Missed big HR meeting (MyMicrosoft is now improved)

Wow. I missed a HUGE HR townhall, er, employee meeting today (they announced new compensation and review changes). I just got the email from Lisa Brummel and, wow, wow, wow.

Is Lisa reading Mini? Damn straight she is.

This is the "Mini-smackdown" I wanted to see. Hopefully these changes will get us on a more customer-centric path.

One big thing that's gone? Stack ranking. No longer am I judged against Charles and Adam and Tina and Jeff. Now, either I'm doing a good job for Microsoft or I'm not and my review will now reflect that.

I LOVE these changes!

Also, I love the transparency that the Office team is experimenting with (you can see the Office team's ranking, and guess pretty closely what salary each employee there is making).

One thing I love about Microsoft is that we are willing to play with the business and make improvements. For a big business these kinds of changes aren't made easily, nor often, and I appreciate when they happen and the amount of work that goes into making them happen (I know someone in IT for HR, for instance, and he told me about all the work that's going on behind the scenes to change the review system).

Oh, and thanks Mini! These changes are due in no small part to you. Even if you don't get official props in the press releases.

Can one person change a huge company? Mini did. And we don't even know his name.

But, don't miss the work that Steve Ballmer, the leadership team, and Lisa Brummel did here either. Wonderful. Cheers. Now, let's get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.

Lisa announced MyMicrosoft, a series of initiatives that'll make Microsoft a much better place to work.

There's a lot more to what she announced than I'm talking about here, but as I read over the list I'm just astounded.

These are not small little tweaks. They are wholesale changes to how Microsoft treats its employees.

Well, I'm off for a three hour drive from Livingston to Billings. I'll link to more on this topic later (I don't see anyone talking about this stuff externally yet).

By the way, my cell phone isn't working. So, stick with email until tomorrow.

Comments

  1. I’ve been reading MiniMSFT for quite some time, and it’s great to see this happening, it’s almost inspiring to see how one person has bought about all these changes, and to see the people really rally behind him (not on everything, but enough to get these changes done anyhow :) )

  2. I’ve been reading MiniMSFT for quite some time, and it’s great to see this happening, it’s almost inspiring to see how one person has bought about all these changes, and to see the people really rally behind him (not on everything, but enough to get these changes done anyhow :) )

  3. So spill the beans already! I’m seriously interested to hear about these changes even if I don’t work there. MS leads, for better or worse, and others follow.

  4. So spill the beans already! I’m seriously interested to hear about these changes even if I don’t work there. MS leads, for better or worse, and others follow.

  5. Just check out Mini’s blog – the comments tell the tale.

    Losing the stack rank? – Not hardly – stating that it is no longer linked to individual ratings, but it is still linked to compensation equates to B as in B and S as in S. – However you slice it, the stack rank still exists.

    Towels and dry cleaning – woo hoo – the stock is at 1998 levels and all that Steve and Kevin could come up with were some towels – I guess like Douglas Adams used to say, it’s good to know where your towel is, but “show me the money” -

    Still glad I left and sad for all the ‘Softies I continue to hear from either getting ready to leave or who have just recently left.

    Fire Ballmer and fix the ailment.

  6. Just check out Mini’s blog – the comments tell the tale.

    Losing the stack rank? – Not hardly – stating that it is no longer linked to individual ratings, but it is still linked to compensation equates to B as in B and S as in S. – However you slice it, the stack rank still exists.

    Towels and dry cleaning – woo hoo – the stock is at 1998 levels and all that Steve and Kevin could come up with were some towels – I guess like Douglas Adams used to say, it’s good to know where your towel is, but “show me the money” -

    Still glad I left and sad for all the ‘Softies I continue to hear from either getting ready to leave or who have just recently left.

    Fire Ballmer and fix the ailment.

  7. These are not small little tweaks. They are wholesale changes to how Microsoft treats its employees

    ============================

    Were they in any way influenced by Google’s highly pubicized approaches?

    Pehaps there was fear of the best and brightest – leaving for the hi-profile competition.

    Will you get – 20% of time to work on personal projects – option?

    Now, THAT would be wholesale ;-)

  8. These are not small little tweaks. They are wholesale changes to how Microsoft treats its employees

    ============================

    Were they in any way influenced by Google’s highly pubicized approaches?

