Thursday, May 18, 2006

Microsoft's May 18th 2006 - a Big Turning Point (?)

Pre-Town Hall: Is May 18th a big turning point of a day? Is it my first big step into the sunset of blog obsolescence?

I'd love Microsoft to start its big internal defrag today, shrugging off the past of dysfunctional competitive reviews unattached to team success. I'd love Microsofties to stop focusing on succeeding by gaming the system and to start justly succeeding by producing great customer-focused results. I'd personally love to get back to just writing about making Microsoft smaller and efficient versus bemoaning trended 3.0s and The Curve and, oy, the injustice of it all.

I'd love our review and compensation system to be so straightforward and fair that it just fades into the background of everyday worklife.

There is risk. If the changes are as big as rumored in my building's hallways, there is great potential for a stunned backlash. You know, folks like to talk about change but don't like change when it happens. Employees also don't like having a bunch of unanswered questions. While it takes super leadership to rise up and push for the change, it takes extraordinary fantastic leadership to realize big change day-to-day from here forward. Each and everyone one of us, if we accept that the change is right, has to get behind it and ensure it's as good as it can be, and tweak and revise and adapt.

Fingers crossed...

Post-Town Hall:

It's a good start.

"Should have just done the towels and called it a day!" - Lisa Brummel, May 18th 2006.

You know, one moment of reflection: the circle is now complete. My second post to this blog was on July 6th, 2004. It was right after an impromptu employee meeting with Ballmer and Gates and as part of that, Mr. Ballmer justified the unfortunate recent benefit cuts, the main two points of ire being the towels and the ESPP revamp. Now, two years later, we're getting our towels back.

Has it always just been about the towels?

(Possible book title flashes through my mind.)

It's not like we're sweaty work-out animals always in need of a shower and fresh towel. No. What riled us was the bone-headed way the towel cut-back was handled, explained, and justified. It truly made us wonder just who are these people in charge and just who do they think they are leading? The towels became the symbol of poor leadership. That and the office-supply hide-and-seek.

Someone should send Ms. Brummel a golden towel award. I'd like my old ESPP back, too.

So, I'm going to skip over Ballmer's presentation along with the other presidents. I liked hearing from them and what's going on in the groups. I guess we'll next hear more at the Company Meeting. The star of the show, and I'd say of the entire company right now, was Lisa Brummel. If I had my old paper notebook, I'd be drawing little hearts around her name. Personally, I think she's a fantastic role model.

"I think some people will think it's fabulous, some people will think it's great, some people will be completely confused by it, and some people won't like it."

Peer-relative review ranking via fitting The Curve is gone. The trended 3.0 review score is gone. Your review rating is now an honest assessment based on what it is you should be doing and how well you did it. There are a lot of posts and comments here that, over time, are going to seem archaic. Good.

(Allow me to hang the disco ball, switch on the party lights, and put on some happy funk music...)

What's unclear and what time will reveal is that there still probably is Stack Ranking which feeds into a Compensation Curve. The poor manager with the review tool in front of them still has to figure out how to divvy up their merit increases. Either they make dictatorial decisions or stack ranks everyone. What's great, though, is they have the power to decide that, "Hey, everyone did great" and evenly spread out the budget vs. meeting a forced distribution.

Dixie's BBQ? Typhoon? Excellent! I will need that towel now that I have to work off all of those calories (or, wipe the sweat from my brow from a good dose of The Man sauce). The rest of the tools and the focusing on managers is a long-term investment sort-of-thing. We'll have to see how that goes and if there are issues, how they can be improved. I think there was a passive aggressive message to all managers: if you became a manager just to get promoted faster, we're going to find you and weed you out. It would have been nice for that to be clearer.

The one big thing missing out of all the rumors I heard was base-pay adjustment. The nicest biggest rumor was that we were going to be moving from 65 percentile based pay to 75 percentile based pay. That would have made incredible sense given the current competitive market and the salary compression people are dealing with. Salary compression hasn't been addressed at all. Maybe executive leadership is betting on another bubble burst?

Coming soon: we'll find out if we're on track for a cost-of-living-adjustment or not for the target merit budget.

And for you shareholders freaking out over the prospects of Microsoft blowing money on its employees: senior leadership made it clear that all of this was productivity based, and that they were expecting a great return on investment. Personally, I wouldn't have minded a mass-exodus from Microsoft of all the talented people because that indeed would have forced a Mini-Microsoft to be realized. These people are just doing their best to avoid that and to get excellent results in doing so.

So, going back to basics, does any of this get us closer to a Mini-Microsoft. Nope. A non-distracted Microsoft, perhaps, but some fundamental issues still remain with respect to us being so incredibly big that we still stumble over ourselves and suffer horrible, horrible waste in time and effort. I know Mr. Johnson is trying to make all the "<<fill in the blank>> Live" stuff seem like we're finally nimble and all that but it's one thing to throw the wonderful Sanaz and team up on the stage and exclaim, "Ooo, yeah, agility!" and another to make Windows, Office, Dynamics, and VS agile.

Lastly... what difference did this blog make? Would all of this had happened naturally once LisaB was in the house?

My feeling is that we were on our commute bike, but off the paved trail, going down a steep gravel path with potholes and horse apples (much like, say, the Tolt Pipeline trail). Some folks, rattling along the way, saw another smoother path and scooted over to that, leaving Microsoft. As of today, we're back on the smooth path. Ah! It's got some tight turns and we can't see what's around the corner, but it's a hell of a lot better.

"A non-toothache is a very pleasant thing." I like that saying. We're back to being able to focus on what's important, not being angst ridden over a busted review system. Yes, there's new angst in the interim but I have faith we can work through it, make good decisions, and network together to make the best decisions within this new model into best practices.

Looking back now: so many years... so many years people complained about trended review results, especially the dreaded trended 3.0, and you'd always hear, "There's nothing you can do. It's just how it is." So - eventually - I brought it up here as something I thought was fairly uncool, dysfunctional, and hampering our ability to get exceptional customer-focus, profit-making results let alone truly fire the people who needed to be moved on.

You don't need your 3.0 performers anymore to serve as a review foundation to prop up the rest of your team. Fire them!

And, well, the public complaining and dialogue that went on, along with potential candidates saying, "I don't want any of that crazy system!" added up. It got a very big ball rolling. The internal discussions of people getting a clear view into the smoky rooms of the stack rank and curve modeling helped a lot, too.

Thanks, Mr. Scoble, for your kind words (Scobleizer - Microsoft Geek Blogger » Missed big HR meeting (MyMicrosoft is now improved)).

Oh, and thanks Mini! These changes are due in no small part to you. Even if you don't get official props in the press releases.

Can one person change a huge company? Mini did. And we don't even know his name.

So, I'm going to make the claim that this blog, and all of those who participated in it and followed up on its contents, made a difference. If you agree, well, you can buy me a beer one day. And if you think there's a lot more work to do: the system is in play. All the cards have been thrown into the air. Get to work to make the new changes even better.

You: So what do you think? Good? bad? I'd love to hear some constructive thoughts. Maybe even just what questions you have at this point.


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Anonymous said...

I am shorting MSFT, screw the rules.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thought:

Whether the announced change is perceived as good or bad, it will not be relevant to the problems Microsoft is experiencing.

A bad policy can corrupt, but a better policy cannot un-corrupt. Once the fiefdoms are established, and the undesirable culture has set, it's too late to tweak the policy.

It's time for severe cleansing, aimed at breaking up undesirable alliances, clubs and club enablers.

Sadly, BillG is the biggest club enabler, so any cleansing falling short of firing Bill is not going to be effective.

Anonymous said...

I was reading the other posts about the SPSA grants. What strike me is the fact that was possible for the partners to get a "fair" set of objectives and be assessed against them. How come that we can not do the same for devs, test, pms? Wouldn't be easy? gone is the ranking and alike. If you meet your objectives you will receive that much. If you exceed them, x amount. I know sounds hard and maybe is impossible to do that, but my point is that then should be as hard to assess partners' work. I think that what pisses people the most is the unpredictability. You don't know if you will be rewarded when you do a good job. Some people chose not to risk not getting a bonus and float around average. Others take the risk, work like mad and sometime don't get rewarded. That's a morale killer. It should be clear and easy to assess when you do a good job. and your reward should be guaranteed. Pretty much like the partners' reward :)
So any system that doesn't include that fair assessment is bound to be played and/or dismissed by people.

Anonymous said...

Too many speculations at this point. Let's wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Yes yes yes, today should be very interesting. I got the goods yesterday. In any case, I think the changes are good, they show that management is willing to (!) take a risk, but I think there will be some major growing pains to go through. It's going to require that people refocus on what they're supposed to be doing and then actually go do it.

I don't think the impact of this blog can be overstated. You've (we've) spoken and gosh-darnnit, they've listened.

It's a good first step and I really hope people don't make the company regret taking it.

Viva la towels!

Anonymous said...

I got my preview yesterday, and today should be very interesting.

The impact of this blog and the comments on it can't be overstated. You've (we've) spoken and they've actually listened.

The changes that will be rolled out today are good first steps, but there will be growing pains. People will have to step up to the plate and actually do something in order for them to work. I think the implementation for the first year or two (at least) could be a little bumpy.

But I firmly believe it's movement in the right direction, and I'm glad to see management taking a risk (!) here. Hopefully people understand that and don't make them regret it.

Anonymous said...

Either do the job or move on to anenvironment or company that works for you.

After reading this site for many months , the trouble is, you cant give up the salary and cant take the heat. So this is the result....

Anonymous said...

I just don't know how much the model will change. Last year I got screwed as an IC but my manager supposedly got a 4.5 for a product that was a cancelled and considered a failure.

I don't know how the model will change when managers take credit for things that are good and screw their ICs so that the manager looks good.

No matter what the model if your manager is out to make themselve look good then there is not much the IC can do. Except change teams.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a real problem in thinking that some broad-brush change to the overall compensation program is going to be more effective or solve the numerous current problems. First of all, I think many of the latter are failures of strategy not just failures of execution. Second, MSFT has massively different business units these days, with massively different challenges, and having a one-size fits all compensation system - while attractive logistically - doesn't seem to be a good fit for the underlying business needs. I'm also very concerned that any changes on the 18th are going to translate into more money spent on compensation overall because somehow I doubt management plans on giving up any of their share. If that's the case, and this money is additive and again disconnected from bottom-line performance, then shareholders are going to rightly be pissed off. Somehow, MSFT needs to find something that provides the shareholder-aligned incentives that options did w/o the negatives. Grants aren't it. They're expensive to the company and have value regardless of the performance of the company/stock. Perhap a variation of the profit-sharing programs that have been used successfully in other companies would be something to consider and might help reward better overall cooperation, but management is going to have a real problem selling shareholders on yet another change to comp system to "better align" employees with their needs after positioning the grants at that supposed vehicle.

Anonymous said...

I was at Microsoft for well over 10 years, leaving last year. Having been involved in numerous large scale planning discussions over the years I would be quite surprised (and pleasantly so) if there is any teeth in the announcement today. In the past, an initiative may start out as innovative and revolutionary, but after a few GMs or VPs add their input, along with a other overlay groups, the final result is a thin shell of the original proposed set of changes. I can recite numerous examples - Comp 2000, Comp 2001, the review "Commitments" initiatives, etc. Let's hope for the best this afternoon.

Anonymous said...

I can attest "folks like to talk about change but don't like change when it happens" - Blg 1-6 were polled last year about Cafe 4. People proclaimed "We want change!" Now that Cafe 4 has been remodelled whole teams are boycotting because they liked the original better.

It's like people that complain that they are starving because they have no bread while they carry a ham under their arm as they complain. JM2C - I'm anxious about this meeting as well.

Anonymous said...

Each and everyone one of us ... tweak and revise and adapt.

As usual, the only adaptation happening will be folks learning the new game and playing it to the hilt. You know, like after the last big change, do you work as hard from August to February as you do the other six months of the year?

Although getting an "excellent" is going to be measureably difficult and well-rewarded, there will be plenty of folks who figure out how to cruise through the years with "satisfactory" ... making a dream of a mini Microsoft even less real.

Anonymous said...

Image a review system with no curve and just the following grades:

basically review grades are to let people know how they performed (and without the bagage of past review systems where 3.0 meant you met requirements but not really)

9-10 tremendously exceeded commitments
7-8 exceeded commitments
6 meet commitments
4-5 did not meet commitments
2-3 did not meet commitments and significantly underperformed
1 close the door behind you please.

Anonymous said...

This is coming at a crucial time for me. I'm a long-time Microsoft veteran who has an extremely competitive job offer from Apple that I have to accept or reject by 5:00 today. My mind is 99% made up that I'm leaving (doing my bit to slim down Microsoft), but moving my family is a major pain so I'm holding out some slim hope that something said today will change my mind and reenergize my zeal for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Kevin. Johnson. Rocks.

Steve - couldn't you use some time with the family or whatever it is we're saying Allchin is doing when he get's fired officially?

Anonymous said...

We need to self-host?

Ok, Kevin, to do that, we need:

* new hardware that can run the software

* a help desk that will support it

* some accountability in the people who build it / own building it

High Power Rocketry said...

: )

Anonymous said...

New MS Company Meeting Drinking Game:

Every time Jeff Raikes says "KJ", drink!

Anonymous said...

Raikes just lost the audience. He's yapping way too much.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed how much k J and ballmer sound and present alike?

And was anyone else really scared to hear the CEO of a multibillion $ company say he doesn't understand what make s a stock price go up or down?

About5 minutes to go as of this writing before the real reason For the talk...

Anonymous said...

Just more blah, blah, blah....

Anonymous said...

Desired change:
Fire Gates, Ballmer & Allchin, the folks that lie like rugs.

Anonymous said...

Premise: The curve has not gone away. It has simply been hidden, and attached more closely to the things that matter (stock).

2nd premise: "transparency" only applies to the process, not how it will be applied.

3rd premise: Flexibility at the divisional level in how rewards are doled out, will only serve to solidify fiefdoms.

Anonymous said...

Santa came early, Jeremy.
You've been a good boy,
have a towel.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good talk by LisaB so far. The best news all: The Towels are Back!

Anonymous said...

Lisa Brummel. What can I say?

I think I'm in love.

You rock.

Anonymous said...

Listening to Lisa right now: "People love this company, but the employee experience isn’t quite what people want it to be". An encouraging start. Good news that the bell curve has been retired. Let's hope the new scale of "Exceeded" "Achieved" "Under-performed" doesn't become a new bell curve. Overall it really annoys me that it took a public blog and a whole pile of lobbying to get the company to recognise the employee pain. Let's hope Lisa's plans really amount to positive change when it gets implemented - and not bastardised by local implementation.

Anonymous said...

wow - towels. No more eondering where we'll be spending all the money the analysts are wondering about. Glad about the end of the curve though.

Anonymous said...

My immediate reaction is that the changes are good. 2.5 - 5.0 is gone. There seems to have been some serious thought about compensation. There's a drive for excellence in management. We'll learn how it works in August, but I'm optimistic. (Posted from field sales office in Wash, DC).

Anonymous said...

I'm hearing some bits and pieces as it goes on around me. I honestly can't yet form an opinion about what I'm hearing until I can sit down and read a full list of the complete changes and the impact of each. One thing I just heard was an emphasis on stock, which displease me. I really don't believe in our stock at this point and would rather have case rewards. I understand why management wants to give us stock, but I personally don't want it. It doesn't benefit me, it's not worth much and I have little faith it's going to rebound any time soon to become worth much to me.

Anonymous said...

