Friday, August 23, 2013

Steve Ballmer is Going to Frickin' Retire From Microsoft!

OH
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months
MY
Moving forward
GOODNESS
Microsoft's next CEO Who's on the short list ZDNet
+1.

Liked.

Favorited.

Ka-ching!

A well prepared blogger, even a crusty spider-web covered 99.9%-retired one like me, would have at least had a post ready to go for this glorious circumstance, like how most news organizations have obituaries written up and ready to publish. I had no such optimism that this would be happening before 2017.

To me, this throws the whole in-process re-org upside down. Why re-org under the design of the exiting leader? Even if the Senior Leadership Team goes forward saying that they support the re-org, it's undermined by everyone who is a part of it now questioning whether the new leader will undo and recraft the decisions being made now. I'd much rather Microsoft be organized under the vision of the new leader and their vision.

As for that new leader? Let the guessing game begin. How about first crafting the list of skills. Microsoft is huge and complex and Ballmer does has to be respected for running something as crazy as Microsoft to the point where it always seemed like no one could possibly replace him.

The first skill I'm putting down on my CEO job requisition is: "Has architected and implemented software features at the Principal level." Yeah, I want someone who has written complex software to run a big huge software (and devices) company. Crazy.

What are your thoughts?

This is going to be in interesting 2013 Company Meeting. As for Ballmer's habit of coming out to an inspirational song, may I suggest Dancing in the Street. Because that's what my heart is playing right now. And of course, we need an exit song, too. Something, that perhaps begins with:

"Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey-Hey-Hey. -"


617 comments:

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Anonymous said...

>>> Why all the negativity about SQL Server? I spent a few years there during the SQL Server 2005 development cycle and thought it was a great org with (mostly) great management. What happened?

Very simple answer - Flessner and Soukup both left, and were replaced with marketers chosen by Ballmer, and then came the HR evilness of Lisa Brummel.

Anonymous said...

> if you're in one of the major product groups, you have a wealth of experience that isn't attainable in many other places (e.g., size of codebase, size of team, really skilled peers,...)

Having worked on one of those "major products" I can't take this seriously at all. For each "really skilled" person there are reams and reams of dead weight. Most people are C and D players collecting a paycheck.

> The only negative I see to having Microsoft on your resume is most companies can't even come close to matching the comp.

Another ridiculous lie. MSFT really does exploit people who stay for a long time by paying them below-market rates. Because of this imbalance I left for a startup and now make twice what MSFT payed me not long ago. This might be an extreme case but there is huge demand for competent devs all over the place, and people will pay accordingly. If you are not part of the dead weight you can play this to your enormous advantage by looking elsewhere.

> I was talking to a startup a few months back, ... Got the "thank you were exploring other candidates" email the next day.

Are you sure this was for the reasons you think it was?

Another commenter writes:

> I would jump at the chance to hire a principal IC from Microsoft anytime.

I should introduce you to some people that will change your mind. The IC principal SDEs I've known have mostly been good politickers and only average developers at best. There are exceptions to this rule but they are mainly only at MSFT because they joined back when it was a "real" software company and their management is just good enough to realize they need to mostly leave them alone. Most people, though, are not even exceptions and don't fit in this category.

Meanwhile the best longtime dev ICs I knew seemed to get stuck at senior SDE and passed for promotion each year in favor of people who were manager's favorites or better politickers. Occasionally some really good devs would get stuck at SDE II for absurd amounts of time for similar reasons.

Anonymous said...

>>> Why all the negativity about SQL Server?

Disagree about SQL org. It is challenging & interesting work. Super competitive though. People working on SQL Azure are going through a learning curve around what it means to support a cloud service - the pace and support requirements are far different from the old "SQL box" days.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at how ignorant people are. Everyone keeps fighting for the next promotion. The truth is that Microsoft is full of Seniors and Principals who are useless. # of people on 63-66 is much higher than those in 59-62. Senior/Principal is not even that exclusive a band now. Pure operational people without any vision or even an idea of what competitors do, have grown into people who make career decisions about other people. Really sad!

Anonymous said...

O.k. here are my 3 favorite Microsoft "principle consultant" experiences:

1. I had this really brilliant L-62 dev who couldn't believe just how STUPID the "chief architects" (L-65 and up, really were). So, one day, one of them walked into our office and took great offense because we'd changed his slides ...

Without even blinking, he said "you can change the text all you want, but you can't change my pictures, because that's all people look at."

As he was trying to explain to the guy that the "pictures" came from the actual "data" ... I suddenly realized that this moron didn't actually know where charts came from, and I excused myself and waited in the hallway for the really great partner consultant who thought I had a really bad attitude problem, to come flying out, desperately in need of a drink.

It took 10 minutes. I took him out for a cup of coffee so no one saw him shaking, throwing things, and revisiting his whole opinion of Microsoft.

Seriously, that one wins - but not by much

2). And the same great dev marched off one day to to tell the lead architect that the product he was planning to use, just didn't work that way ...

And that one's just plain funny. The "Architect" (who I wouldn't hire to build a computer for a 5-year-old, looked really annoyed, pulled out a glossy marketing folder, pointed and said 'of course it does - IT SAYS SO, RIGHT HERE."

Right. Bill Gates would have just shot these people and put their heads on stakes around the castle.

and then there's #3 ... we all know that SMS, commonly known as "it's a mess" ... is a disaster. So, you've got to work with whatever else is out there ... and as I was pitching the argument to my boss, he actually said "well, if we don't use SMS, how do we get the data?"

Straight from the operating system like everyone else, you f* moron.

Holy F* crap. "Of Course it works that way, it says so right here" got replaced with "if we can't use SMS, then were do little counters come from? "

I can still crack up intelligent people up with "and where do little counters come from?" "

And that is why Microsoft needs to be just turned upside and shaken hard until all the chaff is gone.

Anonymous said...

>>> Disagree about SQL org. It is challenging & interesting work. Super competitive though. People working on SQL Azure are going through a learning curve around what it means to support a cloud service - the pace and support requirements are far different from the old "SQL box" days.

Are you kidding me? You’re still learning "what it means to support a cloud service" in 2013? Let me ask you one question: do you think the competition is still "trying to figure it out"?

Not only are you hopelessly behind and losing more ground every day in the cloud services market but you don’t see a problem with that. Worse, you think it is "challenging" and "interesting" to fumble around trying to figure out things your competitors mastered 3 or 4 years ago.

Anonymous said...

I think msft is pretty cool - I get to work from home a couple days a week, smoke my medical marijuana (for anxiety after turning 40), and hack code.

This summer, I banged an intern. On a Tuesday. I mean, seriously... "Intern Tuesdays". What other company is going to have that? I had to skip my D&D group that night, but whatever... it was worth it. I think I impressed her with the VS 2005 t-shirt/paunch combo.

Anonymous said...

If Satya becomes the CEO, all your jobs are going to India!

Anonymous said...

[moderately successful 15 years at MSFT/left 6 years ago/very successful since]

There have been a few comments from what appears to be self-delusional employees (or HR Plants):


"Also: let's stop the BS that Microsoft has no talent left. Not only the company has great talent at all levels, but it is nowadays getting college graduates that prefer MS over Google or Facebook. Google has a median tenure of 2 years for engineers. People show up, see the inside and leave. And just talk with a friend working for Amazon and some other companies across the bridge. Working for those sweatshops is no fun, and most people only leave ahead or after bad reviews."


This little gem nicely sums up all of the FUD about what it is like to work outside of Microsoft:


"let's stop the BS that Microsoft has no talent left"


This is a straw man argument.

Nobody internally or externally is saying that Microsoft doesn't have any talent left (hey, you're still there, right?) but rather there has been a drain of top talent (those who have a lot of options) and the stream of new hires refilling their departure is not at the same level of quality (see below).

"...it is nowadays getting college graduates that prefer MS over Google or Facebook"

This is bullshit.

Instead of disseminating lies, how about some data (albeit a little old):


Talent Traffic

It is a bit like saying "I prefer UCSD because I couldn't get into Stanford". UCSD is a fine school (no slight there), but who are you kidding?

BTW, I know you are making sh*t up because Google is becoming the "new Microsoft" in terms of companies who have jumped the shark.

"Google has a median tenure of 2 years for engineers


I cannot blame you for thinking this is a bad thing and I used to until I spent time in the bay area where momentum brings new talent in. Microsoft stagnates because people stay too long in each group (modulo inner-group reorgs) and there is NOT a churn of new employees, new ideas and best practices. Microsoft's tech stack seems to be in perpetual stasis and for every win such as Linq, there are 19 new ideas that originate from and rapidly replicate in the non-msft world (tdd, bad, ci/cd, cloud, nosql, map-reduce, dremel, storm, spark, etc, etc).


Btw, if you are in a technical position PM/Dev/Test/Ops and you are not following what is going on outside of Microsoft, then the other comments about how having Microsoft on your resume apply to you… it is a huge negative if you cannot do anything

"[…] a friend working for Amazon and some other companies across the bridge. Working for those sweatshops is no fun […]"


This is a very short-sighted, egocentric view of the world: it isn't about competing for talent/jobs with companies "across the bridge".


The brightest candidates are going to companies in the bay area (and staying there). If you take a trip down 101 you see thousands of companies clustered along that corridor and Microsoft is becoming less and less relevant each day.


I'd like to say that in my startups we either use or competed against Microsoft products but the reality is that we do neither, Microsoft just isn't relevant in mobile, cloud or big data. (that is, where all of the growth is happening)

Anonymous said...

Satya? Come on! See how terrible Live Search is when it's led by him. STB is still great but mostly thanks to BobMu!

Anonymous said...

What is the "Civil Defense incident" somebody mentioned when talking about SQL Server? Please enlighten me. I feel like I'm watching the ghostbusters talk about the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.

Anonymous said...

Both LB and KT should go too!

Anonymous said...

The DREAM TEAM for the future:
LB+KT+JPC+VH

Anonymous said...

>>>Are you kidding me? You’re still learning "what it means to support a cloud service" in 2013? Let me ask you one question: do you think the competition is still "trying to figure it out"?

I hope the competition "thinks" they have it figured out.

Anonymous said...

Someone just told me. The real interesting discussion is happening here:

http://zinimsft.blogspot.com/2013/08/ceo-leaves-ok-lets-talk-performance.html

Anonymous said...

[continued from the same anonymous 15 year veteran who left 6 years ago]

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

There will be layoffs before the CEO is rung in.

The ones I identify with are the solid employees who have been around Microsoft for a long time.

If you're comfortable as a L64-L66 employee who has a work/life balance: you have become complacent and will be managed out. You are not on the track for a VP level position and Microsoft HR thinks they are getting solid candidates to replace you (see rant above).

If you see the writing on the wall congratulations! you've managed to reach the first step of enlightenment… I saw it 6 years ago and others (MarkL) saw it long before me.


Here are things to keep in mind as you start your job search with startups:

1. Principal Developers (and above) who are still active ICs are welcome everywhere if you have the right attitude. I've seen them kick ass in just about every startup I've mentored/advised. Some senior developers can fit this bill too so I'm not leaving you out.

2. Program Managers are hit-or-miss. Good PMs are are very bright but your lack of breadth for running and managing real business functions P&L, marketing campaigns, sales, hiring, etc., limits how effective you can be to a startup. Startups need employees who do more than being "just bright".

3. If the company that you are submitting your resume to is impressed that you are from Microsoft, you will not want to work there as they hire "C players" and you look like a star. It is a bit like being the smartest person at your high school reunion.

4. The longer you've been at Microsoft the larger the bias that you will have to overcome. NOTE: I've had Seattle VCs tell me this and startups are much more direct. Just acknowledge it and do #5.

If you are a high-level technical employee:

5. Spend all of your non-work hours reading and understanding how the rest of the industry works by doing things such as:

- use the cloud (other than Azure) and understand who the IaaS, PaaS, SaaS players are
- automate your push to deploy web service through CI/CD and puppet, chef, salt, etc.
- work with large data sets (EMR, Hadoop, Horton Works, etc) and investigate newer streaming technologies such as storm and spark
- buy a mac and launch an iOS and/or Android app into their app stores
- pick up a web framework with a dynamic language (rails, django, express, etc) and see how fun it can be and compare/contrast the lack of an IDE while cursing under your breath


Lastly, I HOPE LisaB reads all of the comments in this thread and understands the damage that she has done. Lisa, on a personal note: Steve and your direct reports can tell you what a wonderful job you've done, but the reality is that Microsoft employees do not want you there anymore. You are resented and as long as you are at Microsoft, all HR efforts to improve Microsoft will be treated as bullshit.

Anonymous said...

"Why all the negativity about SQL Server? I spent a few years there during the SQL Server 2005 development cycle and thought it was a great org with (mostly) great management. What happened?"