    Pehaps there was fear of the best and brightest – leaving for the hi-profile competition.

    Will you get – 20% of time to work on personal projects – option?

    Now, THAT would be wholesale ;-)

  9. How can Microsoft make my life better?…

    Today, in Scoble’s post, “Missed big HR meeting“, he closes with “Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”
    Well here is some advice for Bob and the gang over at Microsoft fro…

  10. I do think there is something that urged this change, and that something is called “stock value”.

  11. I do think there is something that urged this change, and that something is called “stock value”.

  12. “Lisa announced MyMicrosoft, a series of initiatives that’ll make Microsoft a much better place to work.”

    It’ll be late, lose a few features and need a couple of service packs to be usable :)

    Seriously though – it is a good thing when momentum can be started but while Mini may be the instigator it is the rank and file (forgive the expression) who were vocally reading his blog who actually made the difference.

    A voice in the wilderness is just a lone nutter.

  13. “Lisa announced MyMicrosoft, a series of initiatives that’ll make Microsoft a much better place to work.”

    It’ll be late, lose a few features and need a couple of service packs to be usable :)

    Seriously though – it is a good thing when momentum can be started but while Mini may be the instigator it is the rank and file (forgive the expression) who were vocally reading his blog who actually made the difference.

    A voice in the wilderness is just a lone nutter.

  14. imo, it took strong competitors hiring in the area — without that, I doubt mgmt would have cared what mini said. When I left not long ago, I had three interesting job offers in the Seattle area, so there is strong competition for employees.

    I think many people have noted that Microsoft does better when it has competition in the product space. The same thing is true with respect to competition for talent.

    But these changes will take time to make people feel better. Just like any trust that has been broken, it will take some time for Microsoft to regain it from its employee. (Some people may remember the attempt to reduce new hire’s vacation time to 2 weeks.)

  15. imo, it took strong competitors hiring in the area — without that, I doubt mgmt would have cared what mini said. When I left not long ago, I had three interesting job offers in the Seattle area, so there is strong competition for employees.

    I think many people have noted that Microsoft does better when it has competition in the product space. The same thing is true with respect to competition for talent.

    But these changes will take time to make people feel better. Just like any trust that has been broken, it will take some time for Microsoft to regain it from its employee. (Some people may remember the attempt to reduce new hire’s vacation time to 2 weeks.)

  16. isn’t it funny how mini can initiate changes, but has to remain anonymous?

    The management will listen if forced and have no way of punishing the person who is critising them.

    You guys are luck that microsoft is so big no one can figure out who mini is. In a comany of 25, the whistle blower is soon found and fired.

    God. Is. In. The. TV.

    monk.e.boy

  17. isn’t it funny how mini can initiate changes, but has to remain anonymous?

    The management will listen if forced and have no way of punishing the person who is critising them.

    You guys are luck that microsoft is so big no one can figure out who mini is. In a comany of 25, the whistle blower is soon found and fired.

    God. Is. In. The. TV.

    monk.e.boy

  18. [...] The Seattle Times is reporting big changes at Microsoft as they attempt to keep their top employees and lure the best candidates. I’m surprised it took them this long to make a change given how unpopular their rating system has been for so many years. Mini and Scoble have already responded to the changes. I think the changes will maybe help MS keep some of their better employees. But I doubt it will have much influence on the new college grad who is considering between Microsoft or Google. [...]

  19. If one looks at it then it did not even costed that much money. Most of the new services are employee paid. Since stocks are expensed in dollar terms in quarterly reports, 15% increase in the number of stock grants is pretty much neautralized with the corresponding decline in the stock price. That precisely is the reason that these new expenses are already built in the earning forecast. These expenses won’t even cost a tenth of a cent in quarterly reports. (40 million dollars per year).

  20. If one looks at it then it did not even costed that much money. Most of the new services are employee paid. Since stocks are expensed in dollar terms in quarterly reports, 15% increase in the number of stock grants is pretty much neautralized with the corresponding decline in the stock price. That precisely is the reason that these new expenses are already built in the earning forecast. These expenses won’t even cost a tenth of a cent in quarterly reports. (40 million dollars per year).

