Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is Microsoft Recession Proof?

Is Microsoft recession proof? No, of course not. While it can be buffeted back in forth in a mild recession and get through without group parties here and there, it's pretty unclear what kind of Microsoft will emerge at the other end of a deep global recession. Just a quick post about the immediate staffing impact as we head towards quarterly results.

First: thank whatever deity you hold dear that we didn't go forward with that Yahoo! acquisition. How crazy would that look now?

At this point, organizations are being told to eliminate inefficiencies. For different organizations this means some pretty radically different action items. For some parts of Microsoft, this means hiring freezes. While hiring freezes aren't any fun (more below) you probably prefer them to full-blown Reduction in workForce (RIFs... though I guess that would be called RIWs or RIWFs).

What we need, though, is one big RIF.

There is an unfortunate consequence to hiring freezes for Microsofties: those ready to move on to a new position are stuck because there is no where to go and, even worse, those who have already gone through an interview loop are having their offers frozen out. Also, any attrition is not going to be backfilled and the org loses that headcount. Let's talk about this.

Now first of all, I'm all for reducing Microsoft's headcount. I was for that, what, 40,000 hires ago? Microsoft's key asset and key overhead are the Microsoft employees. You reduce that right, you save a bunch of money. And it is not just a one time saving.

I'm all for good and bad attrition. But I'm concerned about implementing unhealthy policies vs. just a one big 10% or 20% reduction all-around (we've identified 10%-ers already right - at least 10% Situation I-ers). If you do this big and once and you can still backfill future attrition and let people move around the company into new positions.

It's unhealthy for Microsoft to lock people into their jobs, which might be the reality for the next half-year to a year. I want the most talented Microsofties to - as their current commitments come to a close - look around the company and find new challenges to move to. It makes for stronger careers building our future leaders and creates stronger results. It also makes bad teams fail sooner by loosing key contributors. What's even worse, perhaps for planning, is that people will be locked and not moving on during a natural product cycle rhythm coming up (major product groups, for instance, going into stability), and these same people, once headcount reopens in the future, will be abandoning their commitments mid-way. Uncool. Unsurprising.

As for being told "Hey, we're not going to let you fill your attrition." Well, what group, let alone empire builders, is going to move on bad contributors now? Better to limp along than have reduced capacity. Not even that alluring, "Wouldn't you want to move-on that plateau'd L61 person with a hot college new-hire?" works now.

Some comments on this. First a common hit on most teams:

time to talk about layoffs. Hiring is frozen and teams are being told to reduce head-count through attrition. Sounds like layoffs to me.

What happens when you want to move internally and have already interviewed (oy!):

Any updates on the hiring freeze anyone? I desperately want to get out of my current team but teams I have interviewed with are withholding offers because of this damn freeze...

An excellent manifesto on hiring freeze for talented contributors:

What the Hiring Freeze Means to Me - An Open Letter to HR

I am high performer, a gold star winner, have a relatively high level and I have a problem.

In an all too common scenario, my group was re-orged and I was given a new manager. As is many times the case, this manager is well regarded for his technical skills but is absolutely an abysmal manager. He has little aptitude or interest in actually managing his people and still operates like he's an IC.

Multiple members on the team have gone to the new manager, as well as the skip level manager to discuss the situation.

The skip level manager now has a dilemma - does he support the manager, and help him grow into the role?

If he does, it will clearly take 6+ months, and this is on top of the 3 months it took the team to muster the courage to escalate to the skip level manager to begin with. If the manager stays and doesn't improve, myself and the people on his team will surely take a hit at review time at the end of the year.

In our case, the manager doesn't know what to do. He's thinking about it, and in fairness we recognize he's in a tough spot.

All the while, though, the clock is ticking, and the high performers on the team are looking for the exits. We're demotivated, demoralized, and are placed in a position where we cant realize our potential.

Most people reading this are likely nodding their heads. This happens here. Alot.

Typically when this happens, employees see this as an opportunity to explore another part of the company, and round out our experience.

But not today. There's a hiring freeze, no internal transfers are allowed, and we're stuck.

We've done the appropriate thing, we've talked with our manager and our skip level manager. We're now in a weird limbo.

Of course this comes at a time when we're in a down economy, and in many respects lucky to have our jobs. We're sure as heck not going to rock the boat any more than we already have.

This seems to leave to options. The first is to suffer in silence, the second is to leave the company.

Neither of these options are good for us or for Microsoft.

Our group is not alone.

I'd ask you to consider four things:

(1) New rule - anyone new to people management is on a trial basis for the first year, to be reviewed and renewed quarterly.

(2) New rule - anyone new to people management shouldn't be given a team of more than two people. If they do a good job with two, go to five, and so on.

(3) Make managers of managers responsible for their appointments.

If you put a bad manager in place, and you don't resolve the issue after 1-2 quarters, you take a percentage hit on bonus and stock.

This will result in people spending more time in the decision making process for this.

(4) Allow for internal transfers, atleast for higher level positions. When you take high leveled, high performers and you put them in a position where they can't be high performers due to poor management, they either leave or grow demoralized and become less productive to accomodate a bad manager.

Eventually, this second group also leaves, with the ones that don't downgrading to average performers.

A snippet to re-enforce that:

Internal is frozen, too, for the most part. I see Live and MSN technical openings, and various business-oriented ones. I had just seen a couple positions for which I wanted to do informationals. Before the hiring managers and I met, they both called me and said that they had just been told that couldn't hire anyone for the time being.

It's really my time to leave my team, because the three year timer is ticking and I'm topped out in my org given the kind of work management wants it to do. I'm capable of more, but the level of work isn't there. When I've tried to just go get it, I've caught flack from management - because I was taking on actual business risk that scared them, instead of the safe work our team usually does. I don't like the online services biz, so I hope the powers that be finish evaluating the business climate and open up a few more product heads in profitable divisions sometime soon. My preference is PM or dev in Exchange, as I'd like to contribute to that. But at this point, any core product would be interesting.

I think that this is an opportunity for major change vs. aloof delegated inefficiency hunting, but major change has to come from SteveB. If need be, the global climate gives Microsoft cover to make big revamps. E.g., "...the economy made us do these big cut-backs vs. us doing what we should have been doing all-along." It is too soon to expect this during this week's quarterly results, but within the next quarter, as the impact to reduced global PC sales becomes apparent, we should be ready to announce some major overhead reduction (e.g., not towels but rather less butts for said towels to dry - win-win). And remember: you cut once and you cut deep. Incremental pain is unhealthy and all that you're doing is poisoning your teams and setting up a huge round of bad attrition once things turn around.

I imagine each one of you wants to make your team better and more productive and streamlined, and have ideas for your team and beyond. This is an excellent time for our HR leadership to re-engage Microsofties plus finally join the 21st century and implement team-focused awards. Yes, we would still offer differentiated awards, but team achievements must be recognized with the same level of attention that our super-star hero culture is given. Who doesn't want an excellent team to be rewarded, let alone dysfunctional underperforming teams torn apart?

So, if your team had to get by with 10% less budget, how do you think it would be best addressed?


109 comments:

Anonymous said...

The financial market has shown that GE was more a bank than a technology company. That has implications for all the management policies we adopted from GE. Things need some time to settle down before anything can be implemented.

Anonymous said...

As an ex-softie and still a shareholder, I'm feeling the pain on the underperformance of the stock as I try to unload. I'd rather that the company implement the big cut once and for all while the market is still slumping. Better to just pull the band-aid, one move...right off!!! Instead I fear that Ballmer will go the pussy route and the company will have death by a thousand pointy needles. I still know people at MSFT in many groups and know that a 30% RIF wouldn't impact them at all. If anything, it puts the fear of God into them and forces them to think about what's good for the company.

Anonymous said...

Better yet, introduce a system when people can leave with some sort of a severance package on their own volition. Personally, after 8 years of good years at MSFT, I'm about done with it. If someone offered me to leave tomorrow and gave me, say, four months of salary in severance compensation, I'd just pack up my boxes and leave the same day. I know a lot of folks who would do the same.

That said, this could badly backfire if good people leave and found startups (which is what I intend to do when I figure out the vision).

Anonymous said...

