Coming from an unlikely source, Vanity Fair, an article describing how Microsoft is it’s own worst enemy. I’d wonder about the claims made if I hadn’t heard very similar things from Microsoft’s own employees in the past. They are basically fighting with each other, and not just different groups – within the same product group.
The quoted text below shares what several ‘Softies have told me in the past, and that is one of the most destructive practices at Microsoft (among others).
Microsoft has had some very innovative ideas, but their huge bureaucracy has killed those ideas because they didn’t quite fit with their main products: Windows and Office. The sad part is that they were considered irrelevant to their main products until the competition comes out with something similar and brings it to the market with mass success. Then, Microsoft plays catch up, ignoring the fact that they had the same exact product on the table years previously. This is definitely one of my main pet peeves with Microsoft: they kill way too many great ideas only to bring them back years later, when it’s too late.
Blame Steve Ballmer? I can’t. Not yet. Many do blame him, but I don’t think I can put all that on just the one guy. I’m not really a Ballmer fan (of course, I haven’t met the guy yet, so I can’t say for certain, anyway), but the CEO of the company cannot make every decision in the company.
The linked article is a very good read, and I encourage everyone to read it. I’ll be purchasing my first issue of Vanity Fair just to read the full article. Every company makes mistakes, but Microsoft has had more than it should have. Many of those mistakes could have been very successful products. Microsoft really is shooting itself in the foot…
Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”