Steve? Meet reality.
Reality? Meet Steve.

Now that you two have met, Steve, don't you think you should turn the reigns over to Kevin Johnson sooner than 3 years from now?

Anonymous said...

Where to start. The curve is still there, but now features fewer little checkmarks, making it easier on managers to simply dump you in a category. You have less say in your manager's performance. Stock awards ensure the teacher's pets get richer. But we get towels, EyeVars (or however she pronounced Ivars) and dry cleaning. Sorry, but this meeting was "The Thud Heard 'Round Redmond".

Anonymous said...

I'm no longer an employee, but I watched the webcast.

Enough to make the stock go up $32B? No way.

Enough to bring back old >3.0 employees? No chance.

Enough to stop hemmorhaging good employees? Maybe.

Anonymous said...

All good news. There will definitly be an ROI.

Anonymous said...

LisaB did well; I was pleasantly surprised!

Anonymous said...

At last somebody heard us and the curve is over! Thank you Lisa. Tomorrow I will come to work much more happier.

Anonymous said...

Hooray Lisa!!!!!!!

Its interesting how Microsoft needs a competitor in order to do good things. For example:

- Netscape breeds IE
- IE lags until Mozilla
- Apple breeds Windows
- Windows lags until Linux
- The dot com boom breeds happy MS employees
- Employee happiness lags until Google

Now we are responding to employee defections thanks to google, et al. Without a competitor, MS is not at its best

Anonymous said...

OK, so here is a comment. I was in some of the early focus groups who reviewed some of these changes and it appears that they didn't listen to the feedback at all (see below). Originally this was supposed to be rolled out on May 10th and with an email from SteveB directly followed by a town hall. Oh well. I thought today's meeting had good and bad points. First off, let me say that the first hour was a total waste of time. How many times do we have to hear this rah rah. WE WORK HERE ALREADY. We already know these things, and if we don't it's because we don't care. Some of the execu-speak gets so weary. Too many to point out, but here's one lowlight. Kevin Johnson talking about how the ad business is a big market and so we'll go after it and how "a rising tide lifts all ships". WHAT?!?!?! A rising tide won't rise a ship that has all this ballast and is anchored to the sea bed. Plus, aren't we MICROSOFT can't we control the tides? So I was disappointed that we had to sit through that to get to the second hour.

Now to the changes...

- Performance Management

The one silver lining. We're all glad that the stack rank went away. LAR is gone, even better. I do see risk here that within Gestapo style groups that an informal curve will either still exist or resurface and Lisa left the door open for that by saying that leaders would be given guidance on how to apply their numbers. I personally don't see any issues with everyone in a group getting a 3 (the new top) and a manager sitting down with them and telling them there will be an even split making everyone's portion smaller. That's the breaks, and people will understand that. So this was the one positive thing.

- Compensation

Dismal. NO mention of raising a COLA bar or of increasing our 65th percentile. This has got to be hard on recruiting. We are just NOT competitive in base pay. House prices, cost of gas, food everything is going up and not everyone can hold their breath for that once a year bump (such as it is). Now for that once a year bump, this is even worse. So they raise the pool of stock. Making our toilet paper stock go from 1-ply to 2-ply. Well, the "target" award didn't seem to change and if you look at that curve, the new and the old look the same. A little 5% line extends out to the right...I'm sure for the upper echelons and political management hacks.

- Career Development

Not much to say here. CSPs are cool, greater management of your career, but could lead to level bloat. Overall I'm neutral on this one.

- Management

NO mention here of identifying and growing new management. And the allusion to weeding out bad managers had simply to do with the fact that they would now have one number for a rating and can be judged accordingly, but c'mon. No, I have no faith in current leadership, we need a refresh, and there was no talk about combing the ranks for that refresh

- Enhanced Workplace

Only a couple interesting things here. But all of this screamed two things "be on campus" and "stay in the office". With all the space problems, I would have thought that we would be embracing more telecommuting, flex work and stuff like that. But no, they're making it more interesting to work later, stay on campus and NOT giving incentives for those that have the ethic to work from home, etc. The list of services may be interesting to some, or some to some, but not to all and I think 90% are a big yawn. I say...just give me the money (see also compensation).

Overall...not pleased. Couple rays of hope, but our leaders suck. Steve's apology for the stock price was anemic as well. And then in the next hour to turn around and tell everyone they're giving us more of that garbage stock and calling THAT compensation...IT'S NOT ENOUGH.

Anonymous said...

wow - cannot believe the curve is going to be gone.

this is really a big positive step
deming would be proud

Anonymous said...

Actually I was wondering something, Mini...are you going to immediately leak the entire new plan that was announced...or just let us discuss it without you posting the specifics?

After all it's one thing to post details of a system you don't like as an agent for change...but now we have something that is (presumably) more to your liking. Are you going to "reward" this by leaking it immediately?

Anonymous said...

I think it is awesome. I took part in the focus groups for the announcement a few weeks ago, and I've been hopefully waiting for the announced changes. the original date was 10 may, so waiting another week was killer ;)

Anonymous said...

Symantec sues Microsoft.

If volume management, system recovery and virus protection are removed from Vista, perhaps it can ship sooner?

Anonymous said...

OK, so really, is there anything that is making me regret that I left? From what I'm hearing from friends, I shoulda stayed so I could get my drycleaning done on campus...

Yeah, that's what he said. I think he was jerking my chain. Even 'they' cannot be that cynical.

So far, from what I hear, my max salary increase would still be less than what I'm making now since I left. If I paid for ALL the services they're 'adding', I'd still have money left

But how could I live without on campus dry-cleaning service?

Lisa, you failed
Steve, you failed
Bill who? what happened to your company?

Anonymous said...

post town-hall comment:

Overall, I'd give it a big "underachieving".

Anonymous said...

Color me impressed. As an employee new enough to have not gone through a real Annual Review (I missed the cutoff for the Summer 2005 one by a week), this won't be a huge change for me. However, eliminating the stack ranking is a huge relief, as my group has been 1) very profitable, 2) rocketing up in visibility, and 3) full of top-notch performers, myself included. It will be nice if we can all be aptly rewarded for the fruits of our labor without pitting us against one another come review time.

Plus, towels are back! I might start biking to work again. :)

Anonymous said...

Lots of big talk, lots of words today and VP's patting themselves on their backs after the meeting. Is today the turning point? How will the bad managers of yesterday get magically transformed into supper managers over night. They won't!!! How will managment mistakes stop happening. They wont!!! How will the markets see all this extra expenditure on us with little or no financial return. Hmmmm I dont think they will understand. More money spent, no extra value.

I would like this to be the turning point but my useless manager is still useless tonight and making everyones life as bad as he can.

Anonymous said...

WTF? So now my personal rating isn't graded on a curve but my compensation IS? Who cares about the personal rating then?

Anonymous said...

wow! Lisa for CEO

Anonymous said...

The most impressive senior executive I saw on stage today was clearly Lisa Brummel.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I think this is a great start. The changes in the review model alone are significant and should initiate meaningful change through the chain. If we all commit to the change, this could rock pretty frickin' hard.

Kick Some Ass Microsoft!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see your take on Lisa's speech.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was great. Even if you don't like the benefits themselves, you have to admit that it shows she's listening and actually DOING something about it.

Anonymous said...

So what do I think? On balance, I think LisaB has exceeded expectations (or, to use the correct phrase, she's overachieved). The changes were everything I wanted and more.

She eliminated the curve. She expanded the workplace services. She made managers more accountable and the commitment process seemingly easier. Just about the only thing she didn't do was to announce a reduction in the ranks of managers but who is to say that the new process won't force that to happen anyway? And, as far as most of us are concerned, the real test of accountability will come next year after Vista and Office 2007 have shipped and we've seen the market response.

But judging from the applause she got, it appears that the overwhelming majority of her initiatives hit the sweet spot.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

We are an easy bunch to please - towels in the locker room and office supplies on every floor got the biggest applause.

As a manager, I am relieved that I can have a group of top performers and treat them as such. I no longer have to feel like I'm sacrificing one of them to the Gods of the Curve every 6 months....

Anonymous said...

>LAR is gone, even better.

Uh, nothing prevents a hiring manager from asking you directly for your review score history. It happened to me recently.

Anonymous said...

How is the percentage breakdown of great/ok/underperforming any different from the "curve" that we have today? I can't believe they thought they could sneak that past us without us noticing.

Here's my take on the breakdowns:

Exceeding - 5.0/4.5
Meeting - 4.0/3.5/3.0
Unsatisfactory - 2.5

So this means only the top two scores get the great rewards. The majority of the "not a curve" fall into the "meeting expectations" criteria. So if you think it was hard for a 3.0 performer to hear that they were just barely doing their job, try giving the same message to your 4.0 performers!!

I can MAYBE see 4.0 moving into the top category, but I think there are too many 4.0 performers to put in the small percentage they have allocated for this.

A lot of people here have complained that there's not enough of a reward to get them to work hard for the 4.5. At least those folks were thrown a bone today. But if the breakdown is as I listed above, there's really no incentive for people to work much beyond the bare minimum requirements of their job, since unless they reach superstar (or super-suckup) status, they're going to get rewarded the same. THAT stinks.

They talked a bunch about managers. Instead of having a manager score and an employee score, they only have one score. Well, you really only had one score before, too, but the form will be different so I guess they're calling this a big change. As a manager, you will still be judged on your managing skills. There are no extra bonuses (well...none that were discussed anyway) for being on the management track. Unless you are a super fantastic manager who is going to really exceed expectations on this point, then the ONLY thing the manager commitment can do for you is bring you down. This is as lame as the current system.

I find some of the new services they're going to be offering somewhat interesting. I doubt that I'll take advantage of many of them though, as it appears that they are nowhere near my building (apparently the people who work in 26/27 don't work on any important projects). But kudos to them for trying something new. Interesting how buildings 34-36 seem to get ALL of the benefits, instead of spreading it around campus more. Hmmm...I wonder if there are any important managers living in those buildings...

I don't get the big deal about the freaking towels. It's gotta be a very small percentage of people that really care about this. It won't have a significant impact on the # of people that bike to work. And nobody is working those crazy all nighters anymore, so they won't need towels. Guess this is for the MS homeless population.

It was great to hear where the employees rated on Bill's list of priorities. I don't agree with all of the Steve bashing that's been going on here lately, but that guy really needs to learn when to shut his fucking mouth.

The biggest disappointment was that there would not be an increase in the bonus budget for next FY. That really says it all when it comes to the talk today - lots of TALK and lots of change, but nothing that will really help our bottom line.
For the people bitching about needing hardware to self host, the minimum requirements for Vista were just posted today. If you don't have an 800MHz CPU or better, then you're already due for an upgrade. Think the minimum requirements are laughable? Make sure that feedback gets to the Vista team! So even if you can't self host, you can still provide this sort of valuable feedback.

There's a thing (infinitely) better than the helpdesk to support Vista. It's a distribution list that almost the entire Vista team is on. You should be able to get pretty quick turnaround to the questions you have. I really don't know why you think these folks aren't accountable. Try sending mail to the Vista DL's or filing a bug. Unless you bug is a complete waste of time, you'll hear back from them.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite new so I wasn't even expecting this.

Nice to see "the curve" is gone but the other new curve seems exactly the same, but now there are 2 things.

Will raises/levels be based on the non-curve since rewards are on the new curve?

Anonymous said...

What the heck do you mean "the curve is gone"? Sure, it's gone from the primary ranking system, but it means *nothing* since it's been decoupled from bonuses, where there quite explicitly still is a quota.

Want to know if you got a "3.0"? Look at your bonus.

Anonymous said...

Curve gone - Great!
Cafe' open longer - Great!
Ballmer - BORING!

To actually have a career profile is cool. Something to track what you know and what you want to learn. That will help in getting internal transfers. I know more than what my level shows, so hopefully this will open doors in changing groups or positions.

Regardless of pay increases, at least now on your reviews, you know that your manager can be honest about your performance, and not making up shit just to justify a score that was assigned to you.

Now, if the management in my team will actually reward performance fairly is the big question.

Anonymous said...

I think LisaB has pulled off an incredible feat here and I think we, as employees, need to work with these guys instead of whining.

Just look back at the old posts on this blog and see the number of problems they've gone and tried to fix (and have probably succeeded at with these sweeping changes).

They're trying to fix it - we need to give them a chance. Whining and looking for conspiracy theories doesn't help. The negativism doesn't help.

- A L60 who stood and applauded along with the others once LisaB was done

Anonymous said...

Here's a question I sent in that went ignored at the meeting today:

Steve - since becoming CEO, the value of MSFT stock has declined over 35%. Why are you still the CEO when similar sustained performace by any IC would have resulted in multiple 2.5 review scores.

Anonymous said...

Did anybody else read that for someone that "Exceeds" expectations, they have to perform at 2 levels above their own, and "Met expectations" requires one to perform at 1 one level above their own? I'm not sure if this is all that much better than stack rank.

I mean, if I'm able to perform at 1-2 levels above my current level, why not just PROMOTE me!

Anonymous said...

So let's see. The net result of our activities today. More spending on Microsoft employees, coupled with more spending on equipment and facilities and wattage to the new datacenters so we can beat Google. And all we REALLY get, in a take-home sense, is more stock? The stock is going DOWN, not up.

I feel cheated. This company has lost me. This is not the answer I wanted. There are some that are in feel-good mode; I am not one of those.

Anonymous said...

I did not work last week. I was thinking...(From meeting)
Well, this is honest! I always knew they do not think when they work. And if they drop working, stocks will definitely turn higher.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft PM here.

Initially, I was puzzled by the near-even split of the "Yeah!" and "thanks for nothing" posts.

But after a minute, it became more clear. Nobody, not even Mini, put forward a specific list of demands (I'd hate to call them requirements) for making this place better.

So when the results rolled in, there was no frame of reference to evaluate them.

Overall, it looks like a big load of nothing: the towels are back, the staplers are back, the curve is still there for compensation, but it's now hidden from the review results, so minorities cannot claim discrimination as easily.

The bloat is still there, the lack of accountability hasn't changed, the majority of employees are still doubled up doing WTT busy work.

The company is still doomed. The best scenario we hoped was to get closer to Microsoft of 1995; alas, this past milestone seems to be unattainable.

Hey Mini: if you want to build a small, nimble Microsoft, you are going to have to start small, anew. Somehow I don't think you can teach an old overweight gorilla a new dance (or, it turns out, even an old dance it used to know).

Anonymous said...

I am largely disappointed. As many have stated, the Curve for Performance Review is gone, but the Contribution Ranking is actually more strict that the old Bell Curve. I am disappointed about this change getting rid of the Lifetime Review Score. I am 8.5 Year Employee with nearly a 4.0 Lifetime Average. Proof of my consistent performance (not playing the game) of exceeding commitments (set by my managers no me - so I am not sandbagging) is gone and all I have to show for it is a boatload of underwater Options and Stock Grants.

The only way our stock price will reach $38 is if we reverse split. And that is if we are lucky.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show today. My reaction is that this is just putting lipstick on a pig. There is stack ranking still it is called something else: contribution ranking.

The culture is just as corrupt as ever. The middle managers are just going play the same game.

LisaB just said what people wanted to hear.

Anonymous said...

The review curve lives on.

Some said it above and I'll say it right here - the curve didn't go away. There is still a merit, bonus and stock budget for every group. There is a curve applied to how this gets doled out. At least no longer will manager's be forced to conjur up some BS to justify why you got a 3.0 in the your review -- "Johnny, a 3.0 is *excellent*, it means you met your job requirements! Here's a 0% merit increase, 4% bonus and a D stock rating. Excellent work!"

