Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quest for Happiness

Following up on Ballmer and the Stock: the post Steve Ballmer's Horrible, Rotten, Awful, Really Bad Day by Owen Thomas has this reported overheard Steve Ballmer conversation after the financial analysts meeting:

Ballmer: "That didn't go over so well."

Flunky: "The reaction seemed about 50-50."

Ballmer: "At best."

Kevin Kelleher refers to the above conversation in his interesting write-up Microsoft Gives Up the Grail and has the best analogy I read all week (one so good that I wish I had written it). Snippet:

[Ballmer] uttered those magical, market-cap-killing words about the company's new Vista operating system: "Perhaps people are somewhat too bullish."

On Wall Street, of course, that's the same thing as wandering down a dark alley and wondering aloud if you have too many $100 bills in your wallet.

Interesting comments: first up: a simple question - "Do we get paid to ship process or features?"

Which is more important? Meeting some commitment and junk that HR came up with or shipping a quality product? Customers won't be forgiving if my (very critical) area's quality is crap because I took a whole bunch of time out to focus on "career development".

Around Vista ship expectations and what Mr. Ballmer has said, Charles shares the following:

Seriously, Ballmer himself is responsible for setting unrealistic expectations in the first place when he said:

"We think in the next three months, we'll probably sell five times as many copies of Windows Vista as we ever did with (Windows 95) in the equivalent period of time," he said. "We'll probably go double what we did with Windows XP."

Notes From the Field has an excellent comment (once again) that if you haven't read you should just do right now to see a take on Vista features and how relevant to the real world they are. A nice summary (as opposed to the lengthy technical list on Wikipedia - can we get a consumer friendly version of that?). Around the Ballmer Vista comments:

Even though I think Ballmer was totally incompetent in his communication of the message, I think many analysts were overly optimistic on the early Vista successes. Yes, there was a spike in PC shipments when Vista released to consumers. It was a one-time event and many analysts used it as a basis.

I still question why Ballmer felt the need for a press conference instead of just "whispering" the data to the key analysts. That would make for a softer landing.

BizDog's take on the message content and the messenger:

Does Ballmer need to be accurate and honest with investors - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with employees - YES. Does he need to be accurate and honest with partners and customers - YES. Does he do a good job at this, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

There was a lot of back and forth discussion regarding the problem of major technology providers - like Creative and nVidia - having their drivers actually done and at a high-quality level for Vista ship. Who's problem is that? Microsoft's:

If all a user does is buy and install a Microsoft product and it causes his machine to not work as well, then who can possibly be to blame besides Microsoft? If Microsoft didn't sell the product or encourage users to upgrade, people wouldn't have these issues. Creative and nVidia are not the companies trying to sell Vista.

And one last comment to put some distant thunder in your day:

There are a number of high-level departures that have already been announced or soon will be. There is a major org shake up in process that will dwarf any others in the company's past, and many of the exec's don't like the looks of it.

Scoble and Microsoft: I was pleasantly surprised to see a post from Mr. Scoble that meandered back into deep MSFT territory: Microsoft has no innovator’s dillema. The comment stream is interesting, too, though to hmmm me up and say that Mini-Microsoft is to blame for any malaise at Microsoft is, in my opinion, like taking a ol' big bite from the dumb-ass tree fruit and saying, "Hey, let's beat that kid up that pointed out that the emperor is naked!" Things were not right. People moved on. Change happened and is still happening. More change is needed, but I'd say the company is in a far better position than it was two-and-a-half years ago.

Anyway, back to Mr. Scoble's post: an interesting snippet regarding the departure from Microsoft of Chandu Thota :

But, yet again, another developer left Microsoft (this time Chandu Thota, on the Virtual Earth team, who is starting up his own company). Just remember, happy workers don’t leave. And the continual flow of smart developers leaving Microsoft tells me that Microsoft has deep managerial problems that are going to prove challenging to overcome.

