I know I really don’t care much for promotions and such, so perhaps I don’t “get” the whole tech press. Lately there’s been this magazine called Vanity Fair which I’m surely going to buy – if I can find a place to buy it from. Perhaps a stall at Pike Place may have a copy.
The tech press is going nuts over Stack Ranking. Sure, rewards are great, and ego-boosts are great. There’s maybe a lot of reasons to hate Microsoft (as any other company), and this stack ranking may perhaps also be one of them – but it wouldn’t be my big one. The biggest ego boost you get ever in your life, is when a customer who has absolutely no reason to thank you, takes the trouble of finding out who worked on a certain project, and then mail you personally telling you how awesome your product was. I’ve been there just once, and let me tell you, it doesn’t happen often. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have worked on the iPad – a product that without coersion or caveats or excuses, and despite three bigshots attempting to kill, sells because “customers love it”. One can only hope that in their lives, they contribute in a small part to a product for which a customer happily parts with their money. More so one that isn’t an essential commodity like food, clothes, etc.
I’d have been happy to be ranked as the bottom 10%er if only they’d just let me speed up the website, fix issues and ship them fast. I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass who becomes Principal or Partner, so long as they promised to keep me out of meetings in which five highly-educated engineers debated the merits of using an Int32 vs Int64 when storing data in a text file, with arguments based not on designs, facts, or outcomes, but rather on synergies, and lenses and perspectives and prisms (you can’t make this stuff up).
There are still a significant number of people at Microsoft who wouldn’t exactly want to be rated the worst, but so long as they’re rated average, they are willing to fight for the cause of their product – that of seeing their product succeed in the market! There is no ego boost as really conducting an iPhone funeral, then delivering update-after-update every month that makes Apple crap their pants and being No. 2 in two years. I argue there are still these gems sitting within the company willing to do this for the market-ego-boost and would gladly give up titles for that (I know them personally).
Of course, it helps if the Stacking is directly correlated to it, but what do I know of big corporations? Please get a grip members of the tech press, and Vanity Fair. Stack Ranking while perhaps flawed, isn’t the problem. It’s the criteria used to rank that makes a great deal of difference – whether it is free-for-all or forced-curve. If shipping products, or making decisions, or adding features isn’t on your priority list, getting rid of Stack Ranking won’t do much. You still won’t make good decisions if your desire is not to make your products better. For all the Microsoft employees claiming to LOVE Windows Phone, how many of them spend their spare time fixing bugs or improving it? As opposed to trash talking everyone on Facebook who has an iPhone? Why didn’t 20 employees get together to make a Bing Maps app that provided transit directions? Why didn’t Skydrive, Hotmail, Messenger keep adding a gazillion features in an effort by employees to not fall in the bottom 10%? Why didn’t Windows Phone’s in-house apps keep shipping every weekend in an ever-tougher race to be ranked in the top 20%?
Stack Ranking had nothing to do with this. Heck if Stack Ranking worked, it’d only encourage crazy-ass hotshots to join Microsoft in an ever-escalating Darwinian race to see who makes the best product, for the best price, with the best quality as fast as possible!
We aren’t hearing a lot of complaints to the tune of, “I delivered this feature, and despite it being better than anyone else’s outside the company, another team came up with something that beat mine. So I was forced to the bottom 10%.” We certainly don’t see the products in the market to back this up either.
Come on, am I the only person who thinks the scenario doesn’t make sense? A brutally stack-ranked company would indeed produce not a compromise phone, but something that changes the world (to all the apologists who will use the same five rehashed arguments telling me Windows Phone is great – it’s not. Deal with it.)