Thursday, September 22, 2005

Microsoft Company Meeting 2005

(Updated: reposted with Post-Company Meeting immediate reactions.)

Pre Company Meeting

So I'm getting ready for the Microsoft Company Meeting, ready to get to campus early and jump on a bus and get my morning box lunch, feeling deep sympathy for all the admins who get to SafeCo field sometime after 7:00 am to guard spots for their groups.

Do something nice for your admin this next week. And if you're smart, do something nice for your admin every week.

So in your dream Company Meeting, what would you like to see? Here, I'll share a few:

Dates: I said it once, I'll say it again: I want some dates for all of these innovations stuffing our pipeline. But wait, aren't date-based releases bad? Look, Vista was no longer about being a feature-based release after the Longhorn Reset. If it's not making the date, it's got a "Cut!" fate. Plus, our customer pay us good money to license our software and we need to give them value for actually getting around to shipping something on occasion.

Review System Overhaul: we announce that the "rank and yank" stack rank review system and The Curve is a thing of the past, where it belongs in the industrial era. For 2006, we'll have a new, fair, review and compensation system that is appropriate for a 21st century company that endeavors to hire the best, smartest, "A+" people. (I said endeavors.)

Management Flattening: as part of the reorganization, each of the three new businesses were taking on the mandate to flatten their organizations to reduce bureaucratic middle management and get the decision makers close to the front-line contributors.

Mea-Frickin-Culpa: no, it's not always been this way. No, it's not just that we have a culture of criticism. Yes, something has reached a critical stage where the best of Microsoft is peeling away from the company, some severely disillusioned with what a lumbering, slow beast it has become. All I'd be happy to hear is, "There is something wrong. We know what it is (tell us). We're going to fix it and here is how."

Dissent: No, I have no grand plans of organized dissent. How many dissenters are even out there? Fifty? One-hundred and fifty? A few thousand? Beats me. All I can say is don't clap if you don't want to, throw in a boo or a hiss. If something outrageously false is said, kick in with a "eeeeenk!" wrong buzzer. I guess that's my dream: when all the bogus claims of success and everything being alright is echoed through SafeCo field, the audience goes "eeeeenk!"

Post Company Meeting

One word: Wow!

Short phrase: I think our customers are going to be delighted silly this coming year!


  • Investors realize that we can ship and what we are shipping is well worth investing in Microsoft. It's their way of saying, "More, please!"
  • We never forget that a lot of what we're shipping is a year or even years late and commit to never letting this happen again.

I love Microsoft and I especially love the Company Meeting. I am so thankful that it's back and hopefully will happen again every year. Any vestiges of doubt or ennui get blown away once you actually see what we are on the verge of shipping. My only worry now is that we're shipping so much that some really good stuff is going to die on the vine out of lack of attention.

As for my wishes above: zip. We have Vista's ship-ish date as: before the end of next year. There was a slide showing all the software being shipped this next year, and both Vista and Office 12 were emblazoned with "Beta." Beta than nothing.

There were lots of good words from Lisa and from Steve about adjusting and what to focus on (e.g., finding your own personal mid-year review that you can do without). Good words. Actions, of course, speak louder. However, those good words can be used to your advantage to cleave through useless process and meetings and to focus on the customer and on the code.

The software looks fantastic in my opinion and I was pretty impressed that given how much they showed not much at all went wrong (the main thing that seemed problematic was Steve's clicker to advance the PPT slidedeck). The XBox 360 makes my heart beat fast and my fingers quiver. And I understand it plays games, too.

I'm probably going to stop posting here for a while just so that I can start writing my own gadgets for and look forward to them working with Vista. I'm energized and cautiously optimistic.

And I hope all the folks who do the real work of Microsoft are energized, too, and feel empowered to start managing up and kicking bureaucracy's butt around the building and to focus where we can have the best impact. We don't ship process. We don't get "Ship Its" for process. We ship software products. If whatever you're doing or required to do isn't focused on that, it can go join the old mid-year review on the junk pile. But it's up to you to start heading it towards that junk pile.

(FYI: I'm preparing for some OOF-age so updates here might be on the light-side.)

Your Wishes and Reactions?

What do you hope happens at the Company Meeting? What are your post Company Meeting thoughts?

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