Tuesday, March 18, 2008

MS Poll 08

MS Poll 2008: what parts of the employee poll do you see as critical in communicating any changes that need to happen at Microsoft?

Act Local: first of all, usually when I review poll results, my team looks at the questions and comments directly relevant to things that we can change. So if you want change in your day-to-day group, look hard at those questions that managers who report to a VP are accountable for. I can't count the number of times that we've looked through poll spreadsheets and some of the harshest numbers might be around "Microsoft is headed in the right direction" or something, and nothing but shrugs result from those number since the reaction is usually, "What can we do about that?"

I've also been in meetings where we sit down and look at every comment, and figure out ownership and actions. Again, for things beyond our scope of impact we have to move on. But for serious comments that are relevant to the team a lot of attention is given. Strongly disagree about something? Note it and put in a fix for it in the comments later.

What I'm saying: act locally first and honestly assess your workgroup and put some effort into comments relevant to your group, probably noting the group's / VP's name specifically in the comment for any roll-up your comment goes into, should you have a senior VP (or heaven forbid, a president) that actually glances through any of this.

Next, Think Globally for the Company: then there's the broader company wide feedback.

  • Do I think we're headed in the right direction? No, not with our explosive employee growth and our highly questionable acquisition pursuit of Yahoo (oof, sorry, I just had a mental image of a smirking Kevin Johnson wearing a black top-hat + cape and stroking his long, skinny waxed mustache). And I fear with all these new people and buildings, Redmond and Bellevue are about to turn into a constant parking lot (especially when that monstrosity opens near Highway 520).
  • Our systems and processes have exploded - and I'm not just talking about the pain in the butt magical commitment tool (magical in that it can make comments *poof* disappear).
  • Our rank and yank employee calibration doesn't align with valuing contributing to other people's success, so why even ask a question about being rewarded and recognized for that? Bring in some sort of team-based recognition and rewards and this will change.
    • Follow-up: hell yes your success is assessed relative to your peers. Duh.
  • This is the first time I've pulled in and shorted the number of years I expect to continue working at Microsoft. Usually I'm all "Here till I drop!" highly enthused, but now I'm concerned about the recent business decisions and the potential for that to make Microsoft go south, let alone the long-term impacts being felt now by the accrual of so many unneeded hires. Microsoft has the unfortunate potential to change so much that it will no longer be Microsoft to me.
  • As for a message to send upwards loud an clear about what motivates people to put in the extra effort, I think I can sum it up as: stock.

The stock has to start performing well. Our executive leadership doesn't believe that the stock performance matters, especially to employees. Does Microsoft stock price matter to you? I imagine you just said, "Hell yeah it does, Mini!" Let them know. If our stock started shooting up (like it did oh so briefly) would you be more highly motivated and engaged in your job? If we hit $40? $50? If you started seeing the rewards of working at Microsoft around the stock you own and it actually being a benefit vs. a woeful joke going on over a half-a-decade, how would things change for you?

Employees have to say loud and clear, whether through the poll or other communications with leadership, that the Microsoft stock price does matter and it does make a difference. Want us to be bold? Re-invigorate the stock. Want us to take risks? Re-invigorate the stock. Want us to work above and beyond what's required of us? Re-invigorate the stock.

And do other things like have a better 401k match and bring back the old ESPP. There it is, stock again.

I encourage you to put in any positive remarks about things going well so that they don't change for the worst. And if something needs to change, it's always best to put in the positive business-based solution vs. just asking the problem being addressed. Otherwise, you might not like the solution.

I do think the poll is worth the effort, especially for provoking useful change in your group. As for a broader message, there's a potential that if key numbers radically change this year that it will be a wake up call. You might as well ring that bell.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

That Whistling Sound

Some weeks you just feel like Wile E. Coyote, beat up and dazed at the bottom of a canyon you just crash landed onto, wavering back and forth in the swirling dust while new knots grow out of your head and little concussion spirals spin above your black and blue eyes. And there's a shadow. A shadow that's growing bigger and bigger around you, and you wonder, where did that new Acme anvil get to, anyway, and what's that whistling sound?