Be careful what you ask for. 10-15% budget cuts have already been implemented, along with hiring freezes/RIF/RIW/whatever in the US subsidiary. The problem is, it's being implemented broadly, without regard to whether those cuts are going to reduce our ability to sell our way out of this mess once the market rebounds. Cutting administrative assistants, business managers, and other non-sales generating heads makes sense in times like these. KevinT can do without some of his precious scorecards for awhile. But cutting sales and marketing staff is just plain dumb. Who is going to sell the stuff that those thousands of unhappy dev/test people are creating?

Oh, and by the way, Google, Oracle and Apple haven't stopped hiring our most talented people. You know, the ones who have been frozen out of career advancement at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Naturally, Live Search only has a inidirectional hiring freeze. High performers trying to escape can't leave (nowhere to go), but managers are free to keep hiring against their existing reqs.

I was happy to give my open reqs back to JonDe for safe-keeping, and I've already edited my commitments to fit my current team.

I don't see why search can't do the same. Do they really think that lack of warm bodies is what's holding them back?

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely correct. I, as an example, just left the company due to these internal transference policies. For only one reason, bad hire decision are impossible to be fixed, either due to wrong discipline or misleveled professional.

And once you try to fix, and have other teams interested in you, managers block any attempt and HR management is totally ineffective once you seek their help. I even asked HR if they wouldn't be interested in solving the problem to avoid losing an employee (who was, promoted, 20% and exceeded). I heard that I would be more than welcome to look for opportunities with other companies. That is what I did, even having other teams willing to make me offers.

That is the mindset that loses high performers and keep that 10-percenters.

Anonymous said...

Few things to consider for savings:

Eliminate unnecessary travel and conferences attendance. For instance people who have nothing to do with development and MS product roadmap attending PDC. Someone should check why so many senior managers/GMs/GPMs in IT, Operations, Windows are attending PDC especially when they have nothing to contribute there

Put curb on hardware budgets. Be it for employees or what we have deployed in Data Centers

Put an end to tendency of hiring CSGs (especially in Marketing, Sales and Operations). We all know teams who hire separate CSG for every damn small thing. Many of these CSGs are hired by senior folks from their friend and family circles too. Thousands of CSGs positions can be eliminated and no one will even see any difference

And deeply look into why we still have people with low performance year over year still in company

Eliminate the deep hierarchies. Make more people ICs. Every other guy is lead or Manager in this company

But don’t put a freeze on internal moves for good people as this will lead to Managers treating their reports as slaves

Anonymous said...

For all the complaining some of you guys do, why don't you quit and look for opportunities in other IT companies. Sure, there are plenty of them in Seattle. It seems to me that people who complain about the system cannot change the system from within and they are bound by inertia and lack the guts to venture out and take control of their sorry "work life"

I read this blog from time to time over the last few years and I have seen more bitching whenever the stock price is down ...

MS is falling under its own weight and the best remedy for the company is to get rid of all the excess fat and break it into smaller divisions with accountable budget and financial provisions. There is no reason why Windows/Office should foot the bill for XBox/Smart Phones and several other products.

My 2 cents - hope this gets published.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

> Better yet, introduce a system when people can leave with some sort of a severance package on their own volition. Personally, after 8 years of good years at MSFT, I'm about done with it. If someone offered me to leave tomorrow and gave me, say, four months of salary in severance compensation, I'd just pack up my boxes and leave the same day. I know a lot of folks who would do the same.


+1. I'm keen to be part of that list. But perhaps a little too early to get excited or start anticipating it.

Anonymous said...

@anon 4:57

I agree that it's a problem that the cuts are being applied across the board. The primary place they should cut is marketing. In fact, they ought to fire most of those folks even if we weren't reducing headcount.

Seen those Seinfield commercials? How did they help sales? What exactly is the coherent "theme" behind our Live branding? Why doesn't the general public know about www.live.com ?

Horrible marketing/branding is killing our search and online services. Clean out those marketing groups. Fire everybody, starting with the VPs.

BTW, good software can sell itself. We don't need an army of sales people either.

Anonymous said...

Concur with cutting severely back on paid (vendors+contractors). Many teams have used them to do work that blue badges have forgotten how, or dont want to execute on.

Anonymous said...

I work in Live Search and we also have hiring freeze... No new interviews and every offer has to be approved by VP.

Anonymous said...

What a great opportunity. We should just cut every person who got a 10% last year, and therefore poison the market with a flood of losers. Now the high performers are happy to not have to deal with the 10% crowd, are less likely to be poached by companies who've been burned with a rash of resumes from poor performers, are finally able to directly compete against and crush the 10%-ers further as they fill the ranks of our competitors.

Instead, of course, we'll let them stick around and make it easier and easier for the top performers to leave and the 10%-ers cling to their cushy MSFT jobs.

Anonymous said...

We should just cut every person who got a 10% last year, and therefore poison the market with a flood of losers

---

Your a clown ... generalization for sure ... guess you should be ready for a dose of reality one day pal.

Anonymous said...

>> bound by inertia and lack the guts

It's not so much inertia and lack of the guts as it is not having a vision to do something on your own. Most of the people I know who have left and started their own businesses are doing yet another twist at existing concepts on the web (social something or another). Given a good idea, any Microsoftie worth his paycheck would just go out there and do it. Good ideas, however, are few and far between.

Anonymous said...

Oh, man, the much touted $300M Vista ad campaign is already backfiring:

http://www.apple.com/getamac/ads/#

Quick, someone, let Bill Veghte out of the cage, so that he tells everyone about the "conversation" he's having with the customers.

Anonymous said...

I see some good cost cutting ideas. Here are mine (I may borrow a few already mentioned):

1. Get rid of most 10%'ers. Notice, I didn't say all. If someone got a 10% this year, but was a consistent 70%'er before, let them survive for now. I'm talking about all the back to back 10% people who are still with the company

2. Look at all the 63-67 people, and see if they really belong, unless they are true 20% performers. There's lots of deadwood at the senior ranks, pulling their comfy => $150K compensation year after year, and not contributing much.

So, with these numbers, you can easily find 20%, and that comes to about 15K people or so, and their loss would not be felt. Combine that with un-filled open positions, and the savings will be significant.

3. Restrict all travel, hardware, and morale budgets.

4. Modify the health plan. Introduce co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions. We'll still have a great plan even with co-pays if other parts of it don't change. I bet the health plan is one of the biggest expenses.

5. Across the board 5% pay-cut for all employees, effective immediately. Most people will still consider themselves very lucky to have a job during this depression. If they don't like it, they can leave. (most won't, obviously)

6. Gotta hold on to your technical brainpower. So, most non-10% engineering folks (dev/test/pm) should be retained.

7. Eliminate the free membership to the Pro Club, or perhaps only cover 50% of the cost. I'm a regular there, and would gladly pay half the dues if needed. Most of the people I see there would not miss it for a second if the benefit was taken off the table. I would estimate that no more than 10-20% of the people at the Pro Club are hard-core fitness people who genuinely care about their health and well-being. Others visit 1-2x a week, if that, and we need to eliminate this waste immediately.

Let's see, we have around 50,000 employees in the region. Assume 40,000 are Pro Club members. IIRC, MSFT pays about $100 per month for membership, when maybe only about 5,000 of these people truly take advantage. So, if the above assumption is correct, MSFT is paying $4,000,000 per month, or close to $50,000,000 per year on the Pro Club memmbersip dues alone, and around $40,000,000 of that is probably wasted.

With the above steps I've outlined, we can easily save $1 billion, if not more. And that would be very much inline with how much revenue I predict we'll lose during FY09. And hopefully, by the second half of 2009, early 2010, things will begin to improve again. So, at the most, we're talking about a year, maybe 18 months of hardship.

The good times are over. The era of easy credit, borrow and consume nature of American society, and unchecked spending have come to an end. Microsoft is a great company, but a lot of the benefits in place are those put in place during boom times, and not inline with new economic realities we're facing going forward.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if promotions will also be on hold for this quater?

I've heard about 15% expense cut announcement in my org but I have been told that bonuses for next review period would not be affected because attrition automatically reduces the total amount. However no one wants to answer if any promos will happen.

