your statement is such an over simplification of what a corporations purpose for existing is."

Their answer is an over simplication; The company does have other obligations, including to customers, employees, the community, etc., although even there one should differentiate between discretionary versus non. But they were correct that increasing shareholder value is the primary task with which management and the board are charged. Legally so, I should add. Some read that as customers, employees, etc. are unimportant. Nothing is further from the truth. They're critical to successfully completing that objective. But don't confuse the means with the ends. The company has failed in its primary end goal for more than ten years. And it is now facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It doesn't have an obligation to maintain current employment levels through that. Few peers are doing so, and many would argue that MS was among the most bloated going in. Nor does it have some obligation to protect the Northwest's economy. It does however have a legal obligation to make decisions which are in the best long term interests of it shareholders, its poor track record to date notwithstanding. And given that this downturn is likely to be anything but temporary, and the impact on MS's financials substantial and ongoing, it would be irresponsible of the management team not to at least consider layoffs, even if you take the minority view that the company is right-sized and efficient currently.

The good news if you're an employee, and the bad news if you're a paying shareholder, is that MS is more likely than most to make the least possible cuts, regardless of impact to earnings and the stock. Which is why it will likely emerge from this downturn weaker not stronger, just as it did in 2001.

Anonymous said...

"If anything, Microsoft will have to relearn how to create value and to hire people of value. If it doesn't and cannot re-learn this skill it WILL fail. We, MS employees are more likely to succeed in this climate than MS is. I have more faith in that. Whether you are layed off or not, you have valuable skills in some shape or form...and when the survival instinct bears its teeth, you will go in for the successful kill. "

This entire comment has left me rather speechless... the lack of cogency is staggering. Is there a point to this comment?

Do you work at Microsoft? What on earth do you do?

Anonymous said...

I call bullshit. I've been a manager at MSFT for over a decade, and I've never seen anything like this happen. Even if a manager tried something like this, the other managers in the calibration meeting would call him or her on it. If a person is "being pushed down", it's because they aren't getting their work done, or they have a personality issue. Trust me, if someone is a star at Microsoft, teams will do *ANYTHING* to keep that person happy.

----------

If the guy/gal does not have the network support or knows how to work around the "obstructor" the solution you have outlined does not matter. It is a FIFO and a KNOWN constant problem.

Anonymous said...

You're talking out of your ass. The bug was in the code that Microsoft didn't even write, so no one is "responsible for it". It was in Freescale's driver for system clock.

Last I checked, it's not called "Feescale Zune". It's a MICROSOFT product. Customer's could give a crap if it was a driver written by a third party or not. Customer's bought a Microsoft product and had a crappy experience. And we still wonder why we have a reputation for arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Not that Widipedia is 100% accurate, but...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fudzilla

"Fear, uncertainty and doubt
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Fudzilla)
Jump to: navigation, search
Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric and fallacy used in sales, marketing, public relations,[1][2] politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival. FUD techniques may be crude and simple. Alternatively they may be very subtle, employing an indirect approach.

The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry and has since been used more broadly.[3] FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear."

This is the root source of all of these 17%, etc. rumors.

Anonymous said...

That Fudzilla article is pretty much BS, nothing more than self promotion for that web site.

I am hearing that there will some layoff but it's not the big number that's been bantered about. Groups will be asked to drive down cost - more than the $500 million already targeted.

The guy who claimed there is no layoff sounds a lot like my group leader. He's an overpaid idiot and part of the problem and should be RIF'ed. He wouldn't know a layoff is happening even if there is one.

Anonymous said...

You're talking out of your ass. The bug was in the code that Microsoft didn't even write, so no one is "responsible for it". It was in Freescale's driver for system clock.

If you incorporate code from external party into your product it is your responsibility to review and test it. You are responsible for what you ship and there really are no excuses. In these circumstances it would be more responsible to just own up to the mistake. At least people would respect you for have the b***s to admit where you went wrong.

Anonymous said...

Windows/Office price cuts would be awesome, and definitely long overdue.

Look at what office home & student costs. That's the price range a lot of our software needs to be in.

I hope they don't make the same Basic/Home Premium/Enterprise/Ultimate mistake with Win7 that they did with Vista. Don't make consumers have to read a lot of mumbo jumbo technical terms online to figure out the differences in the products. Drop it to two, with very obvious differences.

Anonymous said...

what is a CSG ?

Anonymous said...

Everybody else in Microsoft hates Zune. We change that hatred by not being a typical Microsoft company. But we don't trust our visionaries, because the main visionary we had doesn't work here anymore.

