Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Microsoft and WWGD - What Will Google Do? Time for Pre-Emptive Innovation.

Google is off on a high-quality staffing spree and even Microsoft is not immune to the pouching.  The folks who Google hired (including some Microsofties from a nearby building) are best-of-the-best scary smart.  What will they deliver? 

Is Microsoft fretting, waiting to go into reactive product-development mode?  Or can we out-Google Google (especially without the MSDN-Camp posting to their blogs entries regaling the world to "Just wait until Longhorn and Avalon and Whidbey - Ooo, it will be great then! [ed. 2006]")?  I feel like we're playing a chess game and only looking at the squares immediately around our opponents last move.  You'd figure with all those researchers we keep hiring (and express continued intent to hire more of) we'd be able to outsmart Google without even breaking a sweat.  Maybe those guys and gals aren't our salvation...

Let's say Google is giving everyone a big data pile in the sky, with all sorts of browser-apps and publicly defined innovative services on-top of that data pile.  They start with email and then move to more interesting data (pictures? calendar? contacts? notes?).  While they might augment your data view with targeted ads, they might also augment it with targeted relevant data in your pile as well, helping you connect the dots (or perhaps augment it with publicly shared data of those you've added to your Google-tribe).

What is one thing Microsoft could do?  How about providing a personal Microsoft-branded data-space: free.  And ad free.  Hook this up with a Passport if that makes you feel strategic but make that optional.  Make it a data space that people could for a lifetime throw their data into, perhaps even providing a sync up/down service for all their PCs / laptops / handhelds / smart-phones (leave out the stupid watches).  Make parts shareable and augmentable, but start with the data first, and let the applications follow.

Key to this: provide free, well documented HTTP-services on-top to appeal to the web-app aficionados.  Let Microsofties publish their own little PowerTools for people to use in their browser for organizing their MSN-Data.  And don't go tying this to Longhorn or silly 2005 / 2006 crap deliverables.  Make it work within IE 5.5.  Hell, make it work within FireFox.

Next, how-about for a small yearly fee we provide MSN-PC: take that cool VirtualPC product we bought and, using that nifty terminal-server application (or an ActiveX control), provide a VirtualPC that people could always have access to for simple work, where-ever they are.  It would be sandboxed and always up to date with the latest fixes.  Sure, I'll continue wanting my desktop but having a VirtualPC to rely on no matter where I am would serve as a focus point.  And MSN-PC would also be a nice way to manage my loveable Microsoft data space.

Anyway, just me typing some stuff as my Starbuck's latte cools down a bit.  We can out-Google Google, but it's not going to happen if we only swing the bat when we think it will rake in at least $1,000,000,000.  Let's start being happy with lots of little projects bringing in profits in the millions.

Comment - Is Microsoft Firing the Wrong People / Lots of Wonderful Jobs Out There

Great comment in the "Fire Me?" post.  It's worth the read.  A snippet:

I was with the company for 14 years. With an average review score of better than 3.25 (which in previous posts seems to be the median bar set), and with my manager not agreeing with the decision, MS decided to terminate my employment based upon HR policy guidelines that were not enforced evenly and equally to other people that were associated with my departure. Microsoft has become a company where you're just another number and for all the rhetoric about them caring about the employees, they really only care about the bottom line... (more)
Not knowing this specific situation, I have to say that although I want the company smaller, I do want the lower performers out first.  This comment also ends with an interesting observation worth noting, too:

But in the end, I found another job with another company close in the area that pays me more money, is definitely more concerned about my work/life balance and I get almost similar benefits with better hours. The water is warm out here folks.
Excellent news!  Again, for the disenchanted, those feeling their project is soon to be cancelled (come-on, you know it's coming)  and those wanting to see what it's like outside: get out there and test the water for yourself!  It doesn't hurt to look and it's quite empowering to be courted.  Better now than later when there's a whole bunch of resumes swamping the area.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

A Microsoft Targeted Layoff that will also Increase Employee Morale: HR

A recent comment:

Here is the graph I want to see - HR employees per MS employee over the last 10 years. I remember seeing some data quite a few years ago that showed the growth rate of HR was double the growth rate of the overall company.