I understand that SteveB or HR or even your manager can't openly discuss this except always passing +ve message because any negative official announcement will push stock price even further and demotivate work force. But hey guys, that's what this forum is for :).

BTW, I haven't heard about Gold Star winners announcement as well for this quater (I believe it was due early Oct). Are they on freeze too?

Anonymous said...

@ anon 11pm

"An army of sales people"... we have 1/10th the sales force our competitors have (IBM, Oracle), and our revenue & Profit per sales person leads the industry by a long shot. Sales is needed MORE during a downturn. Marketing on the other hand... we can go without (I am in Marketing and we re-invent the wheel every day).

BTW, how in the world is Mich Mattews keep her job? I mean, let's look at the results in the last 3 years... everything from our branding to "most admired company" has gone down. Mind you, it's not all her fault, but why isn't anyone at the top held accountable for bad performance?

Anonymous said...

The hiring freeze is actually making it harder to get rid of the 10%ers. Our group finally has enough dirt/documentation to fire one of our low performers (it's taken 3 years), but due to the hiring freeze we can't. If we fire him, we can't replace him. And, right now, having a poor performing body is better then having no body. Right now, I am hoping that we can get approval to replace him with a CSG/Vendor so we can continue to function. Otherwise, I have to babysit and review everything he does so we don't get screwed. (Yes, it's more efficient in this case to babysit then to toss).

Anonymous said...

Technical Evangelist
Level: 64
Raise: 3.92 (base of $178,000)
Bonus: 18.17%
Stock: 230% (= $110K)

Anonymous said...

"If need be, the global climate gives Microsoft cover to make big revamps."

Good point. But big cuts in a system still riddled with cronyism will just lead to good people going and bad people staying. However, your post brings up a great theme that could be fleshed out further: How does Microsoft emerge from this bust stronger, not weaker? In other words, how does it not repeat the mistakes made in 2000-2002? More efficient people deployment is part of that, but only part.

fedupwithwhiners said...

To the person wanting 4 months severence for voluntarily leaving... why should the shareholders have to pay to get you out?

Let me people have two week notice but no severence.

Anonymous said...

I understand that SteveB or HR or even your manager can't openly discuss this except always passing +ve message because any negative official announcement will push stock price even further and demotivate work force.

If history is any indication, the exact opposite is often true. Companies that are willing to admit that problems exist and demonstrate that they have a clear, decisive plan to fix said problems nearly always see their stock prices climb. And what would motivate msft employees more than to feel like someone competent is actually in control and to see their stock awards increase in value?

Unfortunately, that will never happen at Microsoft in its current state because

a) Microsoft never admits it has problems or that it did something wrong (still waiting for that Vista mea culpa), and

b) The thick layers of bureaucracy and large numbers of middle-management suck-ups make clear and decisive planning impossible.

Anonymous said...

>> With the above steps I've outlined,
>> we can easily save $1 billion, if not more

... and completely ruin morale in the process. Remember what happened when they took away the towels?

Also, I'd be stunned if Microsoft pays $100/mo for ProClub membership and if all 50K (actually, I think it's closer to 35K) are members.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the previous comment "...having a poor performing body is better then having no body..."

WRONG WRONG WRONG. The poor performer is dragging down your good performers. Cut that person loose, lose the head, and watch your team's overall performance improve since they aren't carrying around the dead weight any longer.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with the current cone of silence around freezes and layoffs is that it is causing paralysis in the company. For the next 12 months people are just going to keep their heads down. No one will take a risk. No one will innovate. Everyone will want to slide under the radar until the outside world recovers and we go back into boom times. We either cut now and start growing again, allow people to move etc or we invest our way out and emerge ahead of everyone who ducked and covered.

Anonymous said...

Fun to read how everybody wants to fire 10%-ers across the board, cut travel expenses across the board, remove CSG positions across the board, do 'something' across the board :-)

Why not cut unprofitable and strategically useless groups? Why not ask business owners (PUMs/Directors) to get serious about efficiency (i.e. do more with less people/budget)?

And yeah, internal hiring freeze doesn't make much sense...

Yert said...

I cannot help but think of a similar situation that has been happening...

Gas prices. They have been high. From an overall standpoint this is bad; more expensive transport causes massive inflation among other nastiness.
On the other hand though, in the long term, this is great for the environment; alternatives are actually found and paid for, and become economical. A good thing is a bad thing (good = environment, bad = economics).

In this case (Microsoft) I don't agree with what you consider as a good thing (downsizing MSFT for the purpose of making it smaller), but I think it relates to my little metaphor/story/whatever.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, good software can sell itself. We don't need an army of sales people either."

That is one of the stupidest, most clueless statements I have ever heard. Unfortunately, I have heard it a lot from developers that I have worked with over the years. Most don't realize that customers aren't sitting around just waiting for us to push some new code out the door so they can snatch it up. They need education and persuasion.

To use a current analogy:
Product teams build the pig
Marketing puts the lipstick on the pig
Sales has to sell the pig

In the end, when the pig doesn't sell, it's the sales and marketing teams who suffer (leveraged compensation and all that). While the product teams sit around bitching about how clueless the marketing and sales teams are, and not admitting that the core problem is that it is still a pig .

Anonymous said...

>> why should the shareholders have to
>> pay to get you out

Because I don't suck? Because I might want to come back ten years down the road? Because it's cheaper for them to pay 4 months of my salary (2 weeks per year of service) than it is to pay for an entire year (+overhead of office space, health insurance, etc.)? Because I'd leave voluntarily and in good faith in this case?

Anonymous said...

But big cuts in a system still riddled with cronyism will just lead to good people going and bad people staying.

Exactly. As I have said before, the problem is that most people in a large organization like Microsoft fall into one of two classes: high-skill techies, and low-technical-skill politicians.

When across-the-board cuts are announced, the techies buckle down and try to do their jobs better. The politicians, in contrast, group together and work to fool the higher-ups that they should be retained, and the high-skill techies be fired. The result is the average competence level in the organization goes down, and the amount of political maneuvering goes up.

Anonymous said...

Why not cut unprofitable and strategically useless groups? Why not ask business owners (PUMs/Directors) to get serious about efficiency (i.e. do more with less people/budget)?

--
Intel does exactly that .. really does make a difference ... :)

Anonymous said...

good software can sell itself.

...

and not admitting that the core problem is that it is still a pig.

Ummm, they said good software can sell itself. If it's good then it's not a pig. Do you understand the difference?

Anonymous said...

You want to cut? Look up jeffo in headtrax - but before you do, lets play a game. Guess how many people it takes to do Help for Office. Now look at his report count. I bet you were off by a factor of 10.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, we have around 50,000 employees in the region. Assume 40,000 are Pro Club members. IIRC, MSFT pays about $100 per month for membership, when maybe only about 5,000 of these people truly take advantage. So, if the above assumption is correct, MSFT is paying $4,000,000 per month, or close to $50,000,000 per year on the Pro Club memmbersip dues alone, and around $40,000,000 of that is probably wasted.

> Demote half the partners. It will save a billion.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite managers used to say - "here's how you really find out who your top performers are... Anyone can sell lemonade when it's hot out. It's the ones who can also sell lemonade in the snow that you keep". Very true and we haven't seen "snow" at Microsoft in a long time if ever I'd say.

Getting rid of the chronic 10% makes sense. So let's say that half of the 10% is chronic. Give them a severance package and call it done.

As for internal transfers, we must allow this. If we want to say no external hires for now, I'm ok with that, but don't tie down the talent we need to move around to stay motivated and solve these things.

And please... for the person who wrote "BTW, good software can sell itself. We don't need an army of sales people either." give me a break. Good software can write itself as well - it's called Open Source.

Stop the petty functional debates - we're all in this together whether we like it or not. We can work together and come out of this ahead of our competiion or we can sink behind and get run over. Personally I choose to make it work.

Anonymous said...

Quick, someone, let Bill Veghte out of the cage, so that he tells everyone about the "conversation" he's having with the customers.


LOL! The only "conversations" I've overheard so far are about how we have embarassed ourselves with that stupid seinfeld ad campaign.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at October 19, 2008 11:03:00 PM replied to someone's original post:
We should just cut every person who got a 10% last year, and therefore poison the market with a flood of losers
---
Your a clown ... generalization for sure ... guess you should be ready for a dose of reality one day pal.


