Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Extreme Results

Folks read MSFT Extreme Makeover, right?

Website: http://msftextrememakeover.blogspot.com/

Feeds: http://msftextrememakeover.blogspot.com/atom.xml and http://msftextrememakeover.blogspot.com/rss.xml (it's still the old Google Blogger so you're not date vexed if you read your RSS feeds in Outlook 2007).

Latest post: well worth a read (long like Sinofsky, not near as dense): MSFTextrememakeover For want of a shoe, or time for a new rider.


46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't read extremewhatever. I don't care about it. My mini journey is down to once a week, where would I find time to add yet another blogger?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. Let's spin off all divisions that are nearing profitability, kill off MSN (instead of merely replacing management there with competent people) and disband Research. That'll sure maximize shareholder value for a couple of years until this clown dumps all of his MSFT.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"Yeah, right. Let's spin off all divisions that are nearing profitability, kill off MSN (instead of merely replacing management there with competent people) and disband Research."

Hardly an accurate characterization of what I said, imo. But, others can decide for themselves if they bother reading it.

BTW, I'm guessing you must be the braniac who called me an imbecile in your response despite knowing I have comment approval authority? And Mini worries that the hiring bar may have been lowered...

Anonymous said...

OSG is under water. MSN is actually doing quite well. Our investments in Search and other Live Services (Live.com, Expo, etc.) are what take us into the red.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, right. Let's ... kill off MSN (instead of merely replacing management there with competent people...

Haven't we already replace MSN's management? Several times?

Anonymous said...

>BTW, I'm guessing you must be the braniac who called me an imbecile in your response despite knowing

He is upset that you have called for disbanding MSR.

Anonymous said...

msftextrememakeover.....I just want to say that you get it a lot more than most.

Keep up the good work and I hope you are making sure you are sending your analysis to the board as well as the big mutual fund holders so we can bring the dose of change that is sorely needed.....out with ballmer and a lot of his random lackies....its about time...this fine institution needs to be saved before its too late.

Anonymous said...

Can MS even innovate anymore? All the crap the MSN/Live folks are doing are all ideas copied from others: QnA, Spaces, Soapbox, Expo... etc. Geez. How about innovating on something...? I bet a lot of lower level folks have tons of good ideas, but I bet management is just concerned about catching up to the "competition" rather than doing something new. Why think outside the box, when other companies do it for you.

Anonymous said...

MSFTextrememakeover should b read more often. I found the piece well done and to the point about a company that needs to pay attention to the people managing it and the way it is managed.

To paraphrase the Benjamin Franklin quote in the piece, with another Franklin quote: "details are trifles, trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."

Great job MSFTextrememakeover.

Also, off topic a bit, Mini, what's a brainiac? The term brings to my mind a vision of one of those b&w movies from the forties that shows a huge room full of clicking old phone relays and thousands of miles of wire comprising a superbrain designed to end the war. No . . . wait, that was Eniac.

Here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENIAC

Anonymous said...

>> Haven't we already replace MSN's management

What part of "with competent people" did you not understand? If you replace a turd with a turd you still get a turd. :)

>> He is upset that you have called for disbanding MSR.

For all I care, you can throw this baby out with the bathwater tomorrow. I don't own much MSFT, dumped most of it at $32 and I dump my ESPP shares at the local maximum after they land in my Fidelity account.

OTOH, if you do own MSFT, I'd think twice about disbanding research. Think about it. Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Qualcomm, Google (I'm sure there are many, many others) - what do these companies have in common? They were built upon research that was far out there at the time. So far out that no one but a few entrepreneurs were interested and no one saw hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth the game changers could generate. Are we going to repeat that? Are we going to just sit and wait until someone invents (and patents) the next generation of software systems?

Anonymous said...

A comment on the zuneinsider blog:

Woah, good link there slash and grab. This link should be shown to anyone who is doubting microsoft's long term commitment to zune! That is a lot of extra staff they are going to employ!

The link in question.

Sounds like the Zune team is ramping up hiring.

MSFTextrememakeover said...

"He is upset that you have called for disbanding MSR."

Ok, only because this is now being repeated as if it were fact, here's what I actually said - you decide:

"Either MSFT needs to figure out a way to better tap the ideas coming out of the MSR brain trust, or maybe it's time to disband that group like Apple did."

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the pot, there's a great interview from Shacknews with Alex St. John, one of the earlier DirectX / gaming guys.

Even though it's coming from a gaming point of view, pages 2 and 3 have great insights into what Microsoft culture is like (or what it used to be like).

He talks about almost losing his job going against Bill Gates, and talks a bit about the MS development & political process.

Interesting read. Wondering if anyone on the inside can illuminate whether his comments are still accurate with respect to current conditions inside MSFT.

Anonymous said...

What part of "with competent people" did you not understand?

