Sunday, February 17, 2008

Some Quick Quips - Yahoo, #86, and MSPoll

Just some quick quips:

yahoo... Sorry, I can't get up the enthusiasm to put the exclamation point into Yahoo anymore. So this past week had a number of voluntary and involuntary exits from Yahoo. Mr. Yang calls out, "White Knight? Anyone? Anyone?" and the Yahoo board gets restless.

An interesting bit comes from Joe Rosenberg in Barron's. The summary? Microsoft bid for Yahoo makes no sense. Some interesting snippets:

"It's a bad refection on Ballmer that he's willing to pay a ridiculous price for Yahoo. Microsoft is not going to earn anything like a reasonable rate of return in Yahoo," Rosenberg was quoted as saying.


Asked if it wasn't a strategic necessity for Microsoft to buy Yahoo, Rosenberg said: "I don't buy that. Yahoo would significantly dilute Microsoft's returns.

"Ballmer is a great operating man but he lacks financial acumen. He ought to be thinking more of Microsoft employees who own a lot of Microsoft stock and have nothing to show for it in many years. If the stock doesn't start doing better, Microsoft will lose good people."

Thank goodness someone is actually thinking that employees would react to the stock price, because it seems to be a foreign concept to our leadership. I can't make jokes about Golden Handcuffs anymore because most people at Microsoft don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I have not seen Microsofties so loose in their sockets since I joined years upon years ago.

Agent 86: Would you believe... that Microsoft has dropped down to #86 within the Fortune Best Places to Work survey? That's down from #50 in 2007 and #42 in 2006. Like a rock. In a bad way. And who is #1 for two years in a row? Grab that chair and give it a big effen toss in the air to Google! Toot! They get bigger and they're still #1.

(Oh, and Yahoo is attached to our hip at #87. I guess we're more alike than we knew.)

LisaB tackled the #86 issue this past week. Kinda. But I've got to wonder: if you sat down a bunch of hard-working, valued Microsofties in one room, and executive leadership in the other, and put down some simple questions like, "What would make employees value working at Microsoft even more?" I'm pretty sure the answers would have a wide gap between them.

The return of the towels was a symbolic admission to stupidity. The Bread and Circuses of various subsequent benefits doesn't align with what Microsofties need to be obviously valued and to have a great career at Microsoft that is satisfying. What would you want to see Microsoft do about addressing being a great place to work?

My #1 request has got to be to make Microsofties mobile. Intent to interview was a great first step. Now, just let people interview. If they get the job, their management learns they need to start a transition plan. Leaders might actually start managing their teams as if retention matters.

Right now, given Mid-Year Career Discussions, my #2 request is to boot all the friggin' tools and go back to the Microsoft Word form, all a part of streamlining career management at Microsoft. We're about to spend a couple of months in tool hell, have a big CSP codified discussion that may or may not align with the reality of your group, and then in three months do it all over again for the major review cycle. I seem to spend my life in calibration meetings and managing tools and asking HR-IT to fix bungled work-flow and whacked-out permissions. I need a "I'd rather be shipping features that make money" license plate holder. As do many of my team members.

My #3 is too intangible to tackle here, but it's more around gearing Microsoft to be a team-focused company culture, not the lone-rock-star-wolf. Yes, still reward the rock-star contributors, but also reward the teams that produce great results that they've committed to, and punish and don't reward dysfunctional teams that don't deliver.

Oh, and return the old ESPP and up the 401k match to be something stellar. Worried about cost? Headcount reduction works wonders.

MSPoll: Oh, and if you have ideas but don't feel like sharing them here, you can at least achieve some catharsis in writing your thoughts up in the upcoming poll. Maybe when it goes online we can find a few questions to hammer on to make a (useless?) point. I can tell you, with the Yahoo acquisition still in play and the impact that it's had to the stock and the reputation of Microsoft, I've got to say the question addressing "this company is headed in the right direction" should take a nosedive.

P.S. I'm going to mention Steven Sinofsky here (which I've avoided a lot, although I'm a great fan, because every time I think of typing something about him I hear in my mind batteries clattering down a wooden staircase and then imagine his angry, disappointed face appearing out of the shadows at the top of the stairs... scary stuff): so does this mean that Sinofsky is destined to be Mini-ized? Hmm.

P.P.S. Some executives moved around last week. One surprise departure, otherwise everything else seemed to have been whispered about for a while. Mr. Ballmer's email was interesting in that it seemed to imply that there was a whiff of accountability in the air with what was going on. Just a whiff.

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