At least for now it seems that Mr. Thota's new endeavor will be building on Microsoft technology... and he'll probably reap far more rewards outside of Microsoft than he could inside. Good for him. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

As for happiness at Microsoft... well, in my circle of associates the trend has been to realize Microsoft is indeed a huge company doing many things and if you're not happy doing what you are doing now, you can pretty easily find something amazingly interesting to do elsewhere, even if it's just cold-calling a cool group and building your own opportunity. Talented, motivated people are in short supply. Maybe it was the whole intent-to-interview change or maybe it's just the timing of big releases, but I'd say half the people at Microsoft I know are someplace radically different this year compared to last.

And happier.

And all this comes as risk of losing their career momentum and not limiting yourself to just being savvy at the politics of the internal review system.

I imagine they'll stay at Microsoft - and stay happier - only if they see the risk of moving to where they're happier pay off and not come back to bite them.

And note that I said "happier." Not sunshine and bunnies bursting all-out happy. There's still a melancholy sense all-about, which I personally think is directly due to the flat stock price and the two self-inflicted foot-shots we've taken to the stock price during the past year. Thank goodness we're out of feet to shoot... right?

Quest for Firing: from what I'm told, it looks like the L68+ Partners are getting an update on The Quests from DavidV. Have you been so, err, lucky to be involved in a Quest yet? It ain't no Puzzle Hunt, but it's quite puzzling (as in: Must. Not. Roll. Eyes.). Perhaps one of the Quests can be for finding properly aligned growth goals to be associated with SPSA cha-ching payouts. Nah. Might as well throw a party in San Francisco and invite the significant-others to enjoy schmoozing and fiddle playing by the open pit fire.

Analysis of Mini-Microsoft Discussion of Stack Ranking: derived knowledge is interesting to muse over, especially when it's a Microsoft outsider analyzing the discussion here and elsewhere regarding Stack Ranking and its effect on a corporate work force: Human Resource Management - Steve Gall at Walden University - Stack Ranking in the Performance Appraisal at Microsoft. Snippet of the conclusions:

  • The stack ranking system, if not implemented carefully, can result in legal issues being raised
  • The use of the stack ranking method may have value as an internal tool for Human Resources when used as a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the overall employee review system, but as a performance measurement that is shared with individual employees, it is shown to have far-reaching unintended consequences. Employees are smart, and they quickly figure-out how to manipulate the system to their least disadvantage.
  • Stack ranking provides questionable value as to insight into an individual’s actual job performance. Its use highly politicizes an organization. The rank number is most often based on unsubstantiated subjective judgment by an evaluator who may feel pressured to respond according to a narrow set of guidelines.

What do you think of the write-up and conclusions and alternatives, especially given the changes implemented in CY06? Stack Ranking is of course not the term to be used anymore. It's calibration. New lipstick. Same pig. Same little piggy games.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stop Him Before He Speaks Again!

Please Hammer, don't hurt him.

Just keep him quiet! Should we expect another mea-culpa in the inbox?

I especially liked reading MSFT Extreme Makeover's take on the analyst's presentation: MSFTextrememakeover I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Snippet:

Finally, what can I say about Ballmer? Beyond questioning, as I have, what content was included while leaving major issues - like investment track record to date - largely unaddressed, I have a real problem with his tone and attitude. The word that comes to mind is flippant. I'm sure that's not his intention, but it nonetheless seems to be the result. You get almost no sense that this is the CEO of a publicly-traded company who is accountable to his Board and shareholders.

And it just gets better.

When listening to the webcast, I certainly spat out a non-acronymic version of WTF! when Ballmer brought down the hammer on Vista expectations. "Wow, that could have been worded better, as if the impact was well understood," I muttered, flipping over to check in on after-hours trading. Additionally, I'm no great presenter, but someone has to work with Ballmer on his ability to get through a lot of information (editing it down to begin with is always nice) without droning in some sort of anti-pentameter: "blah blah dee blah dee BLAAAAAAH, blah-blah blar buh da BLAAAAAH," etc etc repeat a few dozen times.