I'd absolutely love to see that graph, too.  Like most folks who have been at Microsoft for a while, I, too, have felt the increasing presence of HR and have wondered why in the world all those folks were needed.  There hasn't been much in the way of bonus for me and my group with all the HR hires: we practically have to run all the internal / external hiring ourselves.  What HR contributes could truly be replaced with a set of VB scripts and Outlook rules.  (But of course, I'm losing no tears over not being able to hire people.)

What would increase employee morale?  In addition to announcing an HR downsizing, tie that into committing to not change the review process for the next five years.  The review forms mutate more than common cold virus.

One year we have to learn new company values (and where the hell did that come from, anyway?) about the time we lose our minor review (goodbye bonus / review rating).  Then that's tied into our competencies.  Then we fill in a chart for each company value and whether we excel at it, or are satisfactory, or need improvement.  Yet there's no accompanying message nor common metric and some groups say "E,E,E,E,E!"  Then that disappears.  Finally, we're asked to throw off those wimpy "Goals" and energetically engage in "Commitments!"  It's like we're being inflicted with the latest management fad every six months.  What next time?  Who in the world thinks that they are doing a good job running the review process for this company?  Move those people out and let the folks filling out the review focus on their accomplishments and not going through training every six-to-twelve months to help decode how to fill out their review.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

"Fire Me? Oh, hell no! Microsoft should fire YOU!"

Just a quick post to gage scattered reaction to the initial posts here (mostly in the comments, but a few out in the blogosphere).

Some folks:
Relative thumbs up.  Thanks. (# # )
Other folks:
Agnostic, or this blog is border line blather, but some interesting bits and pieces here and there.  (And I'm sorry, but even faint praise from Don Box is more than any mere mortal can ever aspire to). (# )
Rest of the folks:
You yellow-bellied anonymous-posting proto-elitist negative .NET hating whiner: ooooo, you should be fired before you even have a chance to quit! (# # )

And it seems right now the best way to get some blog-voodoo posted about you is to slam .NET and its aspiration to solve the world's programming ills.  As for my boss firing me, he's cool as long as I add a disclaimer (done - yes, I had a mini-coming-out party Friday) and while I can write about policy violation if I go and manifest that into reality then I will find myself badge-less in Redmond.

But stepping back: this isn't about me.  Sure, I'm involved in channeling some ideas but this messenger is one representation of concern and ideas from inside of Microsoft of how we're going through our own Bubble that seems unsustainable.  I'm just not drinking the current variety of Kool-Aid.  I love Microsoft and I work with the absolute best people in the world and it's because I love this company that I'm flustered with any slothful, stumbling trends.  I'm pleased to consider other points-of-views and I promise that if you post to your blog your opinions and ideas (and I find them via trackbacks or such) I will compile them here.

Friday, July 23, 2004

GAH!!! Microsoft to hire 3,000 in area

Make it stop! (pound) Make it stop! (pound) Make it stop! (pound): Microsoft to hire 3,000 in area. I'm going to have to order another poster from to cover the hole in the drywall my forehead just made.

The article also includes the Graph of the month.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Microsoft Fiscal Results

The blog post Microsoft Blog: MSFT Q4, FY04 collects some interesting links to read. C|NET had a good one yesterday, too: Never mind the cash -- how's Microsoft's business. And today's article Microsoft earnings paint mixed picture breaks down some of the financials.

The big cash payout represents a great transition for employee mind-think: that's not Microsoft's cash hoard, it is indeed the shareholders'. There is no entitlement associated with that cash and it's not there to save your group's poor performance.

The theme in a number of articles posted yesterday and today is: Microsoft has to start making sound business decisions. It takes executive management all the way down to each and every lead to enact hard decisions and great decisions. So for every manager with more than twenty people on your staff: there's got to be someone who can go. Now's the best time to shrug off our past and get trim and focused.

