Monday, March 27, 2006

Microsoft, Your Slip Is Showing (Passion)

Microsoft recently announced that it's follow-on to Windows XP will ship later than planned. The revamped OS, Vista, is not ready. It won't be ready until 2007.

Some Microsoft employees, specifically the Windows team, are letting the world know what they really think about that slippage.

It's a thing of beauty... their passion, that is. More on that in a moment.

I've been a huge fan of Microsoft for a lot of reasons -- a big one: the people at Microsoft have changed the world. They continue, today, to chart an historical, world-changing course. How many people (outside the United States Armed Forces) can say that? And the change has overwhelmingly been for the better, IMHO.

I've never owned a MacIntosh. I did train on an Apple IIe once upon a time back when I was computer illiterate. My experience with the Apple IIe contributed immeasurably to my "remain computer illiterate and preserve your sanity by staying away from anything with a once-bitten apple thingy on it" attitude.

That attitude stayed with me for another 10 years. I saw my first Mac at about the same time I saw my first Windows-based PC. Somebody was working up briefing charts on a Mac for the monthly training conference. I was sitting nearby doing my charts the old-fashioned way: butcher paper and viewgraphs.

The guy on the Mac was mumbling about how much better Mac's graphical something or other was compared to Windows. It was all Greek to me. His slides sure were pretty, though. That's what I remember mostly... and me thinking, "Damn, that thing's got one of those 'once-bitten apple thingy' logos on it" ... and ... "For an infantry officer, he sure is acting pretty gay about that computer."

And oh yeah, the Commanding General was impressed by the 1st Cavalry Division patch and motto on each and every slide. That Mac guy started a revolution within the headquarters of 1st Cav -- a cheese revolution and by default, a Windows revolution.

The Army had mostly Windows PCs and anyone who wanted their slides to be as pretty as the Mac guy's needed to learn Windows and something called Harvard Graphics (I stuck with my butcher paper and handwritten viewgraphs during this revolution and was promoted to Major anyway). Briefings got so pretty that the mice used to stand around with little signs that read, "Please feed me. 1st Cav stole all the cheese." OK, I didn't actually see the mice holding up signs....

This was also the birth of the Mac vs (Windows-based) PC "war" for me. It bored me to tears back then and still does. Look, they're both great. You fall into one camp or the other mostly because you started out working on one or the other, loved one or the other -- or hated one or the other and switched to one or the other. That's about it, isn't it? Well, that ain't war. That's freedom to choose.

Unless, of course, you work for either Microsoft or Apple... then it's fully macking, thermo-digital, trench warfare.

And this partly explains the passion of the comments you will read on this post at Mini-Microsoft.

Skewering the Microsoft leadership. Calling for heads to roll. Frustration. Disgust. Dark humor. Cynicism. Optimism. Pessimism. Rage. Love. Hate.

Another reason -- big reason -- why the Microsoft commenters are so passionate: They give a damn. Whatever else you may think about their comments, their Give-A-Damn meter is registering in the Green. Sure, it may seem like I've got it ass backwards and they're pegged out in the dreaded Red zone.

I'm sure a few are indeed red-zoning, but what I see mostly are folks who want to to be the best. They want their team to be the best. They are proud people. They are winners. They hate the thought of losing -- in any endeavor... to any person or thing.

The people who work for Microsoft are not only some of the best minds in the computer industry, they give a damn about what they do. That is a good thing.

Whatever leadership/management problems are festering at Microsoft and within the Windows division, specifically (and there do seem to be problems), surely no leader/manager wakes up in the morning saying, "Lemme see how I can fuck up things today". [to which, I imagine, there are some on Mini-Microsoft who would reply, "Yes, they do. And stop calling me Shirley."]

It's more likely that the leadership/management problems can be attributed to the Peter Principle:

"In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

In this specific case, one might say that the road to Vista slippage was paved with the good intentions of some incompetent leaders/managers.

In other words, there's nothing broke that can't be fixed with competent leaders. If BillG is reading the comments on that blog, I hope he's not tone deaf. If so, he'll miss the good that I and (I'm sure) others see... and then he'll probably do something stupid like try to go after the blog owner and commenters.

Seems to me that it would be better for Microsoft if its workers felt free to vent on a blog on the company's intranet. Leadership needs this type of honest feedback. The organization would be better for it. And the Mac people would be munching on popcorn while watching "24" DVDs, rather than munching on popcorn while watching Microsoft folks munch on one another.


Who da'Punk said...

What a nice post - spot on and it really stands out within the noise and hub-bub of the blogosphere regarding Microsofties dealing with our slips and other issues.


Dave said...

You're absolutely right about the Peter Principle. However, the problem at Microsoft is a little more complicated.

The fact is that technical people (I'm a consulting engineer) generally make make lousy managers without extensive training.

In my own 25-year technical career, I can name only 3 of my supervisors or managers that I would credit as being fully competent leaders.

As opposed to the Army, businesses do not begin on day 1 to cultivate an employee's leadership ability. They may not even think about it until after one is promoted.

Jett Superior said...

Holy shit, you are back!

MerryMadMonk said...

Oh yes ma'am and how's the leg? Wait, don't tell me. I'll be coming round directly to get my Jett fix. w00t. I betcha it's like new! I betcha you're wearing that boy out! I betcha you're grinnin' like a possum eatin' grapes. But don't tell me. I'm on the way.

Who da'Punk - I've really enjoyed your blog. Thanks for linking back. Damn, ya'll sure got a lot of Microsofties out there. My hit meter got hit so much that it damn near metered out.

Dave - An excellent point about growing leaders. The Army steals a lot of management ideas from corporate America. Might be that corporate America oughta steal some leadership ideas from the Army.

Jose said...

Excellent post. You are right on.
By the way, the rest of the blog is awesome too. I like the honesty.