Off-hand, if we see irrational exuberance around expectations we do need to put some reasonable restraint on it. But who let the bears out?

Along the lines of doing the right thing:

I find all the people above plain ignorant who are blaming Ballmer for the stock fall afterhours yesterday.


I have never found anybody who has blamed Ballmer for failing financial target of Microsoft business. Therefore he is doing his job well. Those who prefer to keep stock price up on false estimates are like people who sell their own personal stuff by lying to a potention buyer (a lemon car is passed as a perfect car). Or these people see stocks as lotto instead of the economic engine of a capital market.

Fortunately Ballmer has better ethics and sense than these two types of people.

As for lunch-table conspiracies:

Ballmer, in case one of your assistants reads this BLOG .... please shut the *&#% up or I'm going to begin to agree with those who say you want our April options to stay under water!

Getting back to the Hunt for Ray (that should be worked into the next Puzzle Hunt):

Ray isn't the answer. Ray has vision but his execution lacks significantly. Have any of you actually used Groove? or Notes? I'd rather swallow glass than work with either of those gems.


Ray has stepped back to reassess his commitment to put some sanity into the Live strategy.

To wit:

Office Live is a disaster. Usability sucks, support sucks, and there is a lot of infighting between them and the rest of the Live services. Also, it is beset with many of the same problems as previous projects like NetDocs and Hailstorm: not enough focus on what the customer wants and too much focus on fancy code. Coincidentally, many of the same leaders from those projects are now leading the Office Live project.


"Live" is .Net all over again. No one knows what the hell it means, even those who are supposed to be leading the effort. Ray wasn't around during the .Net days, so he is getting a dose of what it is like and he doesn't like the taste.

Finally, as for Ray and his vision:

We need more engagement from Ray and his brigade about what's happening and what kind of coherent vision is coming about.

I'm sorry, but this is NOT what you need. You do NOT need vision from Ray. At this point, what you need from Ray is code!

I have a very long history with Microsoft, and I am no longer a softie. One of the reasons I left is the whole vision/strategy vs. code problem. In the old days, production quality code really mattered a ton. In the new Microsoft, from Forum 2000 onward, code was much less important. What really mattered was laying down a vision and a strategy.

Death to PowerPoint decks! Okay, next, it seems as though the Orange-Badge life has more ups than downs:

I just left my Level 59 job, the level is between $68,000 and $78,000. I was at the top of my level doing great work, great stats, and couldn't get promoted. Over time, I found out it was because I just happened to be working on a product that management couldn't wait to hit the end-of-lifecycle.

Now, I'm a vendor, and I'm making $130,000 a year. And I don't have to put up with the corporate political bullsh-- that kept me down, mainly the stupid review process because I didn't go bowling with the boss' team every Wednesday night (no sh--).

Now, I have a job that's singular in focus, and I can't wait to get on campus every day to do my one little complicated job that I do incredibly well, and I am well-paid for the excellent work that I'm putting in. Blue-badging is dead to me.

That led to a resurge of former FTEs quite happy with the non-review, pay-me for the time I'm hear is the life-for-me. Something to think about. If you're not risk averse.

Lastly, for those going through career-management exhaustion, here's a comment that certainly resonates with me:

Particularly apropos for anyone who has seen the HR deck for midyear reviews, or waded through any of the hours and hours of reading and data entry (nevermind the training, manager meetings, etc.) that accompany this brand-new vision of how we're supposed to (apparently) spend about 8 months of the year either working on, reviewing, revising, talking about, or learning how to update our careers or performance measurements.

Are we actually supposed to do our day jobs at some point too? Or is that incidental now?

I used to work at IBM, and even there, we didn't have this kind of mind-numbing, process-upon-process bureaucracy around *anything* - nevermind around something like "career paths."

