Sunday, April 24, 2005

We the Microsoft Shareholders

So, Scoble not only got permission to post Mr. Ballmer's href="
AboutAntidiscriminationBill.html">Friday Memo on the HB 1515 broohaha
but almost posted a href="">fine bit of
blistering commentary (href="">Sco-Balls,
indeed). Again, I'm trying not to step in the red/blue state splattered
opinion on the anti-discrimination bill and affixed agendas. Rather, just at
the associated screw-up.

The good:

  • Ballmer came out and said something within a reasonably quick amount
    of time of things blowing up in Microsoft's face. Quick damage control is
    smart and this will no doubt help quell what could have blown up even more
    (a divisive story like this, ignoring the players, is always great for
    filling up the spaces during slow news days

The bad:

  • That this public controversy ever happened. This is just poor
    forward thinking and poor leadership that leads to href="">d
    oubt and suspicion. We don't lavish rich compensation like this on the
    executive leadership decision makers just so that they can embarrass our
    company. It shows a total lack of savvy, a degree of clumsiness, and a
    growing doubt in their ability to make good decisions.

  • A demonstration that executive leadership doesn't think they are
    accountable to the key shareholders in Microsoft.

The second point above is where I'm going to have to momentarily dial the
foul-language meter up to "R" (fair warning - I do usually
endeavor to keep the language clean here to not obscure any vestiges of a
meaningful message
). A bit of the memo that was innocuous at first later
had my teeth-grinding as I did yard-work all day Saturday:

It's appropriate to invoke the company's name on issues of
public policy that directly affect our business and our shareholders, but
it's much less clear when it's appropriate to invoke the company's name on
broader issues that go far beyond the software industry -- and on which our
employees and shareholders hold widely divergent opinions. We are a public
corporation with a duty first and foremost to a broad group of shareholders.

Mr. Ballmer, who the fuck do you think is on the other side of this
god-damn email? The most fucking important shareholders that the company
has! Don't lecture me about doing what's best for shareholders when I and
just about everyone in the company are just that. You're doing what's best
for me. You're accountable to me.

So as I swept and snipped and scrubbed, my little brain started
connecting the dots over the past realizing that executive leadership
doesn't think that employees are engaged shareholders let alone shareholders
interested in the direct impact of executive leadership's decision making.
Last year, describing the changes in compensation, Mr. Ballmer said that
most employee's just flip their stock as soon as possible vs. holding on to
it. And Mr. Ballmer has said multiple times how important things are guided
by our responsibility to the shareholders. And to Mr. Ballmer, it seems, the
intersection between the set of shareholders and the set of Microsoft
employees is the null set.

So I could watch The Corporation again and meditate on Microsoft
doing what it thinks is best for the shareholders, but I could flip that
around and wonder if the shareholders are actually speaking up and demanding
Microsoft actually perform and be held accountable for doing the best job
possible. I don't see that currently happening. And until the shareholders
(especially the most important shareholders) start making their voice
increasingly heard about what they expect, the less likely the leadership is
going to feel accountable for more results than well-spoken lip-service.

No comments:

Post a Comment