Oh, pardon me, my mistake. I assumed that our leadership thought they were replacing MSN leadership with competent people all those times. But apparently no, they thought incompetent people were good enough. But now that you've pointed out the problem, they'll only use competent people in the future. Must've been a real head-slapper for SteveB.

"Doh! Bill, I told you were should've tried competent people!"

Did you, by any chance, suggest they only use competent people for other leadership positions too?

Sarcasm aside, this is the problem. We replace failed leaders with new leaders who also fail. Either our top leadership can't tell the difference between competent and incompetent, or else there is something structurally wrong that causes competent leaders to fail. Continuing to churn the execs doesn't seem to be a fruitful strategy.

Anonymous said...

"The real romance is out ahead and yet to come. The computer revolution hasn't started yet. Don't be misled by the enormous flow of money into bad defacto standards for unsophisticated buyers using poor adaptations of incomplete ideas."

Alan Kay.

Anonymous said...

Nice incisive analysis by msftextrememakeover.

Anonymous said...

Will the real Vista sales numbers please stand up? From Gizmodo

Anonymous said...

regarding the Alex St. John interview...

What a cocky prick that guy is!

We definitely don't need people like him at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

good lord, lisa just wrote in insidems that by and large, based on employee feedback that she's heard, career compass was a great success.

there's no hope for microsoft! either we're all such wussies that we can only suck up to the executives, or she's a lying fool. out of the -- quite literall, over 100 people -- i've joked with about career compass, *not a single one* has said that it's anything other than asinine.

ugh. i need a drink. lisa has just become, in my mind, the Biggest Corporate Tool Ever.

Anonymous said...

ugh. i need a drink. lisa has just become, in my mind, the Biggest Corporate Tool Ever.

Lisa also gets paid a mind-boggling amount of money. Why would anyone ever have assumed that she had any intentions other than extending the status quo? I'm very serious here: If you're a former Lisa fan, can you tell me why?

Anonymous said...

Really...why DOES Microsoft bother with MSR? Anecdotally, the only GOOD ideas come companies from outside this company and...when THAT is realized, they get gobbled up, marginalized and put on the shelf by the stupid,ignorant, evil...empire!

There must be "Fifty (50) ways to leave your...money on the table".

Find a new plan, Stan. No need to coy, Roy. Just set yourself free!

Dare Obasanjo said...

>good lord, lisa just wrote in insidems that by and large, based on employee feedback that she's heard, career compass was a great success.

there's no hope for microsoft! either we're all such wussies that we can only suck up to the executives, or she's a lying fool.


I thought the career compass was a lot better than filling out some Word document then having an unfocused discussion with your manager.

This was probably the least irritating MYCD I've had at Microsoft. Obviously YMMV.

Anonymous said...

Extreme, what do you think about this one: http://dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/archive/images/dilbert2007034072931.gif

I swear to god, Scott Adams has sources at Microsoft

Anonymous said...

CareerCompass worked out well in our team. It forced an unpleasant conversation to happen between my manager and I. I'd rather have a bad conversation than remain in the dark about how my boss really sees me and what my career possibilities are.

The commitment tool was different. Too many back & forth. Too many hours on something that'll be ignored for the next 6 months. Not enough guidance from the organization upfront. You figure that if my commitments are to derive from my manager's organizational commitment, she should have to publish them before I start writing.

Anonymous said...

Whether it is used with career compass or without I simply dont see the point of MYCD. There is no career development, serously. Let's just get back to what we had in 1999, a "proper" performance review. You dont have to wait till the end of the year before knowing you are going to be shafted.

Oh BTW, forget the MYCD the final around is just starting, you've got 2 months to cram for the final review, get to it or start looking.

Anonymous said...

CareerCompass worked out well in our team. It forced an unpleasant conversation to happen between my manager and I. I'd rather have a bad conversation than remain in the dark about how my boss really sees me and what my career possibilities are
Same here, I know what is coming in September, unlike last year. So I just started my job search...

About commitment tool, I still dont have approved commitments and I cant see commitments of managers 3 level up.

Anonymous said...

Re: LisaB. I went to Barnsies today (Barnes & Noble) for some free techie and biz reading.

One of the biz mags, I believe Business Week, had an interview with the esteemed HR director of General Electric. Sorry, don't have his name or the mags zeroed in but...I swear what I am about to tell you is true.

He said one of the cardinal sins of any head of HR would be to cozy up to the CEO. If it happens, there is a complete lack of trust by the rank and file, of the HR head.

And so, we know at least PART of Lisa's problem. The other, of course, is total and complete incompetence.

Anonymous said...

This post linking to msftextrememakeover seemed to be effective at reducing the number and meaningfulness of the comments. And now the much better post below it won't get as many as they should! Particularly considering all the issues raised in the previous post.

Anonymous said...

