Friday, August 23, 2013

Steve Ballmer is Going to Frickin' Retire From Microsoft!

OH
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months
MY
Moving forward
GOODNESS
Microsoft's next CEO Who's on the short list ZDNet
+1.

Liked.

Favorited.

Ka-ching!

A well prepared blogger, even a crusty spider-web covered 99.9%-retired one like me, would have at least had a post ready to go for this glorious circumstance, like how most news organizations have obituaries written up and ready to publish. I had no such optimism that this would be happening before 2017.

To me, this throws the whole in-process re-org upside down. Why re-org under the design of the exiting leader? Even if the Senior Leadership Team goes forward saying that they support the re-org, it's undermined by everyone who is a part of it now questioning whether the new leader will undo and recraft the decisions being made now. I'd much rather Microsoft be organized under the vision of the new leader and their vision.

As for that new leader? Let the guessing game begin. How about first crafting the list of skills. Microsoft is huge and complex and Ballmer does has to be respected for running something as crazy as Microsoft to the point where it always seemed like no one could possibly replace him.

The first skill I'm putting down on my CEO job requisition is: "Has architected and implemented software features at the Principal level." Yeah, I want someone who has written complex software to run a big huge software (and devices) company. Crazy.

What are your thoughts?

This is going to be in interesting 2013 Company Meeting. As for Ballmer's habit of coming out to an inspirational song, may I suggest Dancing in the Street. Because that's what my heart is playing right now. And of course, we need an exit song, too. Something, that perhaps begins with:

"Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey-Hey-Hey. -"


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Microsoft Without Sinofsky?

Well, I can't believe it: Microsoft Announces Leadership Changes to Drive Next Wave of Products.
People walking the hallways tonight at work certainly can't believe it. I can't believe it - working at a Microsoft without Sinofsky?
Inconceivable.
But, if you're going to leave on a high-note, it doesn't get much better. Mr. Sinofsky got a standing ovation from the Windows team during the Company Meeting for all that he's done to take them on a multi-year journey to create Windows 7 and then hit the big multi-division reset button for Windows 8. He truly demonstrated technical leadership at its best.
And I don't believe his departure rules him out at all for Microsoft CEO. In fact, I think if he stays in tech and becomes CEO of another company it makes him an even more obvious choice to come back to Microsoft as its leader.
Meanwhile, Ms. Larson-Green: best of luck following this act.


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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Microsoft FY12Q4 Results - Plus That Lost Decade Thing

Quarterly results time, quarterly post time.
What kind of questions do you have the financials and what's ahead for Microsoft?
For me: first of all, that damn browser is at again. If billions of dollars go towards amending IE then that pretty much undoes all the good work that Sinofsky has been weaving. Post consent-decree, there is a certain amount of swaggering happening on the old SafeCo campus. Oy.

  • Financial impact of the Browser Choice Screen screw-up?
  • Sure enough, the exclusion of being able to install an alternative browser on Win8 RT (a very purposeful name) is getting anti-trust attention.
Other items in motion:
  • Okay, so much for all that cash spent on aQuantive. How do the other acquisition investments shape up?
  • Expected Surface unit sells in next year? Availability? (And if you've used Win8 on ARM, which are the preferred deities we should be praying to make it actually fast and fluid?)
  • Poor Nokia.