My favorite part was a sentence on one slide saying this was all because "You asked for it!" Not in my wildest dreams would I have "asked" for this kind of B.S. I like my job. Can I just do it, please? At least some of the time?

Or I will be just another ex-MSFTie wondering what the h--- happened to such a great place to work.

Not only should we be agile and efficient about shipping our next generation of products and services, we should be just as diligent as being efficient about running our business and not running it into the ground with more and more of Satan's Process Excellence.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where's Ray? Where's the Vista Campaign?

Random unconnected things...

Where's Ray? I'm sure Ray Ozzie has been busy being the wizard behind the connected services scene of the future, but he's just plain running too silent for my comfort. And I'm sure with Mix07 he's going to go through presenting some new technology we're thinking about... perhaps even add single 2007 entry to his unloved blog. But if Ray is the bridge to the connected future from the present Gates, we all need more obvious leadership infrastructure getting us there, and more engagement from Ray and his brigade about what's happening and what kind of coherent vision is coming about. Silence makes me edgy.

Micronews, RIP. To me, Micronews died when they dropped Dilbert. When I joined Microsoft, I was quite delighted with my weekly Micronews and it's rather direct view of what was going on. I viewed it as a benefit and an affirmation of my good decision to join such a groovy company as Microsoft. Of course, I was also thrilled to get an espresso coupon, let alone "thank you" movie tickets (thrills came a lot easier to SDEs back then). Anyway, Dilbert was funny because it seemed so foreign to the Microsoft way. "Pity the people that's relevant to!" I'd chuckle.

Then Dilbert became more and more relevant, and eventually faded... in the meantime, Micronews came the place for softball promo questions and more rah rah Oprahesque-profiles than the occasional forthright question.

Micronews then went electronic and now has been dispersed into the bits of history. In a way, something like a weekly Micronews is needed more than ever, if only to connect the very disparate parts of Microsoft together so that we have a clue what the hell all these 70,000+ people do. Or even to let us know where Ray is. If the original 'zine spirit could come back, it would be worth it.

Vista Ads. We did ship Vista, right? Do you think the world knows about it? Has Microsoft done a good job of owning the message about Vista? I don't think so. So far, the message has been more dominated by lukewarm "eh" reviews and bloggers looking for any scrap to fuss loudly over to get some link love. My worst fear was that Vista would slip out into the world like XP SP2 (copies of which we should have carpet-bombed the world with to justify the importance).

What's our campaign slogan, "Microsoft Windows Vista. Hey, you're going to end up with it anyway."

Death. Taxes. Vista?

That's not worth $500,000,000 in my book. So far, the Vista ad I've heard talked about the most is the latest Apple Allow or Deny ad. What does it take for us to own our own marketing? Joe Wilcox did notice the "Wow" ad on TV the other night and discusses it in comparison to the Apple ad (which then brings out the Apple apologists swinging blindly in the comments at the slightest besmirch to Apple).

How about a marketing campaign that makes us all say, "Wow. That was worth $500,000,000!" That would be a refreshing change.

What's a matter you? WhatsWrongWithU? Me? I don't like us spending shareholder money on campaigns that seem pretty insulting to our customer. And that use Google Analytics technology for tracking usage. WhatsWrongWithUs? We waste money on crap campaigns, it would seem.

When Microsoft sneezes... Yes, in the last post I returned to tooting my scratched and beaten "fire! fire! fire!" horn. Brier Dudley noted that and pondered the devastating economic impact a mass down - mmm, er - rightsizing would have. But what we have going on right now is just as poisonous to the local economy. Like sepsis, we continue squeezing hires into a region that's packed and it results in increased stress and strain. I heard once that every Microsoft job supports two other local jobs, so it's not just Microsoft bodies popping up and driving around and finding a place to live. (Well, maybe that "two" figure was back when new shiny sports cars would spring up after every review cycle, but you get the idea.)

