You don’t need a publicist

If you are a Microsoft engineer, you are receiving your annual rewards around now. You might be wondering why you didn’t get the promotion you sought or why someone else did. If you ask your manager why, she’ll provide insightful feedback and might name several reasons. Among the most common and misunderstood reasons is that…

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This is the war room

You’ve got a big, important project. It’s not converging toward completion within the expected timeframe. There are too many incomplete tasks and too many unresolved bugs. Burndown charts and nasty reminders from leadership haven’t been sufficient to get the project on track. It’s time for a war room, and you might need to lead it….

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Are we functional (part deux)?

 It’s been over seven years since Windows 7 launched. Inside Microsoft, one of the more controversial elements of that launch was the change Steven Sinofsky made to the Windows organization at the start of that product’s planning and development. Coming over from Office, Steve switched Windows’ structure from having many product unit managers (PUMs running…

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It’s business time

Note: While this column is directed at all engineers, it is most applicable to group managers and above. Other engineers can still apply many of the suggestions or, at least, print out this column and slide it under the group manager’s door.  News flash! Microsoft is a business. Engineers cost money—roughly $250K per person per…

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Doing the minimum

 The concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) has become so mainstream that now even vice presidents are misusing the term. People have been bastardizing the wonderful notion of an MVP for more than a decade, so I suppose vice presidents butchering it was inevitable. Yet the splattering of bloody bites of bogus, bloated blueprints…

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We’re on the same team

A big organization, like Windows, needs to be aligned and work together to produce a great cohesive product. This means teams talking to each other about dependencies, interfaces, and timelines. That communication is crucial to tying together seamless customer experiences, reducing friction, and delivering value smoothly and efficiently. Unfortunately, humans are lazy, selfish, and suck…

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Mysterious mages among us

 Roaming the halls of Microsoft (or any mid- to large-sized business), you’ll find mysterious mages seemingly directing the inner workings of our business. Their powers are elusive to the rest of us. Are they friend or foe? Do they control our fate? I’m speaking of the magical members of the legal, human resources (HR), and…

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Is never good for you?

 There’s a famous New Yorker cartoon with an executive arranging a time to meet with a colleague. He says, “Is never good for you?” You know what? Never is great for me. I’m good with not wasting an hour I could have spent delivering value to customers; I’m good with not subtracting an hour from…

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