We have walked thru that charade many times every review period. Now it'll just be a new script, but same play. The Curve lives on...

Nevertheless, I view this as a step in the right direction.

fCh said...

Oh my, how underwhelming the whole thing seems to have been today! And it's not even about the towel manipulators who are so active on this thread--unless one is so [...] to think of towels as the substance of MSFT; It's about the lack of momentum towards real change at MSFT.

I look forward to more mature(d) comments on this meeting: what it was and what it could have been.

MSFT in (high) teens, anybody?

Anonymous said...

How many of us are remote FTE's? Towels in Redmond mean nothing to me. More than that, I'm unconvinced that removing the appearance of a curve is going to incent good employees to work harder, or the best employees to stay.

I'm tracking for a 4.0, shooting for a 4.5 this year. What's my incentive now? If I'm already going to hit the new top tier then why work harder?

Jury's still out on this one. We need to see what our bank statements look like come 9/15 to really decide how effective these changes are. Unless my stock goes up by a factor of *10*, it's not inducement enough to stay if I'm given a better offer elsewhere.

Anonymous said...


I keep hearing MS is not competitive. What *would* be a competitive starting salary for someone fresh out of college (BS in CS, MS in CS, PhD in CS) in Redmond?

All I see is complaints but this new system doesn't seem *as* bad. There is no perfect. It might be easier to change groups if your performance is always good. It might make it harder for the top performers to move though. Who wants to be forced to choose between them for all that stock?

Anonymous said...

Today, I have heard a lot about how star performers will be compensated, but there was no mention of how poor performers will be "taken-care-of". I know that that topic is not a morale booster, but it is still just as important.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing about how your compenstation is now tied to a new curve's always been like that. There's always been a "stock rating" that everyone is assigned. HR never published it, and you never knew about it. This "new" curve is the same stock rating, only now you know about it. I'm willing to give it a chance, and Kudos to Lisa for paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Good comments - rarely unreasonable IMHO, both good and bad.

On the constructive side, I hope to be 'top talent', so life will be good! Too bad for the other 80% of you Microsoft employees (ok, I'm being a bit sarcastic)

More constructively, it will take a long time to evaluate these changes. Unfortunatley for management, Internet time is now 'blog time', so real-time reactions are a reality.

The additioanl missing bits (beyond what's already been said) that disappointed me:

- retirement enhancements - 100% of Microsoft employees will retire someday, though maybe only 50% are old enough to worry about it now. But the other half of us are not helped by the new plans.

- insights into what motivates techies - we had the usual rah-rah speeches, and hope of better buildings (hopefully), but I fear they missed a wonderful opportunity due to lack of fundamental understanding. Not everyone is movtivated by the same things that motivate managers (a surprise to mgmt, not doubt), or by what motivates generic workers (call center staff, for example)

- the marketing aspect of this push was weaker than I expected. Nice web site, good video production values, mostly top quality rah-rah speeches. But no swag, no maxi-microsoft blog, no token grant of $1000 cash per employee, etc. It's a revenue-neutral solution that should please shareholders (including us) that thus obviously requires more selling to employees

Anonymous said...

I was actually pleased when I heard Lisa I think MSFT is taking some steps in the right direction.

I'm seeing alot of negative comments on this post...compared to the other places I've worked (and being unemployed twice starting in 2001 thanks to the dot.bomb), MS is a pretty great place to be. We all have it pretty good, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Overall I think today's announcements are good for MSFT. I hope management realized how counter-productive the stack ranking system was.

I have to say that slimeball from Walmart (Kevin Turner) was lying through his teeth. He spent most of his career at a company that is notorious for mistreating its employees. Today he had the gall to say "People are the greatest asset of any company." But what he actually must be thinking is -"I wish software development was easier. So I could hire some illegal mexicans and pay them minimum wage with no health benefits".

Another discrepancy I noted. KJ said "IDC says PC shipments are projected to grow 8-9% next year". Slimeball from Walmart said "IDC projects PC shipments will grow 12% next year". ???

And BTW, thanks to Google for increasing the value of good software engineers as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Nothing has changed. The curve has been given a new name, made worse, and then hidden behind compensation. Thanks Lisa. Can I give you an "Unsatisfactory"? The people who thinks this is great because of the "towels" and "staplers" are stupid and blind. The fact that they originally took the office supplies away is retarded. The guy who decided that should be fired at the town hall meeting today. Maybe that'll make that 2.5 hours long meeting more worthwhile. Sometimes I feel like I work in Dilbert world... now I know I do. 4.0 performers are no longer distiguished from 3.0 performers. I have heard several super stars who heard about the changes and posted their resume on Monster. Good job in keeping the lower 30% and running out our top 30%! The new plans have just establish Microsoft as a mediocre company with mediocre people. Bye bye stock price.

Anonymous said...

I'll reserve my judgement for a little bit. One change I'd like to see is the removal of the dreaded approval for interviews.

If you want to keep managers straight the only power they should have over your transfer to another group is the timing subject to a limit. Then we'll see who is really valued at review time. I hope that is the next thing LisaB takes on. If everybody in a group wants to vote with their feet then the manager should be held accountable.

Oh she did say the word accountability in her speech but not loudly and clearly enough. If Steve is serious abut winning the next frontier he should really get to work on fixing the culture of cronyism.

Anonymous said...

Can one person change a huge company? Mini did. And we don't even know his name.

What a crock of shit this is becoming. MS ran with the anti-curve sentiment because they found a way to benefit from it. If they hadn't found a way to frame it all, Mini would not have received the attention and the license to continue. She would have been crushed. Mini, it's time to reveal who you are and why you didn't get stomped. If we know that story and it is legit, then, yeah, you're a hero and MSFT, while still spinning, seems to have made some bit of legitmate effort. But until we know that, it's impossible to see you and this site as nothing but build up to the spin.

Anonymous said...

Ding Dong the Stack is Dead

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised nobody in the audience laughed when SteveB asked us to have faith in the stock price for the N-th time. I sure did. Still, I was at least pleased by his encouragement to study competing products in order to understand the market and improve our own.

Interesting that there was no change in base compensation; I'd think that that would be an key part of retaining and attracting talented folks or at least stopping the hemorrhage. Adjustment in bonus structure is interesting, but, if you remember and understood the diagram, that is going directly at the top performers. The rest of us common oiks will see only slightly more than before.

Most of the other bennies were flash and glitter; I don't give a rats patootie about office supplies, towels, cafeterias, etc.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard about this, I thought that it might have been enough to keep me from leaving a few months ago, but the more I think about it, the more I realize the curve is not gone, stack ranks aren't gone, not at all, they're still there, just not in the review score, in the part that matters, the compensation.

The second commenter asked why you can't get objective goals for review. Why not indeed? One of the reasons I left was I felt adrift. The things I did the first 5 years to get great reviews only got me 3.0 my last 2, even though my last review said the quality of my work was super, it was't the "superstar" quality that was expected, so I received a 3.0. At that moment, sitting in my managers office, I did two things, I decided to leave MS and then promptly lied and said it was my heartfelt desire to stay and figure out how to be that little bit extra super next time.

Now, I have objective goals for everything. No stack rank. Plus, I've moved over to the sales side of the technical world, not the dev and support side. It's a whole new and different dig and I love it.

Sometimes I miss MS horribly. I don't hate MS, it was just time for us to be apart.

So, having said all of that, this might be a sincere step in the right direction, but if I had to guess, I bet minor changes are made and the review game is still played, only now, you will actually see your stack rank in stock grant and bonus numbers. If you follow the rules and never ever share that data with anyone, you won't know what management really thought of you, only by breaking the rules can you figure where in the stack you are.

Anonymous said...

I got wind today that a MASSIVE Windows RIF is in the works. It's real folks. Hundreds and hundreds of jobs. The good news is that other parts of MS will be able to absorb it. But if you want your pick of what's out there, beat the rush and don't wait for review time.

Anonymous said...

"...Oh, and thanks Mini! These changes are due in no small part to you. Even if you don't get official props in the press releases.

Can one person change a huge company? Mini did. And we don't even know his name."

Not since deep throat have so many people tried to identify the mysterious person. Maybe you can reveal yourself in the book "Has it always just been about the towels?" I am pre-ordering a copy on Amazon. Keep up the good work Mini!

Anonymous said...

No curve is good (and to bozos saying there is still a curve, go read mymicrosoft in detail first).

There is a curve for stock awards, and is identified by name (ranking). There is no curve for salary increases and bonus. This is a *good* thing. Also, the ranking for awards happens with yoru peers. Level 59s in a group. 60s, 61s and 62s in a group. 63s and 64s in a group. That is also a GOOD thing! A 59 isn't penalized because she works in a team with a bunch of 66s.

Finally, life for managers (me being one) is a bit easier. I dont have to tell someone they got a 3.0 because they were 3.49, instead of 3.5 (so they got curved down). I dont have to tell someone even though he worked his butt off, three other people with no work-life balance worked harder so he wont get a 4.0. Now I can talk to people about THEIR performance based on THEIR committments and THEIR level. How can that be a bad thing?

Overall, it's rock solid. I love this company!

Anonymous said...

So Bill Gates would rather play bridge with a 75 year old than show up at a Company meeting after his company's stock has fallen off a cliff in the last few weeks (not that will stop him from selling). Just about says it all about what has gone on at this Company in the last few years ....

Anonymous said...

Microsoft will never get it as long as they keep saying "People are the greatest asset of any company." They need to realize that the people don't BELONG to Microsoft, that they can leave at any time, and they should really compensate them accordingly.

I wasn't impressed with the leadership today -- not even Lisa. I should state that in a disappointment range, Lisa was the least disappointing of them all. I'm struggling to make ends meet in this town where a "decent house" (not townhome) can't be purchased for less than about $450,000, but the salaries for a L60 don't fit in the normal qualifying ratios for a loan. Then they come out and state that some small percentage of people will get more stock awards that will be fully vested in 5 years. Big deal. In 5 years, that stock will still be sitting at the low $20s if we are lucky (without a split).

I hate to complain without a solution, so here is mine. Create a new organization and bring effective people over, one at a time. Keep it small and tight. Only bring people over that can continue to perform well -- when they stop performing well, put them back in the old company. Compensate the new organization at a 85-percentile range or higher with great bonuses. Give them a reason to try harder. As long as they are cranking out good products that are making money, keep increasing the product breadth of the company and invite new productive employees over.

This would give employees in the "standard" company something to shoot for and give them reason to keep performing once in the new company.

Personally, I'm tired of work-life balance people ruining the company. There is nothing wrong with having a life outside of Microsoft, but the people (particularly the women in the company) who continue to moan about work-life being important are typically the ones who don't get anything done. In my organization, every woman manager I know is constantly calling in sick, "working from home" (with nothing to show for it when they return to the office), stuck in traffic, or otherwise engaged. It's time to hire the people that LOVE what they do and show up to do it. If you want work life balance, apply to Blockbuster Video or Safeway. You'll keep regular hours at least.

Anonymous said...

If the top 20% at a lower level means more stock than the middle 70% at the next level, then where is the incentive to get promoted? On the other hand, if the middle 70% means more stock than the top 20% at the lower level, we just move the curve from review score to promotion budget. Neither of which seems rational to me. The only explanation I can think of is that the stock grant mulitplier for the top 20% will only be 2-5x in rare occasions.

The real change seems to me is that instead of 22% 3.0 and 25% 4.0, there is now 10% 3.0 and 20% 4.0. And for the few 4.5 and 5.0, there will be a bigger stock grant pool.

What is missing is the incentive to keep people from performing barely above bottom 10% and reaping somewhat same reward as people performing barely below top 20%. The unspoken solution to this that habitual bottom 10% will be weeded out. I can already see managers keep their habitual 10% to protect the rest of the team.

The only way out I can see is that make it mandatory RIF for the bottom 5% every year. SteveB wants a 6% good attrition every year anyway, right?

Bottom line, with a flat stock price, 65% pay scale pretty much ensure 65% productivity, quailty and innovation.

On a lighter note, I wonder if the leadership treat the recent stock price slide as cost saving since it essentially lowered the price tag on the new stock grant program.

Anonymous said...

Lisa's numbers don't add up. The "target" seems to mean "average number of share per employee at level X." If the target for level 62 was previously 600 and it's still 600 the only way the top gets pushed up to 3600 is by taking stock away from the vast majority so you can give a huge chunck to a very small group. Unless I've missed something compensation just went down for the vast majority of Microsoft employees.

I thought, certainly they didn't think they could slip a simple math problem by us, but I see no comment on this so far. Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

Hiding the curve is only a bandaid, a diversionary tactic for all the mediocre FTEs who are now happy they have clean towels.

One problem is that people who work on worthless projects are compensated the same as the people who work on worthwhile projects. Why is this an issue? I'll spell it out:

1. I work hard towards my commitments, as does my manager, and her manager, on up the chain.
2. My commitments are set through the alignment of my group's goals with corporate strategy.
3. My group's goals may not help increase our revenue or stock value.

Given this, what's Microsoft's problem?

It's not compensation.

It's the alignment of our corporate strategy with initiatives that will drive revenue. Specifically, Microsoft lacks leaders who recognize and reward worthwhile initiatives.

By "recognize" I mean the ability to assess market conditions and pick projects which will positively impact our bottom line. By "reward" I mean reward those involved with productive projects in proportion with their return on investment.

This isn't a unique problem. Every company is faced with the dilemma of finding the right projects and properly rewarding its employees. But because we're in the business of innovation, company strategy is crucial to our future. For every great, innovative, revenue-driving project, there are ten worthless projects that suck the life out of our stock value. And those employees get paid the same, because they're meeting their commitments just the same. It's not their fault they're working on useless projects. THIS is what's killing me, that a lot of good people are working their asses off towards badly-defined goals.

Compensation is a *symptom* of the problem, not the problem itself. Microsoft needs leaders who are strong enough to kill the bad ideas and properly reward the good ones, not just fund every project that sounds like a good idea based on anecdotal evidence. Sure, we'll probably bet on the wrong horse from time to time, but we've already seen what hedging our bets can do. We've created lifeless stocks and lifeless employees. It's time to take risks and revel in the rewards!

Anonymous said...

Good job. (I liked the stuttering blithering way that steveb introduced Lisa, as if to say: 'I'm pretty much an insensitive ape with no personal skills, and that's how we wound up where we're at. I'll just keep my mouth shut now and let people smarter than me decide the fate of those who work here.”) The upshot of the whole meeting – in spite of the VPs who presented – was how sr. management owned up to fucking up their employee relations and now is trying to fix them. If you replay video of the meeting you can completely ignore the first hour and fifteen minutes (except maybe a few minutes about advertising sales.) This was a meeting about how – through colossal toadyism and political inbreeding – management poisoned the 'people thing.' Thanks and many kudos to Mini for hosting this site. You/I/we really cranked up the heat here and for all the incessant HR bashing I’m convinced that HR read the posts. This site has been more important than Scoble's over the last year, whether or not Scoble cares to mention Mini Microsoft by name in his book. (Scoble probably thinks there wasn’t a problem.) At this point, management knows what the REAL problem was with Vista, and they don’t want a repeat of it with ‘Live’. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. I think that it will be a net good change, although there's still some gaps that'll need to be filled.

A lot of it will depend on how the HR tools are implemented. After all, it's the review tool that flags a lot of "strange messages" (double 3.0) -- not the managers.

