Sunday, August 26, 2007


Let's talk about you: it's Reviewzapalooza time! How do you like the new numbers sheet - does it help with the context of what your awards are? Once again, the charmingly good looking folks who participate in the comments here have started sharing their numbers to help get an idea of how they stand and how it compares across groups in the company. You can see some comments in the Gone Fishin' post, and the template that has evolved into is basically:

Position: Job Title
Commitment: Exceeded / Achieved / Underperformed
Contribution: 20% / 70% / 10% I or 10% II
Merit: %bump
Bonus: %of bonus
Stock - $USD of grant (% of Target)
Promo: %promo

Plus anything you feel like adding. Healthy approximations are appropriate to fuzz your rewards should you be concerned about consternation from above for sharing. You know, I wish there was a way to do this inside Microsoft (hmm, Inside MS) and especially wish there was a way to do it so that the division / group was obvious. As I've moved about the company over the years, it has become depressingly clear that, yes, career velocity is very different across the company, with some teams shooting their people up the levels on aggressive schedules and other divisions letting their reports languish for long durations before their level bumps (making it a vicious cycle: the folks at the next level up are now really really good just because they've been there for a while, so you're going to be parked here for a while, too).

I will say, as someone participating in the review process, it feels better and I feel better about the rewards distributed through-out the team, though there are always the hard conversations around "Why didn't I at least meet 100% of the target?" Look, there is still a curve and ratios to track for performance ratings and there are still misunderstandings in self-assessments that "Exceeded" is appropriate for soft commitments.

The review tools are a Himalayan blackberry infestation running through my gut. The clumsy workflow hammered in around the tools is just too restrictive and results in me spending more time getting HR IT's help, managing the tools and process and less time giving (hopefully) useful feedback. And when your editing package can't even copy and paste between its own fields without barfing out some kind of new, exotic formatting, well, you should just go back to Word.

Of course, Limited II is still around. It's just called 10% II. New non-offending packaging, same demoralizing message.

Stuff o' Interest: some links I'd like to pass on (some of which I've already posted in my Facebook profile, so apologies mon amis):

Microsoft Extreme Makeover has two excellent posts: (1) Growth play, value play, or just lousy play?, and (2) Home runs, base hits, virtual aspirations and actual failure. An extraction of the facts covered in greater detail in (1):

  1. Fact: Microsoft stock has performed abysmally over the past 5 years
  2. Fact: Investors have been more than patient
  3. Fact: Management's statements are at odds with observable facts and the stock's performance
  4. Fact: The leadership team's actual track record of investments is decidedly mixed, if not in fact poor.
  5. Fact: Management is arguing with the market and results, and shareholders are paying the freight for that hubris and failure
  6. Fact: External shareholder are the majority owners of this company

And there's a corker of a conclusion in there...

Collision Domain on the way out the door? My interpretation on this other anonymous Microsoft blogger is that it's time to discard the Blue Badge and move on: Preparing for Take-Off, Lift-Off, and Orbit. Snippet from Lift-Off:

One tidbit that I did discover this go-through was that the shiny, happy compensation target numbers on hrweb are figments of policy imagination.

Way ahead of you, dude: Already off and into Redfin's orbit is former Microsoftie Jeff Yee: Will work for food: why I left Microsoft for a startup. Snippet:

While I was at Microsoft, many things didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand the massive “re-orgs”, which, if you hadn’t heard about ahead of time, it meant nothing material changed for you. I didn’t understand why we’d try to enter dominated markets with an uncompetitive offering. I didn’t understand those little table tents on the cafeteria tables or the giant banners and posters promoting intranet websites. I didn’t understand why site searches on MSDN were abysmal. I wasn’t the only one who was confused. Minimsft would try to speculate about a re-org or an acquisition. And on popular internal aliases like “litebulb”, for instance, there’d be email threads where people would ask why Vista had 6 (ok, 8) SKUs, why Zune wouldn’t work with PlaysForSure, why their product had to be renamed from something cool to something like Windows Communication Framework, or why there were 2 confusing boxes on (or so adverse to just calling it “” in the first place). Legitimate questions often got defensive responses. To paraphrase one developer, “Why are these responses always along the lines of, ‘We know what we’re doing’? Personally, I’d welcome the feedback, because that’s how I’ll improve. Why can’t you provide the reasons that led to your decision?” I couldn’t have agreed more.