Microsoft's Lost Decade. So, you know, that happened.
SteveB has often remarked on how he ignores the stock price of Microsoft and doesn't know what it takes to move it upward. Those financial types are just too darn inscrutable. He just focuses on doing his job. The stock has been flat and Microsoft Millionaire phenomena is a distant memory. It's a historical mind-trip to read a book like Microsoft in the Mirror and discover that most Microsofties then were hesitant to admit they worked at Microsoft, out of the resulting discomfort of everyone expecting them to be rich. Oh, to have such an awkward problem like that.
While Microsoft is on the edge of rolling success after success (financial and technical) in Windows 8, Office 15, Windows Phone 8 (yeah yeah), and Xbox, there's a level of white-washing to emphatically focus on what we currently have, despite ourselves. Vista happened. Kin happened. Billions have been sunk into the success that is Xbox, including funding the fall-out of a rushed technical designs. aQuantive happened. Six billion dollars in shareholder value gone "poof!" without so much a "ta-da!" And now it appears the EU has the opportunity to return to the Microsoft ATM for millions or billions of USD due to the browser choice screen mysteriously disappearing from Win7 SP1. I guess the testers were too busy fixing their cranky automation to notice.
I thought perhaps this year's SteveB Company Meeting "YEAAAAAH!!!" victory dance song should be I'm Still Standing but now maybe Oops, I Did it Again is more appropriate. With you know, a little pinky pointed to the corner of the mouth.
Vanity Fair has been making news with their Lost Decade piece. I really hoped to find something new and salacious, but it wasn't much more than what you'd find written here between the posts and the many passionate, thoughtful comments from smart, good-looking people like you. Perhaps post-article the author Kurt Eichenwald will get some good insider loving and have a more revealing follow-up.
Stack ranking comes up as one of the reasons Microsoft does so poorly due to the internal competition and lack of cooperation it inspires, impacting strategy and results. Remember the org-chart cartoon from earlier? Microsoft was depicted as hierarchical organizations with handguns pointed at one another. Reality? Myth? Culture. Like some low-brow Ferrengi scavenger, leadership adopted stack ranking without really trying to think through their own system or realize that stack ranking is meant for organizations in transition (layoffs / downsizing) vs. a constant twice-a-year grind that goes on and on and on. Snippet from the above link:
The biggest mistake is to use it forever.
"If you're going to do forced ranking, look at it as a short-term, three-five year thing. Do it annually but don't do it forever. By the end of four or five years, you've gotten all the value," he says.
Microsoft's particular implementation of stack ranking has been used—and under fire—for way more than five years. In 2005, HR grad student Stephen Gall published a scathing paper on it for Walden University.
Just when we finish the annual review and calibration, it's time to update your commitments. And then it's mid-year check-in, followed by annual again. It's a hamster wheel spinning above sulfur-enriched coals. I don't know about you, but my annual assessment, if printed before I provided any of my comments, would go on for six pages. Six pages of detailed commitments. WTF is all I can say to the detailed craziness our review system has evolved into.
The stakes behind our stack ranking changed radically with the last year's iteration. In one way, it's good: we're just talking about results. What did the person do? What did they accomplish? Then comes ordering people and goodness-forbid if you've gotten promoted recently because most likely it's congratulations and welcome to the bottom of the barrel. And it certainly does re-enforce the Peter Principle where you have people - very valued people - reach the peak of their career (usually a high place) and they discover the plateau can be a dispiriting place.
Why does this matter? A healthy, dynamic company needs talented employees (and most everyone has talent to some degree, not just the 1s and 2s) to be able to flow around the company based on opportunity and need. What you end up with are the 1s and 2s being easily mobile, the 3s having some potential, and the 4s and 5s being locked out of groups being interested in them unless you have a very enlightened (or desperate) hiring manager. So what did you just do? Made it so that the people on top are the ones that can leave your org and everyone else is sort of stuck and disillusioned.
Goldstars might be gone, but in its place we now have the 1* review ranking for the top of the top (so yes, it's really 1*, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). It is a superstar culture, or at least a One-Star culture. We continue to celebrate the hero contributor, and team work is left for a poll question.
And do savvy people try to game the system? Of course they do, except that it's called adjusting to the reality of the situation. I know reports that chat up their Aunt and Uncles (peers to their manager) when they have good news to share about themselves. I know backstabbers. And I know exceptionally naive backstabbers who for some reason think fragging their manager will help their career out, which perplexes me to no end especially when the manager has been their champion and their report doesn't even understand what their manager does. And now I've got a broken trust relationship.
I'd love to know what new system LisaB came up with. I think it deserves to be revealed. Rumor is that she pushed this with Ballmer and there was no way he was going to let go of Neutron Jack's stack ranking. And after that supposed loss, LisaB sort of disengaged. Is she really the most universally hated executive? I don't know about that, but she certainly slipped away from being loved. Thousands of employees used to cheer for her. Now?
There's a thought-exercise being spread out over the past year that getting a 3 is like getting an A. That a 3 is good. Yeah, that's the ticket. Problem is, 2 is better and 1 is way better, and that 3 comes with a message that your peers are better than you. Well, your results. So the first question everyone is going to ask is, what does it take to get a 2 or a 1? One thing the Vanity Fair article touched on is, post stock options being the path to riches and reward, everyone is focused on getting a good review. I'd say beyond that, you have people at the top of Principal doing what it takes to make Partner. You see some pretty odd short-term crap happening out of L67 individuals desperate to break through, sometimes to the detriment of the product and group.
And I don't see an end in sight. It's going to take Ballmer leaving for a new review system to have a chance. In the meantime, we're comforted by "well, other companies do it, too" - like that class of excuse works for every teenager in the world. Microsoft is unique, and its employee experience should be unique and enriching, both for the bank account and for the people we hire and that we should continue to grow and enlighten.
And yes, if you don't like it, you can turn in that blue badge and hit the road. For those of you who have and have a review system that you like far better, I'd love to hear (well, read) your perspective.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Microsoft FY12Q3 Results