The SQL org knew how to ship a box product. Now the main focus of the org is on SQL Azure. I am not exaggerating when I say no one knows what they are doing. When you combine this with the MS performance review process, it is a recipe for disaster for the employees.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me what the plan is for the DYNAMICS business? Waiting for guidance.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
>>> Why all the negativity about SQL Server? I spent a few years there during the SQL Server 2005 development cycle and thought it was a great org with (mostly) great management. What happened?

Well, Satya happened.

Anonymous said...

"Why all the negativity about SQL Server? I spent a few years there during the SQL Server 2005 development cycle and thought it was a great org with (mostly) great management. What happened?"

The great management and great people are all gone to FB, Google, Tweet and LinkedIn. I don't have the exact number, but I feel is that at least 50% of engine people are gone.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot more companies doing interesting things these days.

Most people don't need to wait for anyone to "fix" Microsoft.

The only people who have to put up with Microsoft's version of decimation are the one's here on a visa who don't want to go back.

Anonymous said...

L60, 4 last year, worked really really hard this year in terms of owning critical responsibilities, visibility etc. Manager always used to say I am on inclining track. Today, he said I got 4. Reasoning: due to last year's baggage, he couldn't create a strong case for me. BS.

If that was the real reason it is just wrong. In 2012 HR announced a change in the review policy that only the current year's work was to be considered for your review score. The previous review scores should not affect your next review. However, I was talking to a lead recently about the review process and I was told that the first thing they look at is last year's review score!!! Did these managers miss the memo? How messed up is this place that HR directives like this are ignored.

Anonymous said...

"In 2012 HR announced a change in the review policy that only the current year's work was to be considered for your review score."

Can someone point to evidence for that comment? The stack rank in which I participated this year had previous years' performance commentary added by the WW HR lead for the group, and again by the Regional exec when he wanted to push someone down.

Anonymous said...

The job market is very good right now, I would start looking before the inevitable new CEO layoffs starts.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you think engineers at the top is a good idea? The most successful tech companies nowadays actually have CEOs that have a clue about tech.

You can't manage something that you have no friggin idea about.

Anonymous said...

Being presentable is a must, but there are many reasons why have an engineering background is also a good idea.

Have you heard if the stack ranking system? Well if you have any experience working in an engineering environment you know how detrimental it can be to morale and creativity. Everyone just want to look good because that's what's rewarded for. Guess which system Steve picked for Microsoft?

Anonymous said...

ibm
vmware/emc
oracle
apple
sony
amazon
google
facebook

just to name a few, we compete, head on with these kids

try doing that as a ceo, oh that's right you're just a pissed off
employee

so let's take a look at what sb was given...

Windows Mobile
Vista
and who knows what

Gee, thanks BG, perfect timing, go save the world!!!!

who f'd up? our savior, bg? no not him, of course not, it was sb, really?

you all need to pull your head out of your diapers and ask this question:

if our stock rose like apple, would you be so upset? wall street is who what determines what is a buy or a sell

the fact is ms delivers a db, desktop management, software development platform and languages, search, entertainment, kickass cloud services and so on...the problem is all the punks in wall street that have no idea what enterprise software are twenty something, kids who regard facebook and twitter as where its at, but really, how does that help the poor IT guy at Contoso; this is where this company kicks ass, problem is, it's not cool!!

so to the people commenting on this blog, go out and read a little and quit listening to all the buzz, be proud of what you do here and instead of complaining, make it better, take risks!

let's do it!!!!

Anonymous said...

Fifteen or so years ago, I was at a now defunct browser company and was fresh out of college. I was set up to work with a counterpart at MSFT to work on a standard. We got along, never met him in person, but iterated through the BS to deliver something. At the time, I recall talking with him about his environment and the general wisdom at the time was that MSFT had about 1.5QA per developer. Quality was a concern.

Fifteen years later, I am an MSFT employee through acquisition. I can't bad mouth Ballmer, I made money in the process. That said, over the time our company has been "absorbed", I find the changes in MSFT PM/DEV/QA relationships pretty appalling. It seems like there are 1+ PMs per developer at this point and PMs refer to engineers as "the devs". Problem is, most of the PMs I have dealt with are pretty damn clueless, yet there are thousands of them.

For a cultural change MSFT needs to fire about 75% of the PMs, get rid of Brummel and the whole stack rank idiocy, and embrace and encourage a more engineering focus. Let engineers take risks, you aren't going to create something interesting out of a bunch of PMs having yet another f'n meeting.

Did I mention, fire most of the PMs?

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I can't believe people ignore past poor performance. Ballmer doesn't know how to identify talent and doesn't know how to hold execs accountable for shoddy products, services, and billions of lost dollars.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that putting Microsoft on a resume today is a good thing, has their head, firmly up their ass.
I'd wash yours as it appears to have been there recently.

I've spent 5+ years at MSFT, made principal and left 3+ years ago for a company in the valley with a nice +40% comp bump. Since then I've been recruited twice by other companies - most recently a fortune 100. I can tell you I have to disagree with your assessment which seems aimed more at fear mongering than anything else.

1) Anybody thinking a company name will get you or preclude you from a senior role by itself is delusional. It's all about your reputation and your network.
2) Anybody able to use his brain will notice that - for all of the hard feelings people appear to have - a bunch of MSFT alumni still spend time on this blog years after leaving (me included). Sure, it may be because they were emotionally scarred or something, it may also be because they do remember a few things they picked up as softies and do know there will always be a few diamonds in that mud.

As for the Google/FB/hot startup BS. 90% of the senior folks (VP+) I've met there got to that level because of timing so, when looking for smart folks, I'd encourage you to do what HH do: look for boats that floated when the tide wasn't raising.

Anonymous said...

To all of you who left for startups and other no-profit or barely profitable companies: STFU. If your company isn't as profitable as Microsoft, Google, Apple etc, whatever you are doing there isn't helping. Don't believe that just because you are using some crappy OPen Source Software project or that new crap-built-on-more-crap language or module that any moron can jump in and learn in a week, you are a special developer.

Your investors will soon realize that you are not delivering profits and will pull the rug out from underneath you. Then your skills aren't that useful because there will be millions like you, all fluent on OSS crape are that can't deliver the most important thing desired by investors - something of unique value someone is wiling to pay for.

Any moron can build and give away free or below cost product or service. It takes more than the ability to download, build, and tweak the latest piece of half assed piece of software to build something of value and generate a sustainable business.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Why all of the negativity about SQL Server/SQL Azure?

I worked in that group. All told, I had a long career at Microsoft, but it became apparent several years ago that the focus was no longer on satisfying customers and meeting their needs; rather, the focus was on "managing your career".

After a long time at Microsoft, I decided to focus on customer needs instead of "managing my career". During this review period, I worked on the SQL Azure team. I was the only one in my "triad" to actually ship a feature. And I was the one that got the 4. That is how screwed up the place was. Shipping meant nothing. Playing the game with unclear rules meant everything.

I am so glad to be out of that toxic, unhealthy environment. Yet, I still do care about the company (although I no longer personally utilize Microsoft products... having since embraced Apple and Open Source platforms). I hope this change will turn the company around for the better.

Anonymous said...

The hubris some display here is fascinating. It’s as if the last ten years hadn’t happened, as if the mobile business hadn’t imploded, as if Zune, Surface RT, the RRoD billion dollar charge, Kin, and the Sidekick backup fiasco were things from a parallel universe. But it’s cool guys. You’re "still leaning" so it’s a "super exciting" time to be at Microsoft I guess. Have fun making Power Point decks while the rest of us write, ship and sell software.

Anonymous said...

Come on fellow munchkins, let's sing "Ding dong the witch is dead"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHQLQ1Rc_Js

Anonymous said...

> To all of you who left for startups and other no-profit or barely profitable companies: STFU.

Let's not get all bitter and self-justifying. I'll concede that there is a lot of that kind of BS going around in startup land, but not everyone who works for a startup is working for Pets.com or Zynga. Just because you may feel stuck at MS and sad about its decline doesn't mean you have to trash people who have in many cases made the right call.

Anonymous said...

Hire someone from outside to get new perspective.

Anonymous said...

No one is ever going to make you a CEO by looking at your insightful comments about Microsoft's business on a blog post written by an anonymous person.

What you do care about is what was your review score this year and how you were stacked (ouch!) against other people. Do that here:

http://zinimsft.blogspot.com/2013/08/ceo-leaves-ok-lets-talk-performance.html

Anonymous said...

Worked on Exchange. So many hard-working people. But Rajesh behaves like a Sociopath. And so does his cronies.

If you ever work for Neils... you know what a sweatshop really is. Why anyone would ever put up with it is beyond me. The grass really is greener in this case!

Anonymous said...

With Ballmer at the helm one thing was sure, Microsoft will never innovate and hence they can relax. With Ballmer going I am sure the competitors will be shivering.

Anonymous said...

> 1) Anybody thinking a company name will get you or
> preclude you from a senior role by itself is delusional.
> It's all about your reputation and your network.

Right on. There are partners at Microsoft with bad reputation, and SDE IIs that can be a CEO. What matters to get a job outside is exactly the opposite of what matters to get a good review inside: your results and how well your collaborate. Inside, it is all about marketing yourself as the savior, and blaming others for anything that goes wrong.

> 2) Anybody able to use his brain will notice that - for all of
> the hard feelings people appear to have - a bunch of MSFT alumni
> still spend time on this blog years after leaving (me included).

There are those hurt by the company, those who just used it, some badly used by managers, but in the end it is a corporation. It still matters, and it is up to the new CEO to make it matter more for customers.
Your history inside Microsoft will be fundamentally different, depending on when you joined, and the teams you worked with. Not everyone joins a large company on time to leave with millions after a couple of years just by being the cafeteria chef (search for the "Google Chef" story). Lots of people will remember Microsoft as a terrible place, in which they worked for psychopath managers, who literally went up by putting knives on the back of others with lies to damage their reputation. The friends that Gates left in the company, Ballmer being the quintessential example, didn’t ever stop the psychopath practice of competing among them and with others outside, instead of focusing in the customer. It should be pathetic to see Ballmer constantly worried about what Eric Schmidt is doing, as Gates was worried about what Jobs was doing, as your favorite old partner in the company is worried about what some other colleague is doing. Only someone from the outside to break this cycle, get rid of several layers of such competing peers and force collaboration for a few years, until it becomes natural for people to collaborate and be rewarded for it.

Anonymous said...

Ok can someone please tell me or let me know something? What happened to coming to work, working hard, performing, being a team player and putting forth work and products that had a positive impact on our customers? I've been with the company 10 plus years and I can tell you that no one I'm aware of likes the review model and the mandatory 15% of the organization being a 4 or a 5, especially how we use stack ranking. I've been through several stack ranking exercises and while there's no perfect formula, the one we use is very imperfect and subjective. We seem to put more on people being visible (not performing) but calling out that he or she was active during meetings, had a lot say (verbally the way I see it) but when you look at their outputs or outcomes, it's mediocre at best, low manager scores and no real output. And how many times has the review model changed in the last 5-6 years....really, we can have a just and fair model and just stick with it for consistency sake.

I know you'll always have low performers but seriously, are we saying that 15,000 were low performers or had no real impact to the overall performance of Microsoft??? If so, then we're in more trouble than people want to admit...think about...15,000 coming to work every day and having no real impact on our go forward..... You can phrase it anyway you like to sound good, like )compared to their peers". etc... Sounds like someone at Harvard should do a case study on this one.

Anonymous said...

absolutely break up Microsoft Research. What a drain on the company, half of those overpaid PhDs don't even come to work, taking after "role model" Rick Rashid who is AWOL 99% of the time. The time it takes to get their academic papers into anything worth selling is ridiculous and MSFT has no time to lose. Start there and cut cut cut with the goal to be nimble and actually produce cool shit.

Yes Kinect started there, but that is a tiny minority of what gets cranked out of MSR.

Anonymous said...

>>> I know you'll always have low performers

Why? Microsoft prides itself in hiring the "best and brightest". Under those conditions if somebody is a low performer, either his hiring manager made a mistake or something happened AFTER he joined the company to make him a low performer.

A company that hires only smart people yet finds itself with 10% underperformers year after year after year is like a machine that takes in diamonds and spits out turds.

Anonymous said...

if Kevin Turner is even considered for the CEO position, the board has truly lost its way. The man is despised by those who work for him. He institutes additional "good attrition" policies on his SMSG org-- above and beyond the 15% 4s and 5s. Harsh man, harsh organization. I would NEVER work in his org.

Anonymous said...

Lots of Actives, no Resolved?

Say I was on the board and we were really considering booting LB (or KT or whatever). But what if the board were just as clueless as everyone else? Do we just boot LB and go randomly fishing and hope for the best? What if we pick up someone who is basically the same or even worse?

Or imagine if I were LB herself reading this, going "OMG, don't leave me! I can change! I can change! Tell me how I can change!" ...but what exactly would you change?

It's like politics really. You can say Bush sucks, or Obama sucks, but unless you actually focus on the issues and how the suckitude can be fixed, all you get is a big list of bugs without any potential fixes.