I used to be a manager but wanted to more technical work... But now, with these changes, management now becomes a much more interesting problem: no more curve telling me what I need to do to my team for reviews, no useless manager rating following me around, trackable commitments to help me manage people out, more flexibility for my star performers, I can be honest and not have to blame things on the curve or commit unnatural acts with bonus/promo, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm conflicted about the smaller level bands for stock curves.

I've seen more people lie to themselves about future potential than performance over the last year, so it's good to force that message -- at all levels -- sooner rather than later. Maybe it's time for that seven year 61 to feel that his contributions are "limited" and he needs to get in gear -- instead of handing out all the D's to 59's.

I know I'm in the top 20% of 59-64, but am I in the top 20% of 63/64?

Anonymous said...

I just read Scoble's comments. If Mini has been so special you should have mentioned him in your book! Your blog could have gone on for years with Microsoft spiraling into an HR abyss and you would be plodding faithfully on. Mini actually changed something!!!

Anonymous said...

Wah, Wah, Wah - I'm special and I deserve more. I got screwed by a bad manager. If you don't like it then get out. If you are half as talented as your ego thinks you are then you should be able to double your salary no problem. MS (and any ohter big company) pay you exactly as much as they need to keep you going in to work every day - and yes thats where you are all going to get up and go tomorrow.

So what the curve is gone but at the end of the day there is only ever $X in the bucket to share out. The curve may have been unfair but it forced lazy managers to take a hard look and determine who was the best. Without the curve you know what will happen? It will be worse!Managers can now give $$$ to their buddies and noone will ever know why since there is no easy statistic to measure - or VPs will just say 'everyone gets x%' just like happens in union shops like Boeing where everyone gets the same no matter if they work or sleep o the job. You all bitched and you got what you asked for - the high performers will be leaving in droves now and the lazy bastards will sit fat and happy. New managers can't see previous review scores so the high performers won't be noticed and the poor performers will job hop around the company causing chaos in their wake

(for the record I was there 10 years, 5 years as a manager and while I didn't like the curve or being forced to look hard at my employees I came to the conclusion that the system works more than it fails [yes it fails] and when I talked to people at other companies and searched the web for better systems I came to the conclusion that there isn't one. 90% of the whiners about the system were the 3.0 performers with the 4.0 egos.)

Anonymous said...

>LAR is gone, even better.

Uh, nothing prevents a hiring manager from asking you directly for your review score history. It happened to me recently.

Except that it's GONE from hrweb, and was yesterday. I graduated with a 3.95, much better than my college transcript. :)

As a manager, I love the changes. I was staring a shitty summer putting people on a curve they didn't deserve. Now I get to do meaningful reviews with feedback that matches it, and do compensation relative to contribution. This is not sarcasm.

Sure, there's a curve for future potential. So? At least it's pretty much limited to stock. Compensation in a publicly traded company will always be given out on a percieved contribution basis. I say percieved because no matter where you go or what you do, your comp depends on someone else's perception of your performance. (At least in software. Go to somewhere like Nucor Steel and you can have all the pay for results you can stand.)

The towels and office supplies were never about the actual "benefit". The anger and bitterness came from the feeling of betrayal and the ham-handed handling of the whole situation. The standing ovation for Lisa wasn't really about the specific details, it was a reaction to the relief and joy that someone is listening, and by god they are going to do something about it! That's why today's announcements matter. They are a symbol of the company realizing and making the first step towards a return to the valuing of employees "the old way". It's not all going to be perfect, but for the first time in a long time I'm not thinking about when I'm going to leave the company.

I've officially moved from "Fuck it" to "I'll wait and see, while busting my ass to do some cool stuff".

Anonymous said...

I'm now convinced that the only thing that will make the MSFT stock price is a hostile takeover. Oust Bill and Steve and put Lisa Brummel and Jeff Raikes in power. These are the only MSFT executives who come off even the slightest bit sincere, and there should be no question in anyone's mind that Lisa is getting stuff done. It might not be 100% or to everyone's satisfaction, but compared to the results from the other executives in the past few years, Lisa should be considered Microsoft's saviour.

Anonymous said...

No curve is good (and to bozos saying there is still a curve, go read mymicrosoft in detail first).

Don't be such a 2.5! Because it is in writen, it is real?! Get a clue. If I'm a manager and I have limited funds to spread across my 10 directs - you better believe I'm instituting my own curve. And some managers will do this fairly. But some will play the system and reward those that they always have. The "good ol' boys" network was not resolved with today's announcement, only moved to the lower levels where there is more room for possible corruption.

Grow up 2.5.

Anonymous said...

To the guy who didn't like women managers -

I cant believe your small organization comment (lets ignore the sexist remarks for the time being).

Steve Jobs tried that in Apple with the Mac and the Lisa camps. It lead to huge morale problems and "us-vs-them" fights.

We never want to go there.

Anonymous said...

"And was anyone else really scared to hear the CEO of a multibillion $ company say he doesn't understand what make s a stock price go up or down?"

It's not rocket science - growth, earnings, and confidence in management/execution. As a shareholder, I'm pretty concerned if Steve seriously indicated that he was unclear about that. I'm also BLOWN AWAY by all the negative comments here about the stock. I can understand people being dissapointed in the past performance - believe me, I share it. But what strikes me as odd are the numerous pessimistic forecasts for its future. Now, I know that only 20 people post here (sarcasm) but seriously, if this kind of pessimism is the general view, it's a real indictment of management. WTF is going on that folks don't feel confident that MSFT can continue to drive earnings? Or is the view that Ballmer is just going to piss any incremental earnings down the toilet the way he's doing this next fiscal with similar negative consequences for the stock? Here's my thought: if MSFT stock doesn't start performing, don't worry about whether you liked today's changes because Steve et al are going to be forced out and the new broom will sweep clean and come in with their own new comp plans.

Anonymous said...

The changes are an improvement, maybe not night and day, but definitely better. Lisa was outstanding in her presentation and ability to make these changes happen. Lisa really had a refreshing sincerity to her when speaking to the company, while the other VP's had a lot of fluffy rah rah talk.

Anonymous said...

Im a little confused, I dont work at microsoft. But I do question how do people expect rewards to be offered to employees if not though a curve or stack like system.

For example:

I have X rewards and Y people.

If you dont do it through a curve like system then the only other possible way is to distribute the amount even. Then when you have someone who works incredibly hard, long, productive hours compared to someone who started last week and has only been using computers for 3 years and has spent their time learning how to use outlook getting the same reward?

Are the people asking for a curve like system to be removed from the rewards doing so because they are the very same people that everyone is complaining about and they want to get a reward for doing nothing?

Anonymous said...

Looks like the pig's wearing a new dress

Anonymous said...

I'm a former softie ('92 - '00) but my girlfriend works there. She told me the news.... My initial take as a former manager is that there are less buckets and the same curve for the goodies (stock and $, I don't know anything about the towels). So if I was sitting at my review model for the 40 or so people I had at the time, with the new model, the goodies would be pretty equally divided up. More people in the same range would mean less at the top. If I want to really reward an "exceeder", it has to come from somewhere. If I take some goodies from an "achiever" to compensate, then I penalize that person against another that has the same rating. Or, I take from all of the "achievers" and they all get less. Not sure how this is better.

Anonymous said...

I won't repeat what others have already said. I will point out two observations I have had about the leadership and the direction of the company in general lately that only became more real today.

1. Our internal culture and our external branding couldn't be more different. All Ballmer wants to do is WIN, WIN, WIN. And his disease has infected the rest of upper management. Notice no one at these RAH, RAH events ever talks about what our customers need or how to better serve our customers. The discussion is always how we're going to eventually, someday, beat Google into the ground, own 99% of every possible market, and make $100B.

Then watch our marketing vs. our competitors. We love to talk in our commercials about making people better, recognizing their potential, taking them somewhere new. Yet Apple takes us head on in a competitive nature in their new commercials. Does anyone else feel like we're two separate companies? It would be nice if our external and internal cultures meshed a bit better. If we're sooooo competitive like Steve, why not expose that in our ads? Or, if the way to reach our customers is through reaching out to their passions, why can't management do that internally (which doesn't happen with more RAH, RAH speeches)?

2. Anytime Ballmer gets asked a question he doesn't like because it challenges him, he visibly gets upset and goes on the offensive. Do we want someone like that to run our company? The CEO should seek out critical feedback and admit when he made a mistake and ask for inputs on how to improve. Steve will not admit personal responsbility for the stock drop. Nor is he capable of accepting criticism. This is his biggest failure and ultimately will sink MSFT if he isn't replaced soon.

The one thing that should have been announced today wasn't and that was the increase in base pay. With all the RAH, RAH around our past performance, winning in the server space, winning in the database space, winning in the Office space, etc. - why do we all get paid less than 35% of the market? Oh, I forgot, I have got some underwater options from 6.5 years ago about to expire and a few 1000 shares of stock that just dropped in value by 10% because our executives botched the three things Steve mentioned today but never accepted personal responsibility for today.

For us to compete with Google, with inflation, with the idea that our leadership just doesn't "get it", there needs to be a clear message that PEOPLE really are at the center of it all and that doesn't come from playing games with the "curve" or increasing five fold the stock for the top performer on each team. It comes from moving the base pay up to 75th percentile. Period.

All the rest is just window dressing to hide the fact that leadership wants to continue to make Kevin Turner type compensation ($500k/year + $millions in stock awards/year) while sticking to the worker bees that actual make this company run.

Towels back? Office supplies back? What genius! What leadership! If LisaB was 1/2 of what many are touting her to be, she would have implemented both of these changes 0.5 seconds into her tenure.

Overall, they may have bought us off for another 5-6 months, but then the reality of these changes will hit and we'll all understand the true impact of the "towel and staples" plan.

Anonymous said...

People that don't realize that this is BS are blind. Actually for top performers might be worst. Think about it a little bit. You get the same budget as in previous years. You need to allocate that. You will still rank people. The problem is that if everybody is doing a top notch job, they exceed expectations, they will get less money than someone in another group that has less top performers. Assuming equal number of team members and equal budget for merit and bonus. Indeed now you are not limited by the number of "exceeding expectation" that you hand out but money wise you are still limited. Titles don't put food on your table nor they pay for the mortgage.
What should have been very clear is how the budget gets allocated per team, how you reward teams for doing a great job.
Make no mistake the new system will not solve any problems. On the contrary, is like they try to spread the top performers around (or out). Also, exactly like in the past, managers will be interested in keeping the dead wood around just to be able to hand better rewards to top performers. So nothing changed. As long as the budget is fixed is the same. The budget is made with the assumption that some percent are top performers, some are ok and some not. It's like they don't believe that you can have really good teams. I don't know why they hire us in the first place if they expect that 20-30% will fail.

Anonymous said...

"Steve - since becoming CEO, the value of MSFT stock has declined over 35%. Why are you still the CEO when similar sustained performace by any IC would have resulted in multiple 2.5 review scores."

It's worse than that. It's actually down closer to 60% since he took office in Jan 00, destroying some $330B of shareholder wealth in the process.

Anonymous said...

Steve Balmer:
Stop your bullshit. Stop your over-acting. Stop your 'blah blah blah'ing. If anyone needs to go from this company, it is this idiot and moron

"Show of hands. How many use Google?" The audience didn't have the guts. Almost everyone in msft uses Google. How can the people in the audience say that they honest if they can't raise their hands to a simple question.

Lisa Brummel:
She has to go. Towels? Office supplies ?? Over-priced food in the cafeteria ??? Useless and wasteful (to employees) resources like dinner-to-go, laundry ??? Common. Bunch of bullshit again. No comp changes.

Useless townhall meeting, just like all the other townhall meetings.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I'm tired of work-life balance people ruining the company. There is nothing wrong with having a life outside of Microsoft, but the people (particularly the women in the company) who continue to moan about work-life being important are typically the ones who don't get anything done."

I really, really, really hope this sexist pig gets swept up by the rumored Windows RIF, and soon.

Anonymous said...

No curve is good (and to bozos saying there is still a curve, go read mymicrosoft in detail first).

There is a curve for stock awards, and is identified by name (ranking). There is no curve for salary increases and bonus. This is a *good* thing.

I did read mymicrosoft's faq in detail, including denying the existence of a curve. It misses the point of the concern entirely.

There will still be a curve, for all compensation - it will not be called that, and it will vary from division to division, perhaps even budget unit to budget unit. It will apply directly to how merit and bonuses are divided up.

C'mon! If a manager says "we divided the merit and bonus budget equally among the whole team", what incentive is there to excel in that team? If a manager says "we gave more of the merit and bonus budget to the key people", how is that not a curve? If it doesn't roll all the way up to SteveB, how is that possibly a fair deal if it takes you a couple years to figure out how your team really rewards its people?

You can hum real loud and wish this away, letting the semantic games of this afternoon wash over you... or you can wake up and realize that this bunch of changes has made this place MORE politicized now than ever before. Transparency works; translucency doesn't. Either make a system that is fair and standard across the entire company, or just come right out and say we're really like 20 different little companies who all measure and reward differently.

Anonymous said...

As long as there is a fixed compensation budget, and any sort of pay for performance philosophy, there will always be a curve of some kind. The fixed curve at the corporate level, that everyone knew how it worked, was removed and given up to managers to implement as they allocate fixed budgets. Those same poor, dysfunctional managers we complain about and hope to someday do something about. The key opportunity for differentiation and transparency that was missed is differentiating the performance of teams by making bonus/promo budgets based on team performance, while tied to the manager rating that is made public. What this change amounts to really is placating the underachievers and people who do not understand or think too deeply about how companies really function. Now it will be even easier for poor perforers to skip between teams every year (bad managers rarely read previous reviews in depth), while the perennial over-achievers with a decade of life-time 4.0 averages will have one of the only visible, honest badges of merit stripped from them. On the other hand, this change is really starting to open up the door to experimentation and “localization” at the divisional, if not yet team level. A much needed step.

Overall, this reminds me of 2000, at the height of the previous bubble, when Steve made the desperate, unscheduled stock grant to stem the departures for the dotcom startups. We are at the height of another bubble (really the same one that never deflated properly due to massive pumping of credit by the fed post-911), people are restless, and measures to placate the employees are enacted. In my opinion, this will all blow over in 6-12 months when the market dives and people realize that Microsoft is still unmatched in terms of resources, global reach, quality of hiring, audacity and adaptability. Yes, there are huge problems - sales guys and not product people running the company, autistic managers, spiraling out of control bureaucracy, technical architecture and business model that prevent us from being as agile as we need to be in the face of increased tempo of competition (Steve and KJ seeming to think that by putting their managerial focus on Agile being enough to address it notwithstanding). All of these things can work themselves out as the company adjusts, yet again, as it has done many times before, to the evolving world around it. The one thing that worries me the most is that there is no discernible vision in the leadership ranks for where the world is going and what Microsoft wants to become in that world. And no, what we have right now (the realizing potential thing) is not a vision, but rather a nice PR/marketing statement. Without a unifying vision and a purpose that create a framework for the myriad of decisions that have to be made, too much adaptability can easily spin out of control into chaos and confusion. Let’s hope that even with Bill essentially gone and focused on other things, a unifying theme and vision will emerge in the company, to help guide it through the next few decades.

Anonymous said...

Just like Lisa said, I like some of the changes, confused about some and do not like that some changes were not made. But at least I feel that our leadership finally heard how deep the dissatisfaction with the review system is.