Microsoft Stack Rank as a Popularity Contest

(This is a bit light on content - I'm hopped up on some heavy decongestants for a summer cold, so hopefully this post holds together to some small degree.)

When you (well, me) go and say you want to move people out of the company based on their lifetime review score, you bring up the issues behind the whole mechanics that result in that 4.0, 3.5, or 3.0 (or 2.5s, which I'd love to spread through the company deservingly).  The main process that puts in motion the final score is the Stack Rank.

I've had lots of different leads during my years at Microsoft.  During the boom, lots of folks were made leads that shouldn't have been and that pretty much summed up my first couple of bosses.  They were great developers and I'd talk to them about my career few times a year, two of those meetings being the delivery of my major and minor reviews (we now just have the single major annual review).  One of the feedbacks I'd get was that I had to, "...(sigh), increase your... visibility in the group."  How do I do that?  "We'll, ah, work on it, I have some ideas."  Hand-over of a sheet with final review numbers.  What!?!  I'm better than that!  Back they went to coding.

Then along came a new lead.  Her feedback, "You've got to increase your team visibility so that you can do better in the stack rank meeting."  The what-rank?  She said it slower as if it would help me to divine what the heck she was talking about.  Then she got up and gave me the stack rank lesson and I got to learn about how the team is divided into columns of high, medium, and low folks and then each column has a person by person relative ranking, all those positions negotiated by the leads putting their people up on the whiteboard and then arguing the merits of which report belongs above which other reports.  She said they set the context of their decisions by asking a question like, "Okay, if the team were on a sinking boat and we had to decide who we would put on the life-boats, who would it be?"  Up to that point, my ass was next in line for the boat but still going down with the ship.

Her revealing comment: "My defense of your accomplishments is not enough to get you to the top of the stack rank.  The best way for you to rise above your peers is to have other leads in there defending you based on what they know about you."  This is where you could say that popularity comes into play.  It's also where you starting owning your career.

Why am I bothering to write about this?  Well, it's not just about moving the poor performers out of Microsoft.  It is also about becoming an efficient, invigorated, innovating company.  If folks don't feel like their contributions and abilities are being recognized, why the heck should they put in the extra effort?  Do you as a Microsoft contributor truly ROCK but are not getting duly rewarded and compensated? I want to change that.

So, putting aside changes to the stack rank and review process, what can you as a motivated individual do?  This is some scattered advice that's not too unique, but here for you to consider as we head towards delivery of reviews.  I'd love to read other constructive advice.

Get a mentor.  Microsoft has an internal mentoring hook-up site I highly recommend.  Find someone outside of your business group that is a successful lead for at least a few years.  Their experience as a lead can give you greater insight about what it takes to succeed at Microsoft and candid details about the stack rank.

Know when the stack ranks are.  This is important.  Find out when the annual stack rank for your group is going to happen.  Your group may or may not do a stack rank during the checkpoint review.  Ask your boss.

Set-up skip level 1:1s. You should meet with your lead's lead at least once a month.  You should meet with your test manager / general PM / dev manager (what ever is appropriate) at least twice a year, before the major and minor reviews.  You should meet with your GM once a year, at least, before the annual review.  (1) it's just good to get exposed to these folks who have had success at Microsoft, so you can get career advice.  (2) it's your chance to ensure they know about your accomplishments and why you're so freaking excited to be on this team.  I've seen major turn-arounds in the opinions about contributors after they've had a candid skip-level 1:1.

Get involved with other team members, especially leads.  Be there as a key resource to unblock or mentor other team members, and co-ordinate through those people's lead.  Ensure your lead knows about it, too.  Is it about being popular?  It's about helping them accomplish their work and knowing how damn good a job you can do.  But if the other lead doesn't know about it, it's not going to matter come stack rank time.