Anonymous said...

What happen to the days when you worked hard, performed, was a team player and did great work for our customers? Now it seems to be all about who speaks up in meetings or about visibility instead of really doing work.

No one I work with likes the current review model because it pits people against each other instead of working together.

Anonymous said...

Here's a collection of Ballmer's best quotes

It goes from stupid to bizarre. How such a man could become and remain CEO of a major corporation is a mystery for future generations to solve.

Anonymous said...

U r so right so why is it still around

Anonymous said...

I think we should just 'outsource' the future CEO from India, just like all the other coorperations in silicon valley. Let's make MS an Indian company!

Anonymous said...

Both Apple and Google are now leading voice on mobile. NUI is the future of computing beyond the PC era. Bill Gates has been a visionary who personally helped to found and start with Microsoft's own voice efforts in 1995, much earlier than Siri. MiPad was demonstrated by Gates at CES around 2001 about the time SteveB took over as the CEO. Today MICROSOFT is no where near Apple or Google despite its head start. All the technical speech folks have been driven out by Ballmer's friends (aka biz and marketing guys such as Zig etc). Is this a lesson to be learned?

Anonymous said...

How did Microsoft get this way?

BillG came from a family that encouraged -- demanded -- competition among family members. So it's no surprise that the organization he created would reflect those values.

SteveB is a salesman, first and foremost. Sales organizations have annual quotas, and people who don't make their quotas get fired. And that's what's at the root of the current (toxic) review system. The issue is that engineers don't have easily quantifiable annual goals. ("How many widgets did you program in the last twelve months?") So people are given subjective ratings by managers who don't have the balls to push back against the system.

Alan Mullaly's name came up earlier in this thread as a possible SteveB replacement. MSFT could actually a lot worse. Mullaly's a good man, he has a technology background, and most important, he values people and understands leadership. I doubt that he'll be the one, but MSFT could do worse.

Anonymous said...

What is the "Civil Defense incident" somebody mentioned when talking about SQL Server? Please enlighten me

Some crusty old dev got his hands on an intern. I think it was a Tuesday.

Anonymous said...

Whoever is chosen to replace Ballmer, there is pain and suffering ahead.

The successor may be on board with the current approach to business, ensuring that the long slide towards irrelevancy continues.

Or the successor may recognize the need for a major cleanup and some people will have to go.

Anonymous said...

So you really think they will bring in someone that will make the tough decisions

Anonymous said...

Bring in some corporate raiders. Sell off anything of value for a tidy profit. Lay off everyone except the patent lawyers xD

Anonymous said...

Here is a little gem courtesy of my email archive, extracted from internal all-employee steveb mail dated 7/26/2005. Note that Steve said we can take on Blackberry ... which has come true. BB has 3.4% of the market and Windows Phone has 4%.

"The work we’re doing in our Mobile and Embedded business is critical to realizing our vision of information access anywhere, and with 36% revenue growth in FY05, we’re making great progress. We’re making big investments that ensure we will deliver industry-leading mobile solutions for information workers and consumers. This means we need to drive relentlessly to bring new products to market. We shipped our most significant release of Windows Mobile, version 5.0, to our mobile platform developers, and by enabling “push e-mail” solutions, we are now in a strong position to go head-to-head with Blackberry. Equally impressive is how our mobile partnerships have grown. Two and a half years ago, we launched our first SmartPhone with only one device-maker and one carrier partner in one European market. Now, we’re partnering with over 40 device makers and 68 mobile operators in 48 countries who combined serve more than 835 million subscribers. This year will be big for us with more breakthrough devices and partnerships on the way."

And speaking of reorgs, Mr. Ballmer had the following to say on June 15 2006. Before moving to 3 divisions there were 7. And now 4. I think he's been using the magic 8-ball.

"About a year ago, we organized our operations into 3 major divisions and an operating group, and gave those units broad authority. This was a first step toward greater speed and agility, by pushing decision-making and accountability out to the individual businesses. We have great leaders in place to run our businesses including our COO Kevin Turner, our division presidents Kevin Johnson, Jeff Raikes, and Robbie Bach. And, of course, with Jim Allchin’s remaining time here before retirement, he’s focused on shipping a high-quality Windows Vista release. As we enter this second phase of transition, I am especially excited to see key product leaders like Steven Sinofsky, J Allard, Bob Muglia, and others step up to new and expanded responsibilities."

I SteveB a great salesman and cheerleader for Microsoft? You betcha. As a leader, orchestrator or innovator he has been a dud from day one.

Anonymous said...

And some more SteveB 'strategy' this time from internal email dated 7/24/2007. Remember that Steve managed to drop another billion on XBox that go round. I guess the 'lessons learned' he references did not take given the recent billion dropped on Surface ...

Our fourth priority is to master modern consumer electronics. In the past, consumer electronics was a hardware-centric business; today, the real innovation in consumer electronics devices lies in the software that powers them. This is creating new opportunities for us to deliver end-to-end experiences that no other company can match. We’ve already seen how we can transform the market through great software innovation with Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, Windows Mobile, and the recent rollout of Mediaroom, our IPTV product. At the same time, we have to be self-critical and pragmatic about areas where we need to improve. The recent announcement that we’ll extend the warranty on Xbox 360 to three years—and take a $1 billion charge—is an indication that we have lessons to learn in this area. But it also shows our unyielding commitment to providing the best experience for our customers. This commitment to excellence and improvement will enable us to build a business that drives consumer excitement and company profit.

Anonymous said...

IPTV/Mediaroom... Didn't we just sell that to Ericsson? How many years and billions of dollars did we put into this, just to end up throwing it away?

Anonymous said...

someone I know has just become senior SDET without making any extra-ordinary contributions. It is just that she has a very good personal level relationship with her Test Lead.

Anonymous said...

I think we should just 'outsource' the future CEO from India, just like all the other coorperations in silicon valley. Let's make MS an Indian company!

Been to Issaquah lately?

Anonymous said...

I have a thought about the coming purge. Why can't we use it to reverse the sins of the past by simply turning the stack ranking upside down. It's some value calculated from your last several years of performance and level. So for example, you get less points the higher your level, and you get more points the lower your scores in the last three years or so. We then add the number up for everyone across the company, take the bottom 20% and lay them off, and be done with it. You're a level 61 with 3 straight 4s? You are golden. Partner level with three straight 1s? The door will slam you in the ass when you leave. Sure, there will be some people who are treated unfairly by this calculation; those are the people who can go out and get another job. Won't be different than today but at least there is a good chance of positive change. We might add some bias in for especially dysfunctional orgs.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting to see comments about Microsoft India as if it was stealing work or jobs from USA. In India, when you are recruited they promise that you'll work on features for great new projects. Reality is that most of the work is to cover up the bad job done in Redmond, from implementing the missing unit tests to fixing egregious bugs. No wonder good people don't stay for long.

The problem is not outside Microsoft or far away from Redmond. The problem is close to Ballmer. If the problem people doesn't follow Ballmer in his way out, don't think the solution is in Europe or Asia.

Anonymous said...

If everyone at Microsoft is so smart, then how could they implement something as dumb as Stank Ranking? It should have been obvious that it wasn't suitable for any business that's collaborative.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I think we should just 'outsource' the future CEO from India, just like all the other coorperations in silicon valley. Let's make MS an Indian company!

Been to Issaquah lately?


80-90% Indians now? That's not really diversity. :)

Anonymous said...

There were a lot of smart engineers in the Soviet Union too, but that doesn't mean they were all able to defy the wishes of Lenin or Stalin.

Anonymous said...

To get this back on topic, Steve is (will be soon, or hopefully will be soon) gone. Microsoft is in the middle of a transition to a normal functional structure and a company that is a "devices and services" company. Has everyone forgotten that Microsoft made a huge investment (structured as a loan) in just such a company with an already respected CEO in Dell and Michael Dell?

Anonymous said...

It's time to bring in Richard Branson!! Great customer service focus and has never lost the entrepreneurial spirit that makes his companies great...

Anonymous said...

Are the results of Dell-Poll and Virgin-Poll available anywhere? Are they better than MS-Poll or more like Walmart-Poll? xD

Anonymous said...

To whoever was suggesting a formula to handle layoffs, I’m afraid there is no easy fix. If the new CEO wants to fix the new company through layoffs (as opposed to firing people just to reduce costs and please Wall Street) s/he will have to bring in The Bobs. External consultants are the way to go. The 2009 layoffs show that when this is handled internally personal relationships get in the way of sound judgment and you end up with situations where a whole team is fired but their lead gets to keep their job (Doing what? They have no team left to manage). Outside people have to be brought in to evaluate objectively who does what and get rid of the dead wood. Additionally I’d love to see Microsoft hire one of those companies that provide online programing tests and evaluate its entire workforce. There are too many people who hold jobs that supposedly require technical skills and yet who couldn’t program their way out of a paper bag. They have to go.

Anonymous said...

How does one tell the difference between layoffs done to please Wall Street and layoffs not done to please Wall Street?

Anonymous said...

I don’t know that there is one surefire way to tell the difference between layoffs done to appease Wall Street and layoffs meant to fix a broken company but in most cases you can tell which way things sway.


The 2009 layoffs were mostly about sending a message. Nothing was really accomplished in terms of solving any of the fundamental problems plaguing Microsoft. From what I’ve seen (and I don’t claim to have a comprehensive view of what took place, but I have a few datapoints) they didn’t target deadwood. They seemed to go after experienced people who tend to be more expensive. Among the fired people that I either knew before the layoffs or have worked with at other companies since, nobody strikes me as incompetent or bad at their job. Some of them are actually exceptionally talented people. Situations like the one I described, where a team is laid off but the lead gets to stay show that there was no logic to the process, or that at the very least, personal considerations were allowed to interfere with that process.

Anonymous said...

"someone I know has just become senior SDET without making any extra-ordinary contributions. It is just that she has a very good personal level relationship with her Test Lead."

OMG yes! I watched one PM get 3 promotions in 18 months based on nothing more than her relationship with her manager. No great talent, just a VERY brown nose. Very discouraging. Thank god both of them have moved on- both finally exposed for the talentless clods they are...

Anonymous said...

If it's a decision that benefits employees at the expense of Wall Street, then it's probably not something done to appease Wall Street.

However if Wall Street forces the board to reverse any such decisions, or prevents the board from making any such decisions in the first place, then you can be sure you're working in an environment that always has the approval of Wall Street.

Anonymous said...

ITT: butthurt former employees who couldn't cut the mustard and web developers who can't hack native code so they mock it.

Anonymous said...

"...BUT damn it, as an employee I want to see Microsoft succeed..."

As a person who has suffered for decades the results of Microsoft's accidental empire, I'm at the same time a resident of the greater Seattle area and also still want Microsoft to succeed. Having led a startup on the Mass. tech corridor immediately post-DEC, I passionately hope never again to see the spilled wreckage of a major company's swift decline from prominence to irrelevance.

History never repeats itself exactly, but DEC's fate should be kept uppermost in the minds of those working at and leading Microsoft. Many of the people working at DEC and being ejected during its plunge never had a hope of again finding equivalent employment.

As a startup we enjoyed sifting through the rubble left by DEC, snapping up logic analyzers and the like for pennies on the dollar. Some of DEC's brighter sparks went on to do better things. Still, the experience haunts me; desperation in the eyes of ex-employees and starving former subcontractors was ugly to witness.

Microsoft's crumbling is worse even than DEC, in some ways; we can already see how other tech firms who have developed an over-dependence on MS are beginning to suffer badly. An analogy might be coral and its relationship with the microorganisms that are symbiotic with coral; a little change in climate and the microorganisms die taking the hosts with them.

So pull hard, Microsoft. Do better, please, if you still can. Your failure would be catastrophic.


Robert Scobble said...

I wanna be the new CEO

Anonymous said...

Great posts. One I will comment on just drove home how messed up MS stack ranking is.

Each year 15% of the company gets 4's and 5's and are told they should leave. That is 15,000 people that come to work, the vast majority are busting their butt. The people that were not got cut in the last two review cycles.

That is just inconceivable that 15,000 of your friends and neighbors in the area deserve to lose their jobs. So broken, so wrong.

Anonymous said...

Great posts. One I will comment on just drove home how messed up MS stack ranking is.

Each year 15% of the company gets 4's and 5's and are told they should leave. That is 15,000 people that come to work, the vast majority are busting their butt. The people that were not got cut in the last two review cycles.

That is just inconceivable that 15,000 of your friends and neighbors in the area deserve to lose their jobs. So broken, so wrong.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I have not seen on this blog so far is what really likely happened - Did Steve just wake up last week and decide to go all on his own or did he get his "5" and was asked to go.

The only explaination that makes any sense is that Steve got his 5 and was asked to leave, most likely by billg or at least with billg's support. Why else would he leave 6 weeks after his big re-org? If he had any idea he was leaving and if he cared about MS half as much as I believe he does then announcing an re-org and then leaving is insanity. The only explanation that makes any sense is Steve was clearly pushed out.

