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