Monday, May 29, 2006

Copying Xerox, Vista Mistakes, and VP Perspectives

(I feel compelled to slap together a quick post of what was in my queue to avoid any dwelling on a long kiss goodbye or such - it's not goodbye it's just a... mini-Mini-Microsoft for a while. This is an example of what I intend to post for a while, as soon as enough floats to the top of my mind. It may not look any different to you, but it's super different for me...)

When I read Chris Pirillo's Vista bug feedback (he's also done some intense Outlook 2007 feedback), the first question that came to my mind was: is this the polish tax we pay for automation? If our former STEs (now SDETs-or-else) had been focusing on the black-box entire Vista experience, would the following issues had been entered and fixed?

One commenter writes:

Hey Who da', did you see the article about Xerox in the Sunday Seattle Times (business section). They promoted the head of HR to run the company. The first thing she did was to hold a series of employee town halls. Then she told executives who weren't with her to leave.

It's a reprint from the WSJ but I couldn't find it online.

Forgot one more thing, she downsized Xerox from 90,000 to 55,000.

Ooo, she is ready for a Microsoft-sized challenge. I like the way Ms. Mulcahy handles numbers. Actually, the quickest article I could find was on C|Net: Breathing new life into Xerox Newsmakers CNET

Finally, a non-Microsoftie VP in product development, MrMichevous, spent time to write up a long, illuminating comment looking at the issues brought up here quite often. From the other-side. It's a small study in The School of Hard Knocks and Just the Way Things Work, especially the following snippet:

I'd like to add my take on the question you posed earlier: "Let's say you walk into your office one morning. You reflect on your team before going through the morning email and have the realization that one of your reports (who perhaps has done a good job making you feel like an excellent manager) was in fact playing the system like this FAQ calls out. Or worse. What would you do?"

Simple. If they weren't good at their own job, I'd counsel or fire them (and have done so in the past). But if they were good at their own job, I'd promote them.

I could hear the anguished screams of MM readers as I typed that last sentence. Why, they scream, would you allow style to to win over substance? Simple. To reach the higher levels, both style and substance is required. Despite what engineers would like to think, getting to Director is only partially a function of how technically good you are at your own job. I recently promoted two people in my own org to Director. Predictably, within a week two others came to my desk asking when they could make Director, since they had been there as long as the other guys. When I asked them why they thought I had promoted the other two, they sat quietly - they were unable to articulate why I had made the decision. I explained to them that at the higher levels, the intangible qualities are as important as the tangible ones - the ability to walk into a room and "own" it, the ability to summarize complex concepts succinctly so that senior execs can understand them, the ability to manage their own boss.

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