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Microsoft's Midlife Crisis - what do you think ??

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  • User profile image
    prog_dotnet

    Forbes.com has this interesting read, an article about the internal life in Microsoft, using the psychological term, midlife crisis, to describe the current state of affaris. 

    http://www.forbes.com/2005/09/12/microsoft-management-software_cz_vm_0913microsoft_print.html



    What has gone wrong? Microsoft, with $40 billion in sales and 60,000 employees, has grown musclebound and bureaucratic. Some current and former employees describe a stultifying world of 14-hour strategy sessions, endless business reviews and a preoccupation with PowerPoint slides; of laborious job evaluations, hundreds of e-mails a day and infighting among divisions so fierce that it hobbles design and delays product releases. In short, they describe precisely the behavior that humbled another tech giant: IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) in the late 1980s. Tellingly, IBM reached a point of crisis just over three decades after it started selling computers to commercial users.

    ----
    "Some employees complain that they spend hours tracking down collaborators in far-flung groups instead of talking to customers and taking products to market. Working on a huge project requires checking in with management constantly. "Instead of promoting the product to customers, I'd get stuck in the office until midnight preparing slides for my monthly product review," says David Ryan, 33, a marketer for Windows XP. He has just been freed up to pursue an incubation project in the server group, where he is happily exempt from most reviews. At Microsoft a "review" is often a progress report illustrated with 15 PowerPoint slides. "
    ----
    "Other staffers say that almost every move requires a lawyer's signature and that even routine approvals can take weeks. Recently one employee waited a month while a $10,000 purchase order for outside development work was held up by legal. By the time the lawyers were done, the budget for the deal had evaporated. Dennis Reno left Microsoft two years ago feeling burned out from bureaucracy. He'd worked 18-hour days but got little done because he was bogged down by paperwork. "The smallest issue would balloon into a nightmare of a thousand e-mails," says Reno, who is now at Plumtree Software (nasdaq: PLUM - news - people "

    ----
    "Jeff B. Erwin, who quit in December after five years there, adds, "Microsoft has some of the smartest people in the world, but they are just crushing them. You have a largely unhappy population." "
    ----



  • User profile image
    Cairo

    I remember reading about a theory years ago. The theory says that companies typically lose market dominance approximately six years after they achieve it. When did Microsoft achive market dominance? Around 1999?


  • User profile image
    Karim

    Hack job.

    She could have reported that IIS was the most popular web server at Fortune 1000 web sites:

    http://www.techweb.com/showPressRelease.jhtml?articleID=X333718#_

    She could have reported that sales Windows servers have now caught up with sales of Unix servers:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/05/31/idc_q1_05server

    (yes, that is from The Register, not exactly known for pro-MS reporting)

    But noooooOOOOooooo...

    I would have found the story compelling if she had kept it focused on morale at Microsoft.  I'm sure there are unhappy people there (just as there are everywhere ELSE).

    But she made it sound like, "Microsoft is going down the tubes, everyone hates their job, the end is nigh."  Hack job.

    She is out to slam Microsoft so hard, she ends up saying things like net profit was up "only 19%."  [slaps palm to forehead]  Hello?  Does this woman even have an editor?

    She called Apache "a Linux variant."  [slaps palm to forehead]  Great, she's the John C. Dvorak of Forbes magazine.

    She makes IT industry predictions for Forbes each year.

    At the end of 2003, she said "Information Security is over-hyped" and predicted that Microsoft would try to make money off open source software.

    At the end of 2004, she said, "Last year I suggested Microsoft would try to reap some reward from open source. This still can come true. Lawyers in Redmond are filing software patents at a swift rate."

    <rolleyes>  So now this is becoming like waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

    When she was on Fox News representing Forbes, this was the wisdom she had to impart:

    "Terrorists are tricky. It's not like traditional enemies where you can point a gun. Al Qaeda is not a centralized organization and that is a disadvantage. But capitalism is kicking butt."

    You go, girl!  Capitalism is kicking butt!  Woo!  Now tell me again about what all the "in" people will be wearing this fall?

    Oh, sorry... that's right, you're not a fashion editor, I keep forgetting.... sorry... now tell me more about this Apache thing....