  21. It’s a good first step, but you are really overstating it.

    Management made changes because of *massive morale problems*. They had *no choice*. This is not a sign of great senior management. It is a sign of incompetent senior management getting a clue after being clubbed on the head multiple times with sledgehammers. These guys have such thick skulls that it took a while to sink in. Real management wouldn’t have let the problems get so bad and fester for so long. Ballmer and Co. is once again a day late and a dollar short.

    MiniMSFT: 1
    Senior management: 0

  22. It’s a good first step, but you are really overstating it.

    Management made changes because of *massive morale problems*. They had *no choice*. This is not a sign of great senior management. It is a sign of incompetent senior management getting a clue after being clubbed on the head multiple times with sledgehammers. These guys have such thick skulls that it took a while to sink in. Real management wouldn’t have let the problems get so bad and fester for so long. Ballmer and Co. is once again a day late and a dollar short.

    MiniMSFT: 1
    Senior management: 0

  23. I think too much credit is being given to mini-ms. Hasn’t he been ranting for years now? Why did the previous VP of HR do anything if mini was supposedly so influential? Agree that incompetent management is to blame more than mini. If there weren’t competition in the hire space, would mini really matter? The other side of that coin is, why isn’t mini leaving himself if things were so bad. Certainly he wasn’t able to effectuate change internally through the management chain, otherwise by blog about it? Again, pointing either incompetent or apathetic management.

  24. I think too much credit is being given to mini-ms. Hasn’t he been ranting for years now? Why did the previous VP of HR do anything if mini was supposedly so influential? Agree that incompetent management is to blame more than mini. If there weren’t competition in the hire space, would mini really matter? The other side of that coin is, why isn’t mini leaving himself if things were so bad. Certainly he wasn’t able to effectuate change internally through the management chain, otherwise by blog about it? Again, pointing either incompetent or apathetic management.

  25. Yess!. Thanks Mini. But why is (almost) everyone considering our Hero as a “him”. Isn’t there a slightest chance to be him a “her”? ;) I guess there is. Do I know something? Well, maybe; but I won’t tell you…

  26. Yess!. Thanks Mini. But why is (almost) everyone considering our Hero as a “him”. Isn’t there a slightest chance to be him a “her”? ;) I guess there is. Do I know something? Well, maybe; but I won’t tell you…

  27. Dead obvious changes that should have been made more than a decade ago, are now lauded as visionary, when people been screaming forever and rattling the cages. Stock price, heavy internal discontent, key defections and hiring war competitors more a play, over blogger rants. But Mini did impact in the Thomas Paine ‘Common Senseish’ way about it, in that the ‘treasonish’ thoughts, became everyday discussions. Mini got beyond the faux cheerleading seen on most Microsoft blogs, and instead of just irrational hate, proposed solutions or at least made attempts. That’s my take.

    And well, from the “Marketing Evangelism” angle, the “good news” is punched in by the Symantec suit news-cycle heavy-hit today. No one will be talking about “MyMicrosoft” today, rather the fact that even the dead-loyal Symantec has seen fit to sue.

    Always a crisis, always a new wrinkle with Microsoft. Looks (externally) like a company in the slow process of implosion.

    PS – Actually I have always thought, Mini was a ‘team’, with a ‘her’ in command, just has that feel. But I dunno, good writing, can take on many personalities.

    PSS – No discussion of the Second Life lawsuit? Virtual property not mirroring real property. How soon before we see Second Life Mortgage brokers drinking the blood dry? ;)

  28. Dead obvious changes that should have been made more than a decade ago, are now lauded as visionary, when people been screaming forever and rattling the cages. Stock price, heavy internal discontent, key defections and hiring war competitors more a play, over blogger rants. But Mini did impact in the Thomas Paine ‘Common Senseish’ way about it, in that the ‘treasonish’ thoughts, became everyday discussions. Mini got beyond the faux cheerleading seen on most Microsoft blogs, and instead of just irrational hate, proposed solutions or at least made attempts. That’s my take.

    And well, from the “Marketing Evangelism” angle, the “good news” is punched in by the Symantec suit news-cycle heavy-hit today. No one will be talking about “MyMicrosoft” today, rather the fact that even the dead-loyal Symantec has seen fit to sue.

    Always a crisis, always a new wrinkle with Microsoft. Looks (externally) like a company in the slow process of implosion.

