Sunday, December 18, 2005

Post-Break - Dividend, The Bench, Brummel, and Scoble

Time for a Post-Break. I don't mean taking a break from posting but rather putting up a post just to serve as a blog section-break given the heavy stream of incoming comments. I'm soon going to repost some of the more interesting comments that have come up as part of rounding out the year (I have some quality airport time to look forward to, so re-reading all the recent comments and copy-pasting-commentary is just ideal).

Random notes for the past week:

Dividend: people with a dry sense of humor note that Microsoft boldly raised its dividend by an aggressive 12.5%. I'm curious about our leadership's thinking around the dividend. After the financial analysts meeting, one of the most directed piece of feedback Microsoft received to increase the stock price was to aggressively increase the dividend and commit to sustaining it at a comparable level. Eight cents is not aggressive. A penny increase is not aggressive. Both, in light of the feedback, are rather insulting.

The short-term effect of the Sunshineville product pipeline certainly hasn't been felt yet. How about seriously reconsidering the dividend?

Google and AOL: I like the imagery of Eric E. Schmidt, after the Time Warner deal was done and he had a moment for quite reflection with a nice drink and an evening skyline before him, taking a sip and thinking, 'Oh, no, Mr. Ballmer. I'm going to effin' kill you.' So, nice negotiating props to Google. I guess they won this round. Maybe we just convinced them to punch the tar-baby with a fist-full of a billion dollars.

The Bench and Other Programs: good information continues to come in clarifying some of the murkier aspects of compensation / career programs at Microsoft. This comment rounds things up well:

Blue Chip is not that big of a deal - it's a campus potential hire that is deemed by a recruiter to be in the top {small number}% of all campus hires that year. Therefore more attention will be paid to trying to get that person to join.

For partners, if you look at the career stage profiles that were rolled out last year you will see the top in each stage called partner, and it says L68+. The compensation is a bit of a mystery but what I do know is that partner compensation is dependent on the company-wide CPE metrics that you sometimes hear about. Meaning that partners' compensation (probably mostly stock awards based on the SEC filings) varies per year, based on how much the company makes, how satisfied the customers are, etc.

Bench is a leadership training program. You're right that it's the people who could take over as VPs but that's long term. There are two benches: normal bench for <68 and partner bench for >=68. That is what they call the "corporate bench". There are also per-team/division bench programs, which allow these types of programs to reach down to lower level people (you generally have to be 66-67 to get into the corporate bench). I know of several of these programs, in different divisions. If you want to be a VP some day, you should ask your manager if yours has such a program and when you can get into it.

and this comment:

the bench - this is the set of partners who can take over vp job...

Not exactly. This iteration of the bench program (which I believe is the 3rd since I've been in HR?!) actually has two tracks: one for partners aka "Partner Bench" and one for lower folks aka "Member Bench". The idea is that people chosen for Partner bench are on track to make VP and generally already level 68+ ("E" potential). Member bench is the same thing for people on track to be partners ("P" potential).

But don't tell ANYONE! If employees knew about this, managers would have the tough duty to actually manage and explain to their people why they aren't in the Bench and *gasp* give them feedback on how they could get there or *gasp**gasp* that they never could.

What commenters are up in arms about is the financial rewards the partners / VPs are reaping and the big disconnect between well-compensated partners / VPs and those below who get great ratings but barely meet cost-of-living increases. On the shallow surface, it appears as an unbalanced money grab. How about visibility into what these people do day-to-day to earn their rewards, in comparison?

Ms. Brummel's Listening Tour: from what I've heard and been told, if you can make any meeting this year or next year, make this meeting. I look forward to it myself. Really. You can find the schedule off of Micronews in case she's already visited your part of campus and you want to play catch up. The kind of changes being discussed are big, really big - and the kind I support and don't want to spoil and chatter about here (I'd rather shine a light on the problems in public and nurture great changes in private). I know: there's talk, and then there's well implemented action.

To implement big change, though, I don't think you can do it in a staged or incremental fashion. For instance, the whole multi-year staged company values thing is a bit of a flop. Nice to have and all, but as covered in one of those secrets in Ms. Shapiro's book, people realized that they are not truly compensated, promoted, or recognized for excelling at the company values so the values receive important lip service and their every mention turns into an exercise in eye muscle control: "do not roll eyes! do not roll eyes!"

No, such change need to be swift and disruptive.

Mr. Scoble: Robert Scoble is alright in my book. I'm grateful for every mention, as I am with Dare, Mr. Barr, and the rare occasional Don Box (excuse my inner-dev swooning). Folks in Ireland read Mini? Hello! Anyway, Scoble is a self-mounted lightning rod who takes a lot of incoming flak and crap and I think, mostly, except for those pre-coffee mornings, excels at dealing with that level of self-inflicted attention very well. I've taken lessons from him and other high-profile bloggers. I see Scoble as one of those Tom Peter-fused change agents, where the change is amoral. Good? Bad? No, just change. I'm glad he's working for Microsoft.

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