I'm right there with you, 11:03pm. That guy's in for a rude awakening some day. Couple'a gold stars, would do any work no matter how ridiculous for my team and my project's management, had oodles of karma around the company and still ...

You read it in the main part of this article:
What the Hiring Freeze Means to Me - An Open Letter to HR

I am high performer, a gold star winner, have a relatively high level and I have a problem.

In an all too common scenario, my group was re-orged and I was given a new manager.

(and the article continues, describing a situation I know all too well)


That wasn't me. But that poster writes the story of my life before it went amok and I ended up taking exactly the hit at review time he described - after they refused to allow me to transfer, for nearly a year. It was technically against written policy since I had more than 18 months on the team, but my manager faked a claim of nonperformance by over-assigning me work I couldn't finish, and refused to accept that it was too much even when I furnished statistics showing that peers were not asked to do as much. One of the most favored employees had less than half the workload I did at the time. It's excruciating to know you need to get out to escape a bad manager doing further harm to your career, and to be unable to do so. I couldn't even get HR to shake them hard enough to loosen their grip.

It took a while for me to admit to myself that nothing I was trying was improving my working relationship with my manager, and that there was likely nothing I could do to fix this problematic situation that had never before occurred for me at MS. It took a while longer to get up the nerve to escalate.

As seen many times before at MS, it backfired when the skip level declined to intervene to the extent required to fix the problem. She had seemed initially sympathetic to my plight as a report of this individual, recognizing in him many of the same issues I saw (plus others!). Unfortunately, she wouldn't take a hard enough line against the problematic manager to resolve the situation. You can guess the results.

After a merely mediocre review in 2007 for the best year of my MS career (I'm in the 20%, historically), I worked my network for a transfer, and came up with a half dozen options within 30 days, including one willing to create a slot for me. However, my manager refused to allow me to transfer from my team for nearly a year, so that he could give me the 10% gift that keeps on giving this year. Just in time for the hiring freeze, setting me up for the continuation of this ridiculous nightmare.

To those who say, "You're a coward for not packing your bags the minute they refused you permission to transfer," I remind them that stock awards for a 20% employee can surpass one's annual salary. A few years of these, and leaving becomes cost-prohitive for at least the next several years. While the 70% can usually do better outside the company with a little effort, the 20% often can't due to 40-60K (or more) of annual compensation from vesting stock awards even at lower levels. Presumably, that's by design.

In this economic environment, why don't managers who don't have the skill or desire to keep their people happy enough by providing challenge and a positive environment in which IC's can be as productive as possible, deserve to be held accountable?

Regarding voluntary severance, I'm +1 for it IFF the plan is the greater of 2 weeks pay per year of service OR the sum of 2 weeks pay + the value of one's unissued stock awards.

LisaB, we need your help out here. This freeze is setting up proven-valuable IC's for assassination, while not placing any accountability on bad managers.

Anonymous said...

WRONG WRONG WRONG. The poor performer is dragging down your good performers. Cut that person loose, lose the head, and watch your team's overall performance improve since they aren't carrying around the dead weight any longer.

But then you have to give your good performer the 10% because of the curve.

Anonymous said...

You people just don't get it.

Once you get rid of the bottom 10%, guess what, there is still the bottom 10% next year!

This whole curve system is so mess up that you have to keep the bottom 10% to protect your performing directs.

Anonymous said...

Neither of my past two managers truly supported me these past three years and I developed and ran their entire business from the ground up. I’m very graceful at review time and everyone on the team understands the value I bring to the table. You will find that these managers spend more time developing cases against their own staff than actually supporting them. In fact, they’ll even develop a case for dismissal, while at the same time purchase new hardware for us so that their crony replacements will receive it when their mission is over. HR please go after the managers who spend too much time justifying their role. They actually think they babysit me and don't award me...

Anonymous said...

As seen many times before at MS, it backfired when the skip level declined to intervene to the extent required to fix the problem. She had seemed initially sympathetic to my plight as a report of this individual, recognizing in him many of the same issues I saw (plus others!). Unfortunately, she wouldn't take a hard enough line against the problematic manager to resolve the situation. You can guess the results.

I want to give a huge second to this post.

I'm a very strong senior IC with a great network throughout the company. Last year I found myself under the worst manager I could imagine, and so I set about doing everything the smart and savvy L64 might do to make the situation work.

Long story short: nothing worked. Despite peers of this person coming into my office to openly gripe about how terrible this person was, and despite my pretty big aresenal of tools for dealing with less-than-stellar managers, I found myself unable to stop the inevitable and unable to interview with any of the other teams I could easily have moved to based on years of strong performance and the support of former managers.

This has been one of the most frustrating things I've ever experienced: EVERYONE acknowledges that this guy is, at the end of the day, an interpersonal nightmare and incapable of playing nicely on a team let alone leading one. His peers openly disparage him. He is extremely wily, however, and is sufficiently entrenched that he continues to do well despite what sounds like 5 years of disgruntled former employees and one of the worst reputations I've come across.

I used to think these stories were blown out of proportion, but now I've experienced it for myself so I know at least some of them are likely true. We really don't have *any* recourse for bad managers at Microsoft, at least in some situations. I savaged this guy on manager feedback, met directly with my skip level and talked to HR, as did his other 2 reports -- I know this because we coordinated our feedback. What happened? Nothing.

An eye-opening experience indeed.

Anonymous said...

After a merely mediocre review in 2007 for the best year of my MS career (I'm in the 20%, historically), I worked my network for a transfer, and came up with a half dozen options within 30 days, including one willing to create a slot for me. However, my manager refused to allow me to transfer from my team for nearly a year, so that he could give me the 10% gift that keeps on giving this year. Just in time for the hiring freeze, setting me up for the continuation of this ridiculous nightmare.

With no criticism or judgment, only curiosity:

Before you were railroaded, and had a string of 20%s and fantastic reviews, did you believe that 10%s were necessarily dead weight and claims of being railroaded were excuses?

(Yes, been there, done that, escaped, rebuilt, but still have the scars. I meet great performers all the time that have never experienced anything but joy from the corporation, and are positive that anyone claiming otherwise is full of it.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think layoffs will happen because of executive egos. The press would speculate that Ballmer and co. made mistakes and have to layoff thousands of workers to fix it. Although the economy gives them some cover they won't want to make cuts when Apple and Google don't have to.

Anonymous said...

The current Microsoft is like a spoiled socialite(Live, Search, E&D, et al). As long as her parents (Windows and Office) keep paying the bills then she will continue to going on shopping sprees(Aquantive, Greenfield Online, Yahoo, RIM, etc). And just like Paris Hilton or someone else buying fancy and expensive things, and then using them once, ultimately they will all end up in a closet gathering dust and helping nobody.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the real world. I worked at Texas Instruments from 1984 to 1992. We were laying off 5-10% a year. And, yes, after each layoff, there was a new bottom 10%. That sure was motivation to bust butt in your job, especially with new hires continually coming in. And, it eliminated all the HR hoops to get rid of a nonperformer. They were simply in the next batch to go.

I was at MSFT from 92-98 and saw this "dead wood" problem beginning. Looks like it's come to a head. My advice. Clean house.

Anonymous said...

Level: 64
Raise: 3.92 (base of $178,000)
Bonus: 18.17%
Stock: 230% (= $110K)


Those numbers appear to be made up.

jcr said...

the much touted $300M Vista ad campaign is already backfiring

That is a business-school textbook case of how to negate a competitor's vastly larger ad budget. Once someone sees Apple's "bean counter" ad, every Vista ad they see will only reinforce the "gee, why don't they just fix the product?" meme.

Somebody at Chiat-Day is worth their weight in gold.

-jcr

jcr said...

Hiring freezes are one thing, but prohibiting internal transfers is absolutely nuts. With this single decree, Balmer has done more damage to Microsoft's ability to adapt and compete than anything else he's ever done.

Unless MSFT's shareholders kick that clown to the curb and soon, they have nothing to look forward to but declining market share, slipping below 50% within five years.