Who's on First? Mr. Romano at the Seattle Times has a three-fer: Microsoft Microsoft's new leaders prepare for the post-Gates era, Microsoft Craig Mundie Company envoy will keep that role, and Microsoft Ray Ozzie Collaborative leader has coaching style. Who's is next? Well, who should be next?

No-one! Jamie has a new C9Park: Iron Chef.

Company Meeting: I don't think I'll be as vocal about my love for the Company Meeting this year. Yes, I love the Company Meeting, just as much as I love the potential for Microsoft to be the best company ever. The Company Meeting is where I hold out both of my arms and let myself get hooked up into two I.V.s of pressurized, concentrated MSFT-Kool-Aid. It, along with the occasional Town Hall meeting, allows me to become re-enchanted and re-committed to Microsoft.

I like the change of theme this year of celebrating individuals who represent the best of Microsoft (I'm not sure about the moniker Champions of Change because my eyes roll everytime I read it). I mean, first of all, big thumbs up for not doing Microsoft Idol again just because we did it last year. That's a change I could champion. But finding people who truly represent the best of Microsoft and its culture does allow people to get to know them and find out what kind of person our corporate culture touchstone resonates for. Maybe your boss does indeed sucketh in comparison. Or maybe not. Anyway, it's mostly a really really good idea that I wish I had come up with to propose.

It's too bad , though, it looks like our continued celebration of the individual. Do we have a celebration in there for a team or two of distinction? I'm sorry, but we need a change around this lone-wolf achiever culture. Team Gold Stars and Team Achievements that everyone could clap for in wild agreement need to be next.

What would I like to hear about in our Company Meeting? Some things off the top of my head (not too different than last year, just compacted):

  • European Union: whoa, Nelly, I think we're about to get kicked really, really hard in our money maker. Can we talk about this?
  • The Stock Price: what do we hear from analysts about the stock price? Let's enumerate them so that we have confirmation that we've actually heard advice regarding the stock price: cut expenses, increase the dividend, etc. and then, Beloved Leadership, tell us what you think.
  • Windows Live Suite: this actually addresses an analyst's concern, about showing radical growth in rich, connected services. Is it going to do it? What's is about and where is it going? And is Spaces going to do something to out-Facebook Facebook?
  • In Between Cows: between now and Windows 7 and Office 14, what's releasing and what does the product stream look like for profit?
  • Hiring Slow-Down: please, tell me more about this. And then even some more again. It just doesn't get old.
  • HR and Compensation: first of all, before LisaB, did we even hear from HR that much? Anyway, I'm sure we'll hear how great the poll is looking any maybe some other goodies. On my mind:
    • ESPP: Bring back the 15% ESPP: yep, it goes against the cut expenses goal. Suck it up and give back what we once had. I'll even part with my Starbucks kitchen coffee maker machine for it. And that's saying something.
    • Internal Recruiting: we need to aggressively recruit talent within our company and not leave it to the individual to meander through the internal machinery and find a job. Additionally, totally drop permission and intent to interview and just let people interview at will.
    • Mid-year review: yes, bring back the mid-year review. Compensation would be nice, too, but let's make it a full review. We do all the work and create review numbers, so let's just go ahead and share the numbers officially so that it's not an all-or-nothing once-a-year tell-me-if-I'm-doing-a-good-job Hell Mary. This also swings nicely into letting people move around more easily so that folks don't feel locked into their job for an entire year in order to get a fair review vs. moving groups and losing their perceived momentum.

Anything you'd like to hear about and discussed by our leadership?

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