Isn't this the best time ever to be in tech! I love it. And I love profits, too!

I know, I just lost half of you there.

But it's amazing. The amount of competition and change and adoption makes me nothing but giddy. If you're a PlayStation fan-boy then you have to at least love the competition Xbox brings to make PS better. And same for Xbox. Same for Apple, Google, and Microsoft. The competition between iOS, Android, and Windows is awesome, especially if you're a developer or service being wooed day-in and day-out.

Inside Microsoft, we'll constantly flagellate ourselves about how other competitors are leapfrogging us. But it's good to see, starting way back when I said Microsoft Has Turned The Corner, the amount of collaborative integration that has happened to make the whole far greater than the sum of the parts. A snippet from that post from near three years ago:

Redemption takes a while. Time is needed to allow perception to change and to re-earn trust and respect.

Windows 7 re-earned trust and respect. Windows 8 is a big turning point. It's not perfect. It's no true iPad compete story: it's different. However, it would not have existed without the iPad. Thank you, Apple. RIP Steve. It's a big reboot of the Windows developer story in a way that is fresh and semi-consistent, visually, across phone and Xbox (and slowly across our web properties, too).

Our developer story is still concerning. Windows 8 is blazing it's own trail, which is different than WP and different than Xbox. For now. It's not that I want to write the same app between all the platforms, but I do want no-friction traversal for a Dev to start on one, have a great idea, and switch over and start on the other, without muttering, "WTF, this is completely different." We have a chance to get there and that vision needs to be revealed soon.

Consistency is one thing, quality is another. I was reading that HBR article about Steve Jobs leadership lessons and the first thing I thought about it: Steve Jobs would not have let almost any of those new Xbox apps ship. He would have torn them to pieces. I think this is a case where we so desperately wanted out partners to support the new Metro that we gave in to mediocrity. And once it's there, it's there for good. This is where we really need to clamp down or what is prime real-estate is going to turn into a flea market.

So anyway, how are we doing? I'd say we're on the upswing with endless challenges. We turned the corner and did indeed manage to get out of the bad side of town. Profits are up, people are writing appreciative come-back articles, and I really don't have much of an ax to grind (well, except for the premier software company being completely incapable of creating an enlightened review model, let alone lately keep some key young talent). Go-go-Microsoft!

Some links on today's earnings:

See you next quarter!


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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Microsoft FY12Q2 Results

Fiscal results: Microsoft Investor Relations - Earnings Release FY12 Q2.

My favorite tech bloggers:

Sorta looks like there's a trend with reduced PC sales impacting Windows. It will be interesting a year from now to see (given that it's released for Holiday 2012 and all) if we see Windows 8 reversing the trend. Of course, the economy could just be better by then.