Seek feedback.  This is hard.  Most people don't seek feedback or feel odd about dropping by someone's office (like your lead's peer) and asking for feedback on what you could do better.  It's a great way to check-in to see if they know what the heck it is you do and to do a check-up on your presence.

Tell your boss why you're so great.  My first good boss related this great story from a person in HR: this HR person would have a frank conversation with their boss a bit before the stack rank and explain exactly what it is she's accomplished, how she ranks against her peers, and what kind of review results she expected.  Damn, that's owning your career!

Put career reminders in Outlook now.  You need to have frank, early conversations about your career before the major review / checkpoint.  Are you treating the review meeting like Christmas, and run downstairs to open your present only to find that instead of a Fire-Engine 4.0 you received a Silly-Putty 3.5?  The review meeting should be one of the more boring meetings you have.  Put reminders into Outlook for December and May now where you will ensure all the significant 1:1s occur and that you ensure your boss knows what you've accomplished.  Put in other check-points to assess how well you're doing on the team.

Is all this superficial popularity-contest B.S.? Your call, but it worked for me and I've seen it work for other team members.  You need to accept that there's a certain personality that excels at Microsoft, and if you can't gravitate towards that, you'd be best finding a better place to invest the most productive years of your life.

When it comes down to one little number that dramatically affects your compensation, it's worth working out a system that ensures your hard work and investment in this career works for you.  I truly think that if you have two contributors that start off with excellent skills and one increases her team presence, she's going to get the much better review.  And most importantly: the team's product is going to be better.  This person will know more about the product, increase team-cohesion, and grow.  That's worth compensating.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Under 3.25 Lifetime Average Review Score at Microsoft? It's Time to Re-Interview!

Allow me to start with a "duh": Microsoft is big.

Like a lot of Microsofties, during the time that I've been here the company has doubled in size.  Doubled with some pretty unrealistic expectations for continued need of all those folks it hired during the swelling of the Internet Bubble.

Truth be told, some groups must have been pretty desperate to hire any warm bodies who could spell HTML because somehow during that time the hiring-bar got lowered and we hired poor performers.  Suddenly, there's mandatory training for managers available about how to manage poor performers.

And guess what: getting fired by Microsoft is about as hard as getting fired by the government.  You've got to have documentation and a tight, time-consuming process to avoid lawsuits.  And you have to get over a lot of psychological hurdles to even darken the doorway of the employee who you want to start the termination process (which is still delivered with hope as getting that employee "back on track" or, you know, out of here).

To help enable the culling at Microsoft, one straight-forward way is to require folks who stand out as poor-performers to re-interview for Microsoft.  Message it as, "We are cutting back, and due to your lifetime review score average you've been identified as a candidate for cut-backs.  As part of the process to ensure we don't terminate without due diligence, we are offering you the chance to re-interview."

So let's say you have some folks who have a lifetime review average under 3.25 and they have been around for three or more major reviews.  This means they have at least more 3.0 reviews than 3.5 reviews.  Are they long-term top quality material?  Do they have the potential to reach the top expected ladder level for their discipline?  Let's find out!

  • Set up a three person + an as-appropriate interview loop for them.
  • Set out the job responsibilities according to what they do and the requirements of their level.
  • Have the interview loop outside of their business group, by a most-likely disinterested party.
  • If they don't get a "hire" they immediately go on a 30-day action plan geared towards termination.  If their General Manager can't justify that person staying at Microsoft, they're gone and ready to find new opportunities in the world.
    • Accountability: any General Manager fighting to keep people becomes personally responsible for that person's future performance, no matter what group they are in, for the next three review cycles.  If that person continues to be a 3.0 or lower contributor, that General Manager is held accountable and his / her bonus and stock rewards are downgraded.  GMs, if you don't know good contributors from bad contributors, you should be punished.

This can surely be scheduled over a year's time, starting with the lowest scorers first.