    PS – Actually I have always thought, Mini was a ‘team’, with a ‘her’ in command, just has that feel. But I dunno, good writing, can take on many personalities.

    PSS – No discussion of the Second Life lawsuit? Virtual property not mirroring real property. How soon before we see Second Life Mortgage brokers drinking the blood dry? ;)

  29. The Second Life lawsuit is bogus, Christopher. It’s a case of one guy trying to scam the land auction system. There is no “news” there other than one user trying to manipulate the system for personal gain.

  30. The Second Life lawsuit is bogus, Christopher. It’s a case of one guy trying to scam the land auction system. There is no “news” there other than one user trying to manipulate the system for personal gain.

  31. Oh, so does this mean that I can leave my Windows machine (without a third-party firewall) running and online for more than 10 minutes without getting infected? Does this mean that I won’t have to fork over hundreds of dollars every few years to upgrade to the next version, with all the new consumer-rights-restricting features?

    Frankly, I don’t care if the company has better internal dynamics if they’re not going to produce a product that attracts me.

  32. Oh, so does this mean that I can leave my Windows machine (without a third-party firewall) running and online for more than 10 minutes without getting infected? Does this mean that I won’t have to fork over hundreds of dollars every few years to upgrade to the next version, with all the new consumer-rights-restricting features?

    Frankly, I don’t care if the company has better internal dynamics if they’re not going to produce a product that attracts me.

  33. It’s easy to see why SteveB loves developers; you dance a jig and give them a plaque and a coffee and they’re happy. Not like the partners who want stock and cash and performance independent mega bonuses.

    Let’s review; ratings are no longer stack ranked, but compensation is still strongly differentiated. So a manager can say nice things about everyone who works hard. However stock and bonuses and raises are still fixed pool, unrelated to how hard the group has worked to deliver.
    Most managers will do what they do today; write the review to match the stock award instead of write the review to match the stack ranking.

    As for the rest; bringing back towels and opening a convenience store on campus are nice gestures; at best they’re symbolic gestures to say we’re not totally indifferent to employee quality of life. To spin them as substantive is a bad sign about that pony waiting for you in the next room that they’re going to give you at review time.

  34. It’s easy to see why SteveB loves developers; you dance a jig and give them a plaque and a coffee and they’re happy. Not like the partners who want stock and cash and performance independent mega bonuses.

    Let’s review; ratings are no longer stack ranked, but compensation is still strongly differentiated. So a manager can say nice things about everyone who works hard. However stock and bonuses and raises are still fixed pool, unrelated to how hard the group has worked to deliver.
    Most managers will do what they do today; write the review to match the stock award instead of write the review to match the stack ranking.

    As for the rest; bringing back towels and opening a convenience store on campus are nice gestures; at best they’re symbolic gestures to say we’re not totally indifferent to employee quality of life. To spin them as substantive is a bad sign about that pony waiting for you in the next room that they’re going to give you at review time.

  35. >Why did the previous VP of HR do anything if mini was supposedly so influential?

    Mini only got influential in the past six months. He wasn’t even influential enough when we wrote our book to get noticed.

    The last HR guy didn’t last long, did he? Yes, there was a reason for that.

  36. >Why did the previous VP of HR do anything if mini was supposedly so influential?

    Mini only got influential in the past six months. He wasn’t even influential enough when we wrote our book to get noticed.

    The last HR guy didn’t last long, did he? Yes, there was a reason for that.

  37. How many companies allow employees to take off for two weeks without notice to attend to an urgent family matter?

  38. How many companies allow employees to take off for two weeks without notice to attend to an urgent family matter?

  39. By the way, my cell phone isn’t working.

    Ironic. I had a brief stint with a MS Smartphone, and found that was one of the main features, i.e. “not working”, finally went LG VX9800, mainly on account of the good 3GP/3G2 performance, coupled with the great audio speaker output (not exactly a ‘smartphone’ but then everyones needs are differing). And oh, unlike the hellish hair-pulling with Activesync, the LG VX9800 got my Outlook data via Bitpim, as easy as pie.

