Friday, September 15, 2006

Blame it on the Coconut Cream Pie!

Left alone for a short time, I locked my fingers together over a strong cup of coffee and kind-of stared off into the various lamps strung about the dark, stylish Seattle restaurant I was in, quite happy for having had the absolute best coconut cream pie I'd ever tasted. It was like I was living a moment from one of those Life is Good t-shirts.

Inspired by this, I think it's time to share the goodness going on as we approach the 2006 Company Meeting and think about what's going right, or has the potential to go right.

Yah! Ding dong, the fixed curve is dead. Yes, Virginia, there's still a curve-like-thing, but it's more fuzzy and allows some wiggle room to accommodate for merit. While I celebrate the break from 3.0/3.5/4.0, I certainly hope that it's absolutely false that groups were mandating a certain amount of "Underperformed" ratings. That's just wrong and leads back to groups padding themselves with underperformers to protect their valued contributors vs. moving those underperformers out proactively. I think for most Microsofties, the rewards ended up being very similar to last year. A few folks on each team might still be trying to pop their eyes back into their sockets. I'm pleased. I hope this year's experience is leveraged to smooth out next year. Please.

Oof! Flattening re-orgs: Windows Experience is re-orging flat, Office is re-orging flat, MBS got re-orged - anyone I'm missing? A commenter makes a note about Office:

Anyone read Antoine's mail about manager span in Office? Basically he said that a lot of our line level manager suck, and that we're getting rid of a bunch of them to get the average span of a manager up to at least 5 (from about 3 where it is today).

And several people have noted that Steven Sinofsky's internal blog gives an interesting glimpse into what he's driving. Sucks to be, or had been, a PUM in Sinofsky's org! Well, you had a good run, I guess. For you. Now we're really going to see if a flattened organization is all that and if decisions and progress are made efficiently and effectively. This is your chance to show it is indeed the right path and to ensure the best managers are in place.

Yah! Both Vista RC1 and a refresh to Office Beta 2 are out. Raise the confidence level to green that these cash cows are going out on time with no further delays. Come on MSFT! Poppa needs a new retaining wall! The Vista EU drama is a bit disturbing and I hope just as much back-room negotiations are happening as compared to the court of public opinion, job studies and all.

Play! Zune has been announced so set aside the random speculation and get on with the groovification. Yes, I'll get a Zune. No, I must be too old to appreciate the brown color - sorry, that reminds of 70s era corduroy pants, flared collars, and shaggy hair. Anyway, it's a nice start and has a sweet screen. Too bad the Windows DRM has pressed the reset button.

You'd think with the dismissive hatred being thrown at Zune that one day all iPods in the world are going to wake up as WMA-lovin' Zunes. Zune not right for you? Great, rock-on with your iPod. Let the rest of us enjoy it in peace.

Oh, and perhaps we finally found out who made the great internal video for "If Microsoft Designed the iPod Packaging" looking at the minimalist Zune box. Nice.

Sweet! IronPython 1.0 is out and has received lots of good buzz and appreciative chops, for both its performance and for how it was iteratively developed. Even I'm stumbling along and learning Python, though it doesn't help to be learning the IronPython environment at the same time I'm learning PowerShell (Monad). Also, Microsoft Max continues to get some good buzz, too. Congrats! Additionally, lots of services are being updated, though I'm personally frustrated with the level of Aunt Jamie's JavaScript Molasses clogging up my Spaces experience.

Pay! It's September 15th: pay-day. Your new raise (ahem) and merit increase and bonus have been deposited. One commenter notes this, too:

Today was the day that the checks cleared on bonuses and merit increases. And today was the day that my team lost two of the most senior ICs in the group to outside the company.

Fold them cards and gather your chips if you're ready for a new challenge. Also, now's an ideal time to update your resume and, what the heck, float it about or see what other groups are doing. Hiring managers are fairly smart: they know people start looking around right about now. Ping your network and do a few informationals. It's a great way to meet quality people and perhaps even establish some new work relationships.

Yah? Mr. Barr, I don't know if this is a good idea or not. We'll see. I have a strong aching desire to break the rules of conduct and add my own edits. If I were to do so, I would add something about the history of comments and the conversation and how the small spec of Mini-Microsoft's popularity brought in an undesirable element and resulted in comment moderation (even turning comments off for a while). Plus I'd make a note of Mini-like sites. But that would be sheer, indulgent vanity.

My wishes for the Company Meeting this Thursday? Well, (1) that it's the last idol competition that we have and that (2) Eye of the Tiger and any other sort of related song has been rejected as a SteveB high-fiving soundtrack. "I've got the eye of the tiger, baby!" Whaaaat? No. Not to be mean, but I also (3) wish that someone steps on Steve's foot while shooting some hoops before the show because foot pain, like what Mr. Ballmer was suffering during the EE keynote, seems to bring out this one-on-one clarity and frankness that I deeply appreciate.

In fact, I (4) hope the whoop-whoop is toned down a bit for the sake of content. It's too bad that the open nature of the meeting, let alone the press being present, results in the content being rather shallow (and remember: it's profit, not revenue... profit). Anyway, I'm looking forward to chugging some of the Kool-Aid again and then crowding in with the rest of Microsoft to see what kind of cool demos we might have. What can I say? I'm a Company Meeting fan.

If Mr. Sinofsky is on stage then I (5) hope we can talk about the flattening we're doing and the focusing on agility and nimbleness and effectiveness and how all the crap that Mini-Microsoft used to complain about is just not relevant and that a focused, resurgent, accountability-driven Microsoft has taken the stage and promises never to encumber itself with layers of bureaucratic decision makers and complicated, cross-connected features.

And, you know, (6) fire everyone in Redmond who decided not to come to the meeting. Just kidding. But I've got to protect the little spark of hope that remains that Microsoft might one day reverse its drunken hiring binge and, as it streamlines and flattens layers, move on folks not contributing to success anymore and that could be more successful and more happy elsewhere.

What's gone well from your point of view? And please, feel free to indulge in a hopeful, positive outlook or at least conjure up some constructive approaches for problems you'd like to discuss.

Might I suggest a slice of coconut cream pie?

Updated: fixed my wording around the cash-cows' time table. Added more pie.

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