I like the fact that the curve is gone at least from figuring out merit raise. I used to wonder why the review period started in June and went on till August, till I had to do reviews. Most of the time was spent working on the curve and then we go through a few rounds of pushbacks all the way up to the SVP. My sincere hope is managers and their reports will spend more time working on appropriate commitments that are aligned with cascading commitments and business objectives. I also hope that managers at all levels get adequate support and training from HR and their managers on the right set of commitments. This will take some time to get used to. In the hands of good managers and committed reports, this new approach should ensure good teamwork and healthier teams. But good managers always seem to have healthy teams anyway and somehow know how to get their teams to be effective.

I like the increase in the stock awards. Last couple of years, I felt stupid giving out paltry stock awards. Inspite of what people are saying in their comments, the 20/70/10 breakdows will result in meaningful increases for people in the top 30-40% of a team. If properly used, this should be a good motivation for retention of our best talent.

Increasing tuition reimbursement, childcare discounts, cafetaria changes are all good and quite a lot better than most of our competitors. I actually think the change in the supplies thing is more meaningful than the towel thingy. I remember many times when we had to go looking for dry erase markers or white board erasers while 8 to 10 people waited in the conference room.

I do not like the fact that we are still at 65% of tech companies in our base compensation. What worries me the most is we are losing ground on top notch college hires. I am afraid that if we do not get the best talent out there into Microsoft now, we will pay for it over the next 5-10 years. I have personally seen how hard and competitive it is to close on top college talent, assuming we are even able to get them to come over to Redmond. I sincerely hope that once we are past our "surprise cost increase" period, we can think hard about this. It is doubly important as it is highly unlikely that we will see year over year double digit percentage gain in our stock prices any more. Top talents want to see upside in addition to a chance to have huge impact. We have to figure out a way to make that happen.

What I did not hear is what we are doing to breakdown fiefdoms and get teams to collaborate. I am all for hard nosed negotiations and drill downs but when time comes to execute, it seems to me that everyone dhould start pushing the rock in the same direction. People pout, take a show me attitude, throw stones and do not get behind a lot of decisions. As a result conflicts do not get resolved. Leaders and managers focus too much on internal competition with their peers instead of focussing on the external competition and more importantly on customer pain. This friction between teams is costing us a lot and if management is looking for ways to improve efficiency and profitability, this is an area ripe for picking.

Finally, I love the work I do and am truly amazed by most of the people I work with on a daily basis. It is just a thrill to work with people who are smart and totally committed. I also love the fact that anything we do always has the potential of changing people's lives. I just wish that we could get more competitive in our compensation, our customer sat numbers and less competitive with our peers. I am willing to give the company my best efforts another year or two to see if we can truly change for the better. If not I will have to go out and find a good startup to dive into.

Anonymous said...

Mini, here's something worth reading:

Anonymous said...

*Sigh* I've been reading this blog for a few months now, and I have to say that this is the first time I've felt disappointment. Not by the meeting, which was a pleasant surprise, but by many of the comments posted here by fellow MS employees.

First of all, the rants that misunderstand the factual details of the new review model are disturbing. There are more than a couple. If you aren't smart enough to grasp the way in which the bonuses and stock awards have been decoupled, why should I have faith that you are even competent in your job?

Secondly, I think that it's great that a forum like this exists to express concerns about Microsoft's long-term strategic vision. We can debate the effectiveness of the (recently retired) 2.5-5.0 review system. We can let people know that we want the same accountability from our senior managment that we are subjected to on a daily basis. These are all things that I hope that employees who care about their company think about.

However, a significant amount of posts here are at their heart saying nothing more than "we are so undercompensated I just can't believe it, I mean, have you ever heard of such a tragedy?" News Flash: If you want to be a multi-millionaire (without becoming a partner) and retire by age 40 MS is not the place for you. The stock will NEVER see performance even close to what it was in the '90s. That was lighting in a bottle, and you missed it. If being a zillionaire is that important to you, you need to leave and go take a risk at a startup and hope that you win the lottery. Yes, this is a fairly expensive part of the country to live in, but how many of you who complain about the cost of living drive BMWs? Juding by what I see on campus every day I'd say quite a few. I know its important for you to buy a huge house so you can feel like you are "getting back" at all the people who made fun of you in high school, but maybe you should re-evaluate why it is you do what you do. Even when factoring in the Puget Sound's expensive real estate, we are compensated quite well when compared with all the people in the world. You don't "deserve" anything. If you really think your horrible pay is such a travesty, take that other job offer or better yet go start your own company. Just be happy you live in a time when engineering aptitude is in high demand.

Thanks for listening, I feel much better.

Anonymous said...

Chalk this up as strike two for monkey boy. First, he screwed the investors by blindsliding them and now he has screwed his other constitutents i.e the employees by basically doing nothing for 80% of the employees. Yeah, you are the companies greatest asset --- yet we will continue to pay most of you at 65 percentile of the market. And Oh yeah we'll get rid of the curve -- ooops I meant to say I will hide it behind the contribution ranking. When is this BS going to stop?

One could argue that given investor climate raising salaries across the board was going to be hard. But then whose fault is that? Couldn't we have timed this stuff better? Wasn't this comp stuff in the works for 5-6 months? Couldn't we have come up with a salary hike to move folks to a higher percentile and announced that way before we dropped the investor bombshell?

Anonymous said...

So does this actually those of us who were burned by manipulation of the old system?

Can i come back after alledgely being one of those under performing rocks who were rocked by a "im gonna get you sucka" manager?

Anonymous said...

>>Dismal. NO mention of raising a COLA bar or of increasing our 65th percentile. This has got to be hard on recruiting. We are just NOT competitive in base pay. House prices, cost of gas, food everything is going up and not everyone can hold their breath for that once a year bump (such as it is).

Here's a tip... it's called Southwest. Take a flight outside of the Puget Sound some day (you know, reality?) and you'll see how overcomp'ed you folks are.

Looking at cash comp alone, at the L59-62 range, MSFT pays exceptionally well considering Seattle Metro's dirt cheap (yeah you heard me) cost of living. Apple pays about the same... but the cost of living is ~22% higher. (Let's start with a state income tax, and a higher sales tax.)

grow up. across america the average raise last year was ~3.7%.

the only thing hurting msft recruiting is the stock price. but cash comp - msft really does do well.

Anonymous said...

>>Bottom line, with a flat stock price, 65% pay scale pretty much ensure 65% productivity, quailty and innovation.

So who would you cite as in the 99th percentile of productivity, quality, and innovation? and do you think they cash comp at the 99th percentile?

Wait... do you even know what a percentile is?

Anonymous said...

To the people complaining about the towels, you are self-centered a**holes. Microsoft makes billions of dollars in profit. It can spend this money on towels and make some employees happy, or it can spend the money on convoluted stock buyback programs to line the pockets of executives who are already filthy rich. Apparently you prefer the latter. It's not like you're going to get a raise if your friends don't get towels.
An employee who has never used a Microsoft towel

Anonymous said...

(I'm wary of the change, for now, but this post isn't about that)
Go to the webcast and turn on close captioning, when Steve introduces Lisa it reads "Lisa Space Shuttle Bromel", lol!

Anonymous said...

No need to complain, if you are a superstar (NOT super-suckup), this will help you:

Anonymous said...

These are all good changes, but miss the bullseye by a mile. The real problem is Ballmer. Microsoft is teetering along without vision - a dinosaur who doesn't know it's headless because it's lumbering along under its own momentum. Ballmer is not a visionary, he's a used-car salesman. Ballmer does not care about customers, damn CuSat and get that stock price up. Feeling de-motivated? It all starts with the leadership, and I can't remember a single thing Ballmer has said or done in the time I've been here that makes me say "That's what I wanted to hear!"

Fire Ballmer.

Anonymous said...

Mini -- take credit for being a significant catalyst in the changes.

No matter how things turn out -- you got a stiff, old, "that's-just-the-way-we-do-it-here" machine to move.

So, take the credit.

Reveal your secret identify (mild mannered tester by day, truth-telling right-doer by night), for there wil NEVER be a better time -- they can't FIRE you ... in fact, you'd probably get an "Exceeds" for all the help you gave Lisa.

Anonymous said...

"My Microsoft"

I thought we were dropping this "my" thing.

Anonymous said...

too little too late - I'm still tuning in my 2 weeks on monday

Anonymous said...

After many years with the company, I have to say that whenever we say we are doing something it almost always means we are doing the opposite and just trying to make it look good. Let's face it, leadership is trying its best to make us the Wal-Mart of the IT industry. Working for Wal-Mart sucks as you know. A fake company/family image with record crap compensation.

These changes are made to remove the obvious unfairness from the review process. However, now we face a rather bland mediocre review/compensation proposal. While we won't get the occasional 3.0 slap in the face. Compensation can still be awarded by politics/butt kissing. Even worse, we now face a model where most of us will get a fair review and just bland compensation. It's only better for those who were stuck somewhere between 3.0 and 3.5. Overall, 80% of us will just get a mediocre raise and mediocre stock aware from this review period forward. We'll be the Wal-Mart employees of IT!

No doubt we will be a bit happier. No longer so many of us getting unfair 3.0's. But now it will be less obvious that we are getting ripped off. Now more of us will be getting ripped off, but it won't be so obvious.

There is no doubt in my mind that the stock price is indeed being intentially kept low. Once those options expire (the ones we could have cached in a few years ago), we'll see company stock buy-back and more positive outlooks in the qaurterly reports.

Keeping the stock price down is smart business. I don't knock the logic. The $2.4B overspend will pay for itself many times over by the un-uncashed stock options. Smart thinking... but what does it do to us?

Anonymous said...

For those who emphatically insist that there is still a curve - you are wrong. There will still be stank ranking as a part of calibration and, yes, there will be differentiated rewards. It is absolutely ridiculous to think there won't be differentiation in the rewards - if you work hard and do a great job then your rewards will be greater then someone who didn't - this is not a curve. This differentiation will vary across the company - some groups may reward the highest performers more then other groups.

Without differentiation everyone would get the same reward and overall productivty would drop significantly.

If you are a low performer then differentiation is a bad thing since you are forced to elevate your performance to get any rewards.

There is going to be a salary adjustment across North America on top of the normal merit budget. It is not huge but it is not insignificant. Details on the merit budget haven't been announced yet.

For those of you who are employees and are so down on the company then I suggest you go find someplace else to work that offers a better total compensation and work environment. I bet you will have a hard time - if you do find someplace else then everyone wins.

Anonymous said...

Steve Balmer:
Stop your bullshit. Stop your over-acting. Stop your 'blah blah blah'ing. If anyone needs to go from this company, it is this idiot and moron

"Show of hands. How many use Google?" The audience didn't have the guts. Almost everyone in msft uses Google. How can the people in the audience say that they honest if they can't raise their hands to a simple question.

Lisa Brummel:
She has to go. Towels? Office supplies ?? Over-priced food in the cafeteria ??? Useless and wasteful (to employees) resources like dinner-to-go, laundry ??? Common. Bunch of bullshit again. No comp changes.

Useless townhall meeting, just like all the other townhall meetings.

You should leave the company. Being that angry can't be healthy. You know Steve and Lisa aren't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I hope the change were good for the company, but a quick reality check tells me no.
The same management at different levels who screw a good company into such a bad shape still remains almost unchanged, no matter how good you re-engineer or re-name the system, the same executors will turn it into the same old way. The political stabbing at every review at every level, good performer with no interest to play politics getting pitiful rewards, big screwup ending with unjustified 4.0(with a fancy new name outstanding) as long as one has allies in higher level, which normally is the case for every level of manager....
Is the stack system really gone? No. Does the other new changes, including the comeback of towel, new flavor of food etc really matter to employees? No. Do I expect future big screwups at this point? Yes.
How market likes the new Microsoft, another downday in a up market, sigh...
I love this company and I hope it can be managed into the right direction, but I don't see a light.

Anonymous said...

A few questions for thought:

-One poster noted that if everyone is performing at the top of the scale, all people should be told the money is being evenly split between them all. Won't that motivate people to find groups that are dismal but they can be stars in? If it begins that movement, the company will get better because eventually all of those pockets of mediocrity will be discovered. But it starts us on a new cycle of internal movement, I believe.

-If stock is given primarily based on someone's future benefit to the company, will this become a potential (albeit unconscious, perhaps) age discrimination issue? Will managers begin to look at those individuals who are in their mid-50s and 60s (we have 'em here) and start their stock potential baseline lower, because they don't have the same long term value?

Anonymous said...

As you say, this could be a good start and I hope that it is. However, the devil is in the details and how this shakes out over the next couple of years will really be the interesting factor.

For the new review system to really take a foothold, the culture of the company will have to change. That doesn't happen quickly in any company, let alone a large one. How the reviews are carried out by managers and how HR perceives the system is working upon a 1 year review of it will determine whether or not the changes are made permanent. Ultimately, it will still be down to individual employees and how they perceive it is working. Remember, as quickly as these changes come, the company could decide next year that it was too costly with little return and "modify" it to become more like the bell curve system.

Also, I'm concerned about employees at the lower end pay scale at MS. How is this going to mitigate their issues? We'll see, but loss of the ESPP and then getting screwed in the buy back really hurt many of those people. When people speak of MS they often think of the engineers that make the software and the games or the call center employees, yet there are a LOT of people in between at the lower rung of the company ladder without whom the success of the rest of the company would not exist. Those people need recognition as well and as many people complained about ESPP loss and bell curve reviews, the people at the bottom were hit far worse than those in the middle or at the top.

Anonymous said...

my mortgage will still be a stretch goal: no change to base pay and most people will get what they got last year in stock...

Anonymous said...

congrats, mini. a good first step and you were instrumental in making it happen. very nice!

i think that is really the main point here: if enough employees get behind something, leadership has no choice but to listen. these guys didn't listen because they have vision or ability. they listened because *they had no choice.*

msft still has the same crappy management team that has missed huge opportunities, created massive bureaucracy, bungled key projects, etc, etc.

this management team still doesn't give a rat's ass about shareholders (except as talking points) so it really is up to employees to fix the company. as you know, there is still a ton of work to do. fortunately, you can make things happen, one post at a time.

Anonymous said...

I missed parts of Lisa's speech due to some glitches on my PC. Somebody mentioned later that she said that a manager's review will be partially based on the received manager feedback (unlike before)? I didnt see that mentioned in the presentation when I checked later.. Is that true?

Anonymous said...

Here's my take on it:
MS doesn't value its employees any more than it needs to. At one time, I thought if I bust my but, my contribution will be appreciated and rewarded. Well, it was appreciated and rewarded a little bit (in comparison to the amount of extra work given).

So why did MS do this?
MS saw many top employees leaving and had a hard time recruiting new employees due to a hotter job market. Not due to mini or some employee discontent. If there wasn't a very good market for employees, nothing would have changed.

What does that mean to employees of MS?
Here's a simple scenario. Suppose MS kicks Google's a** like the execs want. Google shribbles up and dies. What happens to the local market for you? And as a result what happens to your compensation. As I heard many times at MS, past performance (of what has happened at MS) is as the best indication of future behavior.

What's the self interested thing to do?
Perform well but not well enough to cause your competitor harm.

Now, go decimate your competitors. Doing so will allow ms stock to go up b/c for one thing they won't need to pay you as much. This is good because I still have some espp to unload.

ex-softie of over 10 years

Anonymous said...

As long as my 20 hour work week keeps me from the bottom 6.5%, my hourly compensation is right where I want it to be.

Thanks for the towels, pens and staplers. Keep the cafe food though, unless you make it free.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll wait for SP1 of this program.

Anonymous said...

>If we're sooooo competitive like Steve, why not expose that in our ads?