-jcr

jcr said...

Why not cut unprofitable and strategically useless groups?

Anyone remember a company called PowerSchool? Apple bought them, since it looked like they could help Apple sell to K-12 education customers. It didn't work out. Apple cut them loose.

They weren't even losing money, they just weren't making enough to be worth Apple's time and attention.

These calls for blanket cuts that I'm reading here show me that you're not thinking things through. The right thing to do is institute true accountability, not to just grope around for the easy fix.

-jcr

Anonymous said...

I think we should start with the many people who have the titles “Group Manager”, “Director”, or “General Manager” but who have absolutely no direct reports.

Anonymous said...

The Apple results tonight demonstrate how badly MS has executed this decade. Eight years ago, Apple was almost bankrupt. Now they're number one in digital music, number three in mobile after just 15 months, number four or five in computers and taking share aggressively. They even have more cash than MS now, and that's on an absolute basis not a relative one. And it isn't just Apple. Nintendo has done the same thing in gaming. And Google has dominated in all things internet and advertising related.

MS picked the right markets, it just got outplayed in every one of them. Until there's an admission of that fact and a call for a radically different approach, MS will continue to lose.

Anonymous said...

Any news on when the hiring freeze is gonna end??

Anonymous said...

Yahoo just announced a 10% RIF. We know which 10% it will be.

With Microsoft's hiring freeze, Yahoo's bottom performers may have no place to go.

There will be shakeups at Microsoft over the next 6 months, and some form of RIF will be part of that. Unfortunately, RIFs are unlikely to target the group of people who have the net largest negative impact on Microsoft -- bad managers.

Anonymous said...

There will be shakeups at Microsoft over the next 6 months, and some form of RIF will be part of that. Unfortunately, RIFs are unlikely to target the group of people who have the net largest negative impact on Microsoft -- bad managers.

--

definately true .. thus the freeze .. in other companies it is called span/levels .. they come to conclusion that "hey we got enough mgmt and structure but are fact in ICs" .. cut em.

Anonymous said...

anonymous Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:53:00 AM asks a great question:
With no criticism or judgment, only curiosity:

Before you were railroaded, and had a string of 20%s and fantastic reviews, did you believe that 10%s were necessarily dead weight and claims of being railroaded were excuses?

(Yes, been there, done that, escaped, rebuilt, but still have the scars. I meet great performers all the time that have never experienced anything but joy from the corporation, and are positive that anyone claiming otherwise is full of it.)


It's the verbose OP (sorry about that, I edited it down as much as I could) again.

Answer: Partly. I knew a "political 10%" who was a solid contributor at the high end of the 70% or maybe even a 20%. He's well liked and respected by his peers, even moreso than most. And he was apparently made into a scapegoat by his skip level for a political reason. I did not know that "political 10%"s were given out until I'd been at the company for a few years, and this friend I'd made along the way confided in me (in despair) after his review. We were far enough away in the org that he felt it was safe to discuss it with me. Before that, yes, based on personal experience I did assume that the 10%s were dead weight.

What personal experience? Our team contained 2 other individuals whose intellectual horsepower and inability to work independently did qualify them as true 10%s in my book. Our entire team tried to help bring them up to speed for months. We'd explain things over and over in different ways, and they just didn't get it. The need for repetition wasted a lot of staff time. We did manage to show one the door. The other is still hanging on, asking people to double check his work and emails before he sends them, and occasionally being asked to leave v-teams for slowing them down; no, he wasn't a college hire. I probably got the 10% that rightfully belonged to him this year because someone wanted to encourage him for making all the improvement he'd made in the past year.

Despite that, let's be clear and totally honest. Until the instant that reorg was announced, I never would have believed the 10% could happen to me. I thought I was sufficiently skilled at determining whether a manager was a "fit", that I would not walk into a bad situation of my own accord. And even after the reorg was announced, I still figured that even if I drew the short straw in a reorg, I was interpersonally and organizationally savvy enough to work around it if I devoted enough of my intellect and energy to the task at hand. It's not like I'd never worked for a poor manager before, at MS or otherwise. I figured, based on results, that I knew "how to play the game" here, and was useful enough to my org, that things wouldn't get out of hand.

Not famous last words, but a relevant Han Solo quote nonetheless: "Don't get cocky."

Anonymous said...

anonymous at Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:36:00 AM writes:

An eye-opening experience indeed.

It's the OP you quoted. Our stories are extremely similar, down to the general disrespect for this individual being expressed by a huge percentage of people who have worked with him over the years. People (including my skip level, although today he won't admit he did) laugh at his lack of interpersonal skills, when they're not complaining about them. People laugh at his lack of technical skills. The company won't do anything about it, and the ICs pay the price.

Are you still stuck there, or did you eventually get out? If so, how?

I mentioned being in a tight spot, with the hiring freeze and with needing to leave the group that had 10%ed me as soon as possible, to a former teammate this afternoon. I was hoping that he might have some leads, and mentioned the score in confidence in case it might influence his response. It was the first time I'd mentioned the 10% to him, and he stopped in his tracks and expressed disbelief that the company allowed my manager to give me that score, noting, "You? Of ALL PEOPLE on that team, YOU?". He even double-checked to ensure he hadn't misheard me, because the statement made so little sense. So I guess I've done my part to educate one more person here about "political 10%s".

Again, I will issue my plea:

LisaB, we need your help out here. This freeze is setting up proven-valuable IC's for assassination, while not placing any accountability on bad managers.

Anonymous said...

"They even have more cash than MS now, and that's on an absolute basis not a relative one."

Big deal, Apple is hording cash, Microsoft used to do the same.

Apple's results actually show some weakness. Revenue was up more than earnings. Mac growth is now slowing, still great but slowing. Finally, most of the iPhone sales were in the first couple of weeks. So the on-going sales while good may be a let down this quarter. I think you see a spike that quickly sells off. Apple expected the margin decline and did a great job of protecting margin, still it doesn't look like the recession will be easy on it.

Anonymous said...

Same quiet layoff of poor perfomers won't hurt MS, but a large 30% rif would kill it. The spirit would be broken, once that is done it takes a Loooooooooong time to fix.

I've worked in companies that were shinking in headcount. Serviving the first, second or third layoff makes you feel important, but by the time a third of the company is gone you are out looking for a better place.

Anonymous said...

For those with bad managers, mspoll is pretty much the only weapon you have.

I don't know if it is universal, but in the business division, that number seem very important (to the GMs and 1 VP, so I am guessing it comes from the new President)

Anonymous said...

Level: 64
Raise: 3.92 (base of $178,000)
Bonus: 18.17%
Stock: 230% (= $110K)


Those numbers appear to be made up.


They are. The salary 'base' alone is way outside the upper edge of the 64 bracket. The stock target (work backward from $110K & 230%) is wrong as well.

Trolls should do better research.

Anonymous said...

You guys are nuts! All Microsoft has to do is slow the rate of headcount growth to less than its topline growth. Microsoft is in a great position going into this recession.

Anonymous said...

>> Mac growth is now slowing, still great but slowing.

Was slowing until they released new models. Those new MBs and MBPs are super sexy, and there's no question that they will sell well.

Anonymous said...

Someone said:

"Apple's results actually show some weakness. Revenue was up more than earnings. Mac growth is now slowing, still great but slowing. Finally, most of the iPhone sales were in the first couple of weeks. So the on-going sales while good may be a let down this quarter. I think you see a spike that quickly sells off. Apple expected the margin decline and did a great job of protecting margin, still it doesn't look like the recession will be easy on it."

It never ceases to amaze me how the apple-hate comes out when Apple does well. They are a remarkably well run company releasing great products that people obviously want.

If Microsoft could get back to basics and stop shooting themselves in the foot, maybe they could be respected again too.

Anonymous said...

w.r.t. the comment by Anonymous @ Tuesday, October 21, 2008 12:24:00 AM:
"I couldn't even get HR to shake them hard enough to loosen their grip."

and by Anonymous @ Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:36:00 AM:
"I used to think these stories were blown out of proportion, but now I've experienced it for myself so I know at least some of them are likely true. We really don't have *any* recourse for bad managers at Microsoft, at least in some situations. I savaged this guy on manager feedback, met directly with my skip level and talked to HR, as did his other 2 reports -- I know this because we coordinated our feedback. What happened? Nothing."

