Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rumors of Upcoming Microsoft Cut-Backs

Rumors. Microsoft layoff and cut-backs and Reduction In Force rumors. That's all I have for you. Rumors and second-hand speculation and the comments left by the fine, good-looking folks who participate in the conversation here. So pour yourself some holiday cheer and dive in.

What have those fine folks been sharing over the past couple of posts here? Bad news on the rise and with perhaps January 15th 2009 as an interesting day for Microsoft news. Bad news. 15 Jan is a week before FY09Q2 quarterly results and it's better to share as much news, good and bad, before the results are released vs. surprising Wall Street (something I think we've learned).

It all starts with...

Just heard on the finance grapevine. MSFT layoffs are coming on January 15th.

They are substantial.

And then some curious meetings:

they lost 12 people in STB [...] looks like "feedback" reviews are underway to get the a-10's out of the picture as well.

What kind of meeting? Perhaps like:

I got invited into one of those special "manager" meetings on thursday which resolved to absolutely zero activity other than asking opaque questions for which the answer was already known.

"fact" finding in order to dismiss an argument OR dismiss me :)

shall find out 1/15

In Live Meeting:

Live Meeting is one of the worst places to be right now - and it has gotten downright hostile and strange in recent times. People are pulled into meetings with management where they get interrogated about what they are working on ("We want to hear what you think you know about XYZ, this is not a knowledge-sharing session..."), people are given impossible tasks like coding things not yet designed, automating things not get coded, documenting unfinished ideas (all subject to being cut next week too). On top of that they must account for their time by the hour. Live Meeting is in its death throes.

Breaking-up when you have no budget is another tactic (in STB):

Our 120+ person org has just been broken up due to lack of budget. About 1/2 the team is staying, the other half is going to a number of different teams within the larger org. So far, we all appear to have jobs, but man, what a shocker, I thought ours was one of the more stable teams.

Not sure what happens to our Director, he seemed a bit shocked himself when he delivered the news today. I also don't know if this is the first step towards a lay-off, but for now, it seems we'll have jobs for a few more months.

Ugh, not good, not good at all.

STB again:

I got pulled into a lunch 2:1 today and got given good news on "you have 4 weeks left"

STB - > Server

Rumors! Like the following that I've heard wandering around chatting with folks before the holidays:

I've been hearing some stealth layoffs around the SQL and BOSG groups, around 70+ people were given 6(?) weeks to find another position within the company, otherwise they are laid off.

Anyone know others?

Is the following a list of head-count cuts or expected percent cuts?

  • 3 in omps
  • 9 in stb
  • 12 in msd
  • 7 in devdiv
  • 18 in UA
  • 5 in MSX

Beyond product groups:

Finance is cutting 10% of work force.

I will agree that we'll be casting a hard eye at consistent 10%-ers during MYCD:

If you have to 10% an employee who was in this bucket last review you may well find yourself showing them the door. This means that we can meet VP goals of no lay-offs (we are pruning poor performers) yet be seen to be reducing OE

But who is taking the cut?

The news is in. All the money making groups cut 10% of the work force. The money losing groups hires.

Vendors get it, too:

Vendors are also having it bad. The funding for our project stopped and our vendor team of 28 people have been asked to leave immediately. All of us have been asked to move to India by our parent company. [...]

Who should be taking a cut? One commenter points to GFS:

Do you know who was killing Microsoft economically from past several years- think think think? Being one of the 65 level in this organization and spending most of my career here - I can tell you that this group was living lavish life from past many years (thank god – we have some economic crisis now and people are asking some tough questions from the managers here). I know many of you have already guessed and you are right - this group is called "GFS - Global Foundation Service" and DebraC is leading this group. (Did I use the word leading?) If you want to know how capable she is to lead this group, I encourage you to watch her latest all hands streaming that you can find on MSW. [...] There are billions of dollars hardware purchased every year across this group without any planning and I can assure you that 50% of them are not even used or required at first place. Most of the hiring in this group is not for getting things done or being innovative in datacenter world but each manager here trying to build their own empire by just hiring whether they really need it or not.