  40. By the way, my cell phone isn’t working.

    Ironic. I had a brief stint with a MS Smartphone, and found that was one of the main features, i.e. “not working”, finally went LG VX9800, mainly on account of the good 3GP/3G2 performance, coupled with the great audio speaker output (not exactly a ‘smartphone’ but then everyones needs are differing). And oh, unlike the hellish hair-pulling with Activesync, the LG VX9800 got my Outlook data via Bitpim, as easy as pie.

  41. Three hours from Livingston to Billings? You must drive slowly.

    I didn’t know they took the towels away but now that they’re back that changes everything.

    And LisaB is pure genius. To think she figured out it was all about the towels after only a *one year* “listening tour”. And I bet three months of that year was spent brainstorming the “My Microsoft” name. Give Lisa a 5.0, er… whatever it’s called now. Oh, I momentarily forgot the execs don’t have to go through that awful, nasty, icky review process anyway.

    MSFT down $0.27 to $22.56. It just doesn’t get any better than this folks.

  42. Three hours from Livingston to Billings? You must drive slowly.

    I didn’t know they took the towels away but now that they’re back that changes everything.

    And LisaB is pure genius. To think she figured out it was all about the towels after only a *one year* “listening tour”. And I bet three months of that year was spent brainstorming the “My Microsoft” name. Give Lisa a 5.0, er… whatever it’s called now. Oh, I momentarily forgot the execs don’t have to go through that awful, nasty, icky review process anyway.

    MSFT down $0.27 to $22.56. It just doesn’t get any better than this folks.

  43. @25. Still doesn’t address why he wasn’t able to effectuate change through the proper internal channels. I’d always been told Microsoft has an “open door policy”. So, the question remains… why did he have to rant externaly in order to supposedly be heard? Speaks volumes about MS management and the creedence they placed in the past in their employee polling. So maybe the former VP of HR couldnt’ keep it in his pants… doesn’t (the things you can find out about public officers) but does that mean the buck stopped there? If so, more reason to fire Ballmer.

  44. @25. Still doesn’t address why he wasn’t able to effectuate change through the proper internal channels. I’d always been told Microsoft has an “open door policy”. So, the question remains… why did he have to rant externaly in order to supposedly be heard? Speaks volumes about MS management and the creedence they placed in the past in their employee polling. So maybe the former VP of HR couldnt’ keep it in his pants… doesn’t (the things you can find out about public officers) but does that mean the buck stopped there? If so, more reason to fire Ballmer.

  45. dmad: one voice changing an organization of 60,000? Possible, but highly unlikely.

    But add that voice to public pressure and add in other voices where everyone can watch? And change happens much quicker.

  46. dmad: one voice changing an organization of 60,000? Possible, but highly unlikely.

    But add that voice to public pressure and add in other voices where everyone can watch? And change happens much quicker.

  47. Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft VC Summit 2006

    One of the hilights of a Microsoft VC Summit is always Steve Ballmers intervention and the following QA. I have already referred to an interesting part of his talk regarding acquisitions, but most interestinglearning I got from the session is Ballmers …

  48. @31. Actually, no it wasn’t one voice at MS if you believe the comments on mini’s blog were also fellow MS employees that felt the same way. I have to believe each one of those commenters from within MS also had managers that supposedly subscribed to this mythical “open door policy”. Are you telling me that MS has no method to capture internal feedback and take it up through the ranks. I know they do a yearly “survey”. Surely these opinions had to be coming through via this survey. Moreover, are you telling me that if MS management has an
    “open door” policy that there wouldn’t be consistent feedback coming from various groups within MS that were hearing the same things? The only thing this suggests is that MS middle management is incapable of effecuating change, an open door policy does not exist and that MS acted out of fear rather than compassion. Again, to believe that mini was the impetus for this change shows MS has more management problems than anyone could imagine. And is more indication that Ballmer and his team is completely out of touch.

    If all it takes blogging by disgruntled employees for companies to make changes, then those currently enrolled in any undergraduate or post-graduate organizational behavior major are wasting their money on anything they are being taught, and anyone that graduated in the field of organizational behavior should ask for their money back.