The other side of this that has not been discussed is wtf is the board doing? If they had any idea they were going to force Steve out wtf were they thinking letting him announce his crazy reorg?

So now you have a re-org that has frozen MS on top of no CEO. This is going to add 24 months of MS wandering in the wilderness.

Nice job board of directors. My question is who gets to give you your 5's?

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the person who mentioned DEC (Monday, August 26, 2013 2:34:00 PM). If MS is to go down, the consequences will be very similar. And there are a lot of parallels between the situation at Microsoft today and what happened at Digital in the late 80's / early 90's.

For those who have an interest in those things, look up "A Modern-Day Tragedy. The Digital Equipment Story". It's an article written by a former DEC employee about the downfall of the company. There are entire passage where you could just s/DEC/Microsoft/g;

I just hope it's not too late to turn this ship around.

Anonymous said...

"Why else would he leave 6 weeks after his big re-org?"

Shareholder pressure?

Anonymous said...

Please take KT with you. Please.

Anonymous said...

one good thing ballmer did was to fire sinofsky, after all, sinofsky is the one responsible for the creation the dumbest ui since MS bob and probably played the decisive in the debacle of windows and pc market...

before metro, I thought jobs was exaggerating when he said "MS simply has no taste"; after metro, I feel jobs was being too nice.

Anonymous said...

Mentioned upthread: "A Modern-Day Tragedy. The Digital Equipment Story"

Well-spotted. This should be required reading for everybody at Microsoft. The OP understates the unintentional allusion to the present case and the value of the story for people in the here and now.

Full text here:

http://www.org-synergies.com/docs/DEC98.pdf

Some of us will have to swallow hard and bear down in order to get through it.

Anonymous said...

The real fun it seems is happening on this other blog post:

zinimsft.blogspot.com/2013/08/ceo-leaves-ok-lets-talk-performance.html

Highly entertaining!

Anonymous said...

Shareholders, by selling their shares. Note that the reorg was designed such that the CEO plays a central role in arbitrating between various engineering organizations when competing priorities had to be resolved. That would be an important role at the outset of the new org as everyone settled in their new roles. This announcement made a joke of the reorg.

Anonymous said...

But that's nothing new. It existed before the reorg was announced. The board and Ballmer had to anticipate that there would be more pressure from shareholders in response to a reorg that cemented Ballmer's position.

If they didnt anticipate that and quickly gave up, it shows the board and Ballmer are completely clueless.

Anonymous said...

Full text here:

http://www.org-synergies.com/docs/DEC98.pdf

Some of us will have to swallow hard and bear down in order to get through it.


I hate to admit...I'm one of those Microsoft Kool-Aid drinkin' SDE's who vigorously defends and extols the virtues of the company.

I was born in the 80's, so I'm not intimately familiar with DEC (other than having studied VAX, Alpha, etc. in college). It's crazy how similar the story of DAX leading up to its decline mirrors that of Microsoft's current state.

If the rumors of planned layoffs within the next year are true, and if anything dramatic happens to Windows revenue...which it might as Windows sales figures always lag PC sales figures by nature...then we're in for some pain. :(

My guess will be that Ballmer will be used as the scapegoat, executing on any layoff plan of his successor prior to his/her arrival so as to avoid ill will between the workforce and the new executive leaders. Regardless of how it is done, this is going to firmly destroy morale at the company. If it proves to be true, our best employees will flock to our competitors, and all that will be left are those who are good at politics and corporate survival.

I hope this doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Each year 15% of the company gets 4's and 5's and are told they should leave.

That's not what happens when someone gets a 4 or 5. I know people who have gotten a 4 or 5 and recovered the following year. I know two people that got two fives in a row and gotten a 4 the third year. There are many variables involved. However, if a person's direct lead/manager wants them out they are screwed and can be managed out very quickly. Which is why if you end up with a bad lead/manager after a reorg you should try to transfer immediately. And keep in mind that it is much easier to transfer within the same org than it is to transfer to a different org. When transferring within the same org you usually don't have to go through the formal interview process unless you are changing roles.

Anonymous said...

someone I know has just become senior SDET without making any extra-ordinary contributions. It is just that she has a very good personal level relationship with her Test Lead.

Having a good relationship with your lead is essential for a promo. However, I wouldn't be surprised if she got promoted due to that diversity initiative nonsense they have here. I have noticed a number of women in my org get promoted to senior SDET without justification. They weren't any better testers than their male counterparts but got promoted anyways. Some of them even became leads and they turned out to be absolutely horrible leads that did great damage to their teams.

Anonymous said...

So we air a little dirty laundry here. The PR folks might get their underroos all bunched up because they think it makes the company look bad. And maybe it does. But what do other companies do?

How do other companies handle reviews? How do other companies keep people from wasting their time on self-aggrandizement to get ahead? How do other companies deal with the problem those who brown-nose their managers/

Anonymous said...

For those who have an interest in those things, look up "A Modern-Day Tragedy. The Digital Equipment Story". It's an article written by a former DEC employee about the downfall of the company. There are entire passage where you could just s/DEC/Microsoft/g

I spent 12 years at MS after leaving DEC in 1994. The time between DEC's first TFSO (layoffs known as "transition support financial option") and its closing shop was brief. DEC in its heyday had 140K employees, large cash reserves (no debt) and was the 2nd largest computer company in the world (behind IBM).

DEC missed early entry into the PC market and was not able to catch up; similar to MS missing on mobile. Missing the market, sound familiar?

DEC's beloved CEO and visionary, Ken Olsen, left in 1992 and was replaced by Bob Palmer who had been internally lobbying for the job for years ("managing up"). Palmer I believe is still on the Board at debt-laden AMD. CEO change, sound familiar?

If employees think it cannot happen at MS because of its large cash reserves, they are wrong.

DEC was by far the best company I have ever worked for in terms of engineering talent and culture.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that reports say that Steve made the decision to quit after talking to the board of directors. I wonder if steve wanted to make some headscratcher acquisition (eg buy dell or nokia), the board said no, steve said he would quit if it didn't happen, and the board called his bluff.

Anonymous said...

The best way to avoid a DEC-style scenario is to break-up the company, if not formally at least philosophically.

Microsoft has always been all about Windows. This worked great while on the upswing. The company built software for Windows. More people adopted Windows because of the availability of applications they can use. And the more Windows users there were the more money you made out of those apps. It was a classic virtuous circle.

The issue is that once the circle broke, Windows became the albatross around everybody else’s neck. In less than 8 years Windows went from a 95% market share to less than 30% (source). Forcing all Microsoft divisions to produce software for Windows only is severely limiting their potential. Office can’t take advantage of the growth in mobile. SQL Server has to go toe to toe with Oracle and IBM knowing that Unix shops are forbidden territory (and the world does run on Linux/Unix; if some still have any doubts they should at a minimum go check out what’s going on across the lake).

Windows is the Achilles heel of Microsoft. If Windows goes down then everything else will follow. In that respect the “One Microsoft” reorg is pure madness. The right thing to do would have been to give much more freedom to individual teams and allow them to decouple from Windows if that makes sense. The concerns over redundancy could have been addressed by creating a team responsible for providing portable basic building blocks that every other team can reuse no matter what their target platform(s) is/are. Look at the way open source works in that respect; you don’t see everybody writing their own XML parser from scratch as was the case at Microsoft 10 years ago.


Absent any attempt to make the company more diversified and resilient, I see too many clouds on the horizon to be optimistic. The recent trend in PC shipments is just the beginning of a long decline for Windows. The DEC story will probably repeat itself. Falling sales will push management to try to squeeze more revenue out of its existing customers, alienating them and further accelerating the drop in market share. The virtuous cycle will turn vicious. As profits fall and eventually turn into losses layoffs will become routine, pushing those who can to seek employment elsewhere and destroying the morale of those who remain. If you’ve witnessed the massive expansion of MS real estate over the past 30 years, watch as it is reversed. As headcount shrinks building after building will be emptied and put up for sale to raise desperately needed cash. Rival companies might even snag them at a discount and move right next door to you. Imagine going to work every day and watching Google / Facebook / Amazon employees go work on something exciting while you’re in for another day of drudgery. Actually, no need to imagine anything; just ask your Silicon Valley colleagues how it feels. Their offices are right next to Google’s campus. And imagine the consequences for the local economy and real estate markets.

Anonymous said...

I was principal IC

At various times in my career at Microsoft I was a Principal Dev Manager, Principal Architect, Principal SDE, and Principal PM. I earned my L65 back in 2002, well before they started giving away the title merely as a reward for years of service. Back in the day, Principal meant "is able to handle any technical problem thrown at them whether they know the answer or not". Principal also meant that you could work across teams and sell your team's vision to others. Before leaving the company a few years ago, I'd noticed a huge shift in that definition. Not only did you get a Principal title for your years of service, but you got it for being a specialist in your field. The problem with this is that Principals like me got pushed out because we didn't have some unique domain knowledge that made us (theoretically) invaluable to the company. It also hurt Microsoft immensely because there was no longer any real cross-pollination across teams. Anyone unlucky enough to become a Principal was effectively locked into their role. They had also better hope that their manager didn't change or that there was a big technology shift.

I'm not sure that Ballmer leaving will change any of this. Microsoft has committed itself to a new vision and it's highly unlikely that any new CEO will be able to blow this up and reset the culture. To do this you need lots of people who can work across organizations and those people don't exist in any great number at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

My guess will be that Ballmer will be used as the scapegoat, executing on any layoff plan of his successor prior to his/her arrival so as to avoid ill will between the workforce and the new executive leaders. Regardless of how it is done, this is going to firmly destroy morale at the company. If it proves to be true, our best employees will flock to our competitors, and all that will be left are those who are good at politics and corporate survival.

I hope this doesn't happen.


Hard to imagine Ballmer being a scapegoat as that assumes no one really knows the damage he'd done and there need to be some half truths told to discredit him. He's done that job well enough himself.

For the rest of the statement, you need to put it in the present tense. All that is happening right now. Microsoft's hardest problem regardless of who comes in will be trying to make a run of it with the people that have stayed.

Anonymous said...

Either you believe what Microsoft currently has is enough to keep it barreling through history - in which case you don't change much and keep the rudder pointed in the same general direction - or you truly believe it is leaking talent and morale - in which case there would need to be a systemic overhaul of company culture such that it is able to attract a cult following among would-be engineers again.

Anonymous said...

It may be that a duopoly of a brilliant technical guy and a chief salesman was the best thing for Microsoft. Half the people in the company build products and just under half sell products. Neither side will respect the same guy (or gal if you really believe in miracles)

In reality it takes both killer products and killer business execution to grow a company the size of Microsoft. One without the other yields growth just above inflation and a flat stock (Lots of US companies re suck in that rut)

Anonymous said...

"What pisses me off the most is that his announcement comes less than three weeks before everyone's year end awards.

If he had waited until after the Sept 1 deadline, all of us employees would have gotten a significantly higher stock award value bump.
"

This was the first reaction I had from Steve's decision. With no successor in-line, why the rush?

Anonymous said...

Either you believe what Microsoft currently has is enough to keep it barreling through history - in which case you don't change much and keep the rudder pointed in the same general direction - or you truly believe it is leaking talent and morale - in which case there would need to be a systemic overhaul of company culture such that it is able to attract a cult following among would-be engineers again.

First thought when I read this was, "ya, that worked well in Jonestown"

Anonymous said...

Arguably useful analysis of SB's tenure here:

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/08/microsoft-needs-a-new-ceo-who-probably-doesnt-exist/

However, taking a contrary position to the Ars author and looking at it from the perspective of the DEC article, where's the dominance of a single market? Fading? Durable? Gone?

Have any of us worked at a company that could not find a balance between excessive target fixation versus shooting wildly in all directions? Contrary to the Ars article, is it possible that the Microsoft problem is that of too many little visions pursued with too little focus on any single one?

The assumption apparently has been that the Microsoft Windows brand could glue everything together regardless of the differing material properties of any given market of many. How has this assumption panned out? How can it be made to work better? Can a brand actually transcend fundamentally different markets?

Anonymous said...

Well, if you don't have employees who were MS-nuts before joining, continue to be gung-ho about what they're doing while they are here, and look forward to showing up at work every day, then what do you have?

People who only show up so they can pay off their student loans, their mortgage, help their kids through college, send money to relatives, get enough of a nest egg so they can do their own startup?

"Yeah, I showed up, now gimme my check" isn't exactly a recipe for changing software history.

What companies still come closest to developing die-hard fandom? Are they only able to do it among their customers but not their employees? If some can do both, what exactly is it that they are doing?

Anonymous said...

After someone mentioned http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Ocean_Strategy it made me think of how Facebook may only be succeeding because it was first on the scene, and the commercial environment was such that once you have critical mass, anybody trying to copy your strategy are often doomed to failure since critical mass has already been gathered elsewhere.

