Wednesday, October 19, 2005

We missed the boat but we've got a new hope

Three quick random things.

A New Hope? I was sent an email that it would be worthwhile to check out Chris Jones' internal blog. For Microsofties on the intranet, it's at http://blogs/chrisjo/ . Wow. He tackles some hard questions, ranging from work-life balance to VP-compensation to the Mini-Microsoft blog (hello, Mr. Jones). His answers give me hope. I look forward to the answers turning into results.

Goodbye Ward: Ward Cunningham has left to work at Eclipse (and I tell you: given the slow .NET encumbered beast that VS 2005 is, even I'm tempted to try out Eclipse right now). I first stumbled across it on edjez's So Long Ward post. Not to be overly snarky, but there goes another geek trophy wife. An... interesting hire in the first place. I'd be interested in knowing if there's a reason he moved on vs. just being plain more excited about Eclipse than anything he was able to do at Microsoft.

I hope rather than going out and looking for the next high-profile geek trophy wife that Microsoft takes a moment of reflection to ask why is it, given that we've hired so many great people and have so many wonderful researchers, that we haven't produced beloved super-star geeks. What is it about our culture?

Uh, Oh: Joe Wilcox questions whether the late Vista has missed a special nodal-point of increased PC purchases. Going into next week's quarterly earning's report, Mr. Wilcox reflects:

In July I asked the question: "Did Microsoft miss a major PC and operating system upgrade cycle? I won't say definitely until the third calendar quarter is finished and buying trends for the year clearer to assess. But my initial reaction is to say yes." Increasingly I'm convinced that Microsoft would have been much better off shipping Windows Vista in 2005 than late 2006.

Oh, yeah. Muuuuuch better. I'm sure everyone working on getting Vista out the door realizes, too, that Microsoft's stock price is directly coupled to their day-to-day success.



Who da'Punk said...

via email (from Atalanta):

I quit in September after 7+ years. We had half our team cut in Janurary and I ended up spending the last few months before I left babysitting a bunch of inferior contractors in India. They wrote bugs I would have been taken to task for; careless duplicates, incomplete info... no thought, just rote, fill out the bug form. I worked in appcompat and the 'new' management team (had them for about 2 years), decided we were all a bunch of idiots and that automation could do our job. Ha! When I left it wasn't finding any new bugs, we spent more time fixing timing bugs and debugging infrastructure problems with our code than anything else. Of course people were good at massaging numbers and the slides from the presentations they gave to BV, etc., were Kool-Aid ridden. Making a majority of your workforce contractors is like the Brits hiring the Hessians to help defeat the colonies in the Revolutionary War. They are in essence mercenaries, not beholden to the ideals that drive you to do what you do and therefore not as dedicated, nor can they be (or are they) held responsible as real soldiers (employees) are.

Didn't know Bob Day left; knew him some. I know of two other old timers- key Win95 players as well- that left within a few months of one another. More old timers- the ones who built the company from nothing- have left the past year or so than I have ever seen, only to be replaced by people who have more ego than intelligence. It's too bad that MSFT has fallen so far from where it was. The onerous process and stifling of creativity has led to the focus shifting from being results oriented to following process. There’s no allowance for discussion of whether or not the process instituted by talking heads is actually beneficial. It hasn’t ‘solved’ the problems it was trumpeted as being designed to solve. I would argue its exacerbated them and given a means for people to absolve themselves or responsibility for the results; after all, they are just following procedure! There are so many people there now who just want to preserve the status quo, who don’t take risks, who don’t think strategically, who care more about looking good than making the right decisions. Most managers now are mediocre at best and I’ve seen too many good employees who perform, deliver on their goals (I refuse to use the term commitments) and try to ship quality get penalized because they don’t play the game. I’ve seen so many irregular performers who just happen to be in the right group, get in the right clique and play the right game, get promoted and rewarded. It doesn’t seem to matter if they’ve done anything that has helped the product, helped consumers or helped Microsoft. Competence is no longer a guarantee for success at Microsoft. Too many people who worked at other companies that collapsed under their own weight- like SGI- are in positions of power at Microsoft. Not only have they never gone through the tempering fires of products like Win95 or Windows 2000, but their innate temperament and the fact they flourished at places like that makes them wholly incompatible with the ‘old lean’ Microsoft. Because they have begun to make up a larger and larger population of the company, Microsoft has begun to turn in to one of ‘those’ companies (this is not to say that there aren’t newer hires who have the drive and commitment that often characterized MSFT veterans. I’ve met quite a few who are dedicated to being results and consumer driven).

