Sunday, May 6, 2007

MicroYa! and Thinking About a Big Reboot

(A refreshing post. Not because of the content, but rather just because there hasn't been a post here for a while. First, some administrivia: the new Blogger template here has at the bottom of the post a link to the comment stream URL. Plus some other goo. Another note: hey, tried running the blog without moderation for a while to see if it would decay into the lunacy you see sometimes in the InsideMS blog. Not so. I might try this more often.)

Given past jinxing, I hesitate to mention how MSFT is above $30 again. The $30+ price is too late for the set of stock options that expired a week prior, however. Leadership who wander around saying how stock doesn't matter have to take a moment to remember what it was like to be in a work-group when the stock was excelling. Folks were motivated and excited and engaged. Yes, they did put in extra effort and - at least in their minds - saw a direct connection between their contribution and their team to the Microsoft bottom line.

And now?

As the stock meandered towards $31 that MSFT/YHOO rumor out of the New York Post came out. My first thought of a Microsoft / Yahoo! merger was: "Oh, yeah... Steve Ballmer and Terry Semel: together at last." That was followed by imagining a film being shot in heaven, with Rodney Dangerfield and John Candy playing CEO roles of two Wall Street stock-price losers out to combine forces and get some due respect. Only to be foiled by those rascally Google boys... and I'm not quite sure who would play those rolls roles.

Regarding the MicroYa! rumor, my feelings echo that of Brier Dudley: Microsoft merging with Yahoo!?!#@!!!. Mr. Scoble does a pretty good cafe stool analysis, too, regarding the overlap and issues involved. Of course, my shallow-self freaked out over the possibility of incorporating 11,700 new employees into Microsoft. Well, no, it would be less than that. You figure it would serve as a proper time for the remaining superstars to detach and go into Start-up-Ville. We could hope for some fun, though, by Thunderdoming up the overlapping groups: two product groups go in, only one comes out!

Looking at Yahoo!, the main thing I keep reflecting on is: I like flickr. And having more data centers couldn't hurt. The rest seems to be as scattered and randomized as most of Microsoft's online offerings and initiatives. But I see Microsoft's online and connected story finally coming together in a pretty impressive series of well thought-out releases. Yahoo! still seems to be on a dithering path with interfaces that get more and more DHTML'ized noisy and busy overtime. Seven plus or minus two, right?

Anyway, going a bit backwards in time, interesting posts about the financial earnings:

(1) MSFTExtremeMakeover: Show us what you've got.

(2) Joe Wilcox: Microsoft Q3 2007 by the Numbers. Even taking out the results of the deferral, the results are impressive. Now, scanning through the comments, it's interesting that Mr. Wilcox is engaged in a debate whether he's a Microsoft basher or not. I've noticed in the past that his comments have attracted people who like to engage in their inner /. in their hatred of Microsoft.

(3) Todd Bishop: Microsoft revenues up 32%, profits beat estimates and the follow-up Microsoft shares rise 3.5%, both posts reminding us of the big plunge that happened a year ago. Mr. Bishop also posts about my new favorite guy, Andrew Rashbass, in Economist publisher pokes fun at Microsoft. The highlight:

He got in several zingers while speaking on a panel discussion after a keynote presentation by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division.

One of them: "I thought it was great, by the way, that Robbie Bach was giving you a talk, which 2,000 people attend, about monetization and business -- and he just lost $300 million in the last quarter," Rashbass said.

What, else, what else... the major review season is (unfortunately) right around the corner. Just when you thought all that career management was over and you could be productive comes the march of myMicrosoft 1.5, or 2.0, or whatever's next. Wake me when it's at 3.0, because then I'm sure it will be mostly ironed out and people can focus on doing their job versus managing the perception of doing their job. Personally, I don't think we need incremental changes at this point. Given where we are and the challenges we have, we are not going to succeed based on incremental steps.

Sure, the Starbucks machines are great, but we need a company-wide Back to Basics (or a rewrite of our basics) from the CEO level to shrug off the past and focus on what's important today:

  • Delivering: products, solutions, whatever. You don't get rewarded for talking about things, you get rewarded for shipping things.
  • Deliver Often: efficient organization around not only delivering but also being able to quickly deliver quality results and features again.
  • Team Success: teamwork needs to be rewarded over individual success. Teams that work well and that deliver and deliver often should get exceptional rewards.
  • Streamlining: if it's not profitable and not going to be profitable, we can walk away. Also, we don't have to ship a product in every possible imaginable software market in the world. People are efficiently placed just where they both want to be and need to be.

We need a reboot. A reset. A refocusing on what's essential for Microsoft to succeed and realign its culture into the fantastic, crazy, wonderful place that it has all the raw potential to be. And by hitting the reset button, it gives people the permission to push the boundaries and align with the positive goals of success.

We'll see what this summer holds. If we were going to hit the reset button and align against some basic, positive goals, what would you get behind?

Updated: as always, thanks for the roly-poly syntax check.

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