  49. @31. Actually, no it wasn’t one voice at MS if you believe the comments on mini’s blog were also fellow MS employees that felt the same way. I have to believe each one of those commenters from within MS also had managers that supposedly subscribed to this mythical “open door policy”. Are you telling me that MS has no method to capture internal feedback and take it up through the ranks. I know they do a yearly “survey”. Surely these opinions had to be coming through via this survey. Moreover, are you telling me that if MS management has an
    “open door” policy that there wouldn’t be consistent feedback coming from various groups within MS that were hearing the same things? The only thing this suggests is that MS middle management is incapable of effecuating change, an open door policy does not exist and that MS acted out of fear rather than compassion. Again, to believe that mini was the impetus for this change shows MS has more management problems than anyone could imagine. And is more indication that Ballmer and his team is completely out of touch.

    If all it takes blogging by disgruntled employees for companies to make changes, then those currently enrolled in any undergraduate or post-graduate organizational behavior major are wasting their money on anything they are being taught, and anyone that graduated in the field of organizational behavior should ask for their money back.

  50. “He wasn’t even influential enough when we wrote our book to get noticed.”

    What arrogance and idiocy! Are you claiming that anyone not mentioned in your book isn’t influential? That if you aren’t aware of someone they aren’t influential?

  51. “He wasn’t even influential enough when we wrote our book to get noticed.”

    What arrogance and idiocy! Are you claiming that anyone not mentioned in your book isn’t influential? That if you aren’t aware of someone they aren’t influential?

  52. “Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

    Could you start by having a word with the Anti-Piracy marketing team? Ask them to stop send customers rocks in the mail.

  53. “Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

    Could you start by having a word with the Anti-Piracy marketing team? Ask them to stop send customers rocks in the mail.

  54. Goebbels: a book has to pick and choose who to write about. It isn’t unlimited in its scope. We interviewed 188 businesses about how they were using blogging. Obviously there are more than 188 businesses blogging and there were about 30 million blogs at the time of writing the book.

    Yes, we picked the most interesting and influential businesses we could when we wrote the book. Mini wasn’t a business blog, anyway, he just affected business, and he didn’t do so until the past six months. (Our book was, for the most part, finished nine months ago).

  55. Goebbels: a book has to pick and choose who to write about. It isn’t unlimited in its scope. We interviewed 188 businesses about how they were using blogging. Obviously there are more than 188 businesses blogging and there were about 30 million blogs at the time of writing the book.

    Yes, we picked the most interesting and influential businesses we could when we wrote the book. Mini wasn’t a business blog, anyway, he just affected business, and he didn’t do so until the past six months. (Our book was, for the most part, finished nine months ago).

