Monday, October 31, 2005

Giving a Reality Check

Giving: checking in with the Giving Campaign at http://give/ shows we met the dollar target but missed the percent target (just by 5%). I am so proud to work at a company that matches our charitable giving dollar to dollar. Since 2001, I always feel a little anxiety every time a Giving Campaign rolls around, wondering if people are prone to giving less when work is more like a jay-oh-bee than a remarkable place. I do muse over the business group breakouts, wondering if there's anything to be drawn from the high participation (research / exec staff) to the low participation.

Business Week: there were a few interesting letters following up to the Business Week interview with Steve Ballmer: Reading Between The Lines At Microsoft. Interesting snippet:

With 25 years of experience as a human resources and organization consultant, I found the hollow phrases of Ballmer and his evasive response to the pointed questions of your journalists very recognizable. I've heard and seen them before in numerous companies where, soon afterward, the chief executive and the organization were in deep trouble and totally "surprised."

Mr. Greene also kicks in his assessment of last week's financials: Microsoft's Xbox Factor. As for the financials and other reactions, Friday was a good day (though any day we end up at least one cent feels like a good day for the past few years). A number of articles are coming vetting that Microsoft has finally hit bottom and is set for stock growth. I have my favorite cowboy hat ready to start waving as I yell out "Yee, haw!" riding that climbing stock chart line graph. The following should stay live and current as time goes by so we'll see (Microsoft vs. the stock indexes via Yahoo!):

Check, check: regarding the posts cheering on ChrisJo's internal blogging and the departures of Hadi and Don, this comment hits the Reality Check Reset button:

I am surprised with the kind of people that are getting praised in this group. First you expect the HR folks to come and solve the problems that exist at low levels. Linda Brumel is expected to solve all problems that exist. Then every fat middle management person that leaves microsoft is praised as having contributed incredibly for the success of Microsoft. ( what about the folks that are breaking their backs and still working hard ) Then people like Chris Jones who did a lot of useless things are being praised as heros. Who killed the IE team without any business sense ( IE team is being re-created because of firefox ), pushed longhorn API and messed up alpha longhorn and has a business degree. Not only has he successfully disbanded a good team - he has grown incompetent people to management roles. His org still has a lot of issues and people like him are causing the current problems at Microsoft.

Goodness! A little context goes a long way.

No Windows for You! Various comments in the last post go back and forth discussing the threat to yank Windows out of South Korea if the South Korean government come down with a decision that forces Microsoft to redesign what goes in the box. I agree with some of the commenters that the components in question should already be such that the base COM components can always be installed and you can make the executable instantiating those components either hidden, install on demand, turned-off, download only, whatever. As a shareholder pissed off by the whole Windows N debacle, though (how many copies of that have we sold, M. E.U.?), I am a bit ready to collect my marbles. But then, a $200,000,000 growing market keeps my attention (and my marbles on the ground).

I'm not clear on the SKU plan for Vista, but perhaps there is a stripped down "N"-ish version in there with all the basic components to program against but none of the executables present that we can provide for situations like this. I like the idea of "Mega" or "Max" or "Supah Premium" versions because they then do give value to the, ah, bundling of features out of the box and distinguish them from a monolithic operating system that governments object to. Choice begets wiggle room.


Anonymous said...

You MSFT guys are fun to read. It reminds
me of reading the transcripts from the
Congresses of Communist Party of S.U
in the late Stalin-early Krushchev era.

Then it was Uncle Joe holding the muzzle
really short. Now you have Uncle Bill
and Uncle Steve doing the same strictly
centralised control.

You spend a lot of time dividing a skin
on a bear that isn't really shot, just
asleep. And it is slowly waking up.

Like with Communist Party the same thing
is crucial for advancement at MSFT:
docility and strict obedience.

Ya'll claim to be very smart, how come
nobody mentioned those two words? One
Communist Party even had an acronym
for it Passive, Mediocre but Faithfull.
(BMW was the acronym in that language,
and everyone noticed that it was the
same as the brand of car the PMF
communists drove)

Good luck and Good night.

Uncle Sly

Anonymous said...

From the BusinessWeek Interview:

Q:But it had been delayed?
A:Vista will be out next year. Vista has never been delayed. I mean, we had earlier conceptualizations, but the thing that is Vista is on its track.