End of the obligatory quarterly post.


Briefly: what's going on here? Well, obviously, not much.

The only thing I've felt an urge to write about recently is Microsoft's curiously messed up media strategy when it comes to video and music. Zune Music is on its deathbed, Media Center moved back to Windows and that basically put it on indifferent life support. Microsoft breaking from Dolby in Windows 8 means a lot of stuff that used to work out of the box won't. But maybe the mess is simply a chaotic churn of local media assets being deprecated for services and for Xbox to start replacing media PCs.

I'm none to happy, but I'm one of those dinosaur's who loves the dickens out of his Media Center setup.

That small missive aside: I've avoided putting the Mini Cap on just because of dealing with the constant drone of negativity. Yeah yeah I made that bed and the chickens are coming home to roost in it. Or something like that. Comment moderation right now is a necessity and one big bumming drag. So I stopped. Sorry you 120+ pending comments. Once Google Blogger has native support for community influenced commenting (just voting up and down, that's all I want) I'll be more interested in resuming posts. For now, it's gotta be something major for me to put that Mini Cap on.

See you next quarter!


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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Microsoft FY12Q1 Results

Here it is, FY12Q1 already: Microsoft Reports Record First-Quarter Results $17.37 billion of revenue driven by solid business and consumer demand.. Wow, is that the longest, braggy release title we've ever had? Read it and you'll also discover that Bing has an organic line. In the Q&A session, Microsoft Management Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript - Seeking Alpha, there was a lot of Qs about Skype and - news to me - we discover that $51 billion of our cash assets are kept offshore, to avoid taxes. Viva la 1%! (I kid).

(I'm out on the road so this will be short.)

My usual suspects:

And a bonus view of OSD:


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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Friday! Friday! Friday! Microsoft Company Meeting 2011!

(Note: updated below with follow-up comments.)

It's my most favorite time of the year: Friday the 23rd is the annual Microsoft Company Meeting!

That's right: I pull up my sleeves and thrust out my arms out wide and say, "Shove in the Kool-Aid IVs to the left and to the right and keep it flowing!" Man I love it. It is one of my favorite holidays of the year.

Reminder: when it comes to comments, share your internal-only content enthusiasm over on OfficeTalk (especially via the otalk WP7 app) vs. trying to put it here.

A Story of Steve, Steve, and Steven

This year is one of those inflection points: Apple has been soaring with its excellent device results, blowing Microsoft away and cannibalizing our Windows powered device market. The Microsoft stock is horribly flat and there are calls all-around for Ballmer to be replaced. Now, several things are in play: Mr. Jobs has stepped down due to his health reasons, WP Mango is reaching release with Nokia devices to begin their flow, and Windows 8 has demonstrated a reboot to the Windows experience and development platform. With Windows 8, Microsoft has emerged with the talking points that the company is being re-imagined.

All I can say is that SteveB should give SteveSi the CEO Bacon Achievement award: exceptional results that saved the CEO's bacon. Oh, SteveB had to be so happy to have Windows 8 revealed at BUILD right before the Financial Analysts Meeting. "How ya like me n-O-w?!?!" Actually, big chops to SteveSi who not only has done the impossible organizational wrangling between Win7 and Win8 (and wherever it is leading with Win8+) but also did such a smooth job with BUILD that some bloggers dared to pass the Steve Jobs torch to SteveSi. Wow. Didn't see that coming.

(psst. Board. CEO ma-ter-ial. Uh-huh. There you go. Not that I'd probably work in a SteveSi CEO Microsoft, but ya could do a lot worse!)

One thing I'd love to see SteveSi do: give the same level of support to writing Windows8 apps as Microsoft afforded its employees for Windows Phone. I'm not expecting him to, but if he did, I'd relish having my Spock-meets-Spartan view of him rebooted.