It's actually sad to consider that may have been the secret of Windows and Office as well. Get enough people used to using your operating system, interface, or file formats, and they get too lazy to bother with a new learning curve on something else. (Unless things get so bad that they are almost forced to switch.) So you end up with steady state market dominance in one sector of the industry, and as long as you can tread enough water, your critical mass will hold. Nobody wants to learn Esperanto if almost everyone else is already speaking English.

If it's a market where critical mass doesn't matter, then companies like Microsoft can still win by throwing enormous amounts of money at it. Otherwise, it's probably better to look for new markets and get critical mass before anybody else can - easier said than done of course - the vision to see such markets is hard to come by, and the risk in going all-out in a potentially failed industry can be fatal.

Too bad the days of buying or merging with Facebook when you're as big as MS are gone, unless you also buy the Justice Department ;)

Anonymous said...

1. Buy Nokia... CEO included
2. Divest consumer products
3. Divest devices, keep strong ties with the business and OS division
4. integrate R&D in a way that really brings innovation to the business and consumer world.

Anonymous said...

Now if we can get Kevin Turner to go back to Walmart - Life would really be good. We need someone who understands software to run this company and not a retail geek.

Anonymous said...

The problem with KT is not that he's a retail geek, it's that he's a terrible human being. The potentials combination of him and LisaB bring me close to a violation of Godwin's Law.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. The "kids" prefer something other than MSFT, GOOG, or AMZN. And none of those preferred companies are hiring old timers like all of us. If you think all these preferred companies aren't start-ups waiting to be bought out by the big guys, you are so wrong.

I'm ex-MSFT now choosing between MSFT and GOOG. Google's offer is higher, but sorry, I've already been through the growing pains that they're currently experiencing. And Amazon is just too crazy to even want to accept the interview for. You think the internal processes of Microsoft are outdated? I love buying stuff from Amazon but will hopefully never have to work for them.

I'll probably come back to MSFT, and am glad that things are changing. Change works. Microsoft is late to the game, but ultimately (years later) delivers the goods. Don't advocate splitting the company. It's lucky to have the Windows and Office cash cows (well, maybe now it's just the Office cash cow, who knows). Ask Barnes & Noble how well their attempt at splitting into two companies is working.

The review system is my greatest hurdle to coming back, but I've decided that if/when I come back, I will simply work through the 6 months each year that is lost to the review system. If I get fired for that, so be it. I'm old enough to realize that stupid "visibility" initiatives have no impact whatsoever on customers. Maybe I'll get lucky and they'll start valuing real work. If not...there's always Google. Ba ha ha ha!

Anonymous said...

I was a partner at MSFT and I was there for over 10 years until I left a couple of years ago in despair that the company was unsaveable. I was in several meetings with SteveB during my tenure, including SLT reviews. SteveB is a complex man with many great strengths but also many blind spots and weaknesses.

Steve was a revenue maximizer, but had no sense of product. I never saw him even interested in product or user experience. He liked to be the mathlete and talk market share and revenue projections and blah blah blah. Seriously, who says "blah blah blah"? Someone who doesn't even think he has to finish sentences let along think through a product strategy.

Steve is also a bully. I saw him bully people who disagreed with him on multiple occasions. In addition, he believed in accountability for others, never himself in public. Steve Blamer... That said, I have a lot of data points that indicate he knew privately he was failing for many years. I saw him as a man under immense stress but I did admire his drive to try and succeed. I'll give him A+ for caring and for effort.

He was an amazing part of the team in the early years, but he just wasn't the right man for the top job. He talked about his 7 businesses and had no awareness at all of how blind this mindset made him. He fatally overestimated the value of his brands, particularly Windows, which led to the Windows Live branding debacle (MSN had 'verbed' but he killed it since he loved Windows so much) and also the Windows 8 strategy to leverage windows user goodwill/monopoly into tablets. He killed the netbook market by placing sku restrictions on Windows Starter edition and how powerful the hardware could be. He thus created a huge gap in the market for Apple to take. This was one of many cases where he had been given a great business (this time by ASUS) and just killed it with stupidity and greed. He initiated Kin/Pink which rivalled and starved WM; then he put Terry in place who then rivalled and starved Kin. Amazing. Then WP7had the big reset just as Android came out. Finally of course he let Windows (Sinofsky) and DevDiv go to war during windows 8 on who owns the programming platform. I don't think SteveB even understood the battleground.

It is going to be chaos there for a long time. I predict that Terry Myerson will be putting himself up for contention, the man is such a cuckoo. He rose because he exploited the review system - make your peers fail, you rise faster. Make your manager fail or impotent, you rise even faster. Terry never needed to succeed, he just needed others to fail more. When Surface RT failed more than Windows Phone did, that was all he needed in order to take over Windows. Ballmer let this happen every time. This would be fine if Terry would make a good CEO - in that case his peers would be competitors which sounds like a good thing. But it wouldn't work out that way for exactly the same reasons he lost the smartphone market share - he does not respect his peers.

Finally Steve's Devices and Services strategy is so shallow. No wonder valueAct used this as part of it's campaign. It's a fine example of MSFT executive double-speak, with as much depth as 'super excited'. The Services part is clearly a reactions to Amazon but also to Jeffrey Ubben's activism. The Devices part is odd; it is not an opening up to realization that office should be multiplatform, it seems like an even more closed down client platform, and that ship has sailed - entirely during Steve's tenure, and with many self-inflicted leaks in the boat to help the competitors out.

Anonymous said...

...So who next?

I don't rate anybody inside the company today.

An outsider would be good in theory, but it is a huge company with quarterly responsibilities to shareholders. A pure outsider would struggle to understand the job let alone master it.

Best bet is an ex-insider who kicked ass while there and has lived and breathed outside the ivory tower for a few years and has stayed sharp and has the external perspective. There are a lot of them actually, just need to find a young energetic one...

I think Sinofsky would be a reasonable candidate for CEO. He has the intellect, the management skill and he does care about product. Yes, he screwed up Windows 8 really really badly but he is a smart reflective guy and I expect he understands why and has learnt. He would be polarizing, but he would master the job rather than be overwhelmed by it. I just don't know if he'd do a better job than Steve did. But he'd be no worse IMHO.

A product whizz as CEO would be good. There are enough execution-oriented managers in Microsoft to hold things together if it had a forward thinking visionary. J Allard, I'm looking at you - and do bring Rebecca back with you too, she has so much ability and was well respected. But J is also a good manager - his mantras like 'timeboxing' and '80% parity plus two clear differentiators' were incredibly clear and empowering for teams. if anyone can think of blue ocean businesses for Microsoft, J Allard can. If you aren't convinced, go read his 1994 memo 'Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet' and then come back. It's ok. I'll wait. Oh, you didn't... well, then you are too lazy to have an opinion I will respect, so go watch Miley Cyrus terk on the VMAs again, it's your level.. He'd also deal with the ass kissers pretty quickly... kinda like that sentence above :)

Thanks for reading, you've been a great audience.

Anonymous said...

Sinofsky? Metro proved his taste is even worse that that of Ballmer.Microsoft doesn't need an insider, current or ex, who "understand" the culture since what ails the company the most IS clearly the culture. Anyone and anything that even smells Microsoft culture will send MS share nosedive and will only keep the sinking ship sinking down future.

There is a reason Ballmer is leaving, the culture, the everything DOES NOT work and should NOT be respected.

Anonymous said...

The thing is I think the patient may die before a pure outsider can really change it. When these tech companies die, they die really really fast... Look how quickly Sun, Novell, etc fell from grace. Microsoft looks like it's past the 'stumble' phase already.

Replacing Steve will be hard since the company is such a mess. Best chance is someone who knows the terrain AND has a vision of what to terraform it into.

Anonymous said...

..oh and where did the Metro design come from? Windows Phone.. and Terry!

But Sinofsky also was in charge of Windows 7 which was really nice. Aero snap was so simple but it really changed my productivity on large screens.

Out of interest, it had roots in Zune HD - which was under J Allard. Lots of connections

Anonymous said...

someone I know has just become senior SDET without making any extra-ordinary contributions. It is just that she has a very good personal level relationship with her Test Lead.

I think I have heard about her.

Anonymous said...

If I may give advice to the next CEO: walk the talk, and replace all data centers with Azure, making all services run in the cloud. And make sure there isn't something like a DEC Nod: a Microsoft Nod.

Yes, I appreciated reading the article about the demise of DEC that somebody here posted a link to, especially the part about the internal market economy initiative that seems to have pushed the company over the cliff.

If Microsoft values teamwork as much everyone says it, being good partners to each other internally should be the actual practice.

The new CEO should demand it.

Anonymous said...

Does the end of Ballmer mean we will no longer be constantly bombarded by "experiences?" Please, please? From the consumer perspective, ending all of these "experiences" would be wonderful.

If you're combing your hair and your comb encounters gum and becomes painfully and inextricably attached, that's an experience. Same deal with listening to music, writing a letter, browsing the web; the more "experience" you have the less you're actually doing what you choose and likely the more pain and aggravation between you and your preferences. So please do take this chance to remove the gum from our hair, OK?

It's rarely mentioned but low friction is one reason why alternatives to MS products are so popular. Inserting an "experience" between the customer's wishes and gratification is a stupid mistake, yet MS continues to focus on making their stuff conspicuous when the opposite choice would be better.

Maybe the departure of Ballmer is a chance to change this particular aspect of Microsoft's culture. Those of us who don't work there are not interested in being part of it.

Anonymous said...

Can he please take his half-wit overpaid incompetent cronies -- Lisa Brummel and Kevin Turner -- with him? Soon! One year is too long! Make it a week!

Anonymous said...

Anyone else thinks that MSFT needs to go shopping to become devices and services company? I think services part is covered fairly well, but devices are lacking (in the execution part). How about buying RIM or Nokia or both? Both of them have some good software, decent design and know how to communicate with telecoms...

Anonymous said...

Buying RIM, Nokia, or Dell will not solve the problem any more than merging with Dick’s Drive-In would.

Microsoft has a terrible track record with acquisitions. Remember Danger? What about aQuantive?

Some of those companies might have good software or innovative hardware but we all know what would happen the second those products are brought into the Microsoft fold. Redmond-knows-best syndrome would strike again. Armies of PMs with degrees in hotel management or urban planning would take it upon themselves to tell brilliant engineers with proven track records how to do their jobs. After significant time and effort you’d have another Kin on your hands.

Might as well light the money on fire, it would save time.

Anonymous said...

right, acquiring two companies in even worse shape than Microsoft is (nobody thinks Microsoft will go under any time soon, everybody knows Nokia and Rim's days are numbered.....) will surely make thing better.....

And it's not like Microsoft had anything even resembles an acquisition success story for the past decade: forget about the billions wasted on certain ad company and the untold billions spent on bidding for skype (fine product but 8 billions, you got to be kidding me..). Just remember Andy Rubin founded the both Danger and Android, Microsoft bought the former and Google, the end result is MS turned a used-to-be-successful product into something that could barely last 2 month in the market and Google rode its acquisition to power 70% of world's smartphone....

you tell me...

dotdave said...

Not sure I agree about getting someone who has implemented/architected software as the leader. I can think of very few if any people I have known in those positions (I am in such a position myself) who would be suited to a role as an executive. Certainly someone who GETS what those things are about is important but I think that getting it is not the same as doing it. In fact, I can think of loads of good techies who, despite their excellent skills, really don't get it at all when it comes to the forest that is outside their little glen.

Not being an MS person myself I can't comment on Balmer's qualities other than to say that he would not be the first person in history to fail to transform an organization as large, complex and embedded as MS appears to be looking from the outside. I suppose whatever his failings and qualities, he spent a long time being very well paid for doing what turns out to be a thankless task: presiding over the inevitable transition from brilliant innovator to stable but declining giant.

Anonymous said...

1. OK
2. OK
3. Not you.
4. They're doing ok. Check your facts.

Anonymous said...

Staya Nadella
or
Paul Maritz

http://www.valuewalk.com/2013/08/microsofts-nadella-strong-candidate-for-ceo/

Anonymous said...

How about bringing back Kevin Johnson? He just completed 5 successful years as CEO of Juniper, is a decent human being who cares about employees (wouldn't that be a great change?), customers love him, and he has been a VP in the product groups, sales, and Services.

Anonymous said...

It is the review system stupid!

This year, I was really expecting a 1 or 2 and a promotion to the principal band. Instead, just got a 3, after an exceptional year. Totally surprised. Every single commitment completed. Worked with partners in all organizations, way above my level. I’m a Dev Lead and my direct reports all got good reviews (>= 3). None of them is surprised. Except me. Reason: after a reorg just a couple of months before review time, I got under a new manager. He is a level 67 Dev Manager who cannot start Visual Studio. Most of my new peers can start Visual Studio, but won’t find the build button. And let’s not even go into WinDbg and anything that is close to understanding what computers really do. Those are needed skills for the job at hand (or I would be using PHP!).