I like Zune. I think they did some innovative stuff, and didn't get enough credit for it. But after a few years, they still have a teeny tiny portion of market share. How much longer do we need to wait?

We're really trying to change the culture here at Zune. And we're frustrated and angry that we keep being shot down, or rebuffed, or beaten down by the Microsoft Way.

Ok, now I think Zune sucks. This is one of the big problems with your ad campaigns too. You guys think you are cooler than everyone else. You're not. The "Microsoft Way" is what's pulling in all of the money, allowing you to lose large sums of cash yet still keep people employed (at least until mid-January). You guys can't even get a Windows Mobile client shipped. Haven't you heard of the phrase "better together"?

Anonymous said...

Was it BG or SB who said that MS's asset is its people, and people are complex, emotional beings. If and when such layoffs occur, I hope it is done very very carefully. MS can go bankrupt in less than 6 months if circumstances is severe (paraphrasing BG/SB here) and no one will have a job then.

Anonymous said...

Ok, now I think Zune sucks. This is one of the big problems with your ad campaigns too.

------

Zune is a cool product. The genius of J is apparent. We are in college because of Zune.

Anonymous said...

All you really need to know about fudzilla is that the guy who runs it, Faud Abazovic, used to work for inquirer.com, and we all know how full of sh*t they usually are.

Anonymous said...

on Fuad Abazovic, I meant theinquirer.net not .com

Anonymous said...

""One case where the person simply is over qualified and scares the bejezuz out of his manager since the person would exceed him quickly and is being pushed down"

I call bullshit. I've been a manager at MSFT for over a decade, and I've never seen anything like this happen."

I have been around a while and have seen it happen often enough. A Manager can write anything in your review and judge you any which way. Doesn't matter how good you are or what you did.

Most of the other managers are trying to get their people stacked ranked higher - so they are all too happy with one less competition.

Anonymous said...

I have been around a while and have seen it happen often enough. A Manager can write anything in your review and judge you any which way. Doesn't matter how good you are or what you did.
--

and you think this is OK? geez passive aggression at it's finest

Keeperplanet said...

>". . . you (referring to the apparent Zune employee who brought this up in the first place) need to get out of introspective mode and start figuring out how to make the brand work."

You probably did not notice I am not a Microsoft employee or contractor, but I do list my website with all my posts.

But to answer your comment on brand, you are right. Already, without anything new, there is plenty to work with to make Zune more successful, and better marketing of the brand would help, but even there, Microsoft seems to have a difficult time selecting successful add campaigns.

While you can only sell so many Chevy Novas, the opportunity for success here is quite unlimited, new Zune products or not.

Anonymous said...

"Looks like Microsoft's share is going down across the board. Search, Zune, Windows Mobile and now IE too has lost share to Safari and Firefox"

I wouldn't be surprised it IE share goes below 50% by Jan 1st 2010. IE is too slow. Being a Microsoft employee, I really really want to use IE however keep switching to Chrome as the browsing experience is way better.

Anonymous said...

oh lalá

Anonymous said...

You guys can't even get a Windows Mobile client shipped. Haven't you heard of the phrase "better together"?

Nothing is better with Windows Mobile. Frankly I like my Zune, but it was a ship gift, I would have never purchased it myself. The hardware and the software on the device is quite nice. The PC Software they wrote is crap though, I've recently spent a half an hour over a bad connection trying to agree to a "terms of service", again, just so I could spend money.

My WinMo device on the other hand is complete CR@&, and I have had several. This particular one is the HTC Touch. It crashes regularly, works when it wants to, and generally behaves badly. The only reason I don't have an IPhone is because it doesn't work on my preferred networks.

WinMo is BADLY bloated as a division, poorly managed at intermediate and executive levels, has Failed for years. Much of the work there is actually done by contract staff (CSG for the person who asked) while the FTE worry themselves with the worst implementation of the stack rank at Microsoft.

If I could have one wish for the new year, it would be Microsoft would terminate WinMo once and for all. The product is a clear looser.

Start up a new team at 1/1000 of the size and write a decent phone (and just to be fair, that would mean my wife and my best friend would both probably be unemployed... Well probably not they are both CSG).

Anonymous said...

"Zune is a cool product. The genius of J is apparent. We are in college because of Zune."

Actually, we're on campuses due to Xbox and LIVE, another J. idea.

We aren't there yet with Zune -- if you've been on a campus lately you'd see that iPods and iPhones have an iron grip on that demographic.

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft is in big trouble right now. Looking at the developers on my team (I am a dev on office), 9 out of 10 have macs (except for me), about 8 have iPhones (except for me), and everyone has Zunes."