The Big Check-in - How Are Things Going

I expect that Mr. Turner will do the big picture for us. I like this comment regarding one point of view of how things are going for Microsoft:

There are certainly some issues at MSFT but some of the people that post in this blog are just over the top in their pessimism and whining. As I see it right now, the good, bad, and ugly of MSFT are: The good:

  • XBOX Kinect blew it away this past Holiday, over 35M customers now pay for the priviledge of XBox Live
  • The enterprise business is strong, committed revenue is higher than it's ever been (MSFT has a global enterprise business that is really unmatched by anyone
  • Office365 and Dynamics both are rapidly growing businesses with a ton of upside
  • MSFT now has 11 distinct businesses that do over $1B in revenue - I can think of maybe one or two other businesses on the planet (GE, etc) that can say the same
  • Largely because of this diverse portfolio of businesses, MSFT was able to grow revenue, operating income, and net income in spite of *declining* PC sales (MSFT is not a one-trick pony any longer, if it ever was)
  • Even with weakness in the PC market the past couple of quarters, it's hard to argue with the success of Windows 7 with over 400M licenses sold
  • MSFT's Cloud offerings collectively are second to none
  • Bing has a long ways to go but has actually made some progress in the US search market against Google, which was once thought impossible
  • As an employee, unless you are a bottom 20% performer, the new comp plan is a win. If you don't think so, then you don't really understand the change
  • Say what you will about Ballmer, there are some senior execs at MSFT that are truly outstanding. Mattrick, Satya, KT, Qi Lu, PK, Lisa B - you won't find anyone better than these folks anywhere
  • The Nokia partnership will be instrumental in getting a WP7 device in a lot of people's hands

The bad:

  • As mentioned, PC sales actually declined in Q4
  • MSFT still hasn't figured out a way to win in India or China and doesn't seem to have a cohesive strategy for emerging markets
  • WP7 is a good product but as others have alluded to, MSFT is way late to the party in terms of highly functional / attractive UI / rich app eco-system smartphones. The Nokia deal only allows MSFT some hope at playing catch-up at this point
  • Employees will soon have to pay a contribution (and deductibles) for health care (thank you very much ObamaCare and the Cadillac Tax for bringing that to us)
  • Although there are talented people still there, a lot of talented folks have left MSFT senior leadership in the past 18 months or so - Liddell, Elop, Muglia, Bach, etc, etc. Although Elop was instrumental in getting the Nokia deal up and going

The ugly:

  • AAPL sold 20M iPhones and over 9M iPads in a quarter. In. A. Quarter. Let that sink in a moment
  • While MSFT has plenty of other viable businesses, none is as profitable nor as core strategically as Windows. Windows was once an impenetrable fortress, but in the past year, AAPL has penetrated it with a single product launch. MSFT is destined to play catch-up in slates, and it sounds like nothing serious is coming out until Windows 8 in another 12 to 15 months (maybe)
  • MSFT is still very strong in the enterprise but to the consumer, MSFT seems completely dead. MSFT has no consumer mindshare any longer
  • Yes, there are some interesting possibilities with Skype and Lync and XBox (etc), but it is still not at all clear that shareholders will reap anything close to $8.5B of value
  • GOOG still dominates search in the US and will for the foreseeable future. And their dominance is even greater internationally
  • OSD as an org continues to bleed money and will continue to do so for at least another couple of years

There it is, from a high-performing L63 employee in a broad-based business role, trying to lay things out in a truly fair and balanced manner. Take it or leave it.

I'm glad to see The Cloud in the somebody's Win column. When it comes to the Company Meeting, I personally am dreading anything that can be in the least bit tangled up with... sigh... THE CLOUD. Two things lost my respect to this force-fed-bubble-gum-on-my-shoe initiative: first, that using our cloud services is Alpha-Geek hostile: sorry, but there should have been upfront a free tinkering environment to go and write a whole bunch of real fun, heavy computational code. Second, that we started to slap THE CLOUD on crazy crap like home PC image editing.

Really.

So, I don't know, smuggle in a bunch of tequila and limes and whenever THE CLOUD comes up take another hit. That will at least make it palatable... in a numb, doesn't-seem-to-hurt-quite-like-it-did sort of way.

