You want a revolution

 Microsoft is undertaking its biggest set of internal changes in years. The organization from the top down is being restructured and realigned. Our performance management system is being revamped. We’re even getting a new CEO to drive the new direction of One Microsoft. Longtime readers know that I’m thrilled that we’re headed toward One Microsoft,…


The flow fallacy

 In 1990, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published his famous book about achieving exceptional productivity and concentration, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The book’s basic idea is a familiar one to most developers:  Situate yourself in a quiet room without distractions, work on a compelling piece of code, and you’ll soon get into a “flow,” losing track…


Courageous design

 Does this sound familiar? You’re meeting to design a solution to a tricky problem. People are alternating between adding new requirements and deriding prior approaches. Everyone agrees with the issues (“Yeah,” “Yup,” “That’s right”), but no one is suggesting a solution for fear of rebuke. These meetings end one of three ways: Deciding to meet…


Vision quest

 On August 23, 2013, Steve Ballmer announced he would retire within 12 months. I’ve been a big fan of Steve since I joined the company in 1995. At the annual company meetings back then, there were only three presentations that counted: Bob Herbold’s financial review, Bill Gates’ technical vision, and Steve Ballmer’s pep rally. Steve’s…


Permissible poaching—internal recruiting

 Review discussions are happening now, which means that the Microsoft internal transfer market is heating up. Some people want to move because they’ve stagnated. Some want to move because they need to find a better fit for their talents, temperament, or blood pressure. Regardless, now is a great time for managers to fill open positions….


Stupid in any language

 Surely you’re smart enough to know that people outside the United States attempt to use Microsoft software every day. I mean, Nadine Kano first published Developing International Software for Windows 95 and Windows NT back in 1995. By now you must be aware, but how can anyone tell? You could try using our software outside…


To be precise

 On August 5, 2012, the NASA rover Curiosity completed its six-month journey from Earth to Mars, touching down near the middle of its roughly 40-square-mile targeted landing area. Many news outlets compared the landing to making a hole-in-one at a Scotland golf course after teeing off in Los Angeles. Many people and project managers expect…


Debt and investment

 We all have friends or relatives with money problems. There are three sources of those problems: a lack of income, a catastrophe, or a lack of self-control. There are whole industries devoted to solving the income issue—I’m not going to cover that here. Insurance and the kindness of friends and family are built to cover…


Evil assumptions

 You work on big, important projects that involve many moving parts and many different teams. You work hard to deliver your piece on time and with high quality. No one can claim that you’re the one who held things up. No, it’s always those clueless, slow, self-centered, self-righteous, uncooperative, bureaucratic, unresponsive, opaque, evasive, reckless, late,…


You can’t have it all

 There are two executive planning strategies: go for it all (cut later), and do a few things well (add later). Executives follow the strategy that best reflects their belief system. They use that planning strategy to drive work throughout the product cycle. Executives who go for it all believe their staffs produce the most when…