  56. [...] The Mis-appliance of science pt2 – working for Microsoft Microsoft is a better place to work than it was last week. I was out of the country on Friday. My phone downloaded the start of a long mail from Lisa Brummel – who I mentioned recently: A mail from a major name saying he was excited by Lisa’s mail, made it “Read NOW!” instead of “Read, eventually”. It takes something big for me to go “YES!” and throw my phone in the air when I’m in a customer’s building. That hoopy Lisa Brummel has only gone and got rid of the worst thing about working here: The Bell Curve Mini-Microsoft feels like “Drawing hearts around her name” and Robert Scoble loved the changes (when he could say more than “Wow”). To quote the Seattle Times The changes likely to have the biggest impact involve evaluation and compensation practices.The existing system doles out bonuses and promotions based largely on a controversial numerical rating scale. The number of employees who can receive a top score is fixed, sometimes forcing managers to give a lower score to a worker even though he or she might have performed at the same level as a peer. Until Thursday Microsoft insisted that staff performances fitted a normal distribution. Other companies believe this myth of mis-applied science – that everything fits a normal curve. It doesn’t – not if you recruit the best people (and Microsoft does – new starters are often overwhelmed with the calibre of people.). If you do get a Bell Curve you’re failing. Why ? Let me draw you a picture. The diagram on the left shows a Bell Curve for how the whole population would perform in a job: number of people is shown on the y axis, and performance on the x axis, 100% fall under the Green curve. If we recruit from top 10%, we’d get 100% under the red-curve – which is just part of the green one, stretched The actual performance people are supposed to deliver, is added in blue on the diagram on the right. The best possible performance is fixed, but the big spike in the “potential performance” (red) has been turned into lower performers (that’s the two shaded areas). There are 3 explanations for this We didn’t recruit the people we thought Our environment means about a quarter of people aren’t delivering their full potential. The basis of the grading system is wrong,. Previously, there was a distrusted and secret process where people were “stack ranked” (so helping others wasn’t in your best interests) . My previous manager sent his team a link to “Stack Ranking as a popularity contest”. Once ordered, grading forced the number of each grade in each group to match the Bell Curve – some people had to be doing well, the same number had to doing equally badly. Microsoft made $250,000 profit before tax per employee last year, how could 1/3 of our people be lousy ? THEY WEREN’T But the Bell Curve said they were. Common sense said some groups would have a greater proportion of “stars” the Bell Curve said they couldn’t As a friend who runs European IT for another large American company who use the Bell Curve put it: “If a third of my people are turning in poor performances, why have I kept them? It’s just as well that every manager has the same number, otherwise I’d deserve to be fired” The Bell Curve wasn’t enough to walk away from a job at Microsoft – though it would count against any company wanting to tempt me away. Even those who benefitted from it couldn’t make a case for it. How could we let it go on and still hold our values like taking on big challenges, openness, integrity, commitment to constructive criticism and self improvement ? A few railed against it, but most believed it couldn’t be changed, so said nothing, did nothing: proof that negative thinking is more potent than positive thinking, because it stops the possible from happening. I mentioned I did a spring clean of my documents. Among them I found “True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth.” There was a widespread assumption that no-one would tell Steve Ballmer that this needed to change. I also found some stuff entitled “Colin Powell on Leadership”, which contains some corkers such as “Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.” Some aasumed Steve had too much invested in the Bell Curve to accept change. I was introduced Thomas Kuhn’s “The structure of scientific revolutions”. last summer via William Leith’s book “The Hungry years” when it was book of the week on BBC Radio 4. It is about his experience of the Atkins diet; and he refers  to Kuhn’s idea that revolutions in thinking come from outsiders – Atkins was a cardiologist, not a dietician: people inside a comminity cling on to old assumptions. Lisa’s Channel 9 video explains that her first job in HR was to be head of it at Microsoft, at Steve Ballmer’s instance…did he put an outsider in because he saw we needed a revolution ? On the flight home I made a list of 5 great things about this announcement – In descending order: Values. It proves they’re not just a puff piece, We do prefer the route which aids integrity. We do look for improvements. And we do take on big challenges.We shouldn’t assume that the person who prefers the hard truth to the easy lie can’t end up at the top of the company. Demonstrable Fairness. Some people stay out of management to avoid handing out unfair grades with “there weren’t enough arguments to stop others being pushed above you” .Now, if someone truly Underperformed they can be told what’s wrong (and what the possibilities are). And team members should see why one of them graded as “Exceeded”. Team working. It gets rewarded, rather than pushing others up the stack rank at your own expense. I think this means better products, and greater efficiency. We talk about “the people ready business” now we’re acting like one. Steve Ballmer’s ego isn’t an impediment to doing the right thing. A lack of cynicism. They could have announced this just before the annual MS Poll which measures organizational health. They waited till it had closed. This change makes Microsoft a better company for all it’s stakeholders. One other change caught the headlines; in a triumph of legumetrics over sense (or excessive attention to costs) in 2004 the company stopped providing towels in Redmond locker rooms. Adam Barr grasped that a towel has immense psychological value, and the change spawned public ill feeling. Lisa’s reversed that. I never thought I’d call our HR supremo “ a frood who really knows where the towels are” but as I said of her before it’s good to challenge those assumptions.   Published Friday, May 19, 2006 10:54 PM by jamesone Filed Under: General musings [...]

  57. “But, don’t miss the work that Steve Ballmer, the leadership team, and Lisa Brummel did here either.[...] Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

    Steve Ballmer did what? Precisely what?

    Judging from various issues with Microsoft software I never knew existed until I had to look after a MS Windows 98 network, which later metamorphosed into a Windows XP network, “making our customers’ lives better” wasn’t high on the priority list.

    And all this talk about “firing Ballmer” reminds me of a joke I once heard about some industrialists visiting a factory in an authoritarian nation. They asked the interpreter about productivity figures, employment issues, and soforth. One of them asked, “What happens if an employee is consistently late, works at a substandard level, and shows no interest in his work?” The interpreter said, “He would be shot.” The industrialists exchanged shocked glances, but the tour had to continue. Half an hour later, after they had finished and were heading for their taxis, the interpreter hurried up to them. “I just had a look at the bilingual dictionary, and the word I should have used is ‘fired’, in relation to unsatisfactory employees – not ‘shot’!”