Reason for my average review: I don’t mingle well with peers, and don’t push my team to work hard as others. Obviously! I’m busy fixing the bugs they let their teams create. I’m busy mentoring their employees that really do the work, and who flock to my office asking for guidance. I’m busy working 10 hours per day, and going home to my family, instead of sitting around for 12 hours in meetings doing politics and expanding my visibility. And I ask my team to focus on results and working smart, not look like working hard and yet producing nothing. If a partner in another team knows my name and a PM in my own new team doesn’t know me, who is likely really doing the work?!

I love the technical part of my work. Yet, today I’m furious. Every single senior or principal developer I talk with at MS that is worth anything has already received the invitation for Amazon’s recruiting event on September 16th. Why? Because Amazon knows that there will be people like me absolutely furious on the 16th (to the credit of my new manager, at least he had the review conversation ahead of the last possible time; although I could easily replace him with a cone, an expensive level-67 cone!). If LisaB doesn’t announce she is leaving Microsoft by September 16th, you know where to find me, mingling with all other good developers trying to go somewhere in which they judge your results, not if you like the same wine your manager likes (don’t care any longer if this give it away!). The only hope for Microsoft is a completely new review system, not a minor revision of the current one.

Anonymous said...

Not being an MS person myself I can't comment on Balmer's qualities other than to say that he would not be the first person in history to fail to transform an organization as large, complex and embedded as MS appears to be looking from the outside.


You're missing the point. Who is it who made Microsoft large and complex in the first place?

You're on Mini-Microsoft. The raison d'etre of this blog is the insane growth in headcount of the Ballmer years. The complexity and size of the company are a problem of his own making. If that's what tripped him up, then he has no excuse. It's like falling because you stepped on your own shoe laces. You can't blame anybody but yourself.

Anonymous said...

To the Dev Lead above complaining about reviews: don't go to Amazon, wait it out. If you're as good as you claim, you'll be a rock star very soon - after the current set of useless middle management is managed out.

Anonymous said...

"after the current set of useless middle management is managed out."


I remember when I used to believe this would happen someday as well.


Face it, the inmates are running the asylum. What are they going to do? Fire themselves? Microsoft will crash into the ground before any of those idiots is ever put on the chopping block.

Anonymous said...

If there's a problem with so-and-so or such-and-such, how can the problem be recognized early and fixed? Droning an entire apartment block to get one spider isn't exactly a good idea.

If the problems are so entrenched that they can't be fixed, why are we even here. Because we enjoy watching the world burn?

Anonymous said...

My long-time hope is that KT would leave to be CEO of another company. A win-win. My vote? Brian Valentine. Engineering background, and the sales field loved him. Also a great human being with a lot of charisma to re-ignite the discouraged, beaten-down masses. He did this with Windows 2000. The only questions are whether the execs would respect him and whether his non-compete with Amazon would allow him to take the job. He may not even be interested in trying to right the ship.

As much as I respect J, I don't see him in the role. He may not be interested in the Enterprise business, he's famously conflict avoidant, and he has been known to protect his friends, even if they are weak performers.

Kevin Johnson? Didn't have a lot of respect from the technical types when he was at Microsoft. Paul Maritz? Perhaps. He was one of the people who remonstrated with Bill and Steve time and again that the company was hiring too many people.

The contradiction is that we need someone who is a seasoned manager, but also visionary enough to spot/set the next trend, something that younger people, less concerned with protecting the old, entrenched businesses, seem to be more capable of doing. It's also very hard to find someone who is both enterprise and consumer savvy.

As for other changes, beyond killing peoples' careers if they get one bad review, the elitist caste system needs to go, starting with bench and hi-po programs. Train everyone. People travel all kinds of paths in their journey to leadership; they don't always stand out at the beginning and the people who are good for one era may not be good for the next. Too much political favoritism is selecting who participates in those programs, which just pisses everyone else off. Microsoft does too much labeling of people. Has no one on the exec staff studied the Pygmalion Effect?

Anonymous said...

To the Dev Lead above complaining about reviews: don't go to Amazon, wait it out.

What is the problem with Amazon? I have heard that the work/life balance is pretty bad there. Besides that I haven't heard anything else that should stop someone from going there.

Anonymous said...

The new CEO has to wipe out the stack ranking system on day 1. My group has the worst case scenario: everybody made their numbers this past year. So, it comes down to internal politics and gamesmanship. I know of at least 3 good people planning on leaving because of this and one possibly two taking legal action over the manipulation of their review to justify low rankings. The stack ranking is just a management excuse to not have to think.

Richard Thornton said...

Screw Microsoft! We all use it because we have no choice. UEFI sucks.

I am not a robot.

Anonymous said...

I spent 8 years at Microsoft followed by 4 at Amazon.

The only "problem" at Amazon is that many former Microsoft managers can't hack it there. It is a data-driven culture where accountability is practiced, not just preached.

Think of the Danger/Sidekick backup fiasco and how the head of the org was allowed to stay at MS. At Amazon a loss of data of that magnitude would have resulted in her office being cleared overnight. I have seen it happen, including to high level people.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of trends out there. I'm sure thousands of people across the company each think they know for sure what the Next Big Thing is - and they're all different things - and many will be right, many will be a bit too flighty, and many would only be right if given enough resources. How does one choose which among many genius ideas MS should devote resources to?

Sometimes I think it's just luck - some small group of folks happens to get enough resources to make their idea a reality, it takes off, and the company gets huge. Then they live off their one-hit-wonder until some business disaster down the line, and everything falls apart. What does a company need to avoid being a one-hit-wonder? Surely one person isn't smart enough to think of millions of consistent hits.

When a company gets large, the potential hits have to be recognized in some way that will distinguish them from the ones that will not be as big. I also doubt one person has the ability to distinguish between all the potential big ideas. If not recognizing the ideas himself, then he would have to set up a system in which the right ideas are the ones bubbling up to see the light of day.

I wonder if Edison was able to do something similar - or if he was just lucky.

Anonymous said...

just in case you didn't saw it already:
http://www.nextmicrosoftceo.com/

Anonymous said...

>> http://www.nextmicrosoftceo.com/

FFS, why have the masses voted Marisa Mayer to the 3rd position? Don't we have our home grown candidate if we wanted the company wrecked by a non-technical beauty queen and her entourage who know nothing about enterprise?

Also who in their right mind thinks Tim Cook or Zuck would even consider taking the job?

Anonymous said...

"I'm an SDET, I write a ton of code, I make a ton of money, I love almost everyone who I work with, I'm freaking proud of the quality of the product I work on, and customers are proud too. If you don't like the company, leave or change it. But don't just complain."

I'm guessing you're a newly-promoted L63 and have been at the company for 5 years of less. You're high on the delusion that 1) your work is valued and the you will always get reviews that match what you actually accomplished, and 2) you have the ability to change anything.

Well sparky, here's the thing: eventually you're going to get a review that is both devastating and ridiculously undeserved, you're going to be thrown under the bus by Partners who only care about their million-dollar payouts, and you're going to realize that nobody changes Microsoft from within. Ever.

But enjoy the optimism while it lasts. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"FFS, why have the masses voted Marisa Mayer to the 3rd position? Don't we have our home grown candidate if we wanted the company wrecked by a non-technical beauty queen and her entourage who know nothing about enterprise?"

WOW. Classic misogynist douchebag!

I encourage you to investigate Marissa Mayer's technical pedigree. Cliff Notes version: she's far smarter and far more technical than you could ever dream about being, and in fact is probably one of the most technically legit CEOs of a major company out there right now. Comparing her to that idiot Julie Larson-Green is just stupid.

You should really find another way to deal with your small penis syndrome.

Anonymous said...

You hear it here first, Las Vegas Odd:

Kevin Johnson 2-1
Tony Bates 5-1
Paul Maritz 10-1
Guy Kawasaki 10-1
billg 15-1
Mark Hurd 1000-1

Terry Meyerson 0
Qi Lu 0
Satya 0
KT -000000000000000

Everyone else is also ZERO.

Anonymous said...

Well sparky, here's the thing: eventually you're going to get a review that is both devastating and ridiculously undeserved, you're going to be thrown under the bus by Partners who only care about their million-dollar payouts, and you're going to realize that nobody changes Microsoft from within. Ever.

Spoken by a softie who has been around. Listen up, s/he speaks the truth.

Anyone have information on whether the DATAllegro product (now MS's data warehouse) has been funded for another year?

Anonymous said...

>> WOW. Classic misogynist douchebag!

I'm against the culture that elevates the likes of MM and JLG while actually capable women engineers are stuck at mid levels. Call me what you will based on that one sentence, but you gotta agree with me on this.

Also, if you put gender aside we have tons of more qualified people in the company than MM. People with stronger and more relevant backgrounds, and broader vision.

You can't go from managing Google maps and then the junkiest portal of the web to managing a company that makes such a wide spectrum of consumer and enterprise products.

Anonymous said...

A corporate raider for Microsoft's next CEO would unlock the most shareholder value. A 50%+ layoff (75%+ if you include the contractors), then sell off the company in pieces. Can easily net 350+ billion.

Anonymous said...

You can't really take a public poll like that seriously. I bet half the voters are like, "Hey, here's a tech company. Hey, I've heard of that company. Hey, I use some of their products. I was just using this morning! Let me vote for that!"

Then again, a lot of people buy stocks the same way xD

Anonymous said...

Fantastic discussion here; I'm learning tons of stuff by following up on all sorts of links and references you lot throw in here. Thanks a bunch!

Just imagine if all this knowledge and passion could be harnessed to ship the next killer application from Microsoft. That'd show the world!

Good luck with the re-org under new management!

Anonymous said...

"Also, if you put gender aside we have tons of more qualified people in the company than MM. People with stronger and more relevant backgrounds, and broader vision.

You can't go from managing Google maps and then the junkiest portal of the web to managing a company that makes such a wide spectrum of consumer and enterprise products."


Have you actually been watching the impact MM has been having on Yahoo? It's rather spectacular. And yet... haters. If she was a man this conversation wouldn't be happening.

Anonymous said...

Put too much passion into your work and someone will see you as a threat to their rank. You know what happens next ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. When Lisa was installed as HR head she was lauded by many, including Mini. I thought she spoke with a new honesty and made some positive changes (Connector, etc). Sure, she tried to improve the review system and failed but I thought that was because other powers preserved the stack rank. Anyway, I left MSFT two years ago and now everyone hates Lisa. What happened?

(They should get rid of Sam Moreau, Julie and all those other delusional blowhards who thought Windows 8 was such a great idea, despite what their team members warned them about)

Anonymous said...

"What happened to Lisa after Connector programs etc.?"

She probably stopped giving a shit.

I mean she probably could have fought the SLT on the other shitty changes to the reviews, cutbacks on food subsidy, cutbacks on benefits... but really, that's a whole load of work. And if you're going to get the big bucks anyway if you just shut up and stick it to the peasants, who cares? Who really gives a shit, when the peasants are going to call you fat, insult your sexuality, insult your work in getting to your position in the first place. You can have all of those insults AND a big fat paycheck and become the co-owner of a sports team. Why not?

Anonymous said...

Well sparky, here's the thing: eventually you're going to get a review that is both devastating and ridiculously undeserved, you're going to be thrown under the bus by Partners who only care about their million-dollar payouts, [...]

Spoken by a softie who has been around. Listen up, s/he speaks the truth.

Another yes vote for the OP.

I got the "under the bus" treatment last review cycle after management assigned me to a last-minute fuster-cluck project outside my area of expertise. Tight schedule, management wouldn't give me any resources, no matter how many times I asked. In the end, it went south and they needed someone to blame, so there I was. I was given the advice that in the future, I should make sure that giving me extra resources was "in the commitments" of the Leads and Managers who had originally assigned the work. Seriously?

Years and years of good reviews and bonuses, and now I'm a 5 forever.

Microsoft is a profoundly toxic working environment.

Anonymous said...

As long as nobody has it in for you, you're fine. Otherwise if you can't determine what you do...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setup_to_fail

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft is a profoundly toxic working environment."

Yep. It's even profoundly toxic for those who *at the moment* are in a seemingly great place -- as with many other giant companies, being in a great place is completely dependent upon many precarious factors that can change in the blink of an eye.

I left the company 2 years ago after 16 years. The first 12 years I was well-liked and respected and I always felt fairly treated and like there was a direct connection between my work and my success. In my 12th year I changed teams for what seemed like a great opportunity, and found myself in the middle of a bad situation with a manager who was the kind of asshat you hear about at Microsoft but that I had not until that time actually encountered. It was in this manager's best interest to give me a terrible review (he left the company just a few months later under a dark cloud, of course) and I spent the next 3+ years trying to find any way to either leave the group or get a decent review score. My performance never changed -- I was the same person I always was, with the same work ethic, the same level of competence. But I encountered every excuse in the book for why it just wasn't possible for me to ever receive a good review. Every review period I'd be presented a fantasy of how I could get back on track, and at the end of every review period I was given reasons for why it just wasn't possible that time. None of the reasons were anything I could have controlled, like the often-used "your last score made it impossible for me to get you a good score this time even though your work was great."