How can that be I ask myself ? Longhorn got delayed by a couple of years, but since we announced Vista, few months back, it is on track.

Anonymous said...

I just love the giving campaign. It's really fun to watch execs in an orgy of spam, begging the underlings to donate so they can look like they have the most generous orgs.

It's a shock that Bill supports the United Way though, I guess he never heard about William Aramony.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to post and be anoymous about it. I hope that whoever wants to give me some feedback on my performance can come do it personally rather than post it on a blog. Sigh.

Some corrections for your poster:
- I don't have a business degree.
- It's Lisa Brummel not Linda Brumel.

Anonymous said...

The Business Week letter to the editor about the similarities between Microsoft and Digital truly made me shiver. Just last week some other former DECies and I in the Washignton office were wondering if we were the only ones seeing these ominous signs . . .Sigh.

Anonymous said...

In response to:
"I just love the giving campaign. It's really fun to watch execs in an orgy of spam, begging the underlings to donate so they can look like they have the most generous orgs."

C'mon, the company matches everything and I suspect the biggest doners (and taxpayers) are the execs. We do all our giving at this time of year since its so easy to get the match. All of it would happen anyways, but its the convenient time to do so.

Yes, William Aramony (United Way CEO 12 yrs ago) was totally corrupt and the Washington DC area United Way was until recently even worse.

However, the United Way does do a lot of good work. I don't support them because of their policies towards the Boy Scouts. However, they support many fine groups and provide a way for those groups to get funding that they could not do themselves.

At least MS also pays the admin costs. Every other company I've been at pulls the admin cost out of your donation. At MS, your money really goes to the charity, though sometimes it takes a few months too long to get there :-(

Anonymous said...

"I hope that whoever wants to give me some feedback on my performance can come do it personally rather than post it on a blog."

Right, so you can get people fired rather than own up to sucking. If you had any integrity at all you'd beg your manager to give you a 2.5 so you'd have to leave.

Anonymous said...

I posted before in weak support of the United Way. Maybe I should take that back now.

CEO Marsha Evans (American Red Cross) $651,957
CEO Ralph Dickerson Jr. (United Way of NYC) $420,000

CEO Todd Bassett (National Commander Salvation Army) $166,850
CEO Thomas A. DeStefano (Catholic Charities USA) $116,362

The Red Cross and United Way (NYC!!) are paid way too much for a "non-profit". This by the way is direct salary and no perks, bonuses or anything else. It makes me sick.

At least Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army have some sanity here.

Anonymous said...

"I posted before in weak support of the United Way. Maybe I should take that back now.

CEO Marsha Evans (American Red Cross) $651,957
CEO Ralph Dickerson Jr. (United Way of NYC) $420,000

CEO Todd Bassett (National Commander Salvation Army) $166,850
CEO Thomas A. DeStefano (Catholic Charities USA) $116,362"

I'm sorry, but this is one of the dumber arguments I hear about charities. The issue is not how much a CEO or Director is paid, the issue is how effective the organization is. The Red Cross is vastly more effective than The Salvation Army and it isn't a religious organization. That half a million is a drop in the bucket. In other words, if The Red Cross and the Salvation Army both get $500,000 in donations but the CEO of the Red Cross gets 100k and the CEO of the Salvation Army gets 50k it's absurd to stick with the Salvation Army when they are only helping 100 people and the Red Cross is still helping 500 people. That's exactly what's happening. The Salvation Army, by the way, exists in 102 countries, with 40,000 paid CLERGY members. When you donate to the Salvation Army, you're donating to them as well.

There are two sides to every story, wake up people.

Anonymous said...

This Red Cross/Salvation Army debate is way off topic but have to post my point of view anyways.

The Red Cross is a joke, and most relief workers with any experience will tell you that. My grandfather was a firefighter and ever major disaster he helped in the Red Cross was the last to arrive and the Salvation Army was the first.

Just look at Katrina, where the Red Cross claimed they could not reach survivors when the Salvation Army, reporters, and even Wal-mart was there helping.

Anonymous said...

Yup, that whole Xbox360 ramp vs spike argument left me and apparently several analysts scratching our heads. Unsure whether there's a major problem there or MSFT is trying to undepromise and overdeliver for a change :-) Let's hope it's the latter.

