Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Comment Overload at Mini-Microsoft

A short, paste-happy content-free prelude to the Company Meeting... first of all, what happened last night reminded me of an offhand comment I had made to Business Week's Jay Greene: "I fear getting Slashdotted." I was concerned about the vitriol level of the comments here exploding into a noisy spectrum. Well, the small Slashdot blurb showed up last night. It could be that things were saved by Google's Blogger having a server problem and the blog just being wonky when not completely offline (perhaps from being Slashdotted - if so, sorry! Nice load experiment, eh?). But then I didn't know how many people prefer to comment within the original Slashdot posting itself. Lesson learned.

In the end, I'm pleasantly surprised at the low number of bothersome comments. And I'm super pleased at the number of new Microsoftie comments. Too many good ones to truly appreciate them all in a short period of time. It will take me a while to read them in depth, let alone pull together any new patterns.

Some recent Business Week posts:

Todd Bishop over at Seattle-PI has the Ballmer Q&A and Ballmer Q&A: Online Extra. Two precious questions that sent my socks flying (after many sock-flights out of my scruffy loafers over the past week):

  1. Q: Microsoft has been criticized for becoming too interdependent and bureaucratic as it has grown larger. Is this a bid to become more nimble and responsive in that way?
  2. Q: Is Microsoft today not agile enough, in your mind?

See, I couldn't have imagined Ballmer or Gates being asked those questions a couple of weeks ago, no matter how much I dreamed about it. The answers still don't satisfy. Here's the thing: how about some follow-ups, like a tough job interview question. Q: Can you give me a recent example of agility in action at Microsoft and how it created a superior software product? And you've got to (channeling Ballmer) drill into it, drill into it, drill into it over the next months as the commitments of these executives are realized to meet one of the main stated goals of this reorg: to be agile and efficient. Start building up the facts to show the proof. Cause... you know, folks aren't going to let this one slip away and fade from memory.

Interesting recent bits from the comments:

This blog really needs to be studied carefully. But not by Microsoft employees or even employees from other companies. Not by management either. It needs to be studied by psychology students so they can see what a serious case of DENIAL looks like.

It's pretty clear that you're fully aware that SteveB, BillG, and the other upper execs are way less than competent. And that this reorg is totally pointless. Yet you continue to hope that somehow these morons, these proven failures, will magically fix things and MSFT will be great again.

Well, I guess de-Nile is not just a river. Another:

I worked for Microsoft for 15 years, and left a month ago, because of all the stuff that has been written in this blog - bureaucracy, useless level of management, product integration deadlock and so on.

Seeing JimAll leaving and being replaced by a salesman, just reensure me that I did the right thing.

Jim's a polarizing figure. Either folks think he walks on water or that he's a walking disaster. Another 15-year marker:

I worked at Microsoft for well over 15 years; I left because the company was fundamentally not set up to grow people to taking on new levels of responsibility. One of the earlier comments stated that many of MS’s managers are not good business people. The fault, if true, is not with those people, but that Microsoft has not given those people the opportunity to take responsibility for their businesses.

Contemplating the "rank and yank" stack ranking system and how Ballmer indicated we move on 6.5% of Microsofties a year:

I am contiually baffled at the folks who believe that forced ranking is a necessary evil. WHY? Give me one good reason why it's necessary at all. Since when is it impossible to pick out the low performers without a ranking? This is a cop-out by people who are too lazy to set realistic goals by which to compare an employee's performance.


In my 10 years at MSFT, I've seen exactly four employees terminated for performance reasons:

Two got caught stealing.

One did literally no work for over a year.

One got managed into a no-win situation. A great contributor who I later hired into my group.


The 6.5% forced attrition number is total BS. It doesn't happen. I have the same experience as a previous poster - I can count the number of people I've seen fired for performance reasons on one hand.


I'm a manager of a small team I was put in charge of 2 months ago and I "inherited" an utterly useless person. Almost all of the candidates I give no-hire I would rather have than this one, but I have no chance in hell of firing her. Why? Unions, lawsuits, bullshit upon bullshit. She got a 3.0 this year (former manager), a 2.5 last year but former manager had no balls.
So now I'm stuck with an employee who is worthless, taking up a headcount and I can only give her a motivating speak in my 1-1s if I don't want her to be downright destructive.
My god, if only I could actually speak right out of the bag and fire this dead weight!
I may sound tough, but this really pisses me off...

Have a few years of 6.5% reduction of workforce (not backfilled) would be great. Perhaps the reductions are happening outside of Redmond. How about giving us some visibility into our reductions?

Bing! Alright, the fifteen minutes are up. Back to work.

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