I've seen the same thing happen to a lot of really quality people -- this isn't just a random thing that happens or something that only happens to losers. Microsoft culture is set-up to eventually throw you into a no-win situation when it comes to your career. The Partner model is terrible, the superstar culture is terrible and the review philosophy is terrible. For 95% of employees it's only a matter of time before the hammer drops, and when it drops there is nothing you can do but leave.

Of course, I finally left... but only after banging my head into a brick wall for a few years while laboring under the silly notion that good work, a good network of long-term relationships and a positive outook would eventually win the day. It didn't.

Microsoft as it is currently structured under Ballmer is unfixable. It isn't going to change until someone new comes in with a radically different vision for both what the company is and how it's run.

Anonymous said...

With a leader who aspires to own a professional basketball team, is any of this a surprise? Salesmen desperately want approval, arguably more than they want commission. Ballmer is not made of stone so he's giving up.

Question is, in a few months will the man still see any point in buying a team for Seattle? Who's going to clap for him and will it be loud enough?

Anonymous said...

"Years and years of good reviews and bonuses, and now I'm a 5 forever."

I am in the same boat. Now that I have a '5' how soon until I get fired?

Anonymous said...

+1 on BV for CEO. I doubt he wants it, but it would be a bold choice.

Anonymous said...

To all those who posted about the horrors of SQL Azure team, here is one more. SQL team used to be a really solid team years back. Problem is all the talent is gone now and the ones who remain in the management positions and director positions are basking in the old box days glories. Their tendency is to apply their box management style to SQL Azure, and my God does that not work. The managers are shallow technically especially in test, do not know how to manage risk, do not know how to foster innovation, can yap and socialize unto no end, will jump to conclusions, you cannot get a word in when they are in the room (terrible listeners), and will say YES to about anything but actually back nothing. Everything damn thing is a priority, so nothing gets done :). Worse still, they absolutely do not get along. Not sure if this is the perf review curve or other wise, but they seem to want to one up each other. They will take every chance to back stab each other, including direct reports. The layer above that, the test director has absolutely no control on his managers, has no idea how to promote much needed change, and exhibits much of the same listed qualities. Work life balance is non existent. Code base is old and crummy. Reorgs are every 6 months, and almost used as a tool to sort out engineering priorities. Oh the service is bad, no architecture roadmap, tremendously complex. Sad decline of a good team/org.

Anonymous said...

I want to share the site to track CEO candidates http://vis.stanford.edu/wrangler/app/

Anonymous said...


Gads, Im'a gonna retire in the next 2 years and kiss all this crud goodbye.

Happy about that.

'Course, if a good employer comes along and wants me, I might take them up.



Anonymous said...

"I am in the same boat. Now that I have a '5' how soon until I get fired?"

From personal experience: You will get enough rope from management to get another '5' next year in the guise of "work hard and change your fate". After that, if you aren't already completely demoralized and quit yourself with 2 years of 0% raise, 0% bonus, they will start setting you up for a PIP. And then the eventual HR-approved firing at the time of your third 5 or earlier. So the timer has started for you to find a new job. Tick tock, tick tock.

Anonymous said...

>>> And then the eventual HR-approved firing at the time of your third 5 or earlier.


Does that means somebody has over a year from their first 5 to the day they're being shown the door? That's not bad at all.

Anonymous said...

Sinofsky? No - Windows 8

Valentine? Hell, no - Vista.

Anonymous said...

Last year, L61->62, with 1.
This year at L62, got a 1 again.

Last year, manager and I set expectations that we'll be eyeing for a Senior. April this year, he said it's likely not happen as I haven't done my time in level.

I felt utterly stupid because a week before I let go of an offer to join another team in MSFT(ex-lead made the offer).

I own a very critical piece that happens early in OS boot(yep, I am blessed) and I may have shot myself in the foot by mentoring a junior on the pretext of building leadership.

To MSFT leads out there, would the management care if a person who's always had 1s and E/20 suddenly leaves? I left enough remarks in MSPoll about how I hate doing my time and how demotivating it is...but I think the time is up.


And all the bashers out there..no MSFT is not THAT bad a place. I think it's more fashionable to bitch about it. And no, I've worked at other companies to appreciate this place. Not the fancy bots and fruits..but a few respected names.

Anonymous said...

> Last year, L61->62, with 1.
> This year at L62, got a 1 again.

> Last year, manager and I set expectations that we'll be eyeing for a Senior.

And you are here complaining about a promotion?
You probably are not ready for senior anyway. Either you have a bunch of morons as peers, or your manager dedicated a lot of effort to get you this review score. And here you are, complaining about a promotion, just a single year after being promoted. Do you realize that getting a 20% bonus with this 1 is far better that you could get as a senior with 3, or even a 2?

Your sense of entitlement is so big that everyone will cheer if you leave, including all Microsoft management. With all the good people getting 4 or 5, no bonus and no raise, and still possibly doing a sincere effort to believe in the "system", they wasted a 1 on someone like you. I’m sure you are one of those that sucks up big time at work. And then complains anonymous here and in the MS Poll, leaving your manager thinking that someone else in the org is the unhappy sheep. A clear demonstration of all that is wrong within Microsoft these days.

Anonymous said...

Even NPR is joining the bashing of stack ranking - contrasting Medium to Microsoft on http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/08/28/216432137/microsoft-vs-medium-a-tale-of-two-office-cultures

At the bottom of the article, SB reaffirms his commitment to continue stack ranking through the rest of his tenure.

Anonymous said...

...he let Windows (Sinofsky) and DevDiv go to war during windows 8 on who owns the programming platform. I don't think SteveB even understood the battleground.

I worked in Microsoft's field org for 10+ years, departing when my role went from driving deep platform adoption to winning social media popularity contests.

I think the damage done to Microsoft's relationship with its dwindling developer community by situations like the one mentioned above is hard to underestimate, and I think it's a major reason Win8 and WP8 have struggled. Developers developers developers are one of SteveB's biggest blindspots - we're all just noise noise noise to him.

Public flailing around WPF, SL, WinRT, WinJS, XAML, WP7, WP8, C#, JS, and .NET did more than just alienate the developers building mobile apps for Windows - it also alienated enterprises that invested millions in tools and platforms Microsoft sold to them. Compare that to how Apple manages frameworks (Cocoa + Cocoa Touch), languages (Objective C/C++), and tools (Xcode) - it's downright embarrassing.

Despite having a great IDE, a great framework, a great programming language, and a great SDLC suite (thank you DevDiv), Microsoft's commitment to any given technology it advocates is highly questionable. The wave of uncertainty that creates ripples through developers all the way up to the executives that sign and renew Enterprise Agreements, and redirects investment from Windows to neutral or competitive platforms.

It's sad to see how enterprises and developers that once trusted Microsoft to set the strategic direction for the industry now question or ignore what Microsoft has to say. It's why new Microsoft technologies don't self-propel. It's why existing Microsoft technologies lose share.

As hard as it will be to fix all the broken internal issues that are so well documented here, fixing developer relations will be just as difficult (if not impossible.) I wish it will happen (as I have so much invested in Microsoft's success), but I'm not very hopeful it will.

I agree with the poster that likened Windows to an "albatross" that Microsoft wears around its neck. I'd let the arrogant geniuses that gave us Vista, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8 stand on their own and free Office, SQL Server, Visual Studio, and every other product team to target whichever platform they choose. That might reinvigorate a whole bunch of product teams, and lead to delivery of some really innovative products that consumers and enterprises could be excited about again.

I can only wish it will happen.

Joaquin said...

Kevin Turner is the worst that could happen to Microsoft. He does not understand coding, he doesn't live technology. He's an accountant for god's sake!

Anonymous said...

A. Write a few e-mails every day describing what is anyways obvious.

B. Design complex products and services, write code, deploy services and collaborate with customers and partners to understand requirements.

A is the lower-middle level managers and B is the engineers at Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

At the bottom of the article, SB reaffirms his commitment to continue stack ranking through the rest of his tenure.

That figures :(
There is an interesting trend occuring in multiple groups across the company. Now when people get a 4 or 5 most simply leave the company! This is now easier than ever because the IT job market is really hot right now. However, this spells even more trouble for MS because every year a whole new batch of people will be the new 4s and 5s. Obviously a lot of the new batch will leave as well. This cycle will keep repeating it self until the job market cools down or the review system changes.

Anonymous said...

Well, the job market is beyond hot right now. Comparable salary is at least 15k higher than last year, and last year was 10k higher than the year before.

If you get a 4, or 5, you should leave, maybe even a 3 as well.

Anonymous said...

"I think the damage done to Microsoft's relationship with its dwindling developer community..."

Is getting worse, rapidly. The shut-out of developers from 8.1 is not being swallowed quietly. Can't the company at least offer a coherent explanation, one more plausible than handwaving about how everything is different now?

Anonymous said...

"...every year a whole new batch of people will be the new 4s and 5s. Obviously a lot of the new batch will leave as well. This cycle will keep repeating it self..."

And unless the company can tap into a magical infinite supply of ever increasingly superior staff, they'll be mindlessly pumping talent overboard, while simultaneously destroying collective memory and continuity.

Doesn't sound sustainable. In fact, perhaps this explains a lot about the burgeoning inability of the company to execute?

Anonymous said...

Well, when you get to be CEO, you don't let some random blog on the internet or some no-name reporter tell you what to do. If you're going to change things, it's going to be on your own terms. The more these peons try to force something on you, the more you dig in your heels. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_psychology

Anonymous said...

The story of DEC's decline feels eerily similar to where MSFT is today. Culturally we hired a bunch of folks from our competitors in the late 90's to grow our enterprise business. When I started in the 90's I was surprised by the "its ok to attack ideas but not people" culture that Microsoft had. All the IBM, Oracle, and other folks we hired into leadership quickly turned our culture into one of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Anonymous said...

And you are here complaining about a promotion?
You probably are not ready for senior anyway. ....


I was screwed over as a college hire when I had prior work experience (enough years to not be thrown away). And yes, I am ambitious and work hard to make up for the lost time. I do not put in as many hours as others do, but I work smart and hard...to deserve a strong 2 if not a 1.
My bugs are always in control, I chip in often for others when counts are high, dev specs are detailed, give feedback, I get to interact with half of the org as I own a core component, very few or no regressions (lest work for half of the org can come to a crawl)...etc.

I've been told since more than a year that I am doing senior level work..and the ratings is another way to prove i am not challenged enough in my band.

I know there are others out there with 4/5s who feel miserable and that a 1 is better than a L63 with 3(leads have told me that).. but the engineer in me isn't after the money anymore...

Anonymous said...

> When I started in the 90's I was surprised by the "its ok to attack ideas but not people" culture that Microsoft had.

That is no longer there.

Would Microsoft enter the tablet business late and with a poor alternative like the Surface RT if listening to all those who internally saw this as a recipe for disaster and alienation of partners?

Do you think that SQL would be so late to the market with big data processing tools if they had not dismissed Hadoop for too long, to the despair of all those inside who were told to stop making noise?

Do you think that the Xbox One public humiliation would happen if those attacking the stupid ideas inside weren’t told to shut up and suck up?

The culture today is: if we don’t suck up, we will bring you down, no matter how good you are. There are pockets of good culture: a few new teams. As soon as a large teams know about this they try to destroy those new teams because they “steal” their best engineers. The dinosaurs eat the hope the company has of survival, only to die in the end anyway.

Anonymous said...

Here's something from the Harvard Review...sound familiar?

Refuse to Participate in a Cutthroat Environment

It’s demoralizing to have a boss who pits you against your colleagues. Don’t give in to this dynamic. Instead, collaborate with coworkers to find your own ways of working together that don’t ratchet up the competition. Tell your boss how you feel about the situation, but be diplomatic and constructive. If she thinks you’re complaining, she won’t take your concerns seriously. Discuss it with your colleague(s) first and then meet with your boss, perhaps together. Say you’d like to stop vying for the spotlight, because it’s distracting you from doing your best work. Ask if she can avoid putting you in competitive situations (and give a few examples, in case she’s not tuned in to her own behavior) so you can both be more productive—to the benefit of all.

Anonymous said...

Well sparky, here's the thing: eventually you're going to get a review that is both devastating and ridiculously undeserved, you're going to be thrown under the bus by Partners who only care about their million-dollar payouts, [...]

Spoken by a softie who has been around. Listen up, s/he speaks the truth.