Because of the cuts- the elimination of stock options, the reduction of various benefits and constant threat of outsourcing- the environment has turned decidedly more adversarial. Lots of 3.0’s are handed out, and generally everyone says they receive the “It’s a good score” speech, but it’s apparently not good enough to even merit a cost of living adjustment. All this from a company that works you to the bone and pays 60% of industry average. I won’t even start on the new Career Stage Profiles; that would take several pages.

I quit because it wasn't worth the stress any more. The comments I have seen here - basically an attitude from management of 'I can treat you like sh*t, you should be grateful you have a job', sums it up. It’s difficult to work hard for a company that is constantly reminding you, “Good night Wesley, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning”.

You’re right, WhodaPunk, in saying that middle management has grown things to justify its existence (which means additional expenditure in order to comply). MSFT has far too many people working on projects, creating procedures and milestones that justify their employment. Despite a RIF, we had the same number of management levels after it, and as I said, our staff was reduced by half. There’s no excuse for that kind of thing.

MSFT is like a sign bit- it’s either on or off, there’s no grey. It’s absolute WTT use, shoved down your throat, upper management ignoring the shortcomings and pitfalls “…everyone else thinks it’s great, if you have a problem with it, then I’ll just get someone who doesn’t!”. Everything is a platform now too; in the meantime Apple is kicking ass in an area that MSFT could have cornered. Getting MSFT to do something on the fly, adjust, is like getting Mssr. Creosote from Monty Python to perform on the uneven bars. It’s just not going to happen.

I loved Microsoft, but felt it was no longer the thing I had come to respect and adore. It needs a sizeable slimming down.

Who da'Punk said...

via email:

my best friend's bro moved to seattle from singapore & has been working for MS since graduation so i always thot it must be a great company he works for.

but yesterday, i met the first MS employee based in Singapore tat i noe. Incidentally he was at my company to train the IBM folks whom we outsourced the desktop support to.

over lunch, he told mi he was shocked at the no. of long tenure staff there are in my company.

he told me how high the turnover at MS was & how horrible the managers were. among the antics employed to force people to leave includes disabling their email accounts with prior notice.

btw, i work for an american company too. a financial giant & leader in the business we're in.

staff morale & company loyalty is high here despite the amount of growth transformation or reorganisation we do. i've already had my position eliminated on several occassions.

the saving grace of the situation was the open communication we got from top management and the dignity & respect given to the impacted staff. i know, cause i've been there. I have been able to find new & better positions within the company with the strong support rendered by my leaders. In most cases, they were also impacted by the change & looking for jobs themselves.

by the way, I read your posting on re-interview and yesh, each time that we lose our job & apply for other jobs, we have to go through the entire job selection process again.

We have to go through competencies based interviews by the hiring leader & sometimes with HR present.

Also the jobs available are free for all in the company to apply for. therefore, i would strongly support this process as being fair. may the best person get the job!

and we have had some trying times with SARS & Sept-11. jobs had to be cut & everyone bore the blunt of the impact on the global economic. but each time, we have come back better & stronger. and we have lots and lots of employees who leave the company & come back eventually.

in fact, all my ex colleagues who left wants to come back one day. that is the level of company loyalty instilled in all of us.

wat makes our corporate culture so special is the company values we have & the consistency the leaders of the company apply when stressing the values govern all day-to-day activities.