Microsoft in the Puget Sound is full, and I'm beginning to be about as welcoming to new hires (and the crowding and economic strain they bring) as Oregonians to Californians. Especially when the quality of hires matches this story from the comments:

Case study, our org. We had 5 busy, excellent IC's. We had more work. We had to hire. We kept turning them down, but lead pressured us to let some people through because we HAD to get the extra work done, and we didn't have enough time to do it ourselves. We did. We got one productive person, one neutral person, and one person who is after 6 months on our team still a time drain on the productive members of the team. The net manpower effect was an improvement of around 1.5 for the price of 3. MSFT would rather hire 3 mediocre performers than pay for 2 superstars.

How did we handle this?

We created another layer of management so that there would be people to help the neutral and time drain performers, while having the minimum effect on the high performers that don't have time to baby sit. We were split into two teams of 4, with two new people brought in as leads to give extra attention to developing the two FTEs that should have been no-hires. Now it's a net improvement of perhaps 2, for the price of 5. So in our org, the quality of individual we've been able to attract lately has had a direct affect on the number of layers of management in our org and the amount of headcount bloat.

So should leadership's upcoming Microsoft success book be How to do Less with More!? Reads Good to Great backwards indeed...

Bad Dogfooder. Who is feeling sheepishly bad about dogfooding? Me. Sure, like everyone I dogfooded Office 2007 Beta2 onwards. I suffered through, and while Outlook 2007 seemed to have a few folder-switching hickups against Exchange and I usually had to give it fifteen minutes to settle down when I booted it in the morning, the new features seemed worth it.

Then I finally installed my Company Store copy at home and enabled Desktop Search. You'd think I had just sprayed the inside of my poor mega-laptop with saltwater to induce non-stop fritzing. I've learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written. I don't know. But I feel bad for not dogfooding this home experience sooner and if I could do a six-month tour of duty to get Outlook back to 2003 performance I'd sign up in a flash.

For our customers' sake, I hope that I'm the only one and that there is just something funky about my setup... we'll see, given that I haven't had time to go Russinovich on it yet. In the meantime, it serves two lessons for me: (1) yes, you suck-it-up and dogfood at home, too; and (2) performance is a feature.

Other comments: some additional comments from the latest post worth calling out, including one on bad decision making:

Microsoft's main problem isn't too many employees. It's an inability to make strategic decisions and then trust in them long enough to see them through to implementation (and ultimately, to payoff).

Inside of Microsoft, decision-making is distributed among too many layers of managers, and every decision must be endlessly questioned and second-guessed. No decision is ever final or certain. No decision is ever 100% embraced consistently by all managers up and down the management chain or by managers of parallel teams that need to work together.


Decision-making power needs to be taken away from middle-managers (who also tend to come and go pretty frequently, further muddying the decision-making process by taking and bringing different opinions with them) and returned to the hands of qualified "benevolent dictators" at the top (who generally stick around for terms long enough to span several releases of a product and therefore see their strategic vision through to completion). Middle managers should be stripped of all strategic decision-making power and instead simply provide personnel management.

A snippet from a nice level-pulling comment:

The company wants ambitious first string superstars who work their butts off, but is only willing to pay for ambitious third string mediocrities. Or first string superstars who aren’t as ambitious and would be happy with an interesting job with good benefits for the family. But the company doesn’t want them either, and is pulling levers to chase them away. But it isn’t pulling the lever to attract ambitious talent with the kind of potential rewards that matter to that kind of person. So, the ambitious first stringers go to Google where they can still (potentially) become millionaires, the unambitious first stringers leave to have a happy life, and the ambitious third stringers fill the ranks.

From SteveL on effective MSR transfer of skill and ability inside of Microsoft:

What I've seen work best is if the researchers move into the product groups to help implement it. Not only are they the best positioned to xfter the technology, they learn a lot by building products. Like test centric dev, team processes, project management, etc, the stuff that individual researchers in and R&D lab dont do so much of. Then, once the tech is transferred, when they go back to research, they take with them what they've learned.