The New Review System and Hiring

Yeah, I think there's zero chance the Senior Leadership Team will go into much depth here. "Cheer if you like the new review system! ... Okay, there's 40% of you. How about the rest? Give me a 'Whoo?'" Want to wade in it? Pour yourself a three fingers of bourbon (and keep the bottle handy) and go through all the comments in the Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Annual Review 2011 post. 1,200 comments at this point. Whew.

Strict stack ranking on a fixed curve is a tool brought in for a purpose that didn't exist in the previous review system. Having LisaB take a break from her sabbatical (and, btw, what happens to most people after their sabbatical?) to tell us it's being done because employees felt that the old review system was too complex is a load of greasy smoke up the keister.

I look at this system and, stepping back, it makes sense if you're preparing to do some major organizational slimming over, say, a three year period. For instance, if SteveB where going to leave, I imagine before he goes he would cut back huge parts of Microsoft versus leaving that task to the new CEO, who might make radically bad cut-back decisions (from the former CEO's point of view). Better to give over to the new leader a starving company ready to grow versus a fat pig you've got to go all Neutron-Jack on. Three more years. Three more years to drive down until today's lower 3s are FY2014's 5s.

Depending on who is being forced out or leaving, too, the new system might help with the Young up Microsoft initiative I hear whispers of.

Whoo-and-Hoo!

Didn't like your review? Ah, come on. You know when Ballmer runs around the field you're going to scream and shout (though, given the last Ballmer memo's authorship, maybe we'll see Frank Shaw run around first to warm things up). You're going to stand up. You're going to put aside all the depressing thoughts of those golden handcuffs never unfolding into a sparkling world of wonderment and retirement. You've got a job, a colorful CEO, perhaps a nice raise, and a company holiday to find out what's going on and to have some free grub with your work buds. Compared to 99% of the rest of the world right now, it's worth swigging the Kool-Aid for at least one day and cheering.

There's always the rest of the year for everything else.

Updated: impressions and follow-up

Overall: a very competent Microsoft Company Meeting. Polite applause. "Pip pip."

Other than the occasional video (heh heh, Inception) and the first one or two Train Dances, it was a low-on-humor meeting, for me. Everyone wondered if we were having a host this year. Hey, it was LisaB. Competent (and probably didn't piss people off like last year).

This year was demo-rama. I think the demos were good, it's just I had seen so much of everything being presented that there weren't too many surprises for me. I loved the fact that SteveSi ran one of his demos and then pointed out that everything he had just done was on an ARM slate. I regret how much money we're pouring into OSD (who pointed out that they are quite frugal - uh-huh) but I agree with a lot of what they are doing: they are not trying to out-Google-Google. They're Bing'ing Google upside the head. Go, Cosmos, go!

As for Mr. Ballmer: it was a surprise that he didn't come running and screaming out but rather had a surrogate fly around like a chimp on crack dusted with meth. Mr. Ballmer seemed more subdued this year. Love for Ballmer? People still stood up and cheered and clapped for him. Now then: someone please tell him, regarding his analogy of himself and Elop and Windows Phone sticking together, how Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ended. Yeah, they were together alright, but the result was a little bit different than jumping off a cliff into a river.

As for people leaving (as some of the tech bloggers have picked up): yeah, people were streaming out. In small numbers. No where near as bad as BillG's last company meeting where Ballmer started screaming at people to sit down. And, well, yes, I was one of those folks who wandered to the upper portion of the seats while Mr. Ballmer passed on his coachie wisdom from Friday Night Lights (BTW, I prefer coach John Wooden). I suppose if Microsoft had been serving beer and snacks after the meeting I would have managed to stay in my seat.