No suprise there. HR primary job is not to help employees, but (as my HR rep told me once) "protect the company". In my considerable years in the company as an IC, manager, and manager of managers, I have NEVER seen HR assist ICs in the situations described in these posts.
The only time I've seen HR act on behalf of an employee is when there has been a clear, documented, provable violation of federal or state law by the employee's manager and where there is a risk that MS could get sued.

w.r.t. the question:
Any news on when the hiring freeze is gonna end??

Like other commentators, I've been affected by the hiring freeze. The manager of my potential new group would like to hire me ASAP but candidly told me that based on conversations with his manager & skip-level manager he does not expect to get any of his headcount - assuming he will still have it - unfrozen until FY2010.

Much as I've enjoyed working for MS, I have no desire to continue to work in the group I was re-org'd into. It has a terrible reputation, and until the freeze had numerous positions that it could not fill. This, incidentally, was why I was reorged into the group - it was the only way they could staff it.

Given the choice of remaining in this group for a year or leaving the company, I have chosen the latter will be leaving the company shortly.

A sad commentary on the state of MS management. Like others, I have come to learn that the MS of today is no longer the MS I joined, and will never be. Time to go.

Anonymous said...

It's the OP you quoted. Our stories are extremely similar, down to the general disrespect for this individual being expressed by a huge percentage of people who have worked with him over the years. People (including my skip level, although today he won't admit he did) laugh at his lack of interpersonal skills, when they're not complaining about them. People laugh at his lack of technical skills. The company won't do anything about it, and the ICs pay the price.

Are you still stuck there, or did you eventually get out? If so, how?

I mentioned being in a tight spot, with the hiring freeze and with needing to leave the group that had 10%ed me as soon as possible, to a former teammate this afternoon. I was hoping that he might have some leads, and mentioned the score in confidence in case it might influence his response. It was the first time I'd mentioned the 10% to him, and he stopped in his tracks and expressed disbelief that the company allowed my manager to give me that score, noting, "You? Of ALL PEOPLE on that team, YOU?". He even double-checked to ensure he hadn't misheard me, because the statement made so little sense. So I guess I've done my part to educate one more person here about "political 10%s".


Are you sure we're not the same person? Eerily similar. :)

What gets me the most is the org-wide acknowledgment that this guy is a bozo, expressed in either joking or frustrated terms depending on the situation -- including his peers and his own management, for crying out loud! Yet he goes on, and on, and on based on what I assume to be the perception that he's bringing a single piece of unique value to the table that would be difficult to replace.

It confuses the hell out of me. Surely we have leaders who are smart enough to extract the value from this guy -- if he truly has any, which frankly I believe he may not -- while preventing him from tanking the rest of the organization? Does he really need to be a manager, and if so must we continue putting our top performers under him?

To answer your question about what I did: I moved within the same org. My (now former) manager of course disparaged me at every turn and attempted to paint me as a major risk, but happily his reputation is so very bad that people generally took it as an endorsement of my skill. lol.

I'm a few months out of that nightmare now and have received feedback from my new manager of the you are awesome and your work rocks, and I'm very sorry you had to go through the hell of working with that guy, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy variety.

Lisa has given lip service to focusing on management accountability, but I certainly haven't seen anything change. If this guy -- one of the most blatant examples of someone in the wrong role I've ever come across at Microsoft -- of all people didn't get what was coming to him, the system is surely still totally broken.

Anonymous said...

Timely:

Ballmer Needs to Live Up to the Hype

Especially when MS could be $17-19 by the shareholder meeting.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of all the non-performing partners such as the GMs. Microsoft can save a lot on this. Most GMs in Microsoft are known as untouchables. We hardly see them as accountable. They always push the risks and blames to their managers.

jcr said...

Now they're number one in digital music,

Actually, they passed up Wal-Mart, and they're now the #1 music retailer, period.

-jcr

Anonymous said...

Ballmer

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item."

http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2007-04-29-ballmer-ceo-forum-usat_N.htm

Uh huh.

"iPhone outsells BlackBerry to become the third-largest mobile phone supplier"

Anonymous said...

An IC that "lacks interpersonal Skills"? Most of the time you'll see poor Managers/PM's cast negative perceptions over an IC as an excuse for not being able justify their own technical knowledge of how to really improve things. They are true politicians by influence. The labled IC eventually gets exhausted trying to improve things and gives up.

"EVERYONE acknowledges that this guy is, at the end of the day, an interpersonal nightmare and incapable of playing nicely on a team let alone leading one."

Sounds like this guy is really amazing with strong perseverance. I bet if you introduced yourself to him and started to working with him you would learn some things. I bet he'd also be a strong leader because of his ability to tolerate everything that has been thrown against him.

Anonymous said...

Decade+ employee here and the topic & most of the feedback are spot on.
The kinda, sorta, maybe, here but not there hiring freeze/hiatus/growth postponement/backfill unfilling or whatever the hell we think it is is a joke.
Could we possibly do a more reactionary and less strategically planned thing?? (sorry Zune & Live & not Yahoo & xbox & others)
Please please tell me there is actually some thinking behind this and that a calculated and cunning v2 is on the horizon while this policy triages whatever we're not being told needs triaging.
Please don't punish the good and reward the bad -as commented to mostly accurate extreme above in cases of both people and BGs.
Show me once that not only we will willfully make our way through the current financial mess, but do so in a way that allows us slingshot out of the downturn with more momentum and strength we had going into it as other leading company's will do that are not ruled by fear, the need to parrot competitors actions or inabilty to look beyond quarterly or biannual fiscal budgets.
If I wake up tomorrow and the wish-genie is there, please let just a little bit of that evil genius MS used to have exist and maybe announce we're breaking up the company into 4-6 pieces. Good employees will not only get through the ambiguity of the change, but be able to contribute to probably 2-3 new rising giants they'd individually be capable of.
Oh yeah - my earnings might exceed inflation too.

Anonymous said...

My last req somehow survived the cuts. It's a sexy senior pm slot - could even be higher. You have to work with edgy/top architects and majory partners. This may scare some away but shouldn't those Marine Corps, Airborne Infantry types out there.

And the internal response is ... "chirp, chirp" We had three less sexy sounding position that all got filled in the last three months. My challenge to those whining is to get up on the career site and challenge yourself. If you're a top performer there are many hiring managers willing to take on someone with longer term potential.

Come on folks!

Anonymous said...

Salient points to keep in mind while toiling in the software factory during the downturn:

* There has never been a company in history that did not have a down cycle and Microsoft is way, way, way overdue
* Ignore the non-essential busy work
* Now is the time to enact your secret, great idea
* Extreme disruption generates exceptional opportunity
* Management has as little clue as you as to what's really next
* Don't kill yourself, it's just a job and there are others out there

Anonymous said...

What would I cut?

I'd mostly-replace our small team with outsourced international labor, as we do maintenance of a niche product and don't really gain anything from being in the Redmond area. Ballpark, up to 1/3 of our existing people would be needed to supervise and qa the outsourced work. The rest could find something else to do. Estimated savings: greater than 30%. Maybe $5 million a year. It's a small amount, but every little bit helps.

Anonymous said...

I've seen one case where someone (technical IC) who actively was not interested in being a lead was led into it anyways by his team. Good guy, smart guy, but he recognizes that he needs/wants a little more time than his 3 years out of college to get shoved into people management.

I think he'll suck it up and grow into it eventually (as long as he can deal with the dead weight around him), but I suspect at least some of the bad managers people describe here didn't cope so well with moving less-than-eagerly into lead roles.

It's just a theory of mine, not an excuse for crappy bosses. Sometimes a poor manager recognizes it and is willing to step down... seen it happen, but only with good overall team management.

Anonymous said...