BTW, the one-year chart Mini? Were you feeling generous or did you think the 3 year would be too daunting? :-) Kidding aside, it would be nice to actually end one-year at the market or better. Maybe CY 06?

Anonymous said...

I'm a student at the University of Waterloo and have been reading this blog for a while. This is totally offtopic, but considering the whole reorg and the supposed mass employee dissent, or at least the distrubance, is now a good time to be an MSFT intern?
Also, any resume/interview tips?


Anonymous said...

"is now a good time to be an MSFT intern?
Also, any resume/interview tips?"

No, it's not a good time. The best tip I can give you is not to bother.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, you (and your Grandfather) don't know what you're talking about (for everyone you can find that says the Red Cross is slow, I can find people who's lives have been saved). The Red Cross was outsted from Katrina Relief efforts. The effort the Salvation Army/Walmart and reporters made wasn't nearly big enough to be noticed (if they had the resources of the Red Cross they would have been in the same boat):

The Red Cross FAQ -

"What are the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement?

Humanity: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.

Impartiality: It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress."

Here's the Mission Statement for the Salvation Army -

"The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."

If you give money to the Salvation Army, you're supporting their efforts to convert people in Africa. I'll be honest, I'd rather see it go into the hands of the guy running the operation get it.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that Microsoft announced it's "Windows Live" idea and MS stock went up only 1% (and if you look at the intraday chart you'll see it went down a little at the end of the day when the announcement came) and Google went up more than 2%. This is nothing but a brand change for the dismal pile of sh*t we call MSN and investors aren't dumb enough to fall for it. Mini, when will Microsoft understand that MSN is useless?

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

To the kid at Waterloo - check out the jobsblog for more information. That's a better place, plus you can avoid a lot of the bitter betty comments on this site.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Didn't take very long to flip the bozo bit, did it?

I think I liked this better when your comments were off. (I know - I know - I don't have to read them.)

- Drew

Anonymous said...

hey, is this new, i got hired into msft from quite a senior position as a distinguished member of tech staff from an engineering company and now I am being asked to work on program management on some nitty shitty project that is overstaffed and underworked...i speak to my manager about it and his manager (a director) and they say - "yawn, let's wait for the re-orgs to complete, have fun till then"..oh btw, did you give at the give campaign...

Can Brummel help me get a new job at MSFT, cause no one in my group 2 levels up is even willing to listen and my HR contact doesn't respond to my emails/calls before 72 hours and she doesn't send more than one-lines about "working with your manager to align yourself better"..

BS..I am pissed, and probably going to Google if they hire me....

Anonymous said...

If you're feeling underworked and not getting a straight answer, GET OUT!! As plenty of people have posted, first year hires are looked at as prime 3.0 candidates.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to post and be anoymous about it. I hope that whoever wants to give me some feedback on my performance can come do it personally rather than post it on a blog.

Dear Chris, MS Poll is anonymous for a reason. Manager feedback is anonymous for a reason. Voting for president is anonymous even in a free countries for a reason. The reason is that no matter how you assure people about your honesty, most won't believe. Especially when one day someone else, not as honest as you may become a manager and suddenly recall that some people complained.

Seriously, there should be personal exec poll in addition to the generic MS Poll.

Now, it would be nice if you listed your achievements as you see them and explain why do you think you have been performing well. If that is about shipping IE and winning the Web, I am sorry, but many do not perceive this as winning move and IE as a high quality product, including customers, press and even internally. Putting IE in the sustained engineering - was it a good move? Is it listed in your review as an achievement or as a fault? What were you doing when Longhorn was going nowhere?

Anonymous said...

Steve Jobs made some interesting comments about leadership and technology. I think he's right on the money regarding Msft's current woes.

The Seed of Apple's Innovation
CEO Steve Jobs says among other practices, it's "saying no to 1,000 things" so as to concentrate on the "really important" creations

In an era when most technology outfits have tightened their belts to adapt to a slower-growing market, one company stands out for forging ahead on innovation: Apple Computer (AAPL ). Others have slashed R&D and focused on incremental advances to existing product lines. Not Apple. Advertisement

By combining technical knowhow with a new concept for how to sell music online, Apple's iPod music player has become the most influential new tech product in years. At the same time, Apple has maintained its reputation for making the most elegant, easy-to-use desktop computers as well.