    As Terry Pratchett has said, “Give a man a match, and he’ll be warm for a moment; set him alight and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life!”

  58. “But, don’t miss the work that Steve Ballmer, the leadership team, and Lisa Brummel did here either.[...] Now, let’s get back to work figuring out how to make our customers lives better.”

    Steve Ballmer did what? Precisely what?

    Judging from various issues with Microsoft software I never knew existed until I had to look after a MS Windows 98 network, which later metamorphosed into a Windows XP network, “making our customers’ lives better” wasn’t high on the priority list.

    And all this talk about “firing Ballmer” reminds me of a joke I once heard about some industrialists visiting a factory in an authoritarian nation. They asked the interpreter about productivity figures, employment issues, and soforth. One of them asked, “What happens if an employee is consistently late, works at a substandard level, and shows no interest in his work?” The interpreter said, “He would be shot.” The industrialists exchanged shocked glances, but the tour had to continue. Half an hour later, after they had finished and were heading for their taxis, the interpreter hurried up to them. “I just had a look at the bilingual dictionary, and the word I should have used is ‘fired’, in relation to unsatisfactory employees – not ‘shot’!”

    As Terry Pratchett has said, “Give a man a match, and he’ll be warm for a moment; set him alight and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life!”

  59. [...] Scoble posts of some changes to performance reviews and compensation processes at Microsoft and he’s happy.  Looks like they at Microsoft are moving away from forced ranking.  At the end of the day, in my gut and in my heart, this is the way to do it.  If you have good managers who know how to treat employees and you trust them to do it and do it well, they will do the right thing with the money.  | Blog This | E-mail This | Print This | Permanent Link [...]

  60. Microsoft ditches forced ranking

    Regina points us to a post by Robert Scoble – Microsoft’s unofficial but omnipresent blogger – on MS’s ditching if it’s forced ranking process. “One big thing that’s gone? Stack ranking. No longer am I judged agains…

  61. [...] Looking left and turning right: Microsoft management style Today, I was returning from my manager’s office to my own when I nearly collided with a manager in the hall.  As I was approaching a hallway intersection, a manager emerged in a bit of a hurry looking to the left while she was turning to the right.  She prolonged her view to the left for so long that her path was diverging directly into mine.  In motorcycle safety course several years ago we were taught while taking a corner that we should look in the direction of the curve. Looking to the opposing direction could often cause us to veer off course toward the direction of our gaze. Referring back to my manager-turned-missile, of course, I scrambled to get out of her way before she hit me. This was rather awkward to do and by the time the manager looked back at me shuffling around, she look at me like I was the stupid one and didn’t as much as say “oops, sorry”.Nothing in this world enrages me more than managers with an inflated view of their own self-importance.  But this is rather indicative of the problem I think we face in our company.  We know where we want to go, and if we just focused on our own goals, we would get there in spectacular fashion.  This isn’t the case, however. We fixate on what other companies are doing and what else we could be doing instead of directing our gaze at what we are working on until it is completed.  Couple these misguiding glances with all of our team meetings, morale events, office sharing and quarterly group/org/company ra-ra meetings that do nothing more than tell us what we already know — or tell us more than we care to know — and it’s no wonder we cannot get anything done. I encourage Microsoft to start training our managers — and our non-management employees for that matter — to stay focused on the direction of our company. Stop worrying about what every other company out there is doing and start worrying about what we are NOT getting done on time.  Our customers depend on us.  You want to drive up customer satisfaction rates?  How about delivering a product for them to be satisfied with!  You want to drive up revenue?  How about filling some warehouses with some freshly minted retail bits! Obsessing over our career options at myMicrosoft and worrying about work-life balance cannot continue to be our main focus.  Putting our focus in that direction will only take us off course from our real goals. Trust me, when we deliver quality products to our customers on time and under budget, our career options will open up for themselves. And nothing makes work-life balance easier than getting performance bonuses that we can spend on our nights, weekends and vacations or put toward our children’s college education fund. Published Friday, July 07, 2006 4:43 PM by tobint Filed Under: Microsoft Culture [...]