Monday, August 21, 2006

Looking Forward - Reviews, The Company Meeting, and Then Some...

Microsofties, what are you looking forward to? My top of mind right now - interrupted only when I take a good-long moment to enjoy this fantastic Redmond summer-weather - is:

  1. Review results.
  2. The 9/21 Company Meeting.

The new review: is the new boss the same as the old boss? Most review models should be closed by now and review deliveries should start in earnest. Some folks have posted comments that we still have a curve and that this year's rewards are going to be pretty close to last year's rewards, with the rating split into two on commitments + stock. Yes, there is a blurry curve that groups get to decide. You don't get to have a group that is 100% exceptionally exceeding everything. Well, you can. But then everyone gets the same meager reward. Different VPs and presidents have decided there should be a ratio of somesort of Exceeds vs. Achieved. All I can say is that I feel like tra-la-la dancing through daisies since I didn't have to be in a meeting with a bunch of glum managers and deal with, "We need to cough up N more 3.0s to meet the model." (Where N = the number of good strong contributors you're about to demotivate and practice giving the speech on peer-relative performance.)


I'm too deep in the middle of it all right now to take a critical, constructive view. The new review model process has been a hell of a lot of work. I think it's worth it, but best practices need to be rolled-up for the next iteration. I'm still amazed that this all came together so quickly and now it's all done except for presenting the numbers and letting the rewards kick in on 9/15.

The 2006 Company Meeting: I feel like I'm in the minority for being a Company Meeting fan, but like I've said in the past it's my yearly chance to chug the MSFT-Koolaid and enjoy being with the best people in the world. Except, of course, I kind of look around at what groups I think we could spin off or downsize. But other than that I'm pretty cheery!

I'm sure the Company Meeting demos and the PowerPoints are coming together now that we're a month away. What do you want to see and hear? Personally, I'd like to skip any Vista or Office demos. Unless they're fast and just part of something else. I'd love to see some consumer focused demos, whether it's Live services or Zune or Xbox / PC games. How about a demo of the new Flight Simulator? And how about actually showing the 360 running games vs. last year. And I'd love it if we're talking about profits vs. revenue. Profits good. And if you're demoing something made with a small, effective, agile team, brag about it.

Some folks might be a bit disillusioned with My Microsoft and the review results by the time the Company Meeting rolls around. I think the Company Meeting would be a great time for LisaB to unleash more goodness. My couple of ideas:

  • ESPP: the return of the old ESPP, 15%, lowest-date and all that. Again, I'm just asking for you to return what was taken away, but, still... please?
  • Internal Transfers: optimize our internal recruiting by throwing away permission to interview, cutting internal interview loops to two-future peers + hiring manager, and starting an aggressive internal recruiting group to help optimize Microsofties we have vs. piling on any more.

Oh, and get those iDrinks actually installed.

Other going ons...

(I have about five pages of notes from the past week of random things to discuss, but I'm going to save some of that until later.)

SPSA Countdown: so, how did the SPSA percent pay-out end-up? Obviously, I'm not in the know. But you can start gently pushing your least-favorite Partner-level-L68+ peer towards the retirement door by leaving in their office various brochures of villas and such they can buy and enjoy their pay-out with. They got theirs. Clap. Clap. Leave.

Email retention policy: is it a good way to keep everyone's email boxes clean to just a six-month history or a cover-ya-ash cynical maneuver to ensure we don't have anymore embarrassing missives pop-up in court when a plaintiff goes on a fishing expedition up Exchange Bayou? Comments are all over the place for this one.

It doesn't bother me too much simply because it hasn't screwed me yet. But it will. I'm sure a couple of years from now I might start panicking because I lost some important email and that the incident in turn will cost Microsoft a bunch of money as we try to reconstruct the information in that email. I agree with Alyosha`: in a hard to quantify way, this is going to be more collectively expensive to Microsoft for losing its tribal wisdom. But, hopefully, no more head bruising, self-inflicted dope-slaps induced from de-contextualized email passages popping up in the news.

My only note of caution: I've worked for a tech company basically run on the whims of lawyers and staying safe and ensuring we stayed out of court. Life sucked. We never achieved what we could have and politically adept people became really good at sic'ing the lawyers on any groups they felt were threatening our legal standing. It's the safe road that leads straight to mediocre-ville.

Buyback Later: so much for Buyback Mountain. A lot of shareholders passed on the dutchee and we're going to get around to it within the next five years. It's done the stock some short-term good, so I'm happy there. But it's caused some confusion and we know how much the market digs confusion (most hated thing, right after surprises). MSFT Extreme Make Over and Packet Storm have more discussion:

Windows Live Writer: excellent! Job well done. Kudos. I enjoy using Windows Live Writer. I'm not using it now for this post because I've got my own custom little content-management-system, but I was really happy playing around with Windows Live Writer and impressed with what it did. I'd be much happier with inplace spell-checking and grammar checking, but it's a nifty little tool that does just as well as stuff I've paid good money for in the past. My only regret is that good stuff like this only comes along when we acquire a product under development. What is wrong with our internal culture to not allow a tool like this to be built from scratch?

Random bits:

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