  • User profile image
    JChung2006

    Growing pains.

  • User profile image
    Frank Hileman

    My impression from talking to Microsoft people informally, is similar to the article. I can't list details but everything I have heard lately sounds like the company is becoming similar to a federal government agency (not a good thing).

  • User profile image
    kappel

    Is it time to send a copy of Lou Gerstner's book  (former CEO of IBM) to the folks in Redmond?  I hope not.  I suppose Bill would take some exception to that given their history hehe.

  • User profile image
    kappel

    Ok... Just read the article... it's definitely chock-full of presumption.

    "Employees meet with managers every August to plan up to six "commitments" for the upcoming year. Each job is assigned to one of 15 levels--the system sounds a lot like civil service pay grades--and given a "competency tool kit," a list of the skills an employee of a particular type and level should have. At annual performance reviews, managers are compelled to rank employees on a scale of 1 to 5. Says Hopmann, the escapee now at Pure Networks, "There's a bureaucracy that over time has developed these rules. It has become a huge morale problem." "

    That committment system along with the rankings, etc. sounds almost exactly like what is done for every employee at IBM.  In fact, I think it is a rather new-ish (in the last 15 yrs or so) development, probably from the Gerstner years that "saved" IBM from the problems the Forbes writer is purporting that MSFT is heading for.  I would hazard to guess the same type system is used at a lot of companies.  Nothing to see here.

  • User profile image
    Michael Griffiths

    I like the quote from Mark Jen.

    http://blog.plaxoed.com/2005/09/13/my-forbes-quote/

    Forbes isn't usually this stupid.

    Sensationalist article. Not completely false, but sensationalist.

  • User profile image
    Cider

    kappel wrote:
    That committment system along with the rankings, etc. sounds almost exactly like what is done for every employee at IBM.  In fact, I think it is a rather new-ish (in the last 15 yrs or so) development, probably from the Gerstner years that "saved" IBM from the problems the Forbes writer is purporting that MSFT is heading for.  I would hazard to guess the same type system is used at a lot of companies.  Nothing to see here.


    I think Jack Welch at GE was one of the first to do that sort of thing.  However, he was doing it proper - get a low mark and its desk clearing time.I don't think the article is all that sensationalist.  It matches a lot of what has been said about Microsoft from employees (Bruce Morgan even said similar in a post here) and also matches my experience of Microsoft where "getting things done" is tedious and politically difficult.  And hell, I know about that sort of thing - I work for a University, the bastions of beauracracy!

    They need some top level executives and the CEO to be EXTREMELY aggressive at the moment, not with the opposition but with their own staff.  It irritates me that it seems too many people at Microsoft have slumped into mediocrity and then complain when they lose even the smallest benefit - like when an MS blogger moans about certain poor performers not getting a bonus (y'know what the term "bonus" even MEANS?), or if they have their free towels or free coke or whatever taken away from them.  I'd recommend "Jack" by Jack Welch gets handed out to every executive there.  They'd learn a thing or two.

  • User profile image
    kappel

    Cider -- Sorry I wasn't so clear -- I meant new-ish development for IBM... I would never be so presumptuous to think that Gerstner was the first to do it and that it's really even that original or groundbreaking of an idea...  <flamebait sarcasm> Not like some of the software patents being granted. </flamebait sarcasm>

  • User profile image
    Karim

    Michael Griffiths wrote:
    I like the quote from Mark Jen.

    http://blog.plaxoed.com/2005/09/13/my-forbes-quote/

    Forbes isn't usually this stupid.

    Sensationalist article. Not completely false, but sensationalist.


    My favorite quotes from Mark Jen:

    I honestly don’t recall if I said it or not, but either way, it seems out of context.

    I don’t think their quote of me is a big deal, so whatevers, but the article definitely has a doomsday spin and I don’t agree with.

    As for that cute Forbes chick not being usually being that stupid... uh... this is the lady who told the world on national TV, "Terrorrists are tricky!"  <rolleyes> 

    Then again, CNN is showing pictures of a flooded New Orleans with a banner of "BREAKING NEWS" (i.e. New Orleans is still under water.) 

    And Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

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