MSFTExtremeMakeover takes on senior leadership (oh, and my apologies for jinxing things in the last post when I remarked how the stock hadn't dropped below $30):

It would also be nice if faced with a near non-stop meltdown that's destroyed ~$20B of shareholder value and dropped the stock back through key levels that have taken YEARS to get above, the senior management got front and center and reaffirmed confidence in Vista sellthrough to date and financial projections for the year. Instead, the CEO and CFO are mostly AWOL, and not one senior exec has even bothered to refute ANY of the statements in the recent very negative Barron's article (generally credited with sparking the most recent selloff). The market continues to signal a lack of confidence in MSFT and its management, as it has for many years now, and - incredulously - the management team in small and large ways too numerous to list, continue to earn that lack of respect. Time for a wholesale change, starting at the top.

And one to end on:

Reading some of the comments I got reminded of a quote from Peter Drucker:

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things

The question is does MS have management or leadership? or neither?

Administriva: I'm not going to suffer through, or even send to CRF anymore, Mac vs. Windows posturing that's reactive and content free and/or dregs up crap. Life is too short to endure that. If you like what you got, spend time enjoying it. Or doing something useful. Cause you know what? I'm probably going to put up some pro-Vista stuff because there are some pretty sweet features in that little leadership disaster that finally made it out the door.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I showed up on campus Monday to find most flat surfaces at eye level adorned with neon stickies:

REMINDER: Windows Vista & 2007 Office System Launch Today - Jan. 29! 1:30 pm.


Saying that our corporate nightmare is over is over-the-top, but having Vista (oh, and Office 2007) out there and shipping and for sale finally makes RTM real. The Microsoft launch event was fine, though everyone in Cafe 34 was gasping in pain as it appeared that the Uno Live demo was falling apart, only to have it re-appear working. Head shaking and groans turned into relatively shocked cheers. It was one of those fractal-emotional moments that probably summed the ride over five years.

I liked the "Wow" commercial, and I hope we have more tangible advertising. Personally, I'd love a DVD inserted in the big monthly magazines with slick content showing how Vista and Office works and lots of raw content to play with.

Also with this past week, two departures: Jim Allchin and Bryan Lee. Seeing some of Mr. Allchin's internal emails I can only say I certainly haven't, in comparison, pushed the envelope here with criticism of Microsoft vision and strategy; too bad he wasn't, ah, in a position to effect change when it was needed. Mr. Lee has been griped about in the comments here before and it looks like someone is, via graceful career aikido, tapping a piece of paper on his back with "Hi! I'm responsible for Zune!" as he slips out the backdoor.

I was recently talking with a fine individual on the Mini-Phone and the flow of conversation turned to reflecting on the changes at Microsoft since summer of 2004. The changes I note that happened:

  • Open discussion and criticism about bumbling bureaucracy which has led to flattening in some of our major organizations (and certain managers either moving on or transitioning back to individual contributor duties) along with adoption of agility and efficiency.
  • New leadership for Windows (Sinofsky, DeVaan) coming from an organization relatively well known for making sure the trains run on time.
  • Hard questions being asked in public of upper leadership and that same leadership recognizing that Vista development didn't go well and swearing never to do that again.
  • A revised review cycle meant to do away with a harsh curve-based quota system. Well. Sorta.
  • Bread and circuses around towels and dry cleaning.
  • Increased transparency - far from complete - on the inside of Microsoft.
  • Continued support for employee transparency via blogging, videos, and other direct engagement. I don't know of any other company Microsoft's size and influence that has put so much trust and support behind its employees to talk directly to the world, and doesn't freak out and bring down the banhammer for the occasional bit of schmuts in the eye.
  • HR leadership engaged with the employees and the employees discovering / rediscovering their internal voice to challenge the way things are and work together on solutions.
  • Some refocus on the consumer market with the Live moniker.
  • A mostly new IE team that came together and re-invigorated our essential web browser and platform to make IE7 stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the competition... if not on some wobbly, repentant knees (hey, we didn't start the fire).
  • The stock has cracked $30 and stayed above that mark.