Yay verily, preach it brother or sister, preach it! I moved into a group two years ago and into a "challenging position". The program was in disarray, new clueless manager, lots to be done. I did it. In addition, as people quit the group I got their jobs. Under my watch, a key metric rose 40%. Enter clueless manager's involvement. First meeting he had with the team that had started loving us again, they walked out, literally. I got thrown under the bus. It does not pay to be honest with management at Microsoft, especially if you're doing your job. I quit the company. About three weeks ago I was back on campus for some business and realized after an hour of walking around the Commons that I never felt any nostalgia for the place. Microsoft is no longer my company.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ballmer got up at the company meeting last year and proclaimed we were all getting phones and tablets and I think this is a quote, "blah, blah, blah". I gave my Surface RT to my wife as I had the Kindle Fire. Not long after, I quit the company and was told that I had to return the Surface. After eleven years in the company, my parting gift was a kick in the ass. Mr. Ballmer's statement "it's yours to keep" must have ended with, "unless you show a slight bit of disloyalty". I guess the background cheering at the company meeting must have drowned that out. So I give back the tablet and the next day take my wife to the mall. She played with the Fire for a few weeks, she played with the RT for a few weeks. We went to the Apple store in the mall and two minutes later she wanted the iPad. She loves it. THIS is why Microsoft is failing.

Anonymous said...

Bring up concerns with your boss? Together? You better hope you have no Walmart folks on your senior leadership team.

http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2011/08/how-walmart-trains-managers

One sign said “Baby shower committee meeting Jan. 26, 8 pm.” Another said “Potluck Wednesday all day in break room.” Which one of those signs should raise alarms with management?

“Baby shower committee.” Because of the word “committee,” a manager would have to find the person who made the sign, find out why they used that word, then determine if the action got a warning or a write-up. They called it unlawful Walmart language, words like “committee,” “organize,” “meeting.” Even “volunteer” was an iffy word, and they would raise an eyebrow at “group.”

Anonymous said...

"Not long after, I quit the company and was told that I had to return the Surface"

I know people who quit and got to keep theirs. I also know of a team when people simply got told "Nobody gets a Surface".


This highlights Ballmer's managerial incompetence. He's just not a "details guy". He'll announce a grand initiative like "Everybody gets a Surface" and there will be no follow-through. As far as he's concerned, every employee got a Surface. Meanwhile, entire orgs are rewriting the terms of the deal, making him sound like a liar, and he probably has no clue.

Anonymous said...

I am a former Microsoft SDET who left about 2 years ago. I do not have any comments on whether Microsoft experience on your resume helps or hurts you. I do think it hurt me since all the offers I had specifically mentioned that I will have a learning curve into Linux and non-MSFT world. However this will really depend on the role and company you apply for.

I do have some perspective on the dev-pm-sdet ratio. I currently work at a mid-sized company that IPOd 2 years ago and is fairly successful. My team has 18 devs, 2.5 SDETs and half PM (SDET and PM span several teams hence the fraction). This has worked out great since we are not expected to find every single possible bug that exists in the system, nor get blamed for slipping a bug that is later caught in production. I do think that reducing the dev-test-pm ratio is absolutely critical to Microsofts success. Too many SDETs and we find small UI bugs that hide the most critical bugs. Too many PMs and we try to get way too much done where nothing works perfectly. The lower ratio helps doing fewer things better. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Lisa it's time out for you

Anonymous said...

Microsoft names new “channel chief” for Worldwide Partner Group:

http://www.4-traders.com/MICROSOFT-CORPORATION-4835/news/Microsoft-Corporation--Microsoft-names-new-channel-chief-for-Worldwide-Partner-Group-17225881/

What corporations can learn from Microsoft:
http://phys.org/news/2013-08-corporations-microsoft.html

Anonymous said...

"I have a lot of data points that indicate he knew privately he was failing for many years. I saw him as a man under immense stress but I did admire his drive to try and succeed. I'll give him A+ for caring and for effort."

Sounds like the textbook example of a 5. Steve relative to his peers knew he was failing.

Yet I doubt that you share the same empathy and give your co-workers and neighbors and friends the same A+ even though they lost their bonuses and stock and jobs but Steve got to stay for 5 years past the point he was clearly a 5.

Anonymous said...

If anyone else were CEO, would they be able to objectively measure their own success? How would anyone really know whether they are doing the best thing possible given the environment they're in with the resources that they have available? It's not some scientific experiment where you have controls and a limited number of variables. All you really have is a hunch, and if you want to protect your ego, you try to only focus on the positive.

Reviews themselves are somewhat of a black art. It's not like school where questions are on the test only when they have definitive right or wrong answers. If everyone is working on different things, how do you really judge that those oranges are better than those apples? People aren't taking the same test in the real world, and if they were, it would probably be a redundant waste of resources (unless redundant system design were the actual intent). I think it's because of the "black-artness" of performance reviews that there are so many wildly different theories on them, not to mention wildly different opinions on the results even when the system is the same.

Yes we're engineers. Yes we like concrete answers. Unfortunately not everything is that easy. Oh the angst!

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is a great company with some great people, and I'm proud to have worked there. I'm at another large, top-tier software company now, and while I like it better here, I in no way regret my time spent working on such incredible code bases.

I am happy about his news - still a stockholder! - and can't wait to see what comes next.

(Although I have to get a bit of schadenfreude. You can't have brianv back.)

Anonymous said...

Now that all of you are done feeling important commenting on Microsoft's strategy and speculating about the next CEO, go here and discuss something that really impacts you:

http://zinimsft.blogspot.com/2013/08/ceo-leaves-ok-lets-talk-performance.html

Anonymous said...

>> "...every year a whole new batch of people will be the new 4s and 5s. Obviously a lot of the new batch will leave as well. This cycle will keep repeating it self..."

I keep telling them in the poll that a 4/5 band that's larger than the targeted "positive attrition" is a conveyor belt out for people that we don't really want to leave.

Anonymous said...

A few predictions:

1) MS is going to make a CEO choice whom many inside and outside the company approve of.

2) The most disliked members of the SLT will leave in fear of being pushed out by new CEO. Reason: they can still get good gigs if they leave on their own before getting publicly replaced.

3) The now world famous review system will finally bite the dust and at least go back to what it was before 2011. No more quota for 4's and 5's. Reason: with Ballmer and a few of his faves gone and the business world openly laughing at MS specifically because of the perf system, it's now officially more trouble than it's worth. Also, there won't be enough high-level proponents of this psycho-sadistic policy left in place to keep it around. It was going to go away anyway but now it's a public embarrassment to the company and the SLT will lose some of its most stubborn members who refuse to change.

Anonymous said...

"In reality it takes both killer products and killer business execution to grow a company the size of Microsoft."

Or a monopoly that has been dropped into the lap of a psychopath.

Anonymous said...

>>>> You can't have brianv back

I saw that a few people have mentioned him as a possible CEO. I really don’t know about that. I respect the guy as an engineer and he’s a decent human being (a somewhat rare quality among people who have made it as far as he has) but he wouldn’t be my first choice.

I’d love to have the BrianV of 1999 as CEO. I remember his work in Exchange, the way he turned around Windows 2000. He’s also the guy who shipped XP. But unfortunately he was also at the helm during the Longhorn reset and the Vista debacle. I don’t know that he’s to blame personally. I actually doubt it. But somehow after that he seemed to have lost his touch.

When I left Microsoft to go work for Amazon, I was struck by his lack of vision. After years in Windows he seemed only able to think in terms of operating systems. He kept talking about “building an e-commerce operating system”. I thought he was a classic case of somebody who sees all problems as nails after having worked 10 years with nothing but a hammer. Another problem is that a few really bad yes-men seemed to have his ear there. One in particular was expert at forming committees, having meetings, writing proposals and specs without anything tangible ever coming out of it. Still BrianV seemed to hold the guy in high regard.

Anonymous said...

How does that now famous saying go? Change doesn't come to a society because people are swayed by new information and research. Change comes when the old guard dies and is replaced by new people with their egos fixated on new ideologies.

Anonymous said...

20 year veteran. This happened to me as well several years ago. It took me 3 years to claw my way back out. Was it worth it? Mixed feelings, but it can be done. We'll see if things get better or worse after Fester us gone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting... The zinimsft blog has been taken down. I now get an error about how it has been removed when going there.

I wonder if minimsft is next?

Anonymous said...

well, I hope enough people simply complained after all those spam posts from zinimsft to get it taken down.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer saw the next couple of years ahead of him and decided that anything is better. What is in our product line-up? Only the enterprise side. Boring. Yet, we should be happy to have that to keep the company alive while we find our way to the wearable and connected devices, or whatever comes next in the customer side.

The failures of our customer line up in the near future can greatly exceed those of the past. Windows 8.1. Blah, blah, blah! Who will buy a new surface after they damaged the brand with the wrong product at the wrong price? Xbox One will make the Surface write-off look like an achievement (if the dud makes it on time to even be relevant, since it is getting harder to find what to cut to get to the release date). The only hope is Windows Phone. Nokia has great devices. Yet, they are focusing on the camera aspect, and that may give us a hint: the OS is not really bringing any customers. All phone partners and potential ones are begging for a strong sign that Microsoft won’t betray them and enter the phone hardware business. They are trying to run away from Android, and we keep pushing them there. What a moronic approach. And if someone thinks that the customer-side redemption will come from borg-like glasses then we are in deep trouble.

Anonymous said...

Well I’ll just leave my story here as an epitaph for a once promising career at MS. 15 years in here are the stats: L62, 2 gold stars, 3 ship it awards, lifetime average in the old review system 3.75. The last three reviews were 4, then a 3, and this year I’ve been promised a 5. The chief complaint about me is that my projects aren’t of the scope and visibility required for my level. So it appears I’ve been promoted to my level of incompetence. Although if you talk to my customers they will tell a different story. So I’m not the superstar I once was but I still produce solid work, am thoughtful, creative, and independent (read: I don’t require constant supervision). All 15 of my years have been spent in the SharePoint world or its predecessors. That description alone will alert some readers as to my identity, but I don’t really care. I connected with people I know, as high as the GM level, and everyone just sort of shook their heads and said, “Yeah this review system is tough”. When I got wind of the impending 5 in my mid-year, I came up with a plan. Not a plan to save my position at MS, since it was clear that my manager had no intention of fighting for me, but a plan to turn this situation into a win for me. I put myself out there despite the blow to my ego that the system had dealt me. To my surprise there was interest…a lot of it. Turns out SharePoint is in demand! MS alums are in demand. Four days into my clandestine job search I was offered Managing Partner at a small dev shop by another ex-MS person who knew of my work and “had” to have me. What a difference to go from feeling unwanted to in demand in just a few days. It is a temporary cut in pay but comes with ownership, and I intend to help grow this new company so that it will not only replace my MS salary but eclipse it. So with this plan in motion I’ve spent the last few months finishing up things and getting my personal finances in order for the transition to be smooth for my family. I’ll be leaving at the end of September. I don’t feel cheated or sad at all. It has been a great ride, a lot of fun, an amazing learning experience, and also unbelievably disappointing. Disappointing to see what was once a great corporate culture totally destroyed so that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to what it once was. A lot of the guys and gals I started with 15 years ago are gone now, many managed out by this same system. It is a little shocking to realize that you are the last one at the party and have stayed too long.

I’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, and while it was sometimes maybe too strident, it was always interesting. In the end I’ll just do my little part to help Mini a little closer to the goal of a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine.

MSFT -1

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I see our consumer division to be vital to our business strategy, but not in the traditional sense. I mainly see it as an arm of our PR and marketing department. Get the average guy on the street excited about Microsoft, and that helps drive excitement in enterprise. Sure it would be nice if the consumer division is in the black, but if it drives more revenue in other parts of the company, I'd be willing to take a write-off. Nobody sees the marketing department as having to pull in profit all by itself. I see Youtube as something similar - even if it doesn't bring in much revenue, the fact that it's the defacto repository of all video media just makes the power it wields scary.

Too bad enterprise isn't as sexy, but on a pragmatic level, enterprise customers have a lot more money to spend than the guy on the street. If you want to survive in our current economic system, you have to go where the money is.

Similarly, whether Xbox is in the black or red doesn't concern me as much as how many future software geeks are dreaming of an Xbox future - even if they don't end up directly working in one of our Xbox groups.

But as far as creating the right "ecosystem" for our consumer platforms, MS has a big advantage in Windows - as long as the PC gaming market is still thriving, then there will be a lot of companies used to writing to the PC APIs. Make it easy for third-party developers to move their code to Xbox or WinPhone, and you'd almost get extra games on other MS platforms "for free". Even when the same games or apps aren't expected to work cross-platform due to hardware differences, the simple fact of having similar APIs / interfaces would mean game developers don't have to bother learning anything new, but can still develop for the other platforms.

Developers! Developers! Developers!

...or maybe Content! Content! Content!?

Anonymous said...

"To be honest, I see our consumer division to be vital to our business strategy, but not in the traditional sense. I mainly see it as an arm of our PR and marketing department. Get the average guy on the street excited about Microsoft, and that helps drive excitement in enterprise."

I'd love to know what you were smoking when you came-up with this "insight".

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