Think of the folks you work with.  To help set context, two questions: (1) Who would you rehire?  (2) Who would you instead prefer a hot, fired-up new college graduate or an experienced external hire?  Some folks plain just plateau at Level 60 and they aren't going much further.  They are swirling around the bottom of the stack rank like so many bitter, hopeless dregs. 

Honestly now: do you just plain not give these people challenging work because you doubt they can deliver?  We'd be better off without them and the late feature cuts we have to make when they can't come through for us.  They need to be moved on.  Make it happen.

Side-note: looking on the other side of this, let's say this person re-interviews and knocks the socks off of everyone, including the as-app.  Hell, maybe they're just plain in the wrong group / job.  This is also a chance to balance talent, which would increase effectiveness and contribution to the bottom-line.  A super re-interview would at least empower folks who aren't happy in their current position to look elsewhere in the company (and perhaps outside of the company - everyone's excited about Google, right?).
  P.S. - Sorry about dorking-up the URL for the site's Atom feed - it's been corrected to the proper - thanks!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Performance Tuning MSFT.exe (or, How to Save Microsoft $1,000,000,000 Now)

One of the core skills a developer has to excel at is performance tuning. You get your feature working correctly and then you go in and analyze where the code is actually spending a good bit of its time. You get a prioritized list of areas to improve, starting with the most obvious opportunities for maximum payback.

So, two of the big mistakes you can make are:

  1. Over-optimizing new code before you actually have a chance to measure it. You're most likely making it way more complicated and bug-ridden and you can be completely wrong about where your code spends its time.
  2. Choosing to invest a large amount of effort optimizing existing code that is way down on the list of where you're spending time.

Both problems are pretty much the same: you're expending great effort that should rather be focused elsewhere to give you far more end-result benefits.

Now, when it comes to tuning MSFT.exe you'd think it would make sense for us to take a similar approach: analyze where the big expenditures are and go after those areas first. So, say you want to cut back, oh,$1,000,000,000. Where'd be a good place to start?

$250,000 / year for towels in the locker-rooms? Okay, 0.025% down, $999,750,000 to go (and that's going to be a long drinking song).

Okay, no. If I my dev team was told it had to cut 10 seconds from a module's boot time and I came forward with 2.5 milliseconds I'd be spanked for wasting everyone's time just to listen to my dumb ass. And folks would seriously, seriously wonder about how in the world I got hired.

No, my team would be looking for big, bold savings that represent making some hard decisions.

Hard decisions. Like downsizing. Layoffs. Good attrition. Bad attrition. Pink slips.

Let's say Microsoft can indeed reduce its workforce by 10%. That'd be about 5,500 flesh-and-blood individuals. We easily have that many employees we can do without. You figure each employee represents $200,000 to $300,000 cost to Microsoft each year (salary, benefits, equipment, etc etc). So, by attrition and layoff, a 10% reduction right there would save Microsoft anywhere from $1,100,000,000 to $1,650,000,000.

And this is the gift that keeps giving to the bottom line.

And would the financial world freak-out and react poorly to a smaller Microsoft? I don't think so. This company doubled in size during the height of the unsustainable Internet boom. But it has not receded to match accordingly. We struggle to keep balance and we're staggering under the load of too many employees. We should endeavor to under-go an immediate (one year) reduction by 10%. Then two more reductions within the next five years.

And you damn well better believe that a 10% reduction would bring exceeding clarity to the minds of those full-time Microsoft employees deciding what to focus their group's efforts on to add to the Microsoft bottom-line.

Where to start? MSFT.exe performance results are in the latest SEC filing (start at ). Check out the annual report. Fourth quarter / fiscal-year results are coming July 22nd - get ready for that. Take a moment to do your own analysis. To me: embedded devices: gone! MBS: profitable in a year or gone! And dear, sweet XBox? If its vision of ensconcing Microsoft as a home-entertainment platform is truly solid, it should be spun off into its own royalty paying company. Other ideas?

Monday, July 12, 2004

I'll help you recruit Microsoft employees!

