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Microsoft

Ballmer Turns To Geeks For Salvation 370

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
jfruhlinger writes "One of the critiques of Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO is that, as someone who came up through sales, he doesn't really get what running an innovative tech company is about. With the company board starting to question his performance — he didn't get his bonus last year because of the Kin debacle, for instance — it appears that Ballmer is planning to install engineers in high places to turn the company around."
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Ballmer Turns To Geeks For Salvation

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  • This won't work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by watanabe (27967) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:17PM (#35140606)

    Microsoft is dominated by high-end market-consuming business strategists at the top. Bill could do both; Ozzie stepped down because he couldn't replace Bill in that role. There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

    Much less five of these folks. I just don't see it -- in my opinion, Microsoft needs to acknowledge it's becoming IBM, and move on gracefully to another stage in its corporate development.

    • by h4rm0ny (722443)

      There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

      Why not? If the head guy says: "invite this engineer guy into your strategy meetings" when he wasn't otherwise, that's a potentially very good thing.

      • Re:This won't work (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DrgnDancer (137700) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:54PM (#35141112) Homepage

        It's rarely that simple in large organizations. The head guy can say "Invite this engineer guy to your meetings", but that in and of itself doesn't mean much. Did you chose a good "engineer guy"? Did you chose someone with a strong will, who is willing to stand up to bunch of alpha male type business people? Did you give the "engineer guy" any teeth? Or just throw him in to "advise" (read: give advice that we will ignore becasue he can't do anything about it)?

        Merely putting engineers into senior positions isn't enough if he doesn't pick the right engineers with the right vision; and make sure they have the will and corporate backing to make the vision reality. GP's post simply states that he doesn't think MS has that kind of engineering leadership sitting around waiting to be picked. That may be true, they've bled a lot of visionary engineers over the years. On the other hand they have a ton of money, and (love them or hate them) lots of interesting work going on. If they really went all out to find the right people (ignoring seniority, going out side the company, etc), and then empowered those people to really make decisions, it could work.

      • Re:This won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

        by saider (177166) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:01PM (#35141212)

        Inviting them to meetings and giving them authority over the project (and diluting your own authority) is not going to happen easily, even with orders from above.

        It is more than putting some engineering window dressing in the spot. What they need are people who can visualize how the entire system should work. This typically spans various products. This is why Apple is successful. They realize that in order to make the iPhone appealing, they need to have iTunes clients that run a certain way and connect to a large store of data in the iTunes store. Also, Apple is more than happy to have one of their products kill off another. They had no problem letting the iPhone kill the iPod. It is better for your own products to do that then your competitor's.

        At Microsoft, you'd have the device engineers, application software guys and the backend store folks all fighting each other to increase their division's profit and relevance. Old established systems would never die and they would also kill any up-and-coming projects that might unseat them by eating all of their resources.

        • by theolein (316044)

          Best post I've read on this topic. It takes more than engineers, it takes people able to see and implement the big picture. Microsoft's biggest problem is their departmentalisation.

          An example, today, after god knows how many years of using Windows, I discovered that Windows doesn't natively support more than 4 styles of one font. This is 2011 and that isn't rocket science. I was simply appalled. It's no wonder that creatives flock to the Mac.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

        "Why not?"

        In part because of the sheer number of shares Bill Gates owned.

        If you throw around your "force of will" to senior management, and you own a huge chunk of the company, they don't have a choice but to listen. If you're "just some engineer", they'll push back if they don't like what they hear.

        In many ways, Microsoft was a bit

      • Re:This won't work (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Drethon (1445051) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:21PM (#35141432)
        The problem is while engineers look for the right way to do things, business people look for the low cost way of doing things. Engineer led companies go broke but people love their products while business led companies make money but are roundly hated. (ok, over simplification but still).
      • If the head guy says: "invite this engineer guy into your strategy meetings"

        and continues "so you'll have someone to laugh at." Or maybe to throw chairs at.
        That's the way large companies often operate: the business managers and marketers claim all the glory for a successful product, and blame the engineers if a product fails.

      • by kent_eh (543303)

        There's just no way that there's an internal tech person with the force of will to push the business guys around and all he or she needed was Ballmer's okay to make more impact.

        Why not? If the head guy says: "invite this engineer guy into your strategy meetings" when he wasn't otherwise, that's a potentially very good thing.

        Apparently you've never read Dilbert?

      • Engineers? How about users.

        From all aspects of user-dom. Geeks who want and understand security and power. Grandmas who don't understand the difference between right and left click. Everyone in between.

        Free thinkers who might give them ideas so they do what /. says they never do - innovate.

        What good will Engineers do? Code-jockeys are idea people now?

        this is MS not apple. or google.
    • Re:This won't work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:33PM (#35140854)

      Except its largely what google does right now (they have a lot of engineers working in management) - which is what I think this change comes from.

      Any business who's tried to setup a contract with google knows what I'm talking about - they are a much harder company to interface with than Microsoft.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        To "interface" with?

        You mean deal with or talk to or what? It sounds like you have some brain damage from being too near business school product.

    • Re:This won't work (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:34PM (#35140874) Homepage Journal

      I think they could turn it around if they where willing to be humble. That will be the problem can the suits give the geeks the respect they need to get good products.
      Windows Phone 7 is a disaster at this point in time. If it had come out when the iPhone one hit the market they would have had a chance but it is behind in features.
      1. No cut and paste. "releasing it to developers doesn't count. It will count when customers have it".
      2. Less multitasking than the iPhone.
      And The excuse that it is a now OS really does ring hollow... Windows Phone 7! it isn't Windows Phone 1. Microsoft has been in the market for around a decade folks.
      Then you have the marketing side. I am really into tech and I know next to nothing about Windows Phone 7.
      Does it have seamless integration with exchange? Better than or equal to Blackberry?
      Does it have seamless integration with Hotmail? As good as Gmail is integrated with Android?
      Voice commands as good as Android? Hey they seem to work really well with sync