Monday, September 3, 2007

Microsoft Company Meeting Ahoy!

Just some random events happening before the Company Meeting this Thursday (BEWARE Seattle drivers! Stay away from Safeco field!).

Are you, like, LisaB's BFF? Well, no. I think LisaB is losing momentum and getting caught up in a cult-of-personality not of her making (what will we have this year? Orange berets?). But she certainly is poised to flip the momentum she has built up and have big impact - as far as she can as the HR head - to the everyday Microsoftie.

Some of the items not shared in this week's BW online snippet with me (for sake of space and/or coherency):

  • A mention of the book Corporate Confidential and my praise of HR Generalist work hard to be on the employee's side.
  • A mention of the InsideMS blog meltdown and how all that super-valuable employee input didn't seem to play into the revised myMicrosoft benefits, questioning the whole reason for the blog to exist (served as prelude to the later comment on the meltdown).
  • A question about the review process where I rip the awful review tools a new one. (Interjection: I guess the tools [or HRIT] felt a disturbance in my karma because what happened recently? Screwed over by the performance tools. "No, Mr. Mini, I expect you to be the one with a new one ripped." Yep. Still hurts to sit.)
    • And I put the blame for this whole tool-based / god-awful workflow review process squarely on Ms. Brummel's shoulders.
  • An extended riff on the continued focus on individual excellence at the expense of considering team excellence. (Interjection: by the way, is there a reward this week at the Company Meeting for Best Microsoft Team?)
  • A list of things I believe LisaB and our corporate leaders need to focus on:
    1. A local commuter bus system would be great. I’d love to commute to work through some sort of morning and evening shuttle (one that had WiFi so that I could do email). Less cars on the packed roads of Redmond. Good thing.
    2. Bring back the 15% ESPP as it was. This was a dumb cost-saving move.
    3. Up the 401K matching contribution.
    4. Start implementing a culture change to support people working at home. Really. Not words. Actions. Put in remote offices in Seattle for people who want to live in Seattle but waste two hours a day in the commute.
    5. Drop intent-to-interview and permission-to-interview altogether and just let people interview internally (and make internal interviews more lightweight for job positions near what you’re currently doing).
    6. Aggressively recruit within the company first. We put it 100% on the employee’s shoulder to find a new position within the company. Dumb. We should have internal recruiters to help rebalance people vs. having them just give up the search and leave.
    7. Bring back the mid-year review to at least let the employees know their ranking. Making it an all or nothing once-a-year result is the reason for a lot of angst over compensation.

There is still plenty of room to improve. Some other feedback around the article includes this comment:

I am shocked, but I probably shouldn't be. Now MS has taken it's own problems (crappy morale, crummy hr) and spun them in true "Thank You for Smoking" style into a feel-good story about Lisa Brummel.

The BusinessWeek article is full of half-truths spun as cute anecdotes. Great storytelling, but makes it sound like the world is all rosy.

What about Sr. VPs who place their own system on the reviewmodel so they can effectively re-implement the stack ranking of old? What about the fact that ratings are still about tearing your team-mates down to make sure your review is good? What is she doing to improve trust of HR? What is this transparency she claims has made HR such a beloved part of Microsoft?

Again, great article for the masses... nice spin to turn it into a nice story for the shareholders out there. Why does it not seem like anything has happened here?

And this comment:

I was VERY disappointed with her lack of vision, short sightedness and in the end flat out cowardess for doing the right thing. I'm back in the non-fan camp.

I just don't have enough room to accommodate being ripped another for this comment:

Mini--you are a real sell-out in that interview, saying that employees on average are happy with Brummel. Have you forgotten the hundreds of posts and months of bitterness when people found out that she "got rid of the curve" by simply obscuring it? Aside from various trivialities like bringing back towels, she's done zip. The review system still has no means of rewarding people or groups for contributing to the bottom line (only for sucking up better than their teammates), it certainly doesn't provide a mechanism for holding executives accountable, and there's still the old-boys-club partner system.

If people are unhappy, then they won't go bug-eyed wild for Brummel when she presents (probably second only to Ballmer). Let's see this Thursday how popular she is. Again, I'm worried about the cult-of-personality here. Second to last:

Interesting to learn that Ballmer's incompetence is at the root of MS's personnel management troubles. Of course, by his own criteria, he should have gotten the axe many years ago. The company hasn't even matched the performance of the S&P 500 since he got the Big Chair.

Flying chairs and broken golf clubs? Found via the BW blogger Stephen Baker, Sun's Jim Grisanzio ponders:

"... When Ballmer floated the HR job in April, 2005, Brummel said: No way. But Ballmer wasn't about to take no for an answer. Picking up a traveling golf putter, the Microsoft chief started taking it apart as he barreled around Brummel's office, hammering home why she was the perfect candidate. [...] The two went back and forth, with Ballmer slapping Brummel's whiteboard for emphasis and Brummel parrying with: 'But I love doing products.' After more than two hours, Ballmer ended the meeting. By then the putter was in pieces. 'Sorry about the golf club,' he said. Brummel was deeply conflicted ...."

Deeply conflicted? I'll bet. My goodness. I'm just trying to imagine McNealy or Schwartz whipping into my office and breaking my golf club on my white board. I'd be deeply conflicted, too.

Office Space: not the movie, the future. If you're interested in one take on the future of Microsoft offices, read the comment that starts with the following:

On the topic of office space. This is the first time that I have seen Lisa mentioned as the one who came up with the idea of implementing the "open" space concept. If true, she should be terminated immediately based solely on that decision. If you haven't seen what "open" space looks like and are in the Seattle area, take an extended lunch and head to the new Lincoln Square offices in downtown Bellevue. 17th floor on up.

Heard and good rumors? Like this comment:

There's going to be a special reward announced. It has something to do with the number of years you've worked at Microsoft. Sort of a big "thank you" from Bill

I also wonder about some of the benefits mentioned in the BW article that I've never heard about before and if they are going to be announced this week (commuter bus, free lunch, etc. etc.). If not: awk-ward.

Compensation: talk about a way to start an interesting conversation about compensation! Just write a comment in as a Microsoft Partner that contains this:

I am a partner. I do not think I have been fully compensated. I am at least equal to two 67s on my team. I got both of them about 550K. My VP screwed me and gave me only 650K.

We give too much money to low levels. They are replaceble. But we anyway make them cross 100K. We compensate them above market and we get them in bunch. Superstars and partners are less compensated here. No surprise they join Google.

The kind of talent we get in opening positions are not worth 100K. They are no better than an average worker at mcdonalds.

My recommendation to fix the company is the same as mini. Cut the crap. Show a mcdonald to mcdonaldis employees. Money saved can go to the bottom line and raise the stock price. In this case superstars can get atleast some respectable compensation. My 450K stock are way below my market value. By cutting the crap these stocks will be worth at least double. My compensation then cross a million. I can say to google recruiters to look somewhere else. Google, please take half of my team.

I love it: "Google, please take half of my team." 'at'll learn 'em. That's followed by a comment later that ends with a kicker:

The rant by low level employees on this blog is not understandable. The goal of this blog is to get you fired. It is advocating to show you an exit gate.

So on this blog, if you accept Mini's statement then you are accepting that you are not needed. If you do not, then you should rant against Mini or at leats not post here.

Office Glass Ceiling: I don't have time to roll it up now, but a bunch of comments have been musing over the slowness of promotions in a number of teams, Office being the worse offender for slow promotions. What has your experience been with-respect-to slow groups, fast groups, or just-right groups?

Finally: whatever you do, don't watch this all the way through to the end. I warned ya.

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