Much of the credit for this performance is attributed to Chief Executive Steven P. Jobs, who founded Apple in 1976 -- but was ousted in 1985 before making a triumphant return in 1997. BusinessWeek Computer Editor Peter Burrows recently talked about the nature of innovation with Jobs, who is back to work part-time after recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Apple has long been an innovative place with lots of smart, passionate engineers. But it seemed to fall off the map in the years before you returned in 1997. What happened?
A: Let's start at the beginning. Both [Apple co-founder] Steve Wozniak and I -- and I think I can speak for Woz -- got our view of what a technology company should be while working for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And the first rule over there was to build great products. Well, Apple invented the PC as we know it, and then it invented the graphical user interface as we know it eight years later [with the introduction of the Mac]. But then, the company had a decade in which it took a nap.

Q: What can we learn from Apple's struggle to innovate during the decade before you returned in 1997?
A: You need a very product-oriented culture, even in a technology company. Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together. Otherwise, you can get great pieces of technology all floating around the universe. But it doesn't add up to much. That's what was missing at Apple for a while. There were bits and pieces of interesting things floating around, but not that gravitational pull.

People always ask me why did Apple really fail for those years, and it's easy to blame it on certain people or personalities. Certainly, there was some of that. But there's a far more insightful way to think about it. Apple had a monopoly on the graphical user interface for almost 10 years. That's a long time. And how are monopolies lost? Think about it. Some very good product people invent some very good products, and the company achieves a monopoly.

But after that, the product people aren't the ones that drive the company forward anymore. It's the marketing guys or the ones who expand the business into Latin America or whatever. Because what's the point of focusing on making the product even better when the only company you can take business from is yourself?

So a different group of people start to move up. And who usually ends up running the show? The sales guy. John Akers at IBM (IBM ) is the consummate example. Then one day, the monopoly expires for whatever reason. But by then the best product people have left, or they're no longer listened to. And so the company goes through this tumultuous time, and it either survives or it doesn't.

Q: Is this common in the industry?
A: Look at Microsoft (MSFT ) -- who's running Microsoft?

Q: Steve Ballmer.
A: Right, the sales guy. Case closed. And that's what happened at Apple, as well.

Q: How did Apple recapture its innovative spark?
A: I used to be the youngest guy in every meeting I was in, and now I'm usually the oldest. And the older I get, the more I'm convinced that motives make so much difference. HP's primary goal was to make great products. And our primary goal here is to make the world's best PCs -- not to be the biggest or the richest.

We have a second goal, which is to always make a profit -- both to make some money but also so we can keep making those great products. For a time, those goals got flipped at Apple, and that subtle change made all the difference. When I got back, we had to make it a product company again.

Q: How do you manage for innovation?
A: We hire people who want to make the best things in the world. You'd be surprised how hard people work around here. They work nights and weekends, sometimes not seeing their families for a while. Sometimes people work through Christmas to make sure the tooling is just right at some factory in some corner of the world so our product comes out the best it can be. People care so much, and it shows.

I get asked a lot why Apple's customers are so loyal. It's not because they belong to the Church of Mac! That's ridiculous.

It's because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it]. And you think, "Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!" And then three months later you try to do something you hadn't tried before, and it works, and you think "Hey, they thought of that, too." And then six months later it happens again. There's almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac. And you have it with an iPod.

Q: What's the CEOs role in all of this?
A: I don't know. Head janitor?

Q: Seriously, a lot of people give you much of the credit. How much of it is you?
A: Look, I was very lucky to have grown up with this industry. I did everything in the early days -- documentation, sales, supply chain, sweeping the floors, buying chips, you name it. I put computers together with my own two hands. And as the industry grew up, I kept on doing it.

Not everyone knows it, but three months after I came back to Apple, my chief operating guy quit. I couldn't find anyone internally or elsewhere that knew as much as he did, or as I did. So I did that job for nine months before I found someone I saw eye-to-eye with, and that was Tim Cook. And he has been here ever since.

Of course, I didn't tell anyone because I already had two jobs [CEO of Apple and of movie maker Pixar Animation Studios (PIXR )] and didn't want people to worry about whether I could handle three [jobs]. But after Tim came on board, we basically reinvented the logistics of the PC business. We've been doing better than Dell (DELL ) [in terms of some metrics such as inventory] for five years now!