You must be dev. Your internal posturing should never be the same as your external posturing.

Look at Apple - looks warm and cuddly. And super secretive. If you knew the inner workings, you'd know that its far from warm and cuddly.

Also, 3 letters: D O J

Anonymous said...

Man there are a bunch of whiny, sniveling children posting here.

Folks, these changes are GOOD. Not perfect, but GOOD. All this "Ballmer has to go!" crap is ridiculous. The guy is presiding over one of the most successful companies of all time that will continue to succeed.

The only reason people are bitter and angry is because the stock price is down and some people apparently can't handle it. If you've studied stock markets even a little, you'll know that stock markets are not rational. Stocks are volatile. Microsoft's stock has been down for so long primarily because of the antitrust suits and the Vista disaster. If we can get those things behind us and get the ship righted, we're going to be, an Mini put it, back on the smooth path.

We've turned a corner. I'm looking forward to the next five years for the first time in awhile.

I hope the massive RIF takes most of these whiny 3.0 performers and flushes them out into the real world. Bye bye.

Anonymous said...

What I want to know is, when is Microsoft going to get with the 21st century and develop company-wide guidelines for Flexible Work Arrangements? The lack of formal policy on this forces each manager to make decisions about FWA in a vacuum, with no guidelines or support from the company, and frankly. most opt to say no to it.

Microsoft has been leaking women dramatically for years, primarily because they simply do not believe that employees can be responsible and productive when telecommuting.

C'mon, Steve: whatever happened to that "anytime, any place, on any device" line that you were feeding to the customers a few years back? Is that acceptable for everyone *except* Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

I would like to refer you all to episode 15, season 2, of the Simpsons which aired in 1990. The title of the episode is "Simpson and Delilah".

Here's a quick refresher. Homer takes Demoxynil and grows hair. Mr. Burns promotes Homer to management. At his first management meeting, Homer listens to Mr. Burns complaining about low employee morale. Homer suggests they double the amount of tartar sauce that accompanies each order of fish sticks in the cafeteria. Mr. Smithers writes it off as a bad idea, but Mr. Burns sees it for the brilliant idea it is. Employee morale can be bought with a few cents worth of tartar sauce.

Mr. Burns: Let the fools have their tartar sauce!

This goes out to all you trained seals who clapped on command after Lisa Brummel's speech. Make sure you get your double ration of tartar sauce when you're lined up at the new Ivar's in the cafeteria, okay?

Anonymous said...

Here is my thought:

The primary problem in the company is its discrete way of measuring and rewarding performance. This stays. You will be completely at the mercy of your manager in the heirarchy who has any reasonable power to influence things. People who find a good manager that is rewarding them will stick like leaches to them just because they are rewarding them.

This system does not encourage people to concentrate on work but on managers that they should be working for so that they are safe and well rewarded.

I feel that we should fix the ways employee performance is calibrated into a more analytical model rather than it being against a list of vague descriptions on a web page.

People today are scared to move within the company if they are in good standing with the current manager mainly because they feel they could get screwed.

Towels, cafeteria changes mean nothing to a majority of the employees. It is like saying we will provide more parking for cycles. How many people care?

I have personally gotten tired of the VP's talking. It sounded very superficial with the repeated use of the word "opportunity". All of them looked like they were acting in Hollywood or something.

Personally, Billg not turning up for this meeting was a bummer. This should have been his priority if he really loved his people and the company.

Anonymous said...

Did everybody missed Balmer's comment? For 80% of the people, nothing will change.

He's forgetting that those 80% are the one delivering the majority of the code and the products,and that in a company, you need to retain your 3.0 and 3.5 workers as well.

The middle and upper management needs to realize that even though they accomplished something 15 years ago, it's time for them to seriously question themselves.

And seriously, who cares about the towels?
I'd rather get a comparable income, bonus and stock grant to what google offers. Probably time to go look somewhere else

Anonymous said...

I HATE the fact that they did not address the number #1 comp issue i.e we are underpaid relative to market (65 percentile with stock in toilet does not cut it)

I LOVE the fact that the forced curve has gone away. It sucked. Yes, some sort fo curve is still there in the contribution setup but it does have flexibility in it.

I HATE Steve ballmer. I really wish he would leave.

I LOVED Lisab's presentation style and her energy. She totally seems to get it.

I LOVE the fact Lisab brought back the towels and staples....they were symbols of a company gone horribly off track w/ regard to its employees.

I would LOVE to see the base salary issue get fixed.

Anonymous said...

Regarding my book: Mini got popular after my book was finished. We did mention Electronic Arts anonymous' blog (done by a spouse of an employee) and the impact that blog had on Electronic Arts. If we were writing our book today we, indeed, would have included Mini in it.

To everyone else: I'm amazed at the negativity. Here our management made a significant move in the right direction. I've met with many non-Microsoft employees lately and heard the kind of compensation that they are getting and I'm more and more convinced that we're just a bunch of spoiled children.

If Microsoft is such a horrible place to work, or you aren't being compensated properly, please try your hand at the job market! That's the best way to show everyone you weren't treated fairly.

This whining, though, serves no purpose and doesn't help us move Microsoft to a better, more customer-centric, organization.

And I specifically don't want to work with people who make personal attacks or sexist remarks. Those are vile and have no place in the workplace I want to be working in.

Anonymous said...

Wow the changes made to the Seattle Times Friday headlines. I am Ex-MS guy, and was pleased to read that maybe the mgmt is trying to change.

LisaB is also trying to woo back some of the people who left MS unhappy over things at MS. They are planning to start a special program to keep in touch with the ex-msft employees, so that they can always make the come back. This program is very impressive if they implement what they are saying.

I hope things change, and I can my entry back at MS. I hate a lot of things at MS, but I love lots of stuff also. I can see as a manager my life is a bit easier, as I wont have to go into stack meetings and fit for that 4.0 buckets and fill that spreadsheet.

This blog is a nice place to come and hear views of all kinds of people.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how they're going to get towels to New Jersey... oh we don't have showers, so never mind.

Frankly, mobility *without personal cost* is one key to field satisfaction. Provide us with the equipment, tools and software that truly enable us to work from anyplace (customer) at anytime (customer meetings) and we'll be happier workers.

Anonymous said...

I have worked for Microsoft almost 10 years. Prior to that I worked for a like company and in no way can I compare their compensation to Microsoft. Microsoft is generous with pay, benefits and "perks". I agreed to all of this when I was hired. Should I want to increase that, it is my responsibly and no one else’s. If I am unhappy with it, it is my responsibility to change that and no one else’s. I love the work I do and my happiness is worth much more then towels and dry cleaning. BUT I created that happiness, not dependant on anyone else for that.

You greedy bastards out there complaining about all the injustices done to you, GROW UP and get a friggen’ back bone. Show some pride in your work and do it because you love it or get out!!! I am a female and I have more of a backbone then the majority of you whiny complaining sniveling men! You pompous arrogant a**es. Your complaining requires important leaders to spend enormous amounts of time and money driving to understand your ridiculous insatiable “requirements” that could better be spent strategizing on projects, deployment and success of the business.

Lisa thank you for making time to listen, for caring about the feedback and making every effort to satisfy 64K + employees world wide. Your contributions are great and appreciated!!

Anonymous said...

My impressions:

Towels/food/other stuff. Yeah, I'm happy that they brought them back, but why did they have to do something so petty in the first place, and why did it take years to reverse the short-sighted policies. I get the sense that they brought them back because people complained, not because they realized that the productivity loss was bigger than the cost savings.

The big thing that struck me is that LisaB can actually communicate with people and seem genuine, and the other execs aren't even close. There may have been something in the other talks that should have made me excited, but since everything is always so rosy, I can't make a honest evaluation.

Something honest would have been to say something like, "We know that a lot of people are unhappy with the performance and accountability of middle management, and we take that problem very seriously". But there was *nothing* like that.

No forced curve is good, if only to prevent you from having to downrate people to meet a given distribution. If you really have 3 exceptional people, you can rate them all that way rather than having to push one down.

The stock award difference is unimpressive. The chart made is clear that they've taken money from the bulk of people and moved out to the exceptional performers.

I was suprised to hear that they plan to divulge the stock awards at all levels. I think the reaction to stock awards at higher levels is going to be interesting, presuming they do disclose everything there. Microsoft is weird in that our top execs don't take much compensation, so it makes it look like the execs in general aren't overcompensated, but I think there is a lot of overcompensation at the VP level, and I hope that becomes clear.

So, overall, a good step in the HR arena, but nothing towards making the company operate better.

Anonymous said...

"Why I left Microsoft a few months ago...after 6 years."

I loved the company. I loved the mission. I loved the people and the passion. But to quote an article in Forbes a while back "they (Microsoft) are just crushing their people".

My decision to leave as 6 years as a Program Manager was primarily because of an amazing offer and opportunity for leadership at a company in downtown Seattle. The new company is public and has 350 or so people, so is not your run of the mill startup. My salary went up by 30%. My stress level went down by 66%. My options tripled. My optimism for the future and my career growth increased exponentially.

I know what it takes to succeed at Microsoft (and truly, my success and history at Microsoft is a gold star on my resume) however I did reach a point over the last 2 years where I had to say "is this worth it anymore?". My wife and I both had a common answer "No - the cost is too great".

There are no golden handcuffs anymore. There still is the murky ability to advance (slowly perhaps), unless you are a superstar that is killing yourself and sacrificing your family on the altar of tech career. Additionally, No matter what the company does, financially, strategically, or other - the stock price never moves except down. Certainly, MSFT is out of favor with the Street. It is a good job, but it really, now, is simply a job.

So now, since leaving, I am striving to build kick-ass software at another company, working with awesome folks (again) in a strategic and growing market. I have a bit of melancholy for leaving MS (because there are some amazing things going on), but I certainly cannot imagine going back - the cost is simply too high.

Anonymous said...

So if I'm following this correctly, Steve's plan to "rejuvenate" MS, necessitated for the most part because he and the rest of his team have done such a piss-poor job over the past 5 years, is to augment the existing paralyzing/bloated bureaucracy by hiring asinine numbers of new employees (5-6K this year alone) which he will then invest (along with $B's of shareholder cash) not into the profit-making businesses despite their highly visible execution fuckups, but primarily into the the money-losing ones. Then, as the stock expectedly tanks further under this combination of rising costs, lowered earnings and confidence-dissipating execution failures, and general employees (rightly imo) complain that they're being short-changed, don't redistribute some of the outrageous compensation going to the top 1000 despite their horrific record of performance (or - god forbid - dole out some direct accountability in the form of firings). Instead, dispatch someone down to the basement to crank up that convenient grant printer by another 15% along with a bunch of other GOOG-like perks (forget the fact that GOOG's growth allows them to afford that AND drive their stock), which of course will further drive up costs, undermine profitability and dilute/tank the stock. As the stock continues to fall, which is just about inevitable under this scenario, deal with subsequent cries of employee dissatisfaction by doling out more rewards that company results can't support, thereby further tanking margins and the stock, leading to more employee dissatisfaction, futher rewards, further tankage and so on. Did I capture it correctly?

I have an alternate suggestion: fire Ballmer and Gates. Get a competent ousider to come in and clean house - starting with the top 800. Senior execs who don't perform - gone. Senior execs who believe so little in the company that they lead the entire industry in insider-selling - gone. Freeze headcount company-wide and consider an across-the-board RIF of 10% employees (20% in the management ranks), rationalize business investments including considering the spin-off into a seperate tracking stock of the money-losing divisions which are currently the worst of all worlds for investors - afforded ZERO value by Wall St and tanking earnings from the core businesses and hence negative for the stock price. Enforce total accountability and redistribute the massive overall compensation more equitably - thereby easing the burden on general employees (who didn't make the strategic fuckups in the first place) w/o further impacting margins. Take a big chunk of the current cash and use it to immediately retire a big chunk of shares outstanding (i.e really return it to shareholders vs just saying you are). Strongly consider the benefits of even taking on debt to do that given the favorable tax consequences. Moving forward, tie compensation directly to bottom line results especially for the top 800 executives. For everyone who doesn't like this new world where you actually have to live within your means vs live beyond it and have it underwritten by shareholder losses, say "thx for the contribution, and don't let the door hit you on the way out". Those who remain, will enjoy the fruits of a leaner, more aggressive, more focused, cash-generating, customer/shareholder-pleasing, results-orientatated, truly-innovative (vs lip service) machine.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Microsoft for 14 years from '91 - '05. Througout the growth years of the 90's we took on a large number of seasoned outside managers, and promoted a lot of people who never should have been promoted. The result is what you have today--politics, feifdoms, and do-nothing organizations that bloat and slow down the machine.
Until a concerted effort is made to remove bad managers, no restructuring of the compensation system will fix the problems. HR needs to be given the authority to deal with crap-for-brains managers, and the company needs to implement a program that 1) validates a person's aptitude for management and 2) trains them adequately, before allowing them to step into this critical role. The failures at Microsoft are a management problem and until the company steps up and deals with it things will only get worse.

Glad to be on the outside looking in. :)

Anonymous said...

The HR changes are good for Microsoft. To those who bemoan the absence of an across-the-board pay raise ... put your money where your mouth is. If you don't think you're being fairly compensated at Microsoft, find another company who's willing to pay what you think you're worth.

Yes, the towels and the supplies are symbollic gestures -- just as symbollic as when they were first taken away. Axing those bennies sent the message that we're a petty company concerned with petty expenditures. And that was the wrong message and it pissed a lot of employees off, regardless if they ever used the towels. Reinstating those bennies is really saying the opposite ... it's saying that Microsoft is not so small that it needs to cut trifling expenditures in order to stay profitable. Microsoft is not so small that it can't afford to keep its employees happy.

Yes, we still have "the Curve" -- in essence if not in name. Live with it. As long as Microsoft continues to believe in "pay for performance", we always will have differentiated rewards. There may be a few groups in Microsoft where everyone's a superstar and everyone deserves a 20% bonus. But there are far, far, far more many totally mediocre groups that THINK they all deserve top prize. They'd be stealing from the rest of us if that's what they got. The fact that they have to divvy up a fixed pie keeps them accountable. It goes without saying that fixed pie will need be adjusted group to group depending on market performance.

But what's gone, thank God, is the horrible 2.5-5.0 scale. That scale seemed almost perfectly tuned for maximum disappointment. So many 3.5s that think "I deserved a 4.0", and so many "3.0s" that think "I deserved anything but that". Utterly demotivating. Now, if you get a "satisfactory" ... what's there to complain about? You did well. Maybe you were on the cusp of an "excellent". You'll never know. If you got an "unsatisfactory" ... well, it's like the old 2.5 ... you probably deserved it. You didn't get curved into an "unsatisfactory". I say kudos for Lisa for having the courage to push this through to completion. It's not easy to enact such large changes in an organization as huge as Microsoft, and she deserves a lot of credit for making it happen.

This business about "commitments" still needs a big overhaul. It's a great theory. I'm sure it works out on the assembly line, where unknowns are tightly controlled and where increased production depends mostly on sheer effort. But we're not in an assembly line business. We work smarter, not harder. We're not sheltered from forces beyond our control. Being innovative means being creative, and being creative often means failing many times before succeeding brilliantly. It's like poker. In order to win, you've got to be willing to lose; and sometimes it's very hard to distinguish a string of bad luck from suboptimal play. We can't punish individual, one-time failures. We have to take a step back, look at long-term results, and ask whether we're making the right bets that give us a positive expected return.