Local impact? One commenter muses:

As someone whose product was recently whacked, I sure hope there are some RIFs before there are out-and-out layouts (at least in my area!) Scary... 'cause in this climate, it's going to be darn tough on the economy to dump a bunch of talented folks to the curb and have them competing for slim pickings out in the rest of the world. The ripple effect on the Puget Sound economy alone (assuming the layoffs are substantially here) would be staggering. :-(

Okay. So first I'd love to hear what you have heard or know as well, though I realize some of you might want to stir the pot with made-up fluff sprinkled with schaedenfruede - please don't.

Second: you have to realize that the upcoming 2009 Mid Year Career Discussion review process is one of the most important career inflection-points for you that we've had in a long, long time. Already my team is being asked to review people on the HR Watch List deeply and especially look at any two-time-plus 10%'s, no matter whether they are Situation I (eh, should be fired) or Situation II (effective but have reached their career maximum - again, a horrible, horrible concept). The upcoming Stack Rank for Mid-Year is going to be super-important for determining who has to go first if your team is given an n-percent budget to cut-back on. And yes, if we fire the current 10%'ers we drop down the lower 70%'ers into the 10% bucket. So just because you don't end up in the 10% bucket don't get all happy about yourself unless you're well into a high Achieved / high 70% bucket.

My suggestion to you: know when your team's Stack Rank (aka Calibration) meeting is and be very aggressive about enumerating your accomplishments this past year with your manager and asking your boss where they believe you rank within the team. Hey, I hate this system too, folks, and by me giving you advice I'm trying to prescribe some preventative medicine, not endorse the lifeboat drill that is Stack Ranking. And if you have Skip Level meetings with your upper management, you'd better figure a way that you walk out of that room with them loving you.

And if you get your six weeks, you're going to have to depend on your existing Microsoft networks. Folks I know with open positions have really ratcheted up their choosiness about who they want to bring into their group and are exceptionally uninterested in unknown RIF'ed people wanting informationals, assuming that they are 10%-ers.

Third: let's say we are having intensive cutbacks and/or RIFs and layoffs. It is absolutely essential that Microsoft steps back and asks, "Whoa, how did we get here and who was leading us?" How did we go on a drunken hiring binge and continue it even though a year ago most of us realized we were dropping into a recession? It's irresponsible leadership. It's especially irresponsible to the people we've hired and to the people incoming with recent offers. If you don't think too deeply, it's easy to be sipping on your Starbucks in Crossroads Mall typing away at how Microsoft needs to mass fire people so that it can refocus on essential business. But when you do it at a time when the economy is in the crapper and job openings at Microsoft is near nil is unforgivable.

An important consequence is to ensure we never do this again. The first step is to cut out the people who got us here, especially by making weak hires. Everytime someone who you said "Hire" to on an interview loop gets a 10% review your ranking on hiring goes down. If they become good attrition you get dropped from interviewing. You obviously aren't a very good judge when it comes to hiring for Microsoft. Likewise, if you said "No" to someone with a bad review or "Yes" to a star performer, your ranking goes up. And all of this is made very clear to you, versus you wondering one day, "Hey, how come I haven't been on an interview loop in a while?"

Next, if you've been in the way of quickly load balancing within your division according to needs vs. empire building: *poof* you're either gone or demoted.

Come 22 Jan 2009 Microsoft will be asked by the analysts what it is doing to contain costs. And I believe Microsoft will have an answer. I think this is one solution that you don't want to be a part of. I'm all for cutting back, but it should have been done long ago, responsibly, vs. forced upon us. Because I believe when things turn around, groups will be lighting the sparklers and cracking open the Kristal and hiring madly again.

(Edit #2: added links to all the comments I quoted so that readers - especially first time visitors - understand the source material. Edit #1: fixed a double paste.)

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