Didn't office get Zunes as Christmas (or was it ship) gifts a year or so back? That would explain this.

Anonymous said...

WinMo is BADLY bloated as a division, poorly managed at intermediate and executive levels, has Failed for years. Much of the work there is actually done by contract staff (CSG for the person who asked) while the FTE worry themselves with the worst implementation of the stack rank at Microsoft. .

As someone that worked in WinMo for 8 months, this assessment is spot on. The minute I arrived I knew I'd made a bad decision and worked to get out as fast as I could. The product is too dependent on mobile operators and OEM's. It's not written for the end user in mind; it's written so as to please the most OEM's and operators. Add to that, they can't decide if they want to be a floor wax, or a dessert topping. The field tries to "sell" it into enterprises, but the product doesn't care about them. They hallucinate that they can soon catch the iPhone. Hell, WinMo7 won't even be on par with iPhone 1.0.

This is another product with a branding problem. As a consumer, when I walk into (flll mobile operator store front here), I know a Blackberry when I see it. I know a Nokia when I see it. I know an iPhone when I see it, What the hell is a Windows Mobile Device? Hell, it could be any of those devices, but I have no idea. Nor do I know why I would want one. Thus, consumers take the Blackberry or iPhone. They know what they are getting. The best thing they could do it pick a device and stick with it. Or put a radio stack in the Zune.

Management philosophy is basically a cross between "Lord of the Flies" and "Arrested Development" , if that's possible.

Anonymous said...

>>> Actually rumours are correct but it would not happen on Jan 15 but soon after that.
Being indirectly associated with the team who was working on this plan with Chris Laidell. Though I am not sure what is the current status of this proposal plan but here was the proposal when I went on vacation: [....] 4:) Eliminating anyone who has 10% ers two times in their career in MS.


Hopelessly hilarious. What if they reported sometime ago to a bad manager?

For the record, at the very beginning of my career at MS I had two 20%-ers - due to a horrific manager (long gone). But I stayed on since I really liked the project and my work. Now I don't even remember how many years ago I had less than 4.0 or Exceeded. (at least six years or more)

Try harder with your next fabricated post...

Anonymous said...

Didn't office get Zunes as Christmas (or was it ship) gifts a year or so back? That would explain this.

Why would the office team get Zunes? Actually, why do they get a Christmas gift at all? That isn't common in other teams.

But there will be cost-cutting measures across the board (which means fewer free food and morale events).

I don't think it's possible for the windows division to have fewer morale events. But I'm glad this means that other teams won't be taking multi-day trips to Canada, or having all-day offsite meetings at the Salish Lodge.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not you agree with Allard leaving, or his "vision," you (referring to the apparent Zune employee who brought this up in the first place) need to get out of introspective mode and start figuring out how to make the brand work. Companies have to be able to figure out how to survive the loss of a key member and Zune's no exception. I personally haven't noticed a huge difference in my particular job or temperament since his or anybody else's departure. We're professionals, dude. Or ma'am


Not a member of the Zune team but here is my opinion on getting the brand work. At least, a few principles on how to execute toward that goal.
- First and foremost, make a product people will LOVE. Yes, that and only that should be the ultimate goal.
- Don't settle for anything less than great, or go home. Good enough = failure.
- Stop trying to copy Apple. Even more, ignore completely what Apple does. Try to find your own soul.

And, finally, LISTEN to feedback from other MS people. Even if that means a few tears now and then. People send comments (good or bad) on your product because they ultimately care about it.

Anonymous said...

If you incorporate code from external party into your product it is your responsibility to review and test it.

Oh sure. Because you and your employer painstakingly inspected every single physical object and piece of software that you use in your workplace to ensure that they meets all requirements perfectly. In other words, don't be a hypocrite. Everybody ultimately has to trust to some extent that things that they buy are fit for their intended puprose or nobody would get anything done.

To go back to a post several weeks ago, this is an excellent example of why MS is averse to bundling any third party products.

Anonymous said...

I've become a Zune convert since picking up an 8GB a few months back. I think they receive a lot of crap from people that haven't given their product an honest chance. Their subscription service is excellent and affordable, plus you get to keep 10 songs a month now. The desktop software is _lightyears_ better than iTunes, have you honestly used it lately and still think iTunes is better? C'mon... I also prefer the navigation flicky thing better than the iPod wheel. I don't use the wifi, but I'm praying that they'll add podcast downloading over wifi without requiring a computer at some point - that would make it incredible. Anyways, I don't work in Zune, but I do really respect what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the recent WinMo, IE, Zune comments are amusing. Some observations:

I don't know how hosed up the WinMo folks are (I prefer the latest unlocked Nokias), but they sure seem to be recruiting like crazy. I had to actually get rude to get the WinMo recruiter/evangelist to leave me alone.

