Hello, SafeCo Field! Another year, another Microsoft Company Meeting!
Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I'm a big fan of the Company Meeting, though I have to admit this is the first year I've thought of skipping and just go out for some beers instead. Well, instead I'll peruse the past and conjure up some enthusiasm:
- 2009: Mini-Microsoft Six Hopes for This Year's Microsoft Company Meeting + Mini-Microsoft Quick Thoughts on the Microsoft 2009 Company Meeting
- 2008: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2008
- 2007: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting Ahoy! + Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2007
- 2006: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2006
- 2005: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting... I'm looking for some dates! + Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2005
- 2004: Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Company Meeting 2004 (the non-meeting Company Meeting)
Alright, I'm in. So what is there to talk about going into the Company Meeting?
No Elop: yeah! So no repeat of last year's late-night telemarketing demo unintentional-skit. In fact, we might have one big demo cut altogether...
Unique Demos: anyone who repackages a demo from earlier in the year should just get boo'd off-stage. Any demos should be new and quick quick quick.
Dreading Mundie: please spare us. If the Company Meeting had a chatter meter for when the audience stopped paying attention and started talking with their seatmates, this would be the peak.
WP7 Microsoftie Demos: I think it would be sweet and smart to have some of the top-notch Windows Phone 7 apps created by Microsofties - under the application developer program to support employee apps - get up on stage and do 1 minute demos of their apps. Microsoft exists only due to the great work of the geeks who work there - celebrate it.
Financials: a nice review of *profits* from the various groups.
Stealth Layoffs: are we done yet? I'm all for making Microsoft a smaller company, but not at the morale busting cost of layoffs lurking around campus like the Spanish Inquisition. It will eventually take a toll on people considering moving to groups that are in a start-up mode with unclear Senior Leadership Team support.
LisaB: she tried something big, Ballmer didn't go for it, and then she faded and became busy with layoffs. And her basketball team. Ms. Brummel kicked off another Listening Tour this year. Now would be a good tie to roll-up any insights and results. What is my dream result? Team based awards. And it's pretty simple.
Every VP-level person has to stack rank their organizational teams, top to bottom. For Sinofsky-fied product teams, this would be at the Dev Manager / Test Manager / General Program Manager triad level, typically defining a product team such that every product team get a rating. Every team gets ranked just like individuals and the team gets a rating just like you and me: Exceeded / Achieved / Underperformed and 20% / 70% / 10%. This - along with the concise VP-level written evaluations - gets pasted into every team member's annual review and part of the overall bonus / stock compensation now comes out of this result.
The reasoning: strong, well-run and results-producing organizations should be rewarded. And poorly run, low WHI organizations should be disinfected with some mighty strong corporate sunlight. When it comes to informationals with new teams, you can ask: "What was the team's rating last year?" in addition to MSPoll results.
Reviews: as long as we're on LisaB and HR: how about them reviews this year? At least we had merit increases back. If you're feeling a sharp-blow about your results and you're up for an interesting point of view (along with a bunch of other good things), I suggest reading Philip Su's goodbye note for leaving Microsoft and joining Facebook: Goodbye Microsoft, Hello Facebook! « The World As Best As I Remember It. (you might remember Mr. Su from the high-profile post-Vista blog-post Broken Windows Theory). That whole post is worth discussing soon. As is the always popular observation: if you're not happy with Microsoft, there's abundant opportunity around you. Try checking it out.
Ballmer vs. The League of Meh. Maybe because we have a lull with our major product groups either coming in for a landing (WP7, Natal) or just taking off (Office 15, Windows 8) that my circle of friends have hit a patch of corporate ennui like never before. True, some of them work on products way on the fringe but others work on some pretty core products and they are feeling... full of meh.
I still believe that Microsoft has turned the corner. Or, as someone else wrote this week, it has turned the tanker: The Microsoft Tanker Has Turned and You Ignore it at Your Own Peril. Why this meh? First of all, the stock: if you are investing in the success of Microsoft, you cannot underestimate the power of the stock to energize the employees to create break-through results. We had great quarterly earnings and what did the financial market say? "Meh." Maybe they started it. Part of it I'm sure is that even though we've turned the corner, sometimes we screw up and spill the Big Gulp in our lap and skip the curb and take out a mailbox (KIN). That startling inconsistency to deliver focused results I'm sure puts fear and doubt into Wall Street, and if there's one combination that Wall Street underperforms dealing with it's fear and doubt.
After the dismissive reaction to our last quarterly results, we had article after article written about Microsoft's Lost Decade, covering how poorly Mr. Ballmer and The Board have been doing running Microsoft and calls for their dismissal. That's not cool, and if anything, it's draining. Under that context, to see Mr. Ballmer screaming and running around high-fiving a bunch of MBAs riding our two cash cows until the milk's dried up is challenging to your self-motivation.
Going back to my friends: some are very loose in their seat, and others have already left to enjoy unfettered engineering (one in particular happy to realize how much unexpected joy results in the 'make Partner or take the 10%' cloud going away).
I expect a CEO like Mr. Ballmer to revisit his previous Company Meeting talks and discuss where those ideas are now. Some of those ideas were quite exciting, but went... where? Otherwise, without the follow-through I guess this is another throw-away show that's in-between me and my beer.