Saturday, January 21, 2006

Microsoft Town Hall, Google, and

Just some random notes I wanted to kick out before I go stock up on crazy delicious food for the big, silly game (I've certainly come to appreciate having a game's violence on the field than in the stands).

MSFT: The FY06 Second Quarter results are coming this Thursday, January 26th. It will be interesting to see if we're positive or cautious analyzing where we are and looking forward through FY07. I can't imagine any other time where we couldn't beat the drum of enthusiasm and profits than now, given that we're shipping new versions of just about every single software product we develop. A good, upbeat outlook would shine within the current conditions.

And, should we get any hard questions and if the hard questions regarding stock performance keep coming in, perhaps we'll have to implement what one recent commenter came up with:

Is the CFO of Microsoft going to hold a "listening tour" to pacify shareholders?

Well, the context of that was actually more around BusinessWeek's Dirty Little Secrets About Buybacks and Microsoft's dirtiness there. Most people look at how few shares are being flung in their direction and doing the math. Some part of Microsoft is getting a huge distribution of stock awards, and it's not the folks doing the front-line work.

Microsoft Town Hall: that was one crowded town hall meeting with Gates and Ballmer - I think that shows the enthusiasm and desire that Microsofties have to hear from our executive leadership more often and I for one am absolutely thrilled that it's quarterly. It helps to close the gap that I believe exists between front-line contributors and top leadership. And important messages don't have to stumble their way through dithering middle managers. I hope that it rotates through the presidents and senior VPs over time so that it stays fresh. While I know Gates and Ballmer can come up with answers for about every question, I'd like to hear answers from those one or two levels closer to the action, too.

I don't have a whole lot to kvetch on here. There's Doug Mahugh's report and the Keiji Space report to read. Some of the questions were hard and interesting and while the answers sounded honest, some were just deflections (e.g., the whole ad-hoc Google-time request discussion: take it up with your manager [hello?!?! that's not working so well currently]).

One deflection that irritated me came at the end of recognizing everything we do is the result of the people we hire. Then, Ballmer somehow tied the stock price going up based on the increased contributions of each Microsoftie. Right before that there was mention of enabling and incenting people and how LisaB is now a Senior VP. But the flipping around seemed to come too soon. Please show that current problems are indeed being fixed and then say, "Okay, we believe we have a system for honest compensation and recognition now. Let 'er rip and let's go ship!"

Oh, and Mr. Liddell, I have an excellent solution for our current Redmond over-crowding space problem: fire people, fire people, and fire people! Ballmer doesn't understand how we ran into this space problem? We over-expanded and hired way too many people that we just plain don't need. Plus it's impossible to move-on people.

Additionally, I don't understand a goal for Microsoft to be a mega-corporation at 100,000 people. While the majority of that might indeed end up being in China and India (pointed out at the meeting as places where CompSci graduates are still being produced), there's just no good business reason to grow (other than those horded employees are not potential competitors). Is there a stack of specs executive management is reviewing longingly and bemoaning, "shucks, if we only had more people we could have delivered these great products..." I don't think so. The problem is that we're so big that we're stumbling over ourselves as is.

And we did get to have a crickets chirping moment: Ballmer addressed the glass ceiling on the stock and went through the rah-rah blah-blah speech about looking forward, three-year review, deliver innovation, watch the expenses, keep the faith, and deliver results. Pause for applause.


Hmm, no applause. Ballmer observation: "Awfully quiet here." Though I have to admit another nice deflection was comparing how Microsoft runs our business vs. Enron (?!?!) and how Enron was entirely focused on the stock price and we're focused on good business fundamentals. Can we, ah, find a different company to compare ourselves to?

Google slips: First comes along BusinessWeek pondering Is Google Out of Steam? and then Friday lands a sucker punch to Google's moneybag (well, along with a bunch of other stocks). Wired magazine wrote about click fraud recently and how that could eventually catch up to burn Google. Of course, the R-rated named site f-'d Google has been predicting the click fraud ruination of Google for a long time (and general collapse in general). And throw in that curious collection in the Google Pack that has most people politely coughing after their confused consideration of just what the heck good all that is. I can only guess it's helping Google feel their way through the dark world of suite packaging and distribution, let alone support. I guess they had to cobble something together for CES... - This new website has come up in a few comments as a place to anonymously rate and provide feedback on anyone in your company (your boss and co-workers, especially). Looks like a potentially explosive idea. I'm a bit suspicious (work email registration + employee complaining = crazy suspicious ?) myself but I'd be interested in hearing anything interesting that people find there. Their about page has the following inspiring snippet:

Our Mission: To use the Internet to bring open meritocracy to the workplace.
We believe today's corporate world is slowed down by corporate bureaucracy, politics, and incompetence. Most companies spend a lot of time on HR policies to reward their best employees. But at the end of the day, despite their efforts, most corporate organizations fail to develop a system that adequately measures and rewards performance, especially among managers. Our aim is to use the Internet to empower employees, to harness the open feedback of the workplace to bring meritocracy to corporations.

Interesting. Perhaps a way to channel all the thoughts coming to your mind as you fill out your mid-point, attend all those stack ranks, and fill-out Microsoft's version of the manager review feedback.

Manager review feedback: speaking of manager review feedback, one thing I got out of the wonderful LisaB listening tour is that she reviews the feedback comments but can't act against supposedly awful management because the comments, by the time they are rolled-up, are disassociated with the person the comment is talking about. Fix: when filling out the text fields for your manager's feedback, be sure to put your manager's alias in there. And now might be the most important time to provide this feedback. If you've got a good boss and want them to stay your boss, spend a few moments praising what they do well. If you have the worse micro-managing bureaucrat in the world, well, spend some time provided cases describing what they just don't do well at all. And slip in that alias.

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