So for me: technically well executed. Pip pip. I feel good about what Microsoft has wrought and how many of the things we're doing are exactly the kind of big, cross-group bets folks used to complain how we never do. The Imagine Cup winners were great to see. Pip pip. As for the meeting... I'd like a little culture, too. Maybe less inspirational videos. And more crazy. Not burping game crazy or Craig Mundie dazed-crazy, but show we have some pizzazz... with less explosive volume. And I'm fine with a box lunch if it means I don't have to stand in an infernal line to get a luke-warm burger melded to its bun.


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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Microsoft Annual Review 2011

It has become a tradition for folks to share their review numbers to help get a sense of what's happening and how your numbers stack up. This year we have a new challenge of working through an entirely new review system and (for engineering) a pay-raise for the levels most at risk of departing for greener pastures. I know folks on the edge of leaving who have been willing to hang on to see what happens.

What's a good format? How about something like the following, obfuscated as you wish:

  • L# (promo'd?)
  • Bucket (1+, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Merit % (/Promo %) / Engineering?
  • Bonus $K
  • Stock $K
  • Optional comments about Division / Group, discipline, impression of review

If you like the review system, I'd really like to understand why (something better than, "whee, I got a 1+," please) and I'd encourage commenters to not slam the positive perspectives. I'm not too pleased with the new system at all because I feel very good engineers in my org are getting lower results because of a very strict curve. I'm probably breaking the rules in that if an excellent person got a 3 I'm having my folks be truthful in writing review feedback that, yes, they did an excellent job, just when it comes to the 3 realize that more people did even more excellent work and what it is they need to do to step it up (or, you know, start connecting recruiters with all of those competing 1s and 2s). Same thing for 4s who are doing a good job and not really having any performance problem. HR would prefer me to write the text of the review according to the verbiage of the ranking system, but screw that. I did that years ago when people got a trended 3.0 and I'm still scrubbing those dark spots of demoralizing compliance off my soul.

How do you feel, whether you're a manager writing reviews this year and comparing results to last year, or an IC trying to make sense of your compensation and recognition?


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Microsoft FY11Q4 Results

(ring-ring, Mini, ring-ring)

How is this quarter shaping up? First of all, let's review some competitors:

  • IBM: Bang! Third base!
  • Google: Boom! Out of the park, home-run!
  • Apple: Ka-Blam! Out of the city. Game over!

We've already been given a small preview thanks to the Partner conference: good Windows 7 numbers and Windows Phone, as loved as it might be (especially compared to Android) just ain't selling much. And no one is holding out any hopes that current customers will see their Mango update until New Years.

The iPad continues to suck in consumer love and money... money that we'd prefer they send our way but there's nothing comparable for them to buy. Windows 8 ARM tablets? Sometime next year, but what we showed at All Things D is our take of squeezing an elephant into a VW bug. Here's some deep respect and chops to the folks doing all this work, but it's a subtraction game followed by many frustrating conversations about why it's okay not to have certain obvious things work... obviously. And I have to say it's fascinating watching Sinofsky wrangle the Windows organization in this long game of reshaping itself and the consequences it has for the rest of the company.

My one analyst question for today: when the hell is Bing going to stop losing money?!? It appears that the internal hiring spree has finally cooled down so that's good - the piling of warm bodies has stopped (well, only to be replaced by throwing warm bodies on The Cloud because, ah-huck, we're all in). Seriously though, now's the time to start shaking the Bing tree and let the goodness of the search eco-system keep on going and shed the remaining busy work. Come on, if Xbox did it, so can you!


Calibration cacophony: I owe a post about our new review system but I'm not going to put money down about when that's going to happen. In the meantime, I'd love to sit down with each and everyone of you that supposedly told LisaB that the previous review system, with its Exceeded and Achieved and its 20% this and 70% that, was just too durn hard to comprehend. Let's chat. This discuss (*whack* against the side of your head) your results for this year. I'd like to discuss (*whack*) what a peer relative result within a strict percentage based system means. As part of this discussion (*whack* *whack* *whack*) you'll learn that your results are less that what you're used to and the message and your rewards are strictly viewed through your percentile bucket, no matter if you're at the top of your bucket or the bottom. I do seem to have some feedback from your peers to discuss (*whack*) although the majority of it seems to spring from a glowingly content-free "I'll rub your back if you'll rub mine" point of view.

