Sunday, March 4, 2007

There's Ray! Plus: Plenty of Room For More Brains at Microsoft.

Hey, There's Ray! Commentary on Ray Ozzie's recent Goldman Sachs Technology Investment Symposium appearance (transcript, webcast) :

Overall, the reaction seems to be: "Meh." For whatever reason, I feel there's an increasing expectation for Ray to walk onto the stage with a TabletPC cradled in each arm blazing innovative thoughts for the future that leave the audience agog. Now everyone is looking towards Mix07 for the "Wow" because this last presentation came up short.

I hope that we manage to make this a wave of shipped innovation with a squad of technical leaders - not just Mr. Ozzie - delivering connected service after service that both acknowledge the need for an open, non-insular connected existence and that heavily leverages the power of a rich-client environment running under Windows. Right now, one shinning example of this to me is Windows Live Writer. I love that little bugger. And it's not just tightly coupled with Spaces but rather plays well with others.

Where's Blake? There goes Blake Irving, another Corporate VP:

Ouch! Snap! Some recent Vista / Office 2007 unluvin':

(1) SpendMatters Vista, Office and Outlook 2007 are a Nightmare: specifically, the same problems I've having as well with Outlook 2007 being mega slow:

The problem -- which is absolutely inexcusable -- is that Office 2007 (Outlook, specifically) crawls, even on this superfast machine. The hard-drive is also constantly in motion, slowing things down even more. I'm not alone in these observations. You can read other Office 2007 horror stories here and here. Despite a small .PST file -- I reduced mine from close to a gig to less than 150 MB -- my Intel Centrino Duo-driven notebook chugs along like a 386 trying to run an application originally written for a mainframe system. Even such tasks as composing a simple email are delayed by a few seconds before my typed words ultimately appear on the screen (and send / receives and related activities take an eternity).

(2) Windows Vista I’m Breaking up with You ~ Chris Pirillo - Movie Maker crashes, LifeCam no-workie, no device drivers, software incompatibilities, and more and more woes. Best quote: "The Whoa starts now."

What I tell everyone: just buy a new machine to run Vista on. Unless you're a fan of flagellation (and relieving the sting of via blogging), don't upgrade an old machine that's collected precious application cargo and devices. Goodness forbid you have an unsupported Creative sound-card, for instance. Mr. Pirillo got a load of comments on this one and follows up with Where Windows Pundits Went Wrong and Switching from XP to Vista to XP to… (where he affirms the cool things that Microsoft makes. Just not Vista.).

Post Stack-Ranked Future First Step: something that I think would be a significant first step from unhealthy peer vs. peer performance ranking: Team Compensation for Performance. I was talking with a friend who used to work at big hardware manufacturer. He said their main bonus budget and dispersion was directly attached to the goals their team's leadership put together to deliver for the upcoming year and how well they did on those goals. Regular updates through the quarter were shared with the employees. The goals were S.M.A.R.T. and aggressive and directly tied to business results.

The better the whole team performed on delivering those results, the better all of their bonus was. Stock and raises were used for distinguishing individual performance.

Brains! Now I'm really scared. First I was pissed-off and horrified at how much and how quickly Microsoft's number of employees grew for no obvious business need. Now, hearing about the contents in the latest InsideMS post by Chris Owens, we're not only expanding our building construction and acquisition in the Redmond area quickly to deal with the stuffed-sardine situation most groups have but we're also... hold on, I've got to steady myself... we're also planning to accommodate another... deep breath... 10,000 to 12,000 Redmond-area hires.

(Insert your favorite sound effect of my head exploding.)


Is your group lacking talent to execute? What have we done to rebalance and recruit internally? We're already staggering to operate effectively with our current mass of employees, how in the world do we expect to be effective with even more? And if Redmond grows by 12,000 people, how much of that will be matched with global hiring?

And Redmond certainly doesn't need another 12,000 Microsoft drivers bumper-to-bumpering the local streets.

Let's take a hiring breather first and do some quality internal recruiting. I would then usually insert a pithy, "...and then you know, fire a bunch of underperformers" remark here, but right now I'm singularly interested in holding the line.

Comment round-up: some comments that caught my eye over the past week:

(1) Been a few places since I left MS. Landed at a startup with a whole lot of older former MS folks. They're all good, know what they're doing, and have lots of experience. Makes it a real fun place to work. Keep whacking the Kim's over there - they make great hires.

(2) Dr. Seuss meets Mini-Microsoft commenters (the beginning - navigate for the rest):

Oh the places you'll go!
Oh the things that you'll do!
You'll work your ass off
To be ranked Limited II!
You'll listen to morons
Who know not what they do! [...]

(3) Manager feedback is closed, but something to think about regarding honest feedback: Right now, my career in this divison is basically over - I'm given conflicting feedback on career progress and progress against commitments. I'm at a level where the jobs are few and far in between so I'm just laying low and waiting for something else come along because I need the paycheck.

(4) Regarding Career Compass and HR career management fatigue: I almost wish there was a checkbox on the benefits website where I could opt-out of receiving stock options & bonuses as long as I didn't have to waste time with reviews and whatever other ridiculous paperwork HR forces on software engineers each year.

(5) Some folks are receiving an HR survey about the compensation system. One comment on that from someone filling out the survey: I came out very well last review but to put it bluntly, I had to manage up, manipulate, etc to get my reward. I delivered great results (E) but this is Microsoft, everybody delivers results. How do you stand out? So I did what I had to do and I know it came at the expense of other Es - I know this for a fact

I wish I did not have to do this and since I was able to manipulate the process, the process is flawed.

I could keep quiet about this and say the process works but I do want to make this place better. Somedays I don't think it will never get better but hope springs eternal.

I was very honest in that survey and the results on the 1st page was UGLY for us as a company.

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