Monday, June 26, 2006

My Microsoft

(forgive the time between posts, this seemed so easy before I started)

So I was initially very excited about the announcements from Lisa B (we were talking in my group of having everyone come to the office in shorts and Izods with the collars up). The good stuff:
  • No forced curve for Merit (renamed commitment rating)
  • Little goodies (like better food, coffee, dry cleaning service, groceries to go, later hours for certain cafes)
  • Increased investment in golden handcuffs for the little people (including me :) with more stock.
  • Towels are coming back! (more of a moral victory than real meat in my simple mind, I have a gym bag that I can put a towel in, just like my sweaty shorts I clean at home)
  • No more game of hide and seek with office supplies (can you believe a Fortune 500 company would actually do something crazy like invert Staple's Easy button with a Hard button on office supplies?!!)
  • Increased discount on daycare rather than having MS Daycares (crazy to even consider MS getting into this business as a benefit to employee!)
  • Increased tuition assistance.
  • Office space!!! Well, sorta, just changing the target from 97% occupancy to 92%. Not sure who says we are at 97% today. When you walk the halls of BillG's building (other than his floor) there is a lot of doubling still. In my math that's over 100%. Maybe building 7 does exist but no one knows where it is so its empty?
  • CSP investment (Career Stage Profiles) and tools.
  • Manager-gotta-earn-it-ness. Not entirely convinced we got this right this time around (1 commitment for managers around managing? been doing that since '99), but talking about it and investing in it (heard about the Manager Excellence summit, its a big 'un).

The bad stuff:

  • No catch up on compensation compression. Would require discipline and control to make sure its not a free-for-all, but should be doable.
  • Was a lot more ho-hum reception across my team than I would have expected.
  • Still a forced curve for Stock (Contribution rating)

The brilliant stuff:

  • Greater transparency. Did you know about Gold Star bonus? Did u know about its three forms? You can now.
  • Greater transparency. Do you want to know what a L67 gets for stock awards, bonus percentage, etc? You can now.
  • Greater transparency. Do you know what your stock score is (contribution rating)? You will this year.
  • Greater transparency. Do you know what your boss, or your peer, or your VP's commitments are? You will this year.
Now that I have had time to digest it and work thru calibration exercises with my team, I am still happier than the day before these changes. There is stuff here I can sell to new people I interview. I love talking about the CSP's we have and are continuing to build out as they should help people clearly understand their career opportunities and hold their management accountable to career growth. I am hopeful for longer term growth and excellence for top talent. I am still holding out hope on fixing the compression issue, even if only thru my own team and management change.

The key thing for me in these changes is the move to greater transparency of decisions and rewards, and hopefully accountabilities. Even if we aren't doing everything right here, the transparency makes it an open discussion on fixing it, and that's something I want in the Next Microsoft.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Big day, back in the game

Been a while since I posted, sorry, been living the crazy MSFT life.

But, today is potentially a big day for MSFT and transforming us into the Next Microsoft I want.
  • Will the announcement replace the performance mgmt system with a system that doesn't encourage bad behaviors (not firing poor performers in order to maintain a "quota" of 3.0's)?
  • Are we moving into a new strategy for products and solutions for customers and partners?
  • Will the execs talk about office space?

We'll see, and post more...

Friday, February 10, 2006

How do I affect change at MS?

I read an interesting comment from one of the folks about how to suggest problems that need fixing without facing potential repurcussions?

So my question is...How do we get our ideas good or bad to upper management and not seem like we are complaining. I tried to talk to my managers about problems I saw with the prodcut we were working on and I was basically told to "sit down and shut up, we have a vision and a plan. You are just immature and not very senior."

Man, first thing is the best managers will listen to this, and if it's a true issue and makes a difference to solve they should be all over working with you to fix it. This is a company value of both being self critical and open and respectful. I would encourage you to also go to your boss' manager as a next step, but to also be open-minded that there may be other things influencing the direction your manager is taking.

However, there are bad managers and MS isn't immune to them. In this case, you have to do some work to be able to fix this. Get someone at the company that you trust that can operate as a mentor or assist you with these types of issues. I encourage everyone on my team to leverage my manager (he's a very good boss) and/or a mentor as a way to have an outlet for those things that they don't feel comfortable talking directly to me about.

Also, be sure you are using the Standard of "the right thing for Microsoft". Not what is best for me, or best for my team, but rather best for the company. Be willing to be proven wrong if its the right thing for the company.


On a separate note, appreciate the comments and links from other bloggers (including Mini-MSFT, thanks!). Also it's cool to welcome Steve Sinofski to the audience, appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment.

Also, I'll include my email address for folks that want to drop a private line: nextmsft at hotmail dot com.

Lastly, I have a bunch of topics I want to post on, but expect I will have time to get only 1 or 2 per week. Please feel free to add comments on topics you are interested in.

(cross-posted at

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Victimization Ratio

There are several key things that I look for in a job and the company I work for. I may dig in more on the others, but for now I want to describe this concept of a Victimization Ratio (VR) as I have had some recent run-ins here.

Basically the idea is this:
Number of Problems you are powerless to solve
Total Number of Problems you are impacted by

So if you work in an environment where you can point out 10 problems, but are only capable/empowered to solve 4 of them (so 6 you are powerless on), your victimization ratio is:
6 Problems you are powerless to solve
10 Total Problems

Or 60%. That is a job I would easily leave. I have told my management chain that I love to solve problems and hate being a complainer. So if I am in a situation where all I can do is bitch, I will leave that job.

By my own estimation, my current job is somewhere around 10-20% VR. This of course excludes all those problems that are common across Microsoft (the curve, salary competitiveness, stock performance) as I intend to continue to work at MS until I truly lose faith MS can become the Next Microsoft.

My most recent example of a powerless problem became clear in a meeting I had with a GM from another division. It boiled down to the GM telling me we can’t hold this VP accountable for honesty and integrity. Because of whatever history this GM had in the company (7 years) this problem would exist continuously and we should just deal with it. I am no GM, but if I ever get there and consider myself powerless to affect change, well, what good would I be? I have an email out to this GM’s boss to see if it’s a shared opinion or if we do hold execs accountable.

Call me naïve, but I like to think we can identify problems and leverage the management team to help solve them. I think within my team we are doing that and I hope for every 10 problems brought to my attention or that I identify, we can solve 8 of them at least.

So what's the solution? To me, we need to truly enable each person within the company to identify these problems, and hold their own manager accountable to fix it or ride it up the chain. To see LisaB "getting it" and making herself accountable for those 5 items she highlighted in her talk makes me think we just need more of that. We did this with Customer and Partner feedback, next step is Employee...

Feel free to use the comments to share your powerless problems if you wish.

(cross-posted at

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's the Next Microsoft and Who are you?

I am a Microsoft manager who sees lots of the good we do here at the company, but I also see a lot of the bad. I have recently been inspired by Lisa Brummel's listening tour and some other feedback forums (as well as Mini Microsoft and other online forums) to start posting my thoughts about making Microsoft better.

The reason I chose this title is because I hear people talk about "Who is going to be the Next Microsoft" that experiences similar growth and arguably great results. I want Microsoft to be the Next Microsoft. And I figured I would write down some thoughts on changes that may help us accomplish this.

So look for some hopefully brilliant ideas/suggestions/finger-pointing on the good and bad at MSFT. I know there are those that believe change can't happen, but I refuse to buy in to that belief.

(cross-posted at