Why Microsoft Fell Behind: Bureaucracy

Long before Apple got its mojo back, the king of the technology hill was Microsoft.

Microsoft simply dominated the PC industry, but it has recently fallen back. It (almost) missed the Internet Revolution, had a tablet that could've pre-empted the iPad and other innovative products that withered in the R&D vine.

What happened? Vanity Fair editor Kurt Eichenwald interviewed dozens of Microsofties and delved into troves of corporate emails to discover the culprit of the malaise that has plagued the tech giant for years: bureaucracy.

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.”

When Eichenwald asks Brian Cody, a former Microsoft engineer, whether a review of him was ever based on the quality of his work, Cody says, “It was always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers.” Ed McCahill, who worked at Microsoft as a marketing manager for 16 years, says, “You look at the Windows Phone and you can’t help but wonder, How did Microsoft squander the lead they had with the Windows CE devices? They had a great lead, they were years ahead. And they completely blew it. And they completely blew it because of the bureaucracy.”

Link - via The Atlantic Wire


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I've always wonderd why the book-styles tablet never seemd to appear, it seems like such an obvious form-factor.
When closed, both of the screens are protected from damage and when open there is twice the display area of any other device.

I'm guessing (it wasn't mentioned in the article) that it might have ended up as heavy and bulky as two iPads gaffer-taped together and (at least for an un-modified version of Windows) a custom set of configurations (2 screen displays, touchscreen & pop-up keyboard) for the form-factor would have to be loaded when it left the factory and if changed might pretty much brick it (one display stops working, no touchscreen and/or no pop-up keyboard) as far as most users would be concerned.

Maybe it really was for the best that it was never fully developed and released?
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Intel is exactly the same idiotic system they call 'Focal'. No matter how good you are, you are always ranked against your colleagues on a pre-determined bell curve. As a result, there is no teamwork in that company. It is in your best interests for your coworkers to make a mistake so that you're the one to get the raise at the end of the year. Terrible work environment.
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I worked for an Internet company that had $60 million in annual revenues, implemented this idea to copy Microsoft (except we called it Top Grading), and then we lost half our staff within a year and ended up going bankrupt (and losing the other half) within 3.
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Years ago a relative worked for a big-box furniture store. Every month the bottom sales person would be let go. He said competition was so fierce that once he saw a salesman jump over a couch to be first to reach a customer.
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