The Seed of Apple's Innovation
[Page 2 of 2]

Q: With the iPod, Apple moved beyond the PC into consumer electronics. But you're still considered a niche player that picks its spots in bigger markets. Will you try to expand to become a more full-line player, like a Sony (SNE ) or Samsung?
A: The fact that you're comparing us to Sony is a statement in itself. I'm flattered. We really respect those guys and what they've accomplished over the years. But we're just trying to make great products. We do things where we feel we can make a significant contribution. That's one of my other beliefs.

I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do. Take audio. For years, the primary technology was the [marking mechanism] inside a CD or a DVD player. But we became convinced that software was going to be the primary technology, and we're a pretty good software company.

So we developed iTunes [Apple's music jukebox software that later morphed into the iTunes Music Store]. We're a good hardware company, too, but we're really good at software. So that led us to believe that we had a chance to reinvent the music business, and we did.

Q: Many people say we're in a period in which advances in various digital technologies -- from drives to chips to screens to networking gear -- is going to change the nature of innovation. Rather than inventing something from scratch, innovation will be the art of putting all of these capabilities together in new ways.
A: Of course, you're never going to invent everything. But what's the primary technology? And what's the concept of the product? Where does the conceptualization come from? I guarantee the 1.8-inch hard drive was not invented for iPods. But that's not the primary technology in an iPod.

Q: How do you systematize innovation?
A: The system is that there is no system. That doesn't mean we don't have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that's not what it's about. Process makes you more efficient.

But innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem. It's ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.

And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We're always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.

Q: How much do you have to do with Apple's innovations?
A: We go back and forth a lot as we work on our projects. And we've got such great people [in the top executive team] that I've been able to move about half of the day-to-day management of the company to them, so I can spend half my time on the new stuff, like the retail effort. I spent and continue to spend a lot of time on that. And I meet weekly for two or three hours with my OS X team. And there's the group doing our iLife applications.

So I get to spend my time on the forward-looking stuff. My top executives take half the other work off my plate. They love it, and I love it.

Q: So the key is to have good people with passion for excellence.
A: When I got back here, Apple had forgotten who we were. Remember that "Think Different" ad campaign we ran [featuring great innovators from Einstein to Muhammad Ali to Gandhi]. It was certainly for customers to some degree, but it was even more for Apple itself.

You can tell a lot about a person by who his or her heroes are. That ad was to remind us of who our heroes are and who we are. We forgot that for a while. Companies sometimes forget who they are. Sometimes they remember again, and sometimes they don't.

Fortunately, we woke up. And we're on a really good track. We may not be the richest guy in the graveyard at the end of the day, but we're the best at what we do. And Apple is doing the best work in its history. I really believe that. And there's a lot more coming.

Q: You're back at work on a part-time basis. Are you going to come back full-time?
A: Yes. That was one of the things that came out most clearly from this whole experience [with cancer]. I realized that I love my life. I really do. I've got the greatest family in the world, and I've got my work. And that's pretty much all I do. I don't socialize much or go to conferences. I love my family, and I love running Apple, and I love Pixar. And I get to do that. I'm very lucky.

Anonymous said...

To the Waterloo student:

Yeah, I'd say it's a good place to intern. Don't let the reorg scare you - the only thing it did was change who some of the VPs report to. It changed absolutely nothing for anyone below the VP level.

Now, I guess if you were going to intern as a VP, then yeah the reorg would shake your future up a bit.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

1) The image size isn't that big a deal on my end... it's only slightly wider than the text column.

2) I'm not sure what you're saying about disabling "contents". Do you mean "comments"? If so, what does that have to do with management skills??

3) What the hell is a "fresher"??

4) What's wrong with being a tester??

You sound like a dumb, belligerent person.

Anonymous said...

Like you can see here both the normal and the "N" versions are sold at the same price.

I guess Microsft is really, honestly surprised that they don't sell these? :-P

Anonymous said...

Like you can see here both the normal and the "N" versions are sold at the same price.

I guess Microsft is really, honestly surprised that they don't sell these? :-P

By Anonymous, at 3:04 PM

No silly, Microsoft isn't surprised at all. The N versions were the EU trying to be software architects and mandating what the product should or should not contain.