Looking to hire Microsoft employees? I'm looking for a smaller Microsoft. I think we can help each other.

Here's my promise: if you're a technical recruiter and you send me a professional flyer with your contact info, I will print copies and place it around the Microsoft main campus. If you're targetting a particular group, I'll even see if I can wander over to just their building.

Just send me your document to the email address: email AT whodapunk DOT neomailbox DOT com

Am I worried that I'm screwing up and the best of the best is going to get hired away? Nah. Anyone who moves on is ready to move on. Anyone who contacts a recruiter is ready to leave Microsoft. I'm just helping them, especially when the timing is good.

Microsoft Review Season and Great Chris Anderson Posts

Chris Anderson has some great blog posts regarding the review season at Microsoft. One in particular I enjoy is called "Forced Ranking.". His "Ah, review season again..." follow-up is especially revealing:

I would almost take this to another extreme (but not quite) - your bottom 5% should be cut, your top 5% should be given away. A strong organization should be growing new talent, and should be farming them out to the rest of the company. If you have super star performers in your team, give some away (not all of them).

Chris represents a terrific shift in thinking: rather than taking on the burden that every low-performing employee can be saved, you have to transition to getting those people out of Microsoft. I'd be quite happy if over the next year Microsoft fired 5% of its current staff and encouraged the healthy pursuit of other opportunities elsewhere for another 5% (good attrition mostly, but I'll take some bad attrition if it helps revitalize the software economy).

Good reads!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Great Time for Microsoft Employees to Find Wonderful New Jobs

The CBS MarketWatch artile Pay, benefits seen rising with improving job market has a nice little note:

Microsoft recently announced (MSFT: news, chart, profile) cost cuts that include trimming health-care benefits, eliminating locker-room towels, and possibly the end of free soda. That may be a short-sighted move, but it's to the benefit to executive recruiters.

"From our perspective, (Microsoft's cuts) are great because they are further disenchanting their employee base," said Marc Lewis, president of the North America region for Morgan Howard Worldwide, an executive recruitment firm.

This is a great time for anyone at Microsoft to touch base with a technical recruiter. First of all, you've probably already have written up your annual review. Tip: anytime you write your annual review, you update your resume at the same time. Go ahead, give it a try: update your resume sometime this week. A real plain resume, don't worry about the fireworks. You know about keywords and such.

Next, track down some recruiters. Hell, you work at Microsoft! MICROSOFT! Look at all the wonderful damn things you know about creating world-wide, 1st class software. Flip this to your advantage. Say you're disechanted with the company and you're looking for an innovative place that values its workforce, and blah blah money blah blah benefits. Whatever it takes to get that recruiter excited to see that they probably has a fixed window to find you that hot job.

And it might be a hot job. Better than what you're doing now. Or perhaps you are beginning to feel the shadow of looming Microsoft cutbacks fall across your career. Isn't it smarter to get on the ball and out into the recruiting system before it's flooded with folks like you or, worse, other folks more likely to snap up great jobs quickly?

Yeah, you might have to move. Moving is fun!

As the economy ramps up and folks look to pluck dischanted employees, the first ones to go get the best deals. I was at Microsoft during the blossom of the Internet boom. Lots of folks left (some have come back) and the ones that left early got treated like kings and queens. The later folks got showered with stock options (snicker).

Spruce up that resume, study those review questions, get a recruiter, and enjoy the empowerment of owning your non-Microsoft career! From the bottom of my heart: Good Luck!

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Turning on comments for all

Let's try turning comments on for everyone vs. registered users. I was thinking about this yesterday and the comment I just received convinced me.

I really look forward to reading what other Microsoft employees think, along with our partners and other people whose mortgage payments and quality of work-life depends on how good a job Microsoft does going forward.

Also, if you find other relevant blogs and articles, please feel free to post them where-ever it makes sense.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Break out the 2.5s

To all Microsoft Managers: looking at those 3.0s on your team you're about to send up to the big model in the sky, you have to ask yourself: do they deserve 3.0? Should they really get 2.5?

