Saturday, November 10, 2007

Low Hanging Late Harvest Fruit

Boot! Yoink! Yank! What does it take to be disappeared from Microsoft? We can only guess one day Stuart Scott was walking outside of his building when a black Escalade with VI0L8R plates pulled up, Ken DiPetrio swung open a door and said, "Get in." Along with, "Martin, scoot the hell over and make some room." It takes something pretty egregious - more than shipping Vista two years late - to get scooped up in the VI0L8R.

Some one was kind enough to drop a hint here back in October that Mr. Scott had some interesting antics going on. I have no idea what the reality is, though several comments are like the following:

No, Stuart was fired for the affair and the hostile work environment he created for women in his org. Great to see that HR finally did something about it, and that the reason publicized was company policy violation ...and not "spending more time with his family".

As we speculate about affairs and relationships at work, it's interesting to reflect that Microsoft has a unique history for singles at work given how BillG and Melinda met. Obviously not apropos to the married philandering type. But it makes for a fun lunch-table subject and probably a bit of an HR headache.

Now, just short of the VI0L8R seems to be the BUMZRSH treatment that Mr. Selberg mentioned recently of a Microsoftie friend immediately shown the door upon deciding to join Google. I agree with Mr. Selberg that you should always leave with your bridges well in place and with grace, and that this is a two-way street. But you know, I was thinking after reading this post: who do I know personally that's recently left Microsoft to join Google? No one. Weird.

Then again, maybe not. From the Newsweek Google story by Mr. Steven Levy:

Earlier attempts to hire veterans from firms like Microsoft had awful results. "Google is so different that it was almost impossible to reprogram them into this culture," says CEO Eric Schmidt. The difficulties led Google VP Mayer (employee No. 20) to wonder whether experience was way overrated.

Finally, one last departure: Jon Pincus. A lot of Microsofties interested in changing Microsoft's internal and external-facing culture rallied around Mr. Pincus, who has had quite the distinguished Microsoft career. He gets given crap sometimes for being different or a self-promoter, but I just have to wonder what kind of leader or change-agent isn't. Anyway, it's a bit sad for me to reflect on Mr. Pincus going quickly from being up on the big-screen several times at our 2007 Company Meeting to being shown that there was no home for him - and his refreshingly different spirit - at Microsoft. It shows that our increasingly bland golf-club leadership is satisfied with the status quo and that the Good Ship SPSA need not be rocked.

Mr. Pincus leaving at a time of dubious a dismissal and bad diversity attrition is a rotten seeping from Denmark, indeed.

If I had my druthers, I'd at least offer Mr. Pincus a position to be the Microsoft representative of goodwill to the Silicon Valley and Seattle local tech community and serving as the connection between The Outside and the generally protected Microsoftie product team members. I especially thought of this after reading Microsoft wants to add Silicon Valley as a friend. Snippet from the end:

Angel investor Tom McInerney, co-founder of the video site, agreed: "Microsoft has been humbled a little bit. They've been forced to play nice. A cultural change has taken place with Microsoft. There is an acknowledgment that they are not the king of the hill anymore. And there is the looming concern that Google is the new Microsoft."

Has the big-huge aircraft carrier finally started the turn?

An Appropriate Home: reading Mr. Bishop from the Seattle-P.I. this week, I find irony in the reports that the Entertainment and Devices division - home of the billion and billion dollar loss leader Xbox group - is going to have its new home right on-top of the huge West Campus parking garage pit. Instead of something boring like P1 and P2, perhaps the parking garage levels (all painted in increasingly dark levels of red) can be named -1Billion, -2Billion, -3Billion, -4Billion, and -5Billion.

In all seriousness, now that Sony has capsized on the PS3 I expect that the next generation of Xbox will be designed to be profitable from day one.

Sunday update: Mr. Benjamin Romano in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times has a larger article about the new buildings at Microsoft and the Microsoft expansion: Microsoft campus expands, transforms, inside and out. And there's a fun little interactive campus expansion map. An additional article on open workspaces: Microsoft strategy throws open the doors.

Not So Limited Kim - Not So!: I have great respect for Adam Barr, and we disagree over the whole Limited II (now 10% Situation II) career designation. He dropped by the last post with a couple of comments to reiterate that it's not a bad thing:

I continue to disagree with the consensus here on the alleged "Kim" situation. Mini, this is the one area where I feel you are actively promoting something which is factually wrong.

This is what I see:

1) Microsoft decided to bucket people for stock grants, and decided there would be a bottom 10% bucket.

2) The name chosen for this bottom 10% bucket, "Limited", was poorly chosen due to the connotations of the word--so it was changed to "10%".

3) The description of the bottom 10% bucket implied that Microsoft didn't see those people as having much value--this was incorrect, so Microsoft created a second definition to correct that (for some people in the 10% bucket, the original definition WAS accurate, so it is still available).

And more specifically, the change in #3 was done to AVOID people getting a more negative message than was I don't see why people are interpreting it as trying to force a more negative message and push the entire bottom 10% out of the company.

As always, I invite any Microsofties who want to discuss this more to contact me via internal email. Thanks.

I hope that people who don't believe it's a good thing (perhaps who have had their career Kimmed and maybe even left Microsoft because of it) will accept Mr. Barr's offer to follow-up 1-on-1 about the issue. And while I'd love to host a guest post on it here (really) I think this topic would also serve as a great cathartic use of InsideMS, should someone like Mr. Barr be ready to slap on the asbestos suit and give a post on the subject a shot. They'll need to be ready to explain why the following story is okay and in-line with expected results of the designation:

After being promoted a year ago, I was blindsided during this annual review period with the Kim label. I know exactly why it happened. It happened because I was caught on the wrong side of a spiteful, incompetent manager. That, after a 13-year career at this company, during which I'd received awards for my work, many 4.0 reviews, and steady promotions. Every other person who'd submitted feedback on my performance during the last annual review period had submitted positive feedback.

So does being slapped with that label make me a loser? I'll go ahead and answer that for you: No. Is it "good attrition" now that the team is losing me because of that review? I'll go ahead and answer that too: Um, no. With me, seniority and a great deal of valuable in-house knowledge are walking out the door.

So I'm lobbying and providing feedback wherever I can to encourage others to lobby for getting rid of the asinine 10%/Limited "Situation 2" label. If that label is being applied to others in the same way that it is being applied to me, the company will not have "good attrition" or "losers" going out the door. They will have long-time, great performers walking out the door. And for every one one of us who walks out the door, the company will need 3 or 4 lesser-paid junior people to do our work. It will take months, or perhaps even years, to bring the new kids up to speed, and they won't have the history or background knowledge that we do.

And every Kimstar who walks out the door will do so with resentment for this treatment after years of great service to the company. Since these people aren't "losers," they'll be hired by our competitors or initiate their own competing start-ups. You can be sure they won't be providing great publicity for their alma mater.

So before you label people "losers" because they received a "loser label," stop, step away from the keyboard, drop the chalupa, and think.

You just haven't been Kimmed yet.

Shareholders: reminder that the Microsoft Shareholders meeting is this Tuesday downtown. A webcast will be available.

Updated: added link to Mr. Romano's article about the campus expansion.