  • We've ballooned in employee size by nearly 15,000 people - 25%! - beyond reason and beyond need.
  • Oops! I guess Wall Street really doesn't like being surprised about a billion here and there. Hello!
  • It has become clear that Microsoft is a two-tiered company with-respect-to compensation, with the Partner L68+ ranks of the company raking in rewards under dubious goals, especially in the midst of long-term depressed stock performance.
  • Our internal review and career management continues needing a serious beating from the common-sense stick.

So what are the big levers left to pull to help ensure that Microsoft in on a good course and stays on a good course? I kind of felt like enough-was-enough before and slipped into a sustaining mode here. And other than discussing Limited II things have been quiet. Right now, things that I personally keep an eye out for:

  • Hiring: stop it. Just please stop it. Unless it's an A+ super-hire, walk away and refocus all hiring energy into internal hiring and redistribution of people inside of Microsoft.
  • Internal job moves: this process has to be as easy as me deciding I want to work in a group that's personally interesting to me, talking to the the right people, doing whatever interviewing they need, and then I start my new job over there. Their budget goes up to accommodate my overhead. Yes, all of this is "me me me" based, neither permission nor stated intention based. I have a new position before I even involve my old group to say goodbye. There is too much drama and stress and bridge burning around internal job moves, and this results in unhappy people being mis-aligned with what they want to be doing. This is not good for business and long term, strategic growth.
  • Research: I've come to recognize that MSR is actually doing some things that I'm really interested in seeing in our customers' hands (or, more specifically, my hands). Is this as effective as it could be? Where's the leadership and ownership to ensure the deep investment we have in our researchers is translated into exceptional returns in what we deliver?

I'm still not sure if that's enough, though, for generating interesting posts and discussions in the meantime. What big levers do you believe still need a good pulling for Microsoft to get on the path of a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine? And, you know, not so much the messes and the stains but the positive changes that not only solve problems but create new opportunities.

Oh, and one last thing: let's touch on risk averse, unhappy people just suffering through their Microsoft J.O.B.

Not happy doing what you're doing? Full of criticism of how Microsoft could be a better place for little ole you? Risk averse to looking for a new position in Microsoft or outside of Microsoft, perhaps knowing this is as good as it gets for you? Within a dispassionate environment pulling down a direct deposit and satisfied that's the way it's going to be?

Well, you're my original core demographic group.

The group that I want fired and moved on and out of Microsoft.

I'm willing to bet a dinner for two at The Herbfarm that Microsoft would produce better results slimmed back to a size of 35,000 well-positioned passionate people than 70,000+ with marginal interest and alignment to what they want to be doing. And even if we do have 35,000 passionate people embedded now, they spend their days encumbered with the grind of a huge, unfocused machine. We end up with feature strategies splattered about like a Jackson Pollock. I want the abundance of mediocre resources that produce mediocre results replaced with a restricted set of high quality, happy, motivated, well compensated people producing out-standing results given the focus required to use what we have most effectively. We'd be at measure-twice and cut-once vs. let 'er rip and ship!

Maybe there's another way there. I'd like to know it. But right now, I still believe the biggest challenge left to our long-term success - post Vista - is dealing with our burden of too many employees. It's time to start spinning off and spinning down large groups in Microsoft to what's reasonable.

Updated: typos fixed. Thanks! Updated again: fixed another typo. I had it right in my mind, but somewhere between my mind and the game on the TV it got dropped. Lesson to self. Updated... sigh. Time to go to the blackboard and write out I won't type while watching the game... a few dozen times.