There has been some discussion here recently about MSR and its current vs desired roles at MS. I've been at MSR for quite a number of years now. It's started out as a basic research lab. Rick Rashid, the head of MSR, kept saying from the beginning that our first mission is advance the state of the art in computer science, and our second mission is transfer relevant technology to products.

In the last couple of years, Rashid has been prefacing this statement by 'as long as I'm here,...'. This preface reflects the increasing exasperation of Ballmer and other top people with him and MSR over the marginality of the lab's contributions to MS products. When Rashid says 'advance the state of the art' he means publishing research papers and presenting in academic conferences. Less than 20% of MSR people are actually involved in a shipped product.

Rashid has been unable, some say also unwilling, to change that. About 2 years ago Ballmer and co. finally realized it's not going to happen, and initiated a change of guard at MSR. Ling, the managing director, has been replaced by Malvar. Rashid is now being replaced by Craig Mundie.

Some were puzzled by Mundie's title of Chief Research and Strategy Officer, which strongly overlaps Rashid's Senior VP of Research. Apparently, Mundie was given this title to make his eventual appointment as head of MSR seem legitimate.

Obviously, this is the end of the basic research era at MSR. Mundie has a PhD but, unlike Rashid, didn't make his name publishing academic papers, and will not tolerate people who spend most of their time doing that. Whether this will improve the fortunes of this company remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

b>Rashid has been unable, some say also unwilling, to change that. About 2 years ago Ballmer and co. finally realized it's not going to happen, and initiated a change of guard at MSR

MSR is a huge sink hole. Many researchers are partners without contribution to the company. Further, no important basic research has happened in MSR since inception. MSR is the worst investment the company has made by far, exceeding XBoX in every metric.

Anonymous said...

>This was probably the least irritating MYCD I've had at Microsoft.

Thats the thing - when people say that careercompass was an improvement, (at least in my experience) what people are really saying is that - it was easier to complete than the '06 MYD.

But how relevant/meaningful is it?

IMO, the biggest flaw is with the setup of the competancy ratings - you will be at a disadvantage if you have a new manager.

How does a new manager know whether I'm really a level 3 for competancy x? What if, in the past 4 months I never had an opportunity to prove the competancy-level to my mgr? Do they just take my word for the fact that I am a level 3? Do they look at my previous rating? Do they assume its right? What if there isn't a previous rating and I'm completely new to the company but with excellent industry experience?

Anonymous said...

>> unlike Rashid, didn't make his name publishing academic papers

Neither did Rashid. He created CMU Mach kernel, which is used in Mac OS X, among others.

Besides, Mundie isn't even a PhD. I don't know if he'll be effective at running MSR. I can't even find _any_ papers by him in Google.

And he's not in Wikipedia, so he didn't quite "make his name" just yet.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, this is the end of the basic research era at MSR. Mundie has a PhD but, unlike Rashid, didn't make his name publishing academic papers, and will not tolerate people who spend most of their time doing that. Whether this will improve the fortunes of this company remains to be seen

This is unfortunate, but I will only shed crocodile tears. At the end of the day, Rashid is as much to blame as his superiors.

Rashid had the right idea, but he had no sense of reality. He went and hired legendary figures who were way past their primes and put them in control of the research agenda. He also hired far too many people.

Some have done good work, but by and large most of the work coming out is mediocre at best.

He also oversold MSR to management and the world at large.

Finally there is the issue of incentives. Why would a researcher want to take risk by advancing the state of the art when she can advance her career via BillG reviews, promotions, stocks, and bonuses? That is the reason why I no longer work at MSR.

Anonymous said...

regarding the Alex St. John interview...

What a cocky prick that guy is!


I worked with him at MS and he probably did need to be taken down a peg, but his firing portended the culture of conformity that MS has become. It would never have occurred to Alex St. John to wait for competitors to come out with ideas merely to "embrace and extend" them. As mentioned in the interview, the dev community told him what kind of crack they wanted and he went back and tried to cook it. He definitely should have been in business for himself - and now he is.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Lisa is incompetent. I think she just hit a wall - the wall of MS inertia. I feel bad for her - I can't imagine the money she's making would be worth the headache.

Anonymous said...

MSR is a huge sink hole. Many researchers are partners without contribution to the company. Further, no important basic research has happened in MSR since inception. MSR is the worst investment the company has made by far, exceeding XBoX in every metric.

I guess this is the view of anyone that doesn't work in MSR. Its what I think as well. Tell me again why we should try to stop their defections to Google? Long-short, research somehow has to map to product development. Anything else is just a think-week topic.

Ihar Filipau said...

> Can MS even innovate anymore?

My (non-softie, innocent bystander) view is that you have too much politics involved.

I'm sorry for probably improper quote, but here it goes anyway:

“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.” -- Steven Jobs

Read into it. That's my point of what MSFT needs now: you have talents, let them create.

“Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.” -- Steven Jobs

Cut line.

Anonymous said...

research somehow has to map to product development.

Lots of people at MSR would tell you that researchers come up with awesome product ideas. It's the product people that stop them from turning into products. Ideas that outside MS produced very visible products, like search, photo sharing (flickr), personalized news, targeted advertising, all came up at MSR and were rejected by the company.

Earlier on, for example, Heckerman and Horvitz developed the intelligent office assistant. They had an amazing demo that could make any user love the paper clip. But the product people messed it up. They threw out all the intelligent stuff and released the dumb paper clip, that became on of MS most hated and ridiculed features. Heckerman and Horvitz are now partners, and deservely so.

Anonymous said...

Why are you all bashing MSR? They are doing what they have been told to do. Extreme seems to be saying that the *company* needs to figure out how to better turn those ideas into products. I think that's right. As usual we want to blame each other instead of fixing the problem.

Anonymous said...

Interesting related story from Todd Bishop's column:

"So where is that cash balance today? In short, it's at its lowest point in more than five years. But it's still nothing to sneeze at, coming in at $28.9 billion as of Dec. 31."

Anonymous said...

Extreme results? Join me now for a tour of extreme ridiculousness.

Freshly discovered is an alias called "RAS Inactivity GM Comm" ('ras45day') which apparently is an alias to notify your skip-level peeps that {Aahem, koff} you have not been reliably logging in like a good slave.

Note that it's not good enough for you to be monitoring your Outlook email by OWA (that would be you, Program Managers)--well, you'd damn well better be logging in on the network, pal.

While you will not be able to see any members of the group through checking names in the "To" line of an Outlook message, check the "Member Of" tab on your GM/director/VP (or in http://autogroup) and see if they're on it.

Go forth, and sin no more.

"Cunning and treachery are the offspring of incapacity."

- Fran├žois de la Rochefoucauld

Anonymous said...

I don't think Lisa is incompetent. I think she just hit a wall - the wall of MS inertia. I feel bad for her - I can't imagine the money she's making would be worth the headache.

You're not serious, are you?

Her SPSA payout was many millions. She sold a day or two after.

Her reaction internally is that she's "done" talking about compensation, and there ends discussion.

These are not the actions of someone I'd feel bad for.

If the headaches weren't worth the $, she could retire easily on merely last falls payout. That she stays is evidence that it is definitely worth the headache.

Microsoft's key problem is that the business ethics that get people ahead in most of the company incldue disgusting and reprehensible things. Yet, in a monstrous way, Microsoft has devolved into a management chain that sees these things as positives, as identifiers of someone who's a real "go-getter".

Microsoft is performing exactly as it should: It's behaving like its lowest common denominator, the executives in charge.

Anonymous said...

Just a question for mini-microsoft owner; if you do not like what Microsoft has become as Mini-Microsoft blog suggests, why aren't you looking for a new exciting job in a lean and mini startup? I am not trying to be offensive really, I am just trying to understand why you are posting so many negative feedback about Microsoft and yet you are still there. What are the positives that make you stay?

Anonymous said...

Just a question for mini-microsoft owner; if you do not like what Microsoft

MSR Person++

Anonymous said...

"Her [Lisa's] SPSA payout was many millions. She sold a day or two after.

Her reaction internally is that she's "done" talking about compensation, and there ends discussion.

These are not the actions of someone I'd feel bad for."


ABSOLUTELY. look, lisa may or may not be a good person and may or may not be competent as the HR VP (i tend to think she's not HR material simply because she doesn't seem to get the psychology of communication *at all*) -- but she certainly is no longer capable of seeing things the way we see them in the trenches because her outlook is tainted by the millions she gets from the company.

lisa recently posted on insidems about how she was once "just like us" and spent 6 years stuck at the same level, blah blah blah. but that song and dance is just about as believable as j-lo singing about how she's still just jenny from the block -- it's ridiculous. lisa is an officer of microsoft with a vested interest in keeping the gravy train flowing for herself and for those like her, and she only cares about employee happiness insomuch as it allows microsoft (and, by extension, herself) to keep raking in the mega-billions. she will never be your friend or your buddy, she will never be able to relate to your daily issues and she will never give a rat's ass about your interests unless they're in perfect sync with those of the company that showers her with wealth.

this doesn't mean lisa is a bad person, only that she's locked into a specific point-of-view that makes it impossible for her to be objective about how she perceives microsoft's culture.

Anonymous said...

Why couldn't Microsoft buy DoubleClick which was a great buy given the competitive environment we're at?. I think execs might have thought buying DoubleClick meant less cash for their bonuses and stock grants. It's time for senior execs to recognize the tremendous value being created outside the company and that our own research and development can be way behind the innovation curve.