Who’s in charge here?

 I was talking with a friend from another Microsoft division. He complained about gridlock on his team because “no one can make a decision.” He lamented, “We discuss issues and come to some conclusions, but rarely get a resolution that sticks.” I bit my tongue. He is a friend. Later in that same conversation, my…

0

That’s not funny

 Tension fills the conference room a few weeks before the Client release. The Client team wasn’t told that the Database team had added a parameter to the AddClient API. The Client broke spectacularly—the latest in a series of miscommunication and miscues by both teams. Only now were the Client and Database teams meeting to discuss…

0

Destabilization

 It breaks my heart and sickens my stomach to witness the tremendous productivity and quality gains of Lean Software Development practices at Microsoft:  feature crews in Office, scrum teams in Xbox, and improvement teams in SQLServer, to name a few. These Lean approaches yield less-incomplete work, higher-quality builds throughout the product cycle, earlier feedback on…

1

Master of your domain

 If you had to choose between hiring an outstanding candidate with only related domain knowledge and a solid candidate with specific domain knowledge, who would you select? At Microsoft, we generally select the outstanding candidate, figuring a talented employee can quickly learn a domain. That is, unless the employee already works here. If the outstanding…

0

Production is a mixed blessing

 There is one service design flaw that engineers repeat day after day, month after month, year after year. Scalability? Nope, though it’s popular. Security? Happens, but not that frequently. Serviceability? Getting warmer. Give up? Don’t care because you don’t work on services? You will, and when you do, you’ll care. The pervasive service design flaw…

1

A change would do you good

 Few Microsoft engineers change positions between mid-May and mid-August—they don’t want a role change to adversely impact their annual performance ratings, which lock around mid-August. Of course, managers shouldn’t allow position changes to unduly impact ratings. Then again, eating a taco from a roadside stand should not result in dysentery, but sometimes it does. Once…

5

Out of calibration

 It’s calibration time at Microsoft. Time for managers to rank everyone in your peer group (same discipline, same career stage, same division) into five (and a half) ranges: the top 20 percent (and top 5 percent), the near top 20 percent, the middle 40 percent, the lower 13 percent, and the bottom 7 percent. Calibration…

8

Quality is in the eye of the customer

 Not every bug is the same. A bug that frequently freezes an app gets more attention than an extra line of green pixels in a border. An embarrassing typo in a prominent feature is more urgent to fix than an inappropriate exception thrown by a misused API. Customer data loss or compromise requires instant attention,…

3

Test don’t get no respect

 I love Microsoft®. We’ve been together happily for many years. If you’ve been in a healthy long-term relationship, then you know what this means—there are things about Microsoft that make me curse, stomp, and spit. I’ve learned to tolerate them, but they still make me cringe. A prime example is our disrespect for critical disciplines…

15

You have to make a decision

 What’s worse—a flawed decision or no decision? That’s easy. Decisions keep a business moving. An imperfect decision might move your business slightly in the wrong direction, but at least it will be moving. Make a few adjustments, and you’re back on track. Making no decision brings business to a halt. Even if you make a…

1