We've tried "commitments" here at Microsoft, and the open secret is that they don't work. Developers write sandbagged commitments. They can't write S.M.A.R.T. annual objectives if they don't know, oftentimes, what they'll be working on three months from now. Everyone knows that you can't compare quantifiable things like LOC, bug fix rates, or regression rates ... every project is different and has unique challenges. And lastly, if you can revise your commitments every month, then what does it mean to have such flexible commitments? Ultimately it comes down to the opinion of your manager and grand-manager. Lisa even admitted as much when she was asked about sandbagged commitments. If your manager doesn't realize your worth ... tough shit, find another manager. There is no way to get around the subjectivity of performance evaluations in our line of business.

Anonymous said...

We're playing on the same field with the same equipment; the rules of the game just changed a little.

Microsoft is not going to see a significant improvement in employee morale or cooperation until some kind of profit sharing is incorporated into the compensation model.

Right now employees are rewarded for sucking up to management and they get zip for producing a good product that customers like and buy. Why would anybody think this is a good way to run a company?

A certain non-trivial percentage of a product's profit should be divided evenly between the people who made that product. See if that doesn't turn Microsoft into a lean, mean, cooperating machine in less than a year...

Anonymous said...

Today is my 7-year anniversary at Microsoft and today is the first time I've reached the conclusion that I will be leaving Microsoft very soon.

When I started at Microsoft, Microsoft was all about hiring and keeping the smartest people in the world. The assumption was that if you worked at Microsoft, you were very smart. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Microsoft is no longer able to hire smart people. Management no longer talks to us as if we are smart. They talk to us as if we are idiots who will be satisfied with towels in the locker rooms. The anger about removing the towels was not because the towels were something very dear to us but because it was a dumb thing to do that provided nothing to the stock holder while taking away from employees. Just like eviscerating the ESPP program to save the company a paltry $67million/year.

My "deal" at Microsoft has gotten worse every year that I've been here. I make more than I used to, but that's only because of promotions which come with additional responsibilities and improved skills on my part. The stock has no future under monkey boys leadership. Base pay has remained flat in absolute terms and is very negative in real terms when you factor in inflation and real estate prices. The ESPP program was eviscerated to save the company a paltry $67 million/year. Microsoft is no longer able to hire smart people - only those who get excited about having towels in the locker rooms.

Things I miss about the old Microsoft:
- Working with smart people.
- Reporting to smart people who reported to smart people and so on. The company now has a fat layer of career middle-managers who are very hard to respect.
- Being paid well.
- When there was a big change, Bill Gates would talk to us directly - either via a webcast or by sending out an email he wrote. Now, the most we get from him is a link to some marketing babble written by some hack in his office. We're lucky if Steve Ballmer will actually condescend to talk to us (not that that's worth anything). Instead, the person telling us about cutting our pay (that's what the ESPP cut was) is some schlub called Ken DiPietro. I don't feel like management cares about or respects the employees anymore.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing MS is not competitive. What *would* be a competitive starting salary for someone fresh out of college (BS in CS, MS in CS, PhD in CS) in Redmond?

In NYC, for programming positions:

I think you'll find $150K @Google with a fresh M.S.

Wall Street IT, fresh BS will probably get you $55K - $65K in one of their training programs.

Wall Street IT with a fresh M.S. is good for $85K - $100K.

Curious what other people think these numbers are and how they compare to MSFT.

Anonymous said...

While the proof will be how this all plays out, I have to admire LisaB for changing so much in so little time (for the better I think). Nice to see some agility upstairs for a change.

Anonymous said...

I'm a stockholder who reads MM regularly. I'm amazed - and disheartened - by the amount of venom and negativity being spewed by so many of you about the HR-related changes announced yesterday.

No wonder Microsoft is stagnating. If you guys re-directed even half of that negative energy either out the door or towards being more creative, you might actually accomplish something significant.

"'s too late to tweak the policy." ????

Then LEAVE!!!

I agree changes need to be made at the top, starting with SB and Bill Gates (who only seems to be a half-timer as it is). But at least it sounds like somebody's trying to address employee concerns.

And who is this Lisa Brummel? If she's as dynamic as some of you say she is, why isn't she a President? Seems like Microsoft needs more like her if my stock value's ever going to increase.

Anonymous said...

While there were certainly problems with compensation, review curves, and employee services at Microsoft, and while it's certainly true that some of these problems were addressed yesterday, it still doesn't change the fundamental fact that the real problem continues to remain:

A bloated, ineffective, self-serving rank of senior and executive managers who can't make good decisions quickly enough and who perpetuate a bureaucracy that makes it absolutely untenable for the next generation of leaders to thrive.

Every company has bad managers. Every company has bad groups. Every company has bad employees. But, SteveB is right about one thing: this company is absolutely on the verge of some truly great things. For a lot of us, money and compensation are great, but less important than doing something meaningful and worthwhile with our careers. To be able to say at the end of the day, "I drove that project, and millions of people love my product." What's truly, truly sad is that despite being on the verge of greatness, this company's biggest enemy is not Sony, IBM, or open's itself.

Now, I know that yesterday was about an entirely different matter altogether. After all, Lisa and Steve would never come out in that forum and say, "We're RIFing 33% of our partners". They'd just do it if they felt it was the right thing to do. And, most of us probably wouldn't even notice that most of those folks were gone. No, yesterday was a largely cosmetic HR love-fest.

If you're a proven leader who is being continually told to "wait your turn" despite getting 4.0/4.5 (Exceeds) review scores, despite being assigned difficult tasks to solve, and despite being coddled as a "future leader", you will not find tremendous satisfaction at a company where your senior and executive management are incapable of matching your tenacity and decision-making ability.

I'm not talking about people who whine, I'm talking specifically about people who take the difficult tasks and execute despite all obstacles, internal or external. For those people, my advice is simple: The IT economy has turned for the better and there are opportunities outside of Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

And the market voting machine says:

"We HATE it". New 3-year low.

Anonymous said...

"I'm surprised nobody in the audience laughed when SteveB asked us to have faith in the stock price for the N-th time."

If Steve can't even convince these guys - who better than anyone should be able to see the future fortunes of the company and help shape them - why should anyone else believe?

MSFT Insider Selling

Anonymous said...

You're all a bunch of spoilt bastards. The perks you guys get are unbelieveable. Go work for a partner company for a while and see how you like it.

I firmly believe that what Microsoft needs more than anything else, is for it's employees to develop a conscience and to be dragged into reality. The Me! Me! Me! phase is over. You weren't there at the beginning, so get over it. Like every other working joe in America, you don't get to get rich off the initial growth wave of the company that employs you.

The fact that there are multi-millionaires roaming the corridors of your buildings is just a fact of life.

You get the same job security as the rest of us, and a decent standard of living.

The writing on the wall is plain. Delight your customers with innovative products and service, and you will be rewarded.

Come in and do an honest days work and you will have some of the best employee perks in any industry, and will probably get a raise in line with inflation.

Don't do your job, and you'll be out on your ass.

It's that simple.

Do you know how Microsoft could raise their stock price quickly? Outsource all your whining asses to india.

(Sigh) No wonder why Scoble has such a hard time selling this damn place.

Anonymous said...

One thing that stood out to me in this meeting as in all other big-bang all employee meetings is that when the executives go up in front of everyone all they talk about is how much money the company is going to make. If you go to other smaller technology companies or even Google, you'll find the executives talking about how excited they are about the new technology that the company is producing, and how that technology is going to change the lives of people. Not at Microsoft. At Microsoft the executives could care less what exactly we are producing as long as it continues to generate billions of dollars. This is what truly differentiates modern-day Microsoft from the truly hot tech companies out there. The one person who genuinely cares about technology (Bill) can't tell the forest from the trees, and the rest of the executives care about only one thing - money.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that they announced all this *after* we took the MSPoll?

Good luck getting that poll feedback taken seriously. I promise 100% every number drop in the poll will be answered with "but...that was obviously before we hid the curve and gave them back the towels and pens! so we'll just ignore that until it shows up again next poll"

I wish now, that they had not even conducted the poll. It was basically a waste of money.

Anonymous said...

"You don't need your 3.0 performers anymore to serve as a review foundation to prop up the rest of your team. Fire them!"

Amen to that! I've inherited enough of these in re-orgs to know that there are plenty of (bad) managers who keep underperformers around just to fit to curve. It was a huge drain on the MS bottom line and totally annoying for a manager that NEEDED a group of top performers just to get all the work done.

Anonymous said...

"Personally, I'm tired of work-life balance people ruining the company. There is nothing wrong with having a life outside of Microsoft, but the people (particularly the women in the company) who continue to moan about work-life being important are typically the ones who don't get anything done. In my organization, every woman manager I know is constantly calling in sick, "working from home" (with nothing to show for it when they return to the office), stuck in traffic, or otherwise engaged. It's time to hire the people that LOVE what they do and show up to do it. If you want work life balance, apply to Blockbuster Video or Safeway. You'll keep regular hours at least.

You, sir, are an idiot.

You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

There are many positions where working from home is ideal. There are managers (like myself) who send folks home occasionally so that they can focus on high priority work without all of the disractions that can occur in the office. I have a very liberal policy, high expectations, fantastic work-life balance OHI scores and my directs regularly pack the top tier of the IC's in stack ranking.

You are probably one of those people who spends 80 hours a week in their office getting nothing accomplished.

My greatest happiness is in knowing that you will probably never be given the chance to reproduce.

Anonymous said...

"Let's face it, leadership is trying its best to make us the Wal-Mart of the IT industry."

OMFG! Do you have any idea what it's like to work at Wal-Mart vs. working at Microsoft? You're like the slashdot morons who say they'd rather be homeless than work at Microsoft.

"News Flash: If you want to be a multi-millionaire (without becoming a partner) and retire by age 40 MS is not the place for you. The stock will NEVER see performance even close to what it was in the '90s. That was lighting in a bottle, and you missed it. If being a zillionaire is that important to you, you need to leave and go take a risk at a startup and hope that you win the lottery. Yes, this is a fairly expensive part of the country to live in, but how many of you who complain about the cost of living drive BMWs? Juding by what I see on campus every day I'd say quite a few. I know its important for you to buy a huge house so you can feel like you are "getting back" at all the people who made fun of you in high school, but maybe you should re-evaluate why it is you do what you do. Even when factoring in the Puget Sound's expensive real estate, we are compensated quite well when compared with all the people in the world. You don't "deserve" anything. If you really think your horrible pay is such a travesty, take that other job offer or better yet go start your own company. Just be happy you live in a time when engineering aptitude is in high demand."

I've read every comment posted so far, and this is the first one to ring completely true. Thank you for posting this.

For everyone else who hasn't yet clued in, Microsoft has finally completed its very long transition from small nimble hotshot growth company to Big Company. If you joined in the 1999-2001 hiring spree hoping to strike it rich off of options, (a) you're stupid for not knowing better at the time and asking for cash over options, (b) I hope you've finally figured it out, and (c) you should really learn that there are more important things in life than wallowing in money, and in any case you've got far more wealth than most of the rest of the world. What makes you so special that you deserve more?

The people who run Microsoft have drawn a dividing line between the insanely highly compensated (>$200K/yr) and the merely very well-paid "rank and file". Boo hoo, you're not on the filthy rich side of th line.

You can't have it both ways. Either the stock price represents YOUR potential, and therefore the fact that it's down is screaming something at you about yourself, or else it represents the LEADERSHIP's potential, who you argue are being paid too much at the expense of the rank and file you really determine the company's success. Which is it, them or you? If you're an essential part of Microsoft, then that depressed stock price is reflecting YOUR potential.

I think it's not going to be the rank and file employees who pull our stock out of the doldrums, but the company leaders, and that's why they're getting the big bucks. If you think you could do their job better, apply for it. Eh, what's that, you're not qualified? Then STFU, and either trust them to do their jobs well (and stick around) or don't (and leave). It's really that simple.

Anonymous said...

LisaB was the worst manager I ever had. She was all about climbing the ranks. She was seldom around the office -- too busy selling out our group and our projects, for her own reputation. Looks like she succeeded better than I ever thought she would. Senior VP of Human Resources and the adoration of so many.

Good luck everyone!

Anonymous said...

I am very happpy that all the cry babies on this blog invoked change to the point I can now get more that the 1200 stock grants everytime I nail a 4.0 or better.

I could careless about
Dry cleaning
Pens with the MS Logo
Take home food (let the spouse stay home and cook)

Now I can get my 3600 stock grants at $23.00 and bank my $83,000 over the next 5 years not to mention every year after the first.

In 5 years never had anything less than a 4.0, man I love this company, Cha Ching.

Thanks everyone

Anonymous said...

"Mini, here's something worth reading:"

Gimme a break! Have you ever sat thru a McKinsey review of your organization. Let me tell you how it is done. They send consultants to interview the people within your organziation, take their ideas, put it in a fancy powerpoint presentation with 3D graphs and present it to upper management.

Why do CEO's hire consultants like McKinsey? Becuase they were former consultants themselves at companies like McKinsey, Bain, BCG etc, and they are helping their boyzzz. It also helps them to cover their ass if something goes wrong. The CEO can always say, "Look Mckinsey had a similar plan".

How would McKinsey solve MSFT's compensation problem? By reading this blog, copy and paste to a powerpoint slide, add some graphs and there you have it. Wait! Isn't that what Lisa B. did?

I have never seen so many people excited about some damn towels. Figure out what you want to do with your life and then start heading in that direction. Along your journey you will run across many such people who are afraid to take the risk, but comfortable in bitching about the company they work at.

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose the meeting happened to touch on the fact that while you got your towels back, the reward for failure to just Allchin and Burgum alone this past year could have given every hard-working employee who's had to work through the latter's massive failures a $1,000+ bonus? Nothing like focusing on the symptoms and not the disease.

Anonymous said...

I really can’t understand the negative comments on this topic. Were the changes absolutely 100% what you wanted? Of course not. You can’t please everyone. However, the changes are undoubtedly a good thing and a step in the right direction. Progress is progress.

A good number of the changes were things advocated for on this site by both Mini and the posters. I have a number of friends in the engineering field who would give their first-born to have some of the benefits we have.

I welcome the towels, office supplies, take-home meals, and other perks. The higher gas prices became my tipping point and I now bike to work three times a week. The towels make my life easier, and Microsoft has one less car to worry about or pay someone to valet park it for me. As Martha would say, that’s a good thing.

What about the discounted services like pet care, house cleaning, and day care? Those kinds of perks help the employee base both logistically and financially. You can devote more time to working and shipping software when you don’t have to worry about who’s making (or picking up) dinner tonight, how you’re going to get your suit dry-cleaned for the wedding on the weekend, or many other of life’s little hassles.

Yesterday was a good day. If you don’t think so, and these changes somehow anger you, I suggest you try other companies. The anger expressed on this topic is not healthy. You might want to take advantage of the absolute-best health-care benefits in the country and see a therapist to reduce your stress before you have a heart attack. Or you could relieve that stress by biking to work. I hear they’ve got free towels now in the showers. :)

Anonymous said...

Without a competitor, MS is not at its best

You hit the nail on the head! The biggest revenue products (Windows and Office) enjoy monopoly positions, which means they have no significant competition. And any one can see we are not at our best in these area. To be at our best we need some competition. Unfortunately, that will mean drastic reduction in our monopoly profits for those products, and a resulting stock price in $12-15 range. You can be sure that we will be at our best if this happens. Stock-holders will force major senior management changes. Competition fill force elimination of all the bloat and conunter-productive processes, and massive staffing reductions. Mini will achieve his goal. The vast majority of the complaints on this blog will be addressed. But the company will be changed inside out. I can only see these changes coming as we face competition. But there is a tremendous price to pay. Are we willing to pay this price?