Now more than ever, it's time to stop letting poor-achievers slip by and start smacking them on the butt with a well deserved 2.5. Smack! And don't let the door-knob hit ya where the dog shoulda bit ya!

For those that don't know, a 2.5 is effectively the career-ending kiss of death. It means: I'm going to fire you unless you make sudden, startling change for the better, which I'm about to detail at great length. This has to be change that I believe you'll continue for the long-term, not just for the short-term that you're scared to death of getting fired.

Thing is, we have some bad folk in Microsoft. They got hired during the Big Boom before the bubble's pop. And baby, they are holding onto their jobs now with the big Microsoft like nobody's business. And they're just causing harm. Doing enough to get by, writing crappy code, doing crappy testing, and designing crappy features.

And holding Microsoft down as we try to get by with good-enough people.

While giving a 2.5 might complicate your life in the short-term, in the long-term it is the absolutely best thing to do. Just do it. 2.5!!!

Great BusinessWeek Commentary

There's a super BusinessWeek commentary by Steve Hamm about recent Microsoft changes and the Ballmer memo at _tc120.htm?chan=tc& . It's an excellent read. Here's an especially relevant bit out of it that sums how I feel:

Instead of being driven to change the world -- the mission its best employees signed up for -- a key focus now for Ballmer is "process excellence," which seems unlikely to inspire Microsoftees to stay up all night creating the Next Big Thing.

One thing really bad about being so process driven: it's totally thinking and working inside of the box and empowers folks who aren't leaders but who can really raise a stink when someone decides to color outside of the lines. That's bad stuff. That does not lead to innovation and wake-fields of creativity but rather keeps the big huge, bloated crew on a steady course to mediocrity.

Robert Scoble on Microsoft and Benefits

Scoble posts his view regarding Microsoft, benefits, and changes at: It's a good view to read and points out that Microsoft truly has some kick-ass benefits.

However, while Robert feels that his Channel 9 subversive community site represents something any employee can do at Microsoft, I think he fails to take into account the currency he has coming into the company, especially on the rise of RSS and blogging. He can get away with a lot more than I can.

Do I wish more employees would do something like this as well? Yes. Do I wish we didn't have to go on a hiring spree to acquire stars like Scoble, Box, and Sells? Yes. Do I wish we could focus on growing our own rather smart people from the inside to be Scobles, Boxes, and Sells? Hell yes!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

ATOM Feed URL for mini-MSFT

The feed URL (have to use this until I customize the template) for mini-MSFT is:

Gates and Ballmer employee webcast meeting today

An important memo went out to all of the Microsofties today. It was the combination of many VPs input about where this company is and what the future looks like. It was a good memo and I agree with a good bit of it. During the afternoon, Gates and Ballmer held an employee meeting in our conference center that I watched via an internal webcast. Man, they are saying a lot of good things that I agree with, but the future is still pretty murky. Now is a time of great change at Microsoft. We’re bloated. We’re a monopolistic aircraft carrier careening through the corporate waters of the world. We’ve pretty much won the feature battles and now our main competition is older versions of our own software (you know, that’s just plain odd). Ballmer and Gates laid down some of their priorities looking to the future. Ballmer said he’s more optimistic about this company than ever. And our recent benefits cut-backs actually dove-tails with his optimism (that landed like a lead-balloon). Anyway, he emphasized that Microsoft has to Grow, Evolve, and Change. Hopefully Grow as in grow into new markets vs. hire folks, because damn we’re too big already. Mini-MSFT: We’re at a strange corporate moment: due to our omnipresence in all things software, we have a super high profile. How can you be loved and respected by your customers and users? You’re not the underdog. You’re the lumbering bad-ass top dog, and these wonderful folks, whether they want to or not, get to use your software during the day and when they come home to surf the web. Perhaps even when they play video games, perhaps even when they are tuning their cable or satellite box. Every flaw ripples out to a chaotic echo chamber of grumbles. Every script-kiddie wants to take you down, and thanks to relying on trusting users opening just about any attachment sent their way, it’s not too hard to propagate infections. We’re a successful company encumbered with billions of dollars. We’re on a Trustworthy-Computing Trail of Tears. Anyway, back to Ballmer and Gates: Ballmer pointed out that we have a big source of money disappearing in FY05. That’s a-gonna make things rough. We’re trying to cut back expenses first of all. (Lots of folks who had it easy and that were enjoying weekly shrimp parties are going to have to start eating cold weenies.) Beyond the corporate buzz-word rah-rah (Excellence! Accountability! Satisfaction!) there were a few other interesting highlights:

  • Incubation will continue (grr): short term losses will be tolerated given consideration of future profits. (I think that’s crazy – make them people starting bring in some cash or close them down.)
  • Linux security vs. Windows security: sure, they have more security problems that are less high-profile: it will take time for perception of Windows being wildly insecure in comparison to turn.
  • Free sodas will remain! Ya! Though we might get soda dispensers instead of cans. Boo!
  • Good question about what we’re doing for employee career development really didn’t get answered. So this is where the leadership is indicating how incredibly important that employees grow but then sort of pat you on your back and say, "And good luck with that!"
  • What markets can we grow into? Gates didn’t really answer that, though he’d be happy if Office grew by 10% (hell, as a stock-holder, so would I). Well, they did call out some markets we’re targeting. But, kind of like the Seattle Weekly criticism of Microsoft, their only targeting it seems markets where we can earn thousands-of-millions of dollars vs. good ole millions. They almost poo-poo’d eBay’s $200,000,000 operating profit. Sugar, I’d line my pocket with $200 million any-damn-time. It’s like we want to get up there and swing for a home-run every time.
I’ll be interested in seeing where today’s expressed vision goes, plus what happens with it between now and the upcoming Company Meeting. Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!

Blast off for Mini-Microsoft!

Why another weblog about Microsoft? This is a weblog written by someone working for change at Microsoft. I’m working for change from the inside (you don’t get to see that, most likely). And I’m working for change from the outside (yes, this right here). I intend to use this area to post one Microsoftie’s view of what is going on with this company and what opportunities exist to shine again. Thanks for reading this and I hope you’ll return in the future. Please subscribe to the feed! You’re not only obviously incredibly good looking but also exceptionally smart. Please share with me your input about what I say here plus any insight you might have. What kind of things do I intend to post about? Oh, let’s see:

  • Microsoft needs to reduce employee size. It’s too big. It doesn’t need a quicky Atkins-equivalent. No, it needs to get itself on a corporate exercise program that will shed itself of unwanted groups and employees. And stay on that.
  • Microsoft needs to stop hiring. It’s hard enough finding the scarcest of treasured corporate resources: the talented individual suitable for working at Microsoft. Stop hiring, trim down, and rebalance those precious scare employees inside to where they can be more productive and make products that delight our customers.
  • Re-interviewing: all employees below a certain life-time review average need to re-interview. Those that don’t make the cut the second time around get to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
  • Unleash employee driven innovation with a Microsoft Labs community area.
  • Less research, more application.
  • Continue the community effort and make it so if you’re not leading cool innovation, your butt is dedicated to some time per week helping out in the community, sharing all that wonderful knowledge between your ears. Reward that!
  • Back to Basics. Win32 and C++. Bread and butter. Not everything can run in the freaking CLR.
  • Re-energize the home market. The home market is pretty tepid with-respect-to Microsoft-branded software. It can’t take that much effort to invigorate Microsoft for the home user and make it cool.
  • Start working vigorously on Internet Explorer again. Winning the browser wars, dusting off our hands, and running away screaming from IE to the Next Cool Thing represents the very worst in less-than-competitive behavior.
I LOVE THIS COMPANY! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!