Monday, February 20, 2006

Microsoft Campus Expansion... foo!

Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine! Mini-Microsoft, Mini-Microsoft, lean-and-mean!

"$%#@ you, the horse you rode in on, your little dog, and your little company-aspirations, too!"

So Mr. Barr was first out with a summary of Microsoft's revised Redmond campus expansion plan. What do you know, the athletic fields are back! What is the name of the technique where you share a plan to take something away and then people complain fiercely and then you give it back without it ever costing you anything but letting them feel as though you're listening to them? There should be a name for that.

I have a future pastime to look forward to that is especially called out in the recent color-map: a round-about in the center of campus?!? Oh, you know I'm going to have to bring my picnic and sit down (at a safe distance) and enjoy that show. When the everyday bright, good-looking Microsoftie drives onto campus, anything they've learned about being a considerate, safe driver gets flipped right off: "Faster, faster, Puddy-cat! Must! Be! First!" A round-about is certain to be better entertainment than Project Gotham.

Anyway, the expansion certainly seems like a series of nails on the coffin of any aspiration for Microsoft to slim down into a company that management can handle effectively. Now, I feel for the folks who are doubled or tripled up and continuing to do a great job. It seems odd that our leadership didn't see the overcrowding coming. So it seems like a good move to acquire and spread to relieve the pressure that we're currently under, though I continue to believe the best way to relieve that pressure is to release everyone not contributing to the success of the company. And then resell and make a profit on any of these edge buildings we no longer need.

As for continuing to grow and to hire people: why? How about first looking inside of Microsoft and making it easier to move within the company from job to job, especially considering there are two big groups wrapping up major product waves? It's highly unproductive towards our company that once you're inside Microsoft it's probably harder to move to another group than if you were an outsider. Try loosening the restrictions first so that:

  • Anyone can interview and move-on when they like. You plain don't need permission to interview. The new boss and old boss can negotiate a transfer timeline, if need be. Just see if managers don't change a tad if they realize they actually need to value and re-recruit their people vs. banging the drum and chanting, "Code! Code! Code! Code!"
  • A lighter interview process: interview with your potential future boss and the as-appropriate. It boggles my little mind as to why this is treated as a full-press interview.
  • Support aggressive internal recruiting. Technical recruiters should know the rhythm of our product groups and when it's best to recruit people internally to new positions. This allows people to continue grow and unleash their energy vs. staying in the same group and job until they suffer skill-attrition and become more of a liability than an asset.

If we had more fluidity to Microsoft careers, you'd have some good business Darwinism where healthy groups attracted appropriate growth and unhealthy groups shed team members until the leadership got fired off and replaced with something better. The only good reason I can see for having a heavyweight process is that it helps groups identify and avoid some of the deadwood hired during the major expansion years. But just about anyone can suss them out. And hopefully a revised performance review process that doesn't encourage keeping 3.0 filler around to make up the bottom of the curve will make it way easier to move the deadwood out.

Jeff Raikes All Hands with special guest star Lisa Brummel

Along comes a comment:

If you're really into seeing what our executives are saying internally as of late, you should:

(1) go by our internal website for serving up cached videos, (2) go to Monday's listings, (3) Watch JeffR's all-hands meeting.

Well, not all of it. But JeffR does address some of the concerns that you see bubbling up here and near the end, before the Q'n'A, LisaB shows up to do a short version of her listening tour.

At the end of last week, some interested folks gathered around my peer's laptop at lunch to watch this off of http://studiosmedia/, all of us agreeing anyone could skip through any boring parts. Well, actually, we first found LisaB's presentation about an hour and a half (Oy! Is this an All Hands or The Company Meeting?) into the video and that's as far as we got, other than enjoying Mr. Raikes mea-culpa over office space at 1:20-ish. It's a pickle, alrighty.

If you missed a Listening Session and want more than what Lisa's internal site provides, this video provides a great, quick summary of what the LisaB buzz is all about. Interesting quotes:

  • "The curve is essential to the people agenda we have at this company."
  • "I would like to see the curve go away."
  • "In the end, the curve needs to change."

To think about the potential for big change here that will be industry-leading and help Microsoft re-invent itself just makes me go quoting Jean-Louis Gassée.

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