Thursday, October 6, 2005

Middle Managers, Bureaucracy, and No Birds at Microsoft

Wow, out of all the crazy blogs in this mixed up world of ours, C|Net went and gave this little Mini-Microsoft blog a moment of recognition in their Blog 100. Thanks! (I have to admit to complete narcissism given I navigated there and gave into a "I wonder if I'm listed... OOO!" moment.) It's like someone turned the expired 15 minute clock back a few minutes and I unjumped the shark.

And what respectable blogging company! And if this blog is a new discovery for you, I have to let you in on the big secret: you need to visit the pages and read the comments. That's the heart and soul of the blog.

Okay, quick post: there are two Microsoft bloggers I'd like to give highlight to: SteveSi and KenMo.

Steve really didn't like that Business Week article. I'm mean really didn't like. He made the following offhand comment in his blog:

BTW, I’ve received some mail about the recent article in Business Week on Microsoft. Right now I will choose not to comment on it until I see if the writers and editors choose to correct or comment on some of the plethora of factual errors.

I'd love to hear his side of what was wrong. In lieu of any corrections, Steve went and started some pro-active blogging, even around two of my favorite duct-taped covered punching bags:

  1. Ineffective Middle-Management Suckups, and
  2. Bureaucracy. Threat or menace? Either, both, or neither? Or it depends!

I'm conflicted. It's incredibly cool that Mr. Sinofsky is a senior VP blogging about such topics. I don't want to throw snarky comments at his postings because I want him to continue this line of public dialogue (kudos to him for being rather cool in the comments that appear in his posts). But I disagree with where we are as an entire company... I'm not as sure about Office as a gauge. Better than Windows? I don't know how much of an accomplishment that is. The one comment I'll follow-up on is process and getting code done effectively and the feature crews that Office is bragging about. The one group I tend to deal with tells me that feature crews sound great but it ended up doubling their amount of effort to get their code in and stressed their dev and test team to the limits (somehow, the program managers were spared undo stress...). Meetings bloomed out of control. The feature-crews also stole time from their testers so that there was zero ad-hoc and zero integration testing. The gears are all given very detailed attention. How well everything turns together was not. Is that better? It seems like a fine idea that needs to be turned down a few notches so that people can do their jobs and not check off where they are on the process map.

If you're in Office, Steve has opened his door to comments and feedback. You've got to take advantage of that! You have a direct line to a motivated leader out to prove Microsoft got game. Drop him a note, start a conversation... let me know how it goes. Oh, and before moving on, I noticed that Mr. Sinofsky said he might address performance evaluations in a future posting: yes, please. I'd love to hear Steve's take on Stack Ranking and The Curve and why that's as good as it gets.

Second blogger... job opportunities galore! Scoble and KenMo. Yes, Ken, I've read "Searching for Answers - A Challenge for Mini-Microsoft." I absolutely loved the post given your description of the 'No' Birds persona. I've complained about such people in the past here (explaining how hard it is to actually ship a feature and get it out the door, usually at DCR time, with all the "cut this to make my life easier" hurdles you have to jump over) but now I have a name to slap on them. I hope you don't mind if I lift this snippet:

No Birds

2 1/2 years ago, I was asked to be the technical leader for a new team that would build from scratch a world-class search engine. Google already had a huge lead in quality and market share – and many people within Microsoft said "no way" or "Ken, you’re taking a no-win job" or "MSN doesn’t have the technical skills" or even "you’re going to have to use Linux…" I call these people the "no-birds".

Now, it’s important to distinguish the no-birds from people who are constructively criticizing. No-birds are usually very creative and intelligent people, but their efforts are misguided. All they care about is shooting down ideas. They take pride in talking loudly, getting listened to, and are content measuring their impact based on any change in a plan – even if it’s just making things so confusing that nothing gets done. They secretly are happy when things are screwed up. They are worthless.

Nice. I don't think I'm a 'No' Bird but perhaps that's the kind of thing such a person can't self-assess... anyway, when it's actually appropriate for me to consider looking elsewhere I'll look to see what http://career/ has to offer in your area and do some informationals if the fit seems right. I look forward further postings in the meantime about what MSN is doing well.

What's exciting about KenMo's posting and the visibility and defense that SteveSi is posting about is a constructive reaction to the negative press and hard questions that have come up. I'm going to re-iterate: Microsoft has problem in that we've got layers of bureaucratic process of questionable focus. This is a opportunity for groups that think they are part of the solution vs. part of the problem (real or perceived) to grab the spot light and show the way to the promised land of lean, efficient, customer pleasing, profit making, shareholder delighting corporate salvation. And don't forget "agile." And I hope at that point groups determined to remake themselves look around and say, "Hey, we sure don't need all these people to do that!"


P.S. A question for Lazyweb: I know you can go to a symbol looking for MSFT at Yahoo or say Money Central to find the major shareholders for Microsoft, some with hyperlink info. Is there another spot that you favor for looking up such information with far more detailed contact info?


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