This is my first job & I'm into my 9th year now. I will be here for a long long time to come. I intend to join the quarter century club for employees who served more than 25 yrs.

yes, we have the curve here too & I've had the good fortune of witnessing my leader winning the battle with HR year after year by reasoning that when results are good, there is no reason to put people at the bottom of the curve.

of course, as a team, we work hard to achieve results that my leader can be proud of & use as bargaining chips when talking to HR. and yes, we have had team members who are put on the bottom of the curve when their performances are unsatisfactory. and some of them leave the company. but these are no surprises during appraisal times. surely leaders communicate their expectations & appraise job performances with staff constantly?

it is sad tat such a brillant set up like MS is having so much trouble internally. i hope the leaders of the company will realise tat people are the true asset of the company & the company is only made up of the people they have.

best of luck! hope MS evolves fast enough and not lose all the talent. i really can't imagine all the people leaving and not wanting to come back to the company ever. things must be real bad.

Who da'Punk said...

Even Tom Peters gets the comment blues:

Comments Rules Revisited

Who da'Punk said...

Heads should roll?

In the MSFT article Microsoft Recants Exclusive Music Deals you have this insight regarding how Microsoft should know better than to try to strongarm its way into a market:

"One has to be skeptical that either the internal training is not working, in which case heads ought to be rolling, or that the lessons of the case are being ignored," said Albert A. Foer, head of the Washington-based American Antitrust Institute, which supports more aggressive U.S. antitrust policies.

All I can do is plead to make heads roll. Rolling heads will do far more training than anymore insipid videos we are forced to watch from our offices, occasionally paying attention to so that we can check-off we "watched it" and our managers can stop getting hate mail about non-compliance.

Who da'Punk said...

via email:

I've been with MS for about 9yrs. I can't agree more with statement that you quoted from Sanaz's place:

"the next steps: slimming down our middle management and chiefs, revisiting the different disciplines at Microsoft and evaluating: do we need these positions? do we need all these layers of management? can we be more efficient?..."

It is just pathetic to see how things are changing. MCS used to be an agile organization of hard core techies who worked with customers to help drive the adoption of Microsoft technologies. While Mr. Gates talks about a break-even model, MCS management has made it pretty clear that they are mostly concerned about billable hours. MCS turned into a body shop.

Even worse: It’s been years since we had some significant project. We turned most of the mediocre consultants into Engagement Managers, I guess because our best guys were too busy with customers to think about their career. A lot of our best guys left and many are leaving as we speak because they don't want to work for a weak organization driven by mediocre mid management.

MCS is simply not a good choice any more for deep technical people. As a result, our customers are not getting the service they had before and MS platform adoption suffers.

Who da'Punk said...

Bling! There goes Google's stock again. A GOOG vs. MSFT mash-up stock graph:

Who da'Punk said...

via email:

Just a reminder, according to the Proxy Statement (you should've gotten yours in the mail) shareholders can send questions to the board by mailing

Who da'Punk said...

Even Steven Sinofsky gets the comments blues (snippet):

I do not want this blog to turn into a /. forum where people avoid it because of the falling signal/noise ratio.


Who da'Punk said...

via email:


A friend in Office forwarded me a Friday Steven Sinofsky email that Don Gagne is leaving Microsoft in December. This is a super huge loss for Microsoft and a colossal loss for Office (DonGa is in charge of development for all of Office). It's been a while since I've been on a team with Don, but he is an engineer's engineer, a voice for reason, and a champion of what is best for Microsoft's customers. While some Microsofties scream and preen and use politics to advance their little agenda, Don has always used quiet reason, common sense, and intellect to make the best possible decisions. And he's never been shy to break out the code or icecap or such to prove what's the right thing to do based on reality, not agendas.

You ask about greatness forged within Microsoft itself? That's Don. There is no replacement for Don. The only good news is that Don is not going to join a competitor like Google but rather leaving to chase his non-software passion. Microsoft, and the company's shareholders, are in a much better place now thanks to Don's contributions. I can only hope that everyone working closely with him have been paying close attention and have learned well to carry on in his absence.

I hope that he one day returns.