Dare on cost cutting at Microsoft

Dare Obasanjo has an insightful post here about Microsoft’s cost cutting strategies.

Dare and I’ve had some rather vocal disagreements in the past (mostly about XML, and mostly in private ) but IMHO, he’s 100% right on here.  I fully support Microsoft initiatives to cut costs in-house, they make sense.  I griped about cutting the towel service, but it really did make sense if looked at objectively – saving $250,000 a year that was benefiting maybe a thousand people in total does make sense.  On the other hand, I’ve not YET come to a decent explanation of why not stocking office supplies is a good idea. 

If it’s to cut costs, then it’s likely to backfire – the reaction for most groups will be to have the administrative assistant for the group buy the supplies for the group and stock them in his/her office.  This means that instead of having a single location on each floor of the building to go for supplies, each admin will maintain their own stock.  On average (at least in my building) there are two admins per floor, so now, instead of having the supplies stocked in one location, they’re stocked in two.  I can’t see how having admins waste their valuable time stocking office supplies saves us money – it may reduce the cost of stocking the supply rooms, but all it does is to move the costs around – instead of it being a single facilities expense, the expenses get moved to the individual departments.

The only other reason I’ve come up with is to avoid pilfering – but how much of a problem is that realistically?  I know that at some companies, the pilfering problem is significant, but think of it as a cost/benefit trade-off – what is the cost of pilfering vs. the benefit of having office supplies convenient?  For example, the conference rooms (and there are 8 of them on each floor of my building) are constantly running out of either white-board markers or erasers.  If I’m having a meeting in a conference room and there’s no markers (not an unusual occurrence), someone’s got to run out and get new ones.  But if they’re not stocked on the floor, they’ve got to run all around the building trying to find markers.

So in order to save the time of a minimum wage stocker, this policy causes a meeting attended by four or five highly paid developers to be held up for several minutes while someone searches for the supplies needed to hold the meeting.

Sigh.  Penny wise and pound foolish is exactly right.


Comments (7)

  1. Anonymous says:

    The premise of highly paid developers wasting time is probably untrue. Highly paid developers will get their work done when they need to and stay late to do it, and if they don’t have much to do, they will probably leave work before time too.

  2. Anonymous says:

    True, but nobody likes meetings, especially developers with better things to do. If they want time to be social, they want to be eating. If they want to do work, the meeting is the last place they want to be. More than a few important people have left meetings that did not start at the appropriate time. When that happens, key decision makers are no longer present and their valuable input has been lost.

    A more likely scenario is that the managers will offload "room preparation" to their admin who will then be tasked with checking to ensure the room has markers, erasers and whatnot. Of course, this only helps those individuals who are a) managers and b) who have an admin who can spare the time for room prep.

    This is inordinately silly. Can we try "Shrimp and Weinies" again?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cut the company jet – make BillG fly coach class again!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mike, Unfortunately, there’s no company jet.

    Bill just borrows one of Paul Allens 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Keep getting Too Many Users error when accessing the Dare blog entry – here’s the Google cache:

  6. Anonymous says:

    You guys at Microsoft have unbelievable benefits, even after these costs cutting moves. Walking up a floor to get office supplies? HA! Try no office supplies, and having to supply your own pens! This is reality in many companies, mine included.

    The problem is that people don’t like to get things taken away. You guys have had the good life for a long time, and now when its time to get back to "normal", employees are crying foul.

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