Time to pop up the little umbrella.

That's what last week sort of felt like to me. Fines. Stock beat to hell and back. Incriminating emails showing up in the Vista incapable lawsuit. The Yahoo acquisition stumbling forward against the better judgment of the world. Friggin' bugs in the review tool that causes feedback to disappear in the HR IT bit-bucket (hello, we have this neato homegrown technology called Word which tends not to lose things). OOXML on the ropes. Live-ID sign-in offline. Crap.

Fine, just fine: Shortly after the Steve / Brad / Ray show of all the new documentation we're unleashing on the world, the EU found that wallet they'd been feeling for as they groped us and slapped Microsoft with another big huge fine.

Dolores Umbrid- err, Neelie Kroes on this: "Talk, as you know, is cheap; flouting the rules is expensive, so to say. We don't want talk and promises, we want compliance. If you flout the rules you will be caught, and it will cost you dear."

To which she added, her eyes blazing in Steve Ballmer's direction, "I drink your milkshake!" Quickly followed by an email to SteveB of a photo of her cat sitting on a wad of euros, captioned "I'm in ur profitz, stealin' ur cash."

Intel certainly should be worried, too, having had an EU raid on a European office recently. And Google shouldn't be too smug either: Microsoft Is The EU's ATM Machine - And Google Is Next - Seeking Alpha. If you're #1 in something and not entwined around the success of an European partner / partner ecosystem, your butt is next to be hoisted upside down and shook until a few billion pop out.

And while I'm not going to go all Hank Reardon here and get upset about documenting how our particular kind of industrial steel works, I am having negative tit-for-tat protectionist reactions. I'm human: my company is bleeding fines - fines we'll pay especially given the Yahoo in-play factor - and nary a word from the US government saying, "Hey, whoa, we'd like some of that cash to stay local here." And don't get me started about fairness. This is international economic political reality, which is about as far from fair as you can get, although all sides can certainly enshroud themselves in the mien fairness as they speak their piece.

My expectation is, just like Windows XP N, a lot of this will just go unused. I mean, I guess if I go to Hell one of the first punishments will be "Here's the Exchange protocol documentation. Please write a server that works against this protocol." Probably followed by something much, much worse, "Here's the Sharepoint protocol doc-" "No! Just gut me or do something with fire ants and a poker already!"

I can only hope that the cash goes to something useful at the end of the day. You know, something better than ill-advised acquisitions, SPSA pay-outs, and hiring lots and lots of more Microsofties to do less and less. Hmm. Perhaps I could warm up to these fines.

Who said what? And they're still employed? Ah, email discovery. What's the point in having an ass if it you can't do something that comes around and gets your squarely bit in said ass? Some of those email exchanges I already kind of expected, but the one about possible collusion with Intel to support their chipset? Double d'oh with an oy-vey on top.

Busted. This is where you reach for the wallet (if you can evade Ms. Kroes sticky fingers on an interception route) and just pay-up. In my opinion, we screwed up here, badly. God forbid if any of those friggin' Vista Capable stickers showed up in the EU...

Rewarding: so how was the Microsoft Technical Recognition Awards in La Quinta, CA this year? I still don't know why they need to go all the way the hell down to California for the technical semi-Partner achievement getaway. Oh, wait, getaway. And hey, didn't the Watson guys win last year, too? Sorry, but with everything going on and the stock down on the low end of $27, more weenies and less shrimp for the SPSA crowd would be mighty nice.

Silverlight lining: I can only hope that some good will and interesting results come out of Mix08 and our own Tech Fest. The last two Tech Fest have been really interesting for me. This one I don't have as high hopes for, having gone through the initial list, but that leaves the door for me to be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, after this week, you've got to wonder: can it get any worse?

What's that whistling sound?