Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pre-Town Hall, Posters, and Micronews

Post-Town Hall Update: so, what did you think? Nothing too shocking. Rather than address the whole Limited label issue HR just decided to go with percentages. No more Limited II, true! Now you're just a 10%'er and your manager gets to beguile you with numbers. It still means: time for you to leave.

Speaking of being beguiled with numbers: can someone put a spreadsheet together to compare similar stock awards under the old and new programs? Given the stock going up two bucks a year and the stock going down two bucks a year. My very shallow first impression is that you lose if the stock price goes up, but that surely cannot be. No one would design something that way and say, "Hey, at least the stock is going up! Stop yer whining!"


Administrivia: I'm having an unhappy blog connection, so things might get blocked up here and there.

The Week Ahead: it's a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday. I value this and I believe it helps build a bridge between executive leadership and the rest of us everyday contributors. And it looks like a potential w00t! fest: it's not myMicrosoft 1.1 nor is it myMicrosoft 1.5, but rather myMicrosoft two-point-freakin'-oh. That turns my expectation dial up to significant.

What are some example announcements or topics you'd like to see that puts Microsoft on an efficient and productive path with appropriately reward and motivated employees? Some of my top of the mind include:

  • Reflection on our awesome package: I think before you look at any changes or other rewards and compensation, you do need to take a moment to reflect on our total compensation package. It is still awesome, especially the medical benefits. Sure, they could be better, but they were great when I joined and have just become even more awesome: way more than any company I've worked for (or have considered working for).
  • Limited and Limited II: aka, "Dumb and Dumber." If during the past year no-one in HR has managed to do something about this poorly chosen designation, let alone the Limited II insulting moniker, everything else is useless. Limited II is today was the trended 3.0 used to be: a demoralizing kick in the pants to what is an effective, valued employee. Should a Limited II stay with Microsoft after that slap to the face, you are setting a low performance bar for them to drop their contributions back to and meet. Why would any review system have this? If this is fixed, I wonder whether to clap: "And, hey, we fixed this abhorrent insulting mistake we shouldn't have made, just for you." "Yeah! Hurray! OMG, you're soooo awesome! Hopefully you break something else this year so that you can fix it next year and we have something else to clap about!"
  • Internal transfers: easy and easier. Only if you're moving between job descriptions (e.g., SDET to SDE or SDE to PM) should you go through a full-blown interview loop. A hiring manager can decide an interview loop would be appropriate but would have to get HR's buy-in. And if it's just between teams in a product group (say, between Access and Excel), it's just a done deal. Excellent teams with excellent leadership should find it easy to attract the best in the company. And poor teams with poor leadership should likewise discover themselves giving over a bunch of empty offices.
  • Hiring: I want internal transfers to be easier as part of load-balancing within Microsoft and to stop the hiring madness. But I know the madness will continue. We have to ensure that the best are getting in and that the best actually want to be here and can be effective. Hiring should be clamped down on, and we should go through a year of where only Microsoftie interviewers who have made the best "no hire" or "hire" decisions for candidates - matching their feedback on hired candidates career velocity and reviews - are put on loops. Everyone else has to go through retraining to get back on.
  • ESPP: back to 15% and the way it was. No clapping for this because it's just fixing another dumb mistake that shouldn't have happened in the first place.
  • 401k: And in addition to a pony and a milkshake, I'd also like Microsoft to match our 401k at a higher percent and even contribute some to it as well. The stock isn't working out as a retirement plan, so Microsoft should make this their focus now in retaining employees who suddenly have that, "Ooo, I need to think about retirement" revelation.
  • Tool fatigue: the Rube Goldberg machine that is our current review system toolset has to be streamlined. I feel bad enough managing my career vs. focusing on getting great results for my product team, I really don't want these tools managing me and sucking up a week here and a week there for my team. It's so bad I want the return of the old Word document. Again, I feel a bit abused if I clap for simplification here: you made my life suck and now you're making it suck less. You're... awesome? (Well, okay, I guess you are awesome. You pushed for a change for the better to address employee concerns. I think it just got a bit too Frankensteined up along the way.)
  • MSPoll: early results from the latest MSPoll are... ? And don't go and sugarcoat any bad results. I think you can rely on InsideMS to bring-up ad-hoc discussions of the bad numbers. Please don't let it come up that way.

I really don't care about Bread and Circuses like food service, dry cleaning, and the like (but, uh, please don't take my Starbucks machine away because I've become quite addicted, even to its little brewing cycle clucking).

I'd appreciate Mr. Ballmer taking this chance to hit the reset button and go over major changes in what we value in this company. First of all: we reward for shipping and for profits. Followed by accountability. In addition to a second milkshake, I'd also like a change in perspective about the stock: if the stock price is not a valuable measurement of a publicly held company, what is? And if anyone dares to put up a one-year chart and strut about saying, "Hey, hoo-yahh, lookie at that break-out stock performance!" they, and anyone who cheers, deserves a solid dope-slap to the back of the head. Gee, how did we get all the way down into that slump to begin with (remember: Wall Street + $2,000,000,000 surprises = huge stock drop)? How does the last five years look?

I'd also expect all that Quests that the L68+ Partners have been involved with to turn into results that Mr. Ballmer is going to put into action and share with us. Otherwise... what were all those Quests for?

Anyway, I look forward to reflecting on the changes coming this week and then dialing things here at Mini-Microsoft down to low-key here and await the FY07 results.

A Plan For The Posters: this past week my mailbox came stuffed with gobs of promo-stuff, including a glossy about the Technical Community Network. Look, there's Queen Gertrude's observation over protesting too much. Bragging too much is a sign, too, and a rather desperate one at that. And as I flipped that TCN into a recycle bin to let it join a large stack of its siblings, I looked at the weekly replacing of the internal promotional posters. Okay, I'm not going to complain. Complaining doesn't solve anything. My solution to all the expenses around this mostly ignored internal promotion stuff?

The return of hardcopy Micronews. Slick. In color. Ad supported. That's right. No more posters. Your group advertises in Micronews instead. And if you really want to put up a poster, well, you still give a percent over to the Micronews budget. One pro being that people will have your website address in front of their computer vs. having to remember it after wandering the halls. And I'd expect Micronews to change and be less of the softballer it ended as but rather an advocate of engineering excellence across the company and to have a hard-nosed Microsoftie editorial freedom. We have a bunch of great writers: have the editors grab interesting blog posts or have those internal / external bloggers write an occasional piece. Summarize great resources in Microsoft. For instance, we have fantastic training at Microsoft: have a monthly summary of some of the more interesting classes.

And sure, have an online version, too.

Finally: two interesting news bits I saw today:

Microsoft claims software like Linux violates its patents - May 28, 2007 - an interesting confrontation to manage. We've been circling this boxing ring for a while, and it looks like we've at least put on our gloves and have started jabbing the air to warm up.

Why Doesn't Microsoft Have A Cult Religion - Microsoft Blog - InformationWeek - it is rare to see a Microsoft fanboy. It's something I've tried to work on for my responsibilities and my desire to build relations with the Alpha-Geek crowd. I think we need to cultivate fandom. If we can't, we have to be honest as to why people are not fans of our technology and our products. A snippet:

Think about it. When was the last time an editor was fired because of a scathing article entitled, "10 Things We Hate About Microsoft?" When was the last time a group of developers stood up at a VS Live show and shouted ... "Yea, man! Orcas Rocks! Language Integrated Query is da' Bomb! New and improved ADO.Net? Oh, no you didn't!" It just doesn't happen.

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