Recently I've been reading up on web page design stuff and CSS. One common theme is IE sucks. I was actually surprised that IE doesn't support CSS as well as every other browser and is seen as a leading drag in web development innovation. All hail IE8, when IE will finally drag itself into the 21st century ;-)

Lastly, I find the remarks about Freescale bugging some driver code on Zune (I assume running wince) to be very amusing. The real fault here is that every Windows driver interface sucks, and just when most folks have figured out how to make it not suck, Microsoft changes it to, "help," the folks trying to write drivers. Keep it simple, keep it stable, keep it standard. Lol, otherwise stop the incessant whining about bad third party drivers.

Anonymous said...

This is another product with a branding problem. As a consumer, when I walk into (flll mobile operator store front here), I know a Blackberry when I see it. ...

It won't always be about the brand. Microsoft's strategy with WM is and has been 100% correct: provide the DOS to everybody else's Mac OS. Once the stranglehold of carriers is broken, the operating system on cell phones will become more significant than the hardware, and the company that makes the "standard" mobile OS that runs on almost all handsets can make a mint.

Unfortunately, while Microsoft has had the correct strategy, the implementation has been beyond terrible. Crashes, hangs, and glaring usability flaws aside, even the process of installing and managing software on a WM phone is horrible. Do you think DOS or Windows would have survived if it was impossible for Joe Sixpack to figure out how to install programs on them?

Luckily for consumers, Google seems to have copied Microsoft's mobile idea/strategy but in a way that's not consumer-hostile.

Anonymous said...

I loved the new post on the InsideMS blog today about these rumors.

I'm not going to post the official Microsoft response to these rumors here (that's an internal matter). Make sure to check the blog out as soon as you get in on Monday.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised it IE share goes below 50% by Jan 1st 2010. IE is too slow.

I stopped using IE for the most part with version 7, when it went all ribbon-y and the UI was splayed randomly across the top of the window for no obvious reason. But I still used it for Hotmail because that's what Messenger launches. But I stopped doing even that because for a few days last month loading Hotmail was crashing IE and I was forced to use FF for that too. Doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

Anonymous said...

I loved the new post on the InsideMS blog today about these rumors.

There's no new InsideMS post today; I just quickly ras'd in to check.

Anonymous said...

I loved the new post on the InsideMS blog today about these rumors.

I'm not going to post the official Microsoft response to these rumors here (that's an internal matter). Make sure to check the blog out as soon as you get in on Monday.


What post? I just looked, the lasted thing I see is "HRWeb has changed" from 12/15/2008. Do you have a link (yeah, I know it won't work outside corpnet).

Anonymous said...


I loved the new post on the InsideMS blog today about these rumors.


which post dude?

Anonymous said...

The real fault here is that every Windows driver interface sucks, and just when most folks have figured out how to make it not suck, Microsoft changes it to, "help," the folks trying to write drivers. Keep it simple, keep it stable, keep it standard. Lol, otherwise stop the incessant whining about bad third party drivers.

#1 - The Zune issue had nothing to do with a bad interface. It was just bad code. Easy bug to miss, but yeah, someone should've tested it.

#2 - The driver interfaces rarely change. And if they do, the old interfaces have to be left there in almost all cases because of backwards compat reasons. New interfaces are added with additional capabilities.

#3 - We're all waiting for your simple, stable and standard driver interface. Please make sure all existing hardware can use it, and that it can handle what PC's will need for the next 10+ years.

The model that exists today for many drivers was first developed for Win98. I don't think there have been any major changes in quite some time (not since WinXP maybe).

#4 - There will always be bad 3rd party drivers. Fortunately, more and more of those are getting moved to user mode. At least there's less chance of the driver killing your machine.

#5 - If you have specific complaints about the driver model, make sure there are bugs filed for these comments.


No, I don't work for the team that owns this stuff.

Anonymous said...

to the genius who wrote

To the poster on the other thread who said that CSGs do all the work. He must be in a group that will be let go soon. Look at Office most of the dev teams have no CSGs on them. Also I think most devs will be save (on good products). Writing software is our core if we start laying devs off that will bad. Sales people, evangelist, support, IT... good luck.

Its easy to write off sales, support & evangelists but remember that these are folks who land the products at the customers doorstep and bring the $$$ that pays salaries for the rest of the company. you may write the best goddamn software in the world but if you screw up on sales & marketing execution its goodbye for good. Remember Informix anyone? Or Digital or BaaN?

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