Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mini... Is That You?

I'm busy packing and organizing and trying to be efficient and lightweight about what I'll be huffin' down the long road with. I keep looking at the books about how to grow beyond using industrial-era performance reviews (yes, anti-stack ranking books are out there). I don't think I'll be able to fit the books in so they'll have to wait until I get back. But I am printing out for reading later some various anti-stank ranking articles I found, especially this one over at Curious Cat:

Microsoft Company Meeting 2005 follow-up: what, did I go and drink the Kool-Aid? Baby, I didn't just drink the Kool-Aid, I shot it into my veins! At a superficial level, I enjoyed it through-and-through. And I was looking for a fun, superficial experience. It does make me very excited about what we will finally be shipping for our customers.

I was enjoying Lisa's speech until about 2/3s of the way through, and then I felt I was just being talked to and zero content was coming my way. It ended with a "trust me" vibe to it. Some folks have mentioned rumors here about a major comp revamp coming. It would have been great to mention that, if that's the case.

As for Mr. Ozzie: where I was sitting, the murmuring of people having low-level conversations grew louder and louder as he talked and people stopped paying attention. He wasn't engaging the folks around me with whatever he was strutting around about ("De cloud! De cloud!"). Sorry, Ray, you need to earn our respect with results right now. Lotus Notes and the saved-from-the-brink of bankruptcy Groove isn't endowing you with much currency.

Liddell? Straight talker. And I loved the little Maori tribal-chant-soccer game video clip. That was just so not Microsoft that it came back full circle. I'd much rather see our leadership lined up, squatting and chanting in unison to that, just as long as they bugged their eyes out and stuck out their tongues. I'm sure Steve would get on board.

Ballmer: the whole whaka-whaka-Eye of the-I Love This Company-whaka-Tiger was tedious. How is a tiger relevant to us? Tiger OS? Steve Jobs has got the eye of the tiger right now. But Steve's the man for getting people riled up and there's no stopping that. It was great that he told his little story about the mid-year review and how we all need to find our bit of cruft to stop doing so that we have more time to be effective. But a story disconnected from an initiative to cut back on middle management bureaucracy goes no where.

As for the missing ship dates I was bemoaning, one comment reflects:

I guess Mini's surprise at the company meeting confirms some of the outside speculation: that he is a low-level flunky outside the main product groups. Otherwise explain how he didn't know the dates and didn't know this stuff was coming. Relax Mini and let the people who actually know stuff run the company.

Whew, I'm sure you could have squeezed a be-yotch in there somewhere. Dude / Dudette, listen: like most everyone, I have plenty of access to the internal websites with all the projected dates about the milestones and RTM and what's supposed to be done when. More access than I need. But that's all internal and subject to slipping and slipping and slipping some more. I wanted VPs (and our presidents) to commit before the rest of the company what they'd be shipping when. They failed to do this. What exactly is it that they are accountable for?


Managers: Mr. Sinofsky has a nice weekend posting up: What do managers do and how big should my team be? The first time I read it was after a long ride and I rubbed my eyes trying to pull together the main points of the article. Okay, I like managers with eight reports. Much better than the two of three reports I commonly see. Smiley faces! I like smiley faces. I think there might be something in there trying to justify the layers by saying that startups are able to flatten the org as compared to a big corporation. I'll have to read it again later when I'm more hydrated.

No ranking here: A comment noted the following:

Hey, Mini-MS: The review system is already fixed. There is no stack rank and there is no curve.

Microsoft testified as much in a court of law:

Ms. Willingham also said the company did not ask its managers to give a fixed percentage of their employees any given score. "We don't force that curve to look any certain way," she said.

Microsoft has no formal "stack rank" policy, she said.

Surely Microsoft wouldn't lie in court would it?

Microsoft has been doing lifeboat / stack-ranking drills for a very long time. Though I remember, probably around the time this article was written, HR was running review meetings for employees and review meetings for managers. I went to both. For the employees, HR was up there emphatically saying, "There is no curve." They stated as fact to everyone in the room that there was not a curve. Then I went to the managers meeting. What did we talk about? The curve. Especially how it sucks when you have a small, great team yet someone is going to get that 3.5 and worse someone's going to get that 3.0. The manager asked HR: how can I keep my great team together when I have to demoralize part of it by fitting the curve? HR: standard response of how employee's performance is relative to their peers. That wasn't going to help keep his team motivated, let alone together, for creating great software.

If you ever want to hear a bunch of Microsoftie managers start spewing, ask them whether they feel they've ever handed out review scores they felt were unfair.

WSJ: Where did that Wall Street Journal article come from (along the article)? I saw it briefly as I ate my cereal Friday morning and had to cover my mouth so that I didn't spray my screen. Talk about a fluffer - er, fluff - piece. Interesting that in Business Week Ballmer was saying how Vista wasn't ever delayed and not acknowledging the Longhorn Reset and then they go and discuss how at that reset event we walked away from most of the Longhorn features and suddenly it was critical to get the lab, automation, and process around quality code and builds working. A recent comment notes:

If that WSJ article is correct, it paints a very unflattering portrait of MSFT, its snr mgt and in particular BillG. Rather than being the one raising hell to fix the problem, he comes off as the guy who is trying to avoid fixing it while simultaneoulsy making it worse by pishing WinFS.

Here's something interesting that was noted in my inbox. Years ago, when Longhorn was just fouling up its 2003 ship date, a smart dude had recently transferred to Windows and endeavored to change Windows bizarre and truly Rube Goldberg check-in, build, and release system. I've been told that he even reviewed Windows horrible state, along with solutions, with Bill Gates. Whatever happened to this innovative idea and its champion? There was lots of talk and zero changes to the system until the catastrophic events of the Longhorn Reset. And the dude went to go work for Google.

He didn't just complain, Steve. He tried actively tried to make a difference. Why didn't it all happen until it was a crisis? How much shareholder money could have been saved? Talking about our own personal mid-year review getting scrapped is one thing. Visibly supporting and empowering the people trying to do it, and punishing the inhibitors, is another.

BW: Jay Greene has an article Less Could Be More At Microsoft reviewing what might happen post chair-shuffling.

Dividend? Schmividend! The one thing we heard from the post-FAM analysts is that Microsoft stock would improve if Microsoft provided a consistent, good dividend. Eight-cents? I don't even know if that buys a piece of crappy Bazooka gum anymore. Most disappointing.

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