One way to foster such competition is to endorse standards across our products, and produce documented interfaces. For example, have Office endorse Open Document Format, and to document all the Windows interfaces as the EU is requiring. Steps like these will force us to compete on the merits of our products and not rest on the size of our massive market share, realizing it can slip away if we don't execute. Are we ready for these gutsy moves?

Anonymous said...

If you have access to windows bugs db. Open this bug 1628209 and read repro steps. I thought it is pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

Here's a moment for Mini and the Seattle Times' Benjamin J. Romano, writer for the front-page article Under pressure, Microsoft fights to keep its workers: this morning, Jeff Raikes started a presentation to a packed room of his senior leadership by taking that paper, reading the headline aloud, and then ripping it in two, derisively exclaiming, "Whatever!"


You all might think this blog and employee pressure was the reason. Maybe it was. But executive leadership sure doesn't. Ergo, no props for Mini.

Anonymous said...

Look deeper. The announced changes are not about employee retention and satisfaction issues.

Before Ken DiPietro was kicked out of Microsoft, I had a pleasure meeting him about some (not all) of the issues Mini raised in her blog.

We talked for 40 or so minutes. Not once I got an indication that our VP of HR was concerned with anything but the employee lawsuits.

His specific concern was with the underpaid H-1B laborers, who are usually prevented from changing positions, and often denied promotions (why reward someone who is tied down anyway).

In all employee lawsuits filed to date, Microsoft denied existence of the curve, specifically the percentage quotas for each of the rankings.

Just like with the 2003 overhaul of HRWeb and employee handbook, the main purpose of this review process change is to reduce future legal liability: the curve is no longer visible in the personnel file, and compensation is decided by your manager, so the VP (an officer of the company) can plea utter ignorance about compensation.

Our at-will employment has become a little more at-will. The big RIF is coming, and the company is getting its ducks in a row to avoid a class-action suit.

Have some Ivar's with your Starbucks. Some of you will be serving it soon.

Anonymous said...

The stock award difference is unimpressive. The chart made is clear that they've taken money from the bulk of people and moved out to the exceptional performers.

That's not correct. The chart's vertical axis measures number of people, and the horizontal axis measures number of shares of stock. The graph showed the people in the upper range would get more shares, but that comes from the larger stock award budget. If it were coming from the allocation for the people in the middle and lower range, you'd see more people in the lower range, which is not what the graph showed.

Anonymous said...

The logic that we should be happy because management did something is weak.

We are not robots - when we first arrive, we are told that we are the brightest people that MS can find. We are smart enough, however, to realize that these "benefits" are just band-aids. The real problems have not been addressed.

The "venom" that is being referred to is not "bad attitude" as much as it is disappointment that the problems aren't solved. And to assume that people have bad attitudes is just intellectually lazy.

We want MS to succeed - otherwise we wouldn't be so passionate. We wouldn't waste our time on blogs like this.

Here's a thought: give us all a vested interest in the profitability of the company and perhaps we will drive the behaviors necessary to fix the problems.

Don't try to manipulate us into thinking things are rosy. I'm glad that management is willing to make improvements, now just go make the right changes.

Anonymous said...

I'm embarassed to see some of the whining and bitching by some of our employees on this forum.

I'm sure our competitors are amused with the tone of dissent and grumbling on this board.

I'm fairly new to MS (<2yrs). I came to MS after spending 5+ years at various NW software firms. MS is an awesome company and I am proud to work here every day.

I had the chance to attend 2 of LisaB's listening meetings and I was very skeptical of her at first. I was very impressed with her ability and desire to learn what they can do better to improve. I think she did a great job yesterday (I was a little shocked she was so casually dressed to address the whole company, but whatever).

Of the few people I know who are unhappy, most have been at MS 5-9 years and came to MS straight out of college. They have no idea what it's like to work for any other company.

If you aren't happy, STFU and go somewhere else to change the world. 1+ Million resumes are submitted a year to MS, there are plenty of people lining up to make this company better.

Maybe I'm still drinking the kool-aid but I wouldn't want to work at any other company.

Anonymous said...

I am very happpy that all the cry babies on this blog invoked change to the point I can now get more that the 1200 stock grants everytime I nail a 4.0 or better.

I could careless about
Dry cleaning
Pens with the MS Logo
Take home food (let the spouse stay home and cook)

Now I can get my 3600 stock grants at $23.00 and bank my $83,000 over the next 5 years not to mention every year after the first.

In 5 years never had anything less than a 4.0, man I love this company, Cha Ching.

Thanks everyone

I wish I could be as optimistic. Under the old system, I'd most likely be getting a 4.0 this year. However, with the new system, I see no reason why my manager won't group me in the "satisfactory" bucket with some other 3.5s, all I'll get for my 70+ hrs weeks of work the last 4 months is 500 shares of worthless stock, 2% raise, and 6% bonus.

The curve is still there, and I look forward to being screwed again this year come review time. The only reason why I'm not quitting is I really like and respect most of my teammates, we're a dedicated bunch who always get the job done, and I like working with them.

It doesn't mean I like my manager, however, nor does it mean I like the way I'm being compensated. Given the amount of work I do and the hours I put in, I should be making at least $10K more in salary. It just pains me to look around my group and other groups, and see that so many do-nothing people (mostly managers) are easily making 6-figures for working half the hours.

I don't hate this company by any means, but yesterday's changes will amount to nothing. They'll still stack rank people, they'll still put them in buckets, and managers will continue to use the curve. You may not see it in our score, but all you need to do is look at your compensation numbers, and you can easily see whether you would have been a 3.0 or 3.5 or whatever under the old system.

Anonymous said...

But to ask for a show of hands for Google usage .. please. That's so Kremlineque. And what a colossal lie to infer anything from the unraised hands. With lies like that, I don't nurture hope of sweeping changes.

Ballmer and Gates whole game is brutality - dominance and submission. Its the only mindset they know, so don't be surprised that all output is brainless and subjective. Today is a new day. Bill and Steve: Do you want 'Live' to be a replay of Vista? We can arrange that. If you want a world where you are kings and we are expected to drop to a knee and kiss your ring, we can do that. We can do or be anything you want us to be. We'll take on whatever persona works for you. However, there is the minor, inconsequential issue of shipping products. Products are conjured up by imaginative people and in sometimes non-quantifiable ways that don’t bow to blind honor or politics or fealty. For us, putting our nose up the butt of someone simply because they have their nose up the butt of someone, etc. is not a sign of loyalty or a path to productivity. Bill, you're getting old. And Steve has always been senile. We would love to deliver amazing products to the market and cast Microsoft in a brilliant light. But from now on we’re doing it for ourselves. Go to Africa and save children. Scream until your throat explodes. We don’t care. From now on its our company. We don’t care what ‘your’ Microsoft looks like. We care about our Microsoft. Our Microsoft is full of great motivated people who love challenges, who love teamwork, and who love delivering phenomenal and daring products whose success depends on people loving them and not being able to get enough of them. To think that we need you on board in order to move the ship forward is assuming way to much. Just stay out of the way and try not to deliberately fuck things up.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft doesn't need to pay more in salaries to keep us there, do they?

The leadership of this company know that MS is a highly desirable place to work. Unless things somehow turn dramatically worse in those who leave, don't expect broad salary increases across the board. I'm not expecting it. I'll continue to go to work every day with thankfulness for the job that I have, enjoy the life I have outside of work, and not allow this company to consume my personal identity.

By the way, we're getting Starbucks in every kitchen. That's kinda cool, eh?

Anonymous said...

After reading the negativism from perennially cynical MSFT commenters, I'm not sure whether the problem is with the folks at the top - or with the rank and file.

Perhaps people should stop whining and head to their dev boxes and crank out code.

Anonymous said...

No matter what you think about the new system, you have to admit that LisaB blew away every other exec at the talk - what in gods name was the point of that long, drawn out ra-ra bullshit? As someone else pointed in the comments, NONE of the execs came off as sincerely passionate about the technology or the products - they just seemed like a bunch of boring old businessmen. Gee, that was a great use of all the person-hours spent company-wide watching them spin their bs ("a rising tide lifts all ships.."). And what the fuck was up with Raikes? Do "KT" and "KJ" call him "JR"??!

As for the comp overhaul, the best thing about it is the killing of the curve. Those new hires don't know how good they have it!

PS Not being sarcastic here at all, but after all these years I kinda like that Farmer's Bros taste :)

OK, I'll wait for SP1 of this program.
Best comment. Ever

Anonymous said...

Oust Bill and Steve and put Lisa Brummel and Jeff Raikes in power.



However, a significant amount of posts here are at their heart saying nothing more than "we are so undercompensated I just can't believe it, I mean, have you ever heard of such a tragedy?" News Flash: If you want to be a multi-millionaire (without becoming a partner) and retire by age 40 MS is not the place for you.

I see very few people asking to be a multi-millionaire. Many people are concerned that with their current salaries that they cannot afford a decent house close to their office. Sure, it's MUCH worse in SVC, but it's bad in Redmond too.

And while I am certainly not DEMANDING it, it would be nice if the average joe had even a chance to get the multi-million dollar rewards reserved for the partners. With the new rewards system, a consistent superstar has a chance at these sorts of rewards even if they aren't on the management track.

Frankly, mobility *without personal cost* is one key to field satisfaction. Provide us with the equipment, tools and software that truly enable us to work from anyplace (customer) at anytime (customer meetings) and we'll be happier workers.

There's a program in place that I believe starts in FY06 that will provide a PPC or Smartphone to ALL field employees free. Search the intranet for "smartphone" and you should find the info pretty quickly.

I can now get more that the 1200 stock grants everytime I nail a 4.0 or better.

Now I can get my 3600 stock grants at $23.00 and bank my $83,000 over the next 5 years not to mention every year after the first.

If you think that a 4.0 gets you 3600 stock grants every year, you are SADLY MISTAKEN! The TARGET
amount is still the same. You'll get something above that most likely, but you'll have to be 4.5/5.0 to get near the top end of that range.

One last thing: Lisa - Thanks for reading Mini!!

Anonymous said...

"Keeping the stock price down is smart business. I don't knock the logic. The $2.4B overspend will pay for itself many times over by the un-uncashed stock options."

Yes, destroying $375B of shareholder value - including $40B in just the past few weeks - is fucking brilliant. After all, it's not like that's real people's money or anything.

Anonymous said...

Something makes me wanna hurt those people clamoring for towels. The stinky bastards couldn't use their own towels?

And to those that are posting negative comments, can you see that it was your lack of performance that was killing you and not the stank ranking? Hopefully most of you will be affected by the upcoming massive RIFs.

And LisaB, I'll make it simple. If you ever want to go black, call me.

Anonymous said...

"I am a female and I have more of a backbone then the majority of you whiny complaining sniveling men!"

Congrats on showing that a woman can be just as unprofessional and sexist as the idiot guy who posted here earlier. Be proud.

Anonymous said...

It just pains me to look around my group and other groups, and see that so many do-nothing people (mostly managers) are easily making 6-figures for working half the hours.

Around here where I work in MSN, they are called Program Managers. It is not clear what these people contribute. One reason MSN is failing is the high number of non-productive PMs. They are not technically inclined and their charter is to *not* get into technical issues!

Wonder why Google spanked MSN's butt over the years?

Mini - You did the company a huge favor by urging them to get rid of the stack. Can you do the company another favor by having a post dedicated to MSN/Google/Yahoo?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps people should stop whining and head to their dev boxes and crank out code.

I'm sure everyone would love to do that - oh wait, have to deal with the process bullshit first. Too bad they didn't fix that while giving the smoke and mirrors HR talk.

Anonymous said...

"A bloated, ineffective, self-serving rank of senior and executive managers who can't make good decisions quickly enough and who perpetuate a bureaucracy that makes it absolutely untenable for the next generation of leaders to thrive."

Exactly. All this micro level whining about towels, 65th percentile and friggin COLA raises when the macro problem is right there. As someone else posted, the payouts this year to Allchin and Burgum alone would equal $1000 for every MSFT employee. Where's the anger about that? What if these and other execs who've collectively been paid billions in compensation over the past 3-5 years had actually provided value for money? What would the stock be at now and how many towels or 10 percentile pay increases could you have given yourself from your options or grants? MSFT is like France before the revolution with too many lazy, self-serving, ineffective, out-of-touch royalty looking down their noses at the serfs. Only instead of "let them eat cake" it's "let there be towels" and instead of you guys chopping off their heads on hearing that and fixing the system, a bunch of you are seemingly just happy that the royalty deigned to throw you a bone. If MSFT is going to simply tweak around the edges rather than face its numerous chronic problems head-on, then perhaps the best use of all that cash is to buy long term puts on the stock - 'cause it's going to the teens.

Anonymous said...

>>I HATE the fact that they did not address the number #1 comp issue i.e we are underpaid relative to market (65 percentile with stock in toilet does not cut it)

Do you know what percentile means?

Mini, could you please dedicate a post explaining what percentiles are?

You could start here:

Anonymous said...

Wah wah! everything sucks! steve sucks! bill sucks! our software sucks! our comp sucks! let's tell the whole world how much everything sucks!

oh wait... why is our stock price going down?

Yes, we've now entered an infinite loop. :(

Anonymous said...

When you have an incompentent manager, no amount of changes will make a difference. I doubt my manager is going to understand the new review system and be able to implement it in time for the Aug review.

Overall, I am pleased to see the changes. Lets see how these changes are actually implemented.

Anonymous said...

Here's a novel idea.

Let's take Lisa and the leadership at their word. Let's see how we all do at review time.

The current proposal sounds as fair as any other large company I've worked for. What I think we all need to acknowledge is that with over 50,000 employees, it is very difficult to be agile in HR.

Most of the posters are from the Redmond campus. In my role, I work with people on a global basis and they're pissed off to hear about our latest and greatest benefits on campus that they'll never see. And for the record, not a one of them understands this business with towels.

Let's give them until review time. If they don't get it sorted out to our satisfaction, we leave or we unionize.

Anonymous said...

Here's a moment for Mini and the Seattle Times' Benjamin J. Romano, writer for the front-page article Under pressure, Microsoft fights to keep its workers: this morning, Jeff Raikes started a presentation to a packed room of his senior leadership by taking that paper, reading the headline aloud, and then ripping it in two, derisively exclaiming, "Whatever!"

OMFG -- someone (with bigger cojones than me) HAS to confront him about this and see if it's true. Force him to answer for it. Let LisaB flex her newfound muscle (is she in comfortable shoes?) and challenge him.

I may be naive, but I choose to believe these folks are sincere. If he's up there acting then can his ass! He doesn't deserve the trust and responsibility he's been given.

Anonymous said...

Connections and Disconnections...

I wonder why BillG is becoming so disconnected. Why didn't he show up to a meeting that is (supposed to be) a turning point for the company?

I wonder why the star of the show was sitting with the audience and not on the stage with the hotshots. Perhaps she failed to read the memo about the exec dress code? At the end, she was the only one that had anything important to say.

Or, maybe it was just a symbolic stunt? Lisa is connected to the people, not to the business leadership (she not only sits with us, but dresses the same).

By the way, during her world tour, Lisa dressed like we do here in our field office.


Anonymous said...

Bigger stock pool? Thanks but no thanks.

Microsoft, you must refresh your top leadership.

Follow through in a real way is what remains to be seen, as said in earlier posts. I agree, show me the MONEY!

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