Be careful what you ask for, because the person listening might turn it into one big step backwards. Oh, and for some of you, here's a salary bump.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Skype? Steve Ballmer Discovers a Way to Obliterate Eight and a Half Billion Microsoft Shareholder Dollars!

That's $8,500,000,000USD for the Skype brand.

Microsoft to Acquire Skype Combined companies will benefit consumers, businesses and increase market opportunity.

Also, because, you know, the aQuantive acquisition didn't destroy enough shareholder money.

We're bringing Skype to the Windows Phone. Just like how it's on the iPhone and Android and appears it will continue to be.

Okay, so we're bringing Skype to the Xbox. Because, you know, we don't already have video chat on the Xbox. Oh, wait... crap. Why do we need this? Other than the brand and the user base, and that's not worth 8.5 billion dollars.

Some early stories:

What I'd like to hear is each Microsoft board member share their reasoning why this is an excellent idea and worth 8.5 billion dollars. And I'd keep a really, really close eye on their nose.

Geez.


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Microsoft FY11Q3 Results

What's on your mind as the Microsoft FY11Q3 results get released? Some things I'm thinking of:

Win7 Business being eaten alive by iPads? Oh, those hungry hungry cannibals eating away the post-PCs for your PC dependent iPad slates. Probably no good news in the Win7 OS business could please people seeing Apple having to buy everyone working at Apple pants with ten pockets so that they can continue stuffing money into them.

Office 14 / SharePoint: continued strength? Leveled? Dip?

Kinect: what are the post-holiday sells like?

Xbox Live security: not that we want to be cocky, but if Xbox Live was broken into like Sony's Playstation Network Microsoft would have a big-black eye. Probably two. How confident is Microsoft in the network's security?

WP7 numbers: how has the trend been in activated phones? How is the Nokia deal shaping up? How will Microsoft not be the weepy little toy of the phone carriers crying over a release chart when the Mango update goes out?

Share price: talk about one dead share. It's a dead fish. That a bunch of hippy dock-workers played hacky-sack with and left to rot out in the sun. So dead that we're shifting budgets around to not award stock but give out crisp, sweet-smelling Benjamins instead to the employees we value most. Microsoft millionaire days? A long, long distant memory. I think of that book Microsoft In The Mirror where a number of interviewees were reluctant to share with outside folks that they work at Microsoft because folks would light up, assuming they were rich beyond words. Today's response? "You work at Microsoft? Well bless your heart."

Keeping employees: seems as though we'll need to justify the extra bucks and effort the company is putting into spreading cash to the section of employees most likely to be recruited (aka poached) or give up on Microsoft. I'm sure that the investors could care less about our performance review system, but it's sad we stuck with a 20th-centry industrial review system for a 21st century Gen.Next workforce. Like many opportunities: buh-lown.

The two pressure points I certainly continue to feel:

WP7: the NoDo update was just a Class-A Cluster-Fuck. And I don't use language like that very often. And the fact that the pre-update bricked phones was inexcusable. The WinMo team has to realize that everything they have to do must be perfect and ahead of schedule (wrt running in customer's hands). Any sort of focus other than that is a recipe for disaster. Mr. Ballmer is a fan of Coach John Wooden. WWJWD? Pound excellence into the team such that releasing an update was the easiest thing they had to do. If you're the kind of person looking for a challenge to fix Microsoft and prop-up its future, look for opportunities to join that team. Less Pink, more you.

iPad: it's pretty. It's slick. It comes from a company where design is realized. It doesn't do as much as a PC, but it does enough. And by now everyone has been able to put together the pieces (e.g., Windows 8 demonstrated running on ARM) to figure out when Microsoft might release something that has similar form factor. But will it have the elegance and cohesiveness of the iPad 2, let alone the iPad 3? Will it be too late?

Should Microsoft release an iPad competitor, it will be THE defining moment for Microsoft's future: back in the game or game over.


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