I am just wondering if I even did the right thing coming to MS now.
I came from a high profile company after an acquisition , having worked with MS technologies for a long time.
Thanks to not many projects at the time I joined for a starter like me and a steep learning curve for a typical newbie, I was rated as one of the 10%ers.
My manager says I have to network or I will never get to work on projects.
So I have play the political game, instead of being who I am, a good consultant who could do it well enough in all other companies I worked with till now.
I just don't cut it at MS because I am not getting any projects because I don't network right.
So am I considered "deadwood" because I dont play the political game well enough or because its easy for all the 20%ers to pass judgement on me?
I dont even think about my manager in this. Reading your posts just made me think if there is some truth into the "evil" organization MS is made out to be.
I mean even in StarWars, wookies and JarJar and even a clone has a right to function as they are and for who they are and not be thrown out just because management and company strategy are making some mistakes and the teething process is painful and timeconsuming.
And the organization talks about diversity in the workforce. sheesh.

Anonymous said...

"You? Of ALL PEOPLE on that team, YOU?". He even double-checked to ensure he hadn't misheard me, because the statement made so little sense. So I guess I've done my part to educate one more person here about "political 10%s".

I had almost the exact same conversation with a co-worker after I was given a 10%. I got great peer reviews, but my manager didn't like me. She was completely incompetent in our technology and was mocked widely on our team. She left the team within a year of joining it, was promoted, and put in charge of more people. But before that happened, I got a lousy review and run off the team.

Anonymous said...

My manager says I have to network or I will never get to work on projects.

---

this basically means a) kiss enough ass, b) do the x-team work your manager doesn't want to do (after xteam agreement moves to execution) ...

in all fairness, moving up in this company (and others) require you to influence and get sponsorship x-team .. if your manager wants to do all the glory work (up front planning, getting visibility for the "win/win" and pushing all the "go run execution" .. that tells you that your forever an IC and they don't trust you to lead or grow the business (you will be rated on "cust-sat" of the other team who clearly will NOT be your friend or support your efforts)..

Anonymous said...

"It never ceases to amaze me how the apple-hate comes out when Apple does well."

There wasn't any hate and AAPL preformed as I predicted, the spike up has been fading. I could care less if the results are good or bad, I could play it either way.

I would love to investe in AAPL if I could figure it out. The stock is too disconnect from it fundamentals. MSFT has been connecting with it fundamentals and it has taken years. I think it is pretty much there. It is that simple. Enjoy your love of AAPL, maybe it will soar to $500 or just maybe it is also headed for pruatory. Microsoft has been doing extremely well since 2000. What has it done for the stock?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mini,

I came across this today:

The Nine Traps Every Successful Organization Must Avoid:

Neglect: Sticking with yesterday's business model

Pride: Letting products and services become second rate

Boredom: Clinging to your once successful branding

Complexity: Letting processes run the business

Bloat: Losing agility

Mediocrity: Allowing subpar performance to persist

Lethargy: Nurturing a retirement home culture

Timidity: Permitting turf battles and infighting

Vagueness: Schizophrenic communication

And everyone of them reminded me of my last few years at Microsoft. And do you know who made that list? Bob Herbold!

Anonymous said...

Take your blinders off and think bigger than just MSFT. If MSFT announced anything close to layoffs - even if they were the correct people to lay off, even if it was better for the company long-term - it'd have a ripple effect on the real world outside of MSFT. There would be damage to the stock price, the local economy and the general sense of panic in the Northwest and in world markets. One of the only reasons the Northwest isn't seen as being hit by the recession is because MSFT and Boeing aren't laying people off en masse like other companies in other regions.

Anonymous said...

MSFT is recession proof if they don't lay anyone off. If they do layoffs, all of Washington state will freak out. The only reason the recession is not seen as being as bad here, is b/c Boeing and MSFT aren't laying people off luke Yahoo is.

Cutting the bottom 10% of performers make make Mini happy, but it's a very short-sighted thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Your 10% policy,
Here in India all those who are in 10% list are new hire. It smell rat.
How can only new people are in 10% list. You old microsfties manage it well. Keep it up.
And lets talk about your GOLD STAR, I know few of them, not writing a single line of code and being HERO.
Again keep it up. Any way Microsoft is not engineering company any more, It is run by Managers who can make and break engineers. Keep it up MS Managers, u win and we need to go, because we have no connection so we will be in 10% list only

Anonymous said...

Performance review for new hires : I have been in the company for the last 9 months and every thing was going well with my manager in my bi-weekly one-ones but my performance review came in as shocker as he put me in the worst bucket you can imagine . What is interesting is that he did not have any comments against my commitments coz I have exceeded them in all aspects but he wrote a bunch of trash which is puerly subjective . I was wondering what happens when new hires are put into this as HR seems to care a damn about it.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft should do one of two things, either let all the 10%ers go, or stop using the stupid curve in the first place.

Really, the entire 10% designation is massively disruptive to morale, so if you're going to use it, you'd better believe in it enough to think you can get by without the people you tag with that label. With the economy slowing (and MSFT will be hit harder than most because business will cut back on purchases) you should cut those folks and save the money.

Now, personally, I think the bulk of the people in the 10% bucket are actually very valuable employees, but the company has already thrown away any value from them just by tagging them 10%ers. The folks who get a 10% fall into one of three categories:

-good people who leave the company for a better job, taking their talents with them

-good people who scale back their effort so that their output is commensurate with their rewards

-bad hires who can't do the job.

Regardless, you're not getting value out of them, so either believe in the 10% or quit using it.

Anonymous said...

was wondering what happens when new hires are put into this as HR seems to care a damn about it.

=-===

CSP "new guy" game .. you could have 40 years of OS experience but new to MS equates to zero years and "opportunity" to show and try to make up for it ... kind of lame IMO

Anonymous said...

You want to cut? Look up jeffo in headtrax - but before you do, lets play a game. Guess how many people it takes to do Help for Office. Now look at his report count. I bet you were off by a factor of 10.



HOLY COW! I was off by a factor of 30 and I thought I was being generous!
What is this team doing?!

Anonymous said...

Yup I'm another one of those affected by the hiring freeze. I went through a loop, and I think the team liked me, but so far there is no news.

And I am a strong performer - 20% exceeded AND promotion each year I have been here.

I am seriously considering leaving Microsoft. I have outgrown my current position, and I don't have managements favor. Even though I do well the leads do not view me as a "hero" and so I don't get a gold star or the chance to do something bigger.

This company is going to the dogs and I am not asking "IF I should leave" but rather "WHEN"

Anonymous said...

My last req somehow survived the cuts. It's a sexy senior pm slot - could even be higher. You have to work with edgy/top architects and majory partners. This may scare some away but shouldn't those Marine Corps, Airborne Infantry types out there.

And the internal response is ... "chirp, chirp" We had three less sexy sounding position that all got filled in the last three months. My challenge to those whining is to get up on the career site and challenge yourself. If you're a top performer there are many hiring managers willing to take on someone with longer term potential.

Come on folks!


I have been looking on career for 2 months now and it seems like all the good jobs never even make it there! What team is this? Admittedly I am looking one level below senior, but if your team has more positions..

Anonymous said...

im a senior band 62 and can't make much more $$$ .. got an A10 this year and can't even interview in some teams. There is an unofficial A/70 or higher BAR in alot of teams .. it is not OFFICIAL .. but it is a soft recommendation ..

so play the game if your an A10 and get a70+ next time or your gone.

nice ... russian roullette ..

avoid STB

Anonymous said...

I agree with cutting CSG, firing Marketing/PR, starting to re-accessing if Live/MSN really needs that much of our core product money to burn.

I used to work in Live. I can surely say 80% people there are the worst in the industry. The only reason why they are still in Microsoft and get promoted almost every year is their managers are worse than them. Also, they know SteveB would do everything to compete with Yahoo! and Google. From the way I see it, it will never happen as long as they have these useless, stupid engineers with NO real engineering practice.

Anonymous said...

I am one of those who have completed the interview loop successfully. An offer notice is given to my HR agency BUT the opening is frozen.

After waiting for 2 weeks since the offer notice is received, the HR told me to wait for another 2-3 weeks for "resource plan review by management" and "the opening is NOT frozen".

As I have already resigned from my previous job , I am unemployed now. (silly me :( )

So... any news regards when will the openings be unfrozen?

Anonymous said...

As I have already resigned from my previous job , I am unemployed now. (silly me :( )

So... any news regards when will the openings be unfrozen?

--

you shouuld have waited to get your start date and other before resigning.

No news.

Quincy said...

As I have already resigned from my previous job , I am unemployed now. (silly me :( )

So... any news regards when will the openings be unfrozen?

--

you shouuld have waited to get your start date and other before resigning.

--

Well, I got my start date & the contract has been prepared by my HR agency already.

Anyway, thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

Basically the MS employees needs to staop being whiny bitches and suck it up like they did in the 90s.

I was reading through and saw someone reference the whining that happened and the morale event over the "towels". To those people, go join a towel manufacturing plant if you want free towels. Get over it. Would you rather have a free towel or an increased share price?

Its just straight up retarted at this point most MSFT employees in marketing (like the US Sub) has forgotten how to work. They have marketing initiatives and the first thing they do is hire a v-/a- to run it and take all accountability so that they can mark down in their review that they did something, but be able to blame a vendor if it doesn't work. Most employees have forgottent how to work and have only mastered MSMarket. Cuts like the proclub is a great idea.

the company hasn't doubled proportionally in profit/revenue to the size that it has grown in headcount/costs.... as such there is clearly something wrong with the way spending is happening.

It's frustrating as hell when people hire vendors for the year or more at more cost than the entire TCO of a new hire and then the frutstration continues about the perception/belief of vendors making so much money and thus internal resentment....

Get back to the late 90s and early 2000. Cut the team and expect more, you'll naturally weed out underperformers if you call them out publicly comparatively...

Anonymous said...

Of course, it is not recession proof! Sooner or later there will be cuts if the overall economic conditions don't improve. In some ways, it will be good the right FAT is cut. And there is a lot of it all around. See all those directors, pums, partners, GMs & *VPs...

JMcNamera said...

To the commenter who dissed Live. I don't know if Live is overstaffed but they must have some good people. The Live photo gallery and email applications are fantastic. The photo editor could use some more of the options from Digital Studio but its a great and free application.

If they are overstaffed with deadwood, then please get it out to let the others accomplish more and be better rewarded.

Anonymous said...

My view is that MS will most likely have to make cuts in some places. Previous recessions have been caused by high inflation which resulted in high interest rates, this has not stopped banks lending, in this recession it is somewhat different to the others because we have not had a situation where energy prices have been high, consumers spending is declining and banks are not able to lend due to being broke. Even with interest rates being cut banks are not offering loans easily. At the moment organization have battened down the hatches, the business plans organization have drawn up are not turning out to be true, therefore they have no idea if they will even be in business in a year or so. Therefore it is a bit hard to see at present that organizations are going to be queuing up at MS and other tech vendors to buy new technology. The bubble has burst, organization are waiting to see where all the bits land, once that has happened we’ll get a better idea of the business landscape, then the cycle will start again, new organization will be formed, they need technology, those organization that survived will start growing again and the cycle beings. Going forward it really going to be a consolidation focus as organization restructure themselves and that in most cases means less people therefore less IT requirement therefore less license sales. If MS was positive about growth then it would not have a hiring freeze and be busy with a cost reduction exercise, I think either during 3rd Q or early 4th Q there be some sort of a fat cut.

Anonymous said...

so play the game if your an A10 and get a70+ next time or your gone.

nice ... russian roullette ..

avoid STB

--

Actually STB is great to work in. a few people got a/10s due to budget and some other issues ..sorry your taking it personal.

Anonymous said...

Some simple and quick wins:
1- fire as many vendors as possible from HQ and in the subs. I believe there are 15000 of them at Corp. I have two working for me. They are not great. They cost to the company: $30,000 / month
2- do not replace leavers, just exceptions, when needed
3- stop all internal projects and identify the one really needed. You will identify them because it will hurt. It is a BCG approach.

Anonymous said...

"Thousands of CSGs positions can be eliminated and no one will even see any difference"

"1- fire as many vendors as possible from HQ and in the subs. I believe there are 15000 of them at Corp. I have two working for me. They are not great."

Wow, ignoramus. If you have two sub-par vendors working for you, then you didn't do a good job selecting the right candidates! And you have no idea how much work is really done at MS by contractors and vendors. Do you really think all the FTE's can do the grunt work they do?

MS has done the wrong thing for a very long time (e.g. hiring practices wrt contractors; see 80's lawsuit).

The only way it will change is by changing the mentality there. That starts with getting rid of poor senior leadership and dinosaurs (e.g. SteveB and Co.). The times have changed, and some of the leadership hasn't. There are folks in key roles who run the show like it's still OS/2 or Win95 days (some of them are from even before then) because they lack the skills needed for this day and age. Force them to move groups every 2-3 years to get rid of clicks (yes it's still H.S. B.S.). Let's see some accountability, and transparency from the top! Where's the metrics for upper management showing their progress against commitments? Put team incentives in place and get rid of the current review process, it doesn't work! Hire and empower REAL project managers, don't let senior managers do this work. They don't know what they are doing as evident by the consistent use of the term "fire drill", and the mentality that you have to be a "hero" to succeed. Hero's only work in the present, not the future. How do you get consistent reliable data from someone who wants to be a hero? What are they hiding in order to make themselves out to be a hero, and possibly make you look like a fool? If they were such a hero, why couldn't they avoid the near disaster while it was just a bump in the road?

Most importantly, get business priorities back to where they should be.
1. The customer.
2. The employee.

Once this is done, then you streamline your business as needed for short term relief.

sales dude said...

Another reason for managment dysfunction is the "diversity" programs. In the US field, we've had many boat anchors get promoted for diversity reasons.

Anonymous said...

"Another reason for managment dysfunction is the "diversity" programs. In the US field, we've had many boat anchors get promoted for diversity reasons."

I know of a level 65 "diverse female" in MCS. Two promotions in two years. She is undeserving, unethical, and not terribly bright. Do you think she'll ever get let go. Not in a million years. It's a shame, I see a lot of other folks work their asses off, earn the respect and she gets the kudos.

Anonymous said...

I love the statement earlier that we should cut marketing. This company is so engineering driven but it never seems to be able to make products that customers want. IF the products were so good, Vista, Office 2007 and would be adopted in droves by enterprises and consumers.
I love sitting in product planning meetings where PMs/Devs want to build something that will be the next great platform. They dont want to fix the 10 things that our customers are crying for or is preventing us from winning new sales - because the 10 things are not revolutionary. I also love how Engineering always says they will fix it in next release but forget all about it and start looking for the next shiny thing.
Maybe there is a reason why external people think of Microsoft as a marketing company :)

Anonymous said...

I worked at GE before joining Microsoft. GE gets over 50% of revenue & profits from technology products. GE is an extremely well run company and has one of the best managements teams in the world starting from middle managers to the top. You can see that from # of CEOS who are Ex GE folks
We took good ideas from GE and completely changed it :). The critical success factor for GE is accountability. Every product or group of products is run as a P&L business. So one person is responsible for Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Service and Support. If you dont make numbers for 3 quarters in a row - he/she is fired. Nobody in Microsoft is responsible for a business until it goes all the way to Steve Ballmer. So we can build a bad product and blame it on sales or bad marketing can blame it on product. The only area with some clear accountability is in sales. You either made your a revenue number or not

For GE policy to work - we need accountability.

Anonymous said...

These are hard times. After reading this thread it occurs to me how very sheltered Microsoft employees as a whole are from the economic problems facing most other people in the world. I personally left Microsoft 3 years ago to work for a small, growing partner. I don't regret having made that choice, as it has enabled me to grow my career in ways that I wasn unable to realize at MS, however now that that small company has been hit hard by recent financial problems, I now find myself out of a job with not much hope of returning to Microsoft for the forseeable future (speaking of which - any updates on lifting the hiring freeze?). For those of you considering leaving at this time, I encourage you to reconsider. Microsoft is an incredible place with amazing opportunities for growth and mentorship. Those opportunities simply do not exist in very many other companies. I am sure if you can sit tight, you will weather this storm and come out better for it on the other side.

As for me, I will continue trying to find a way back in...

Anonymous said...

Diversity plays no part in this "managment dysfunction".

There are many "boat anchors" - most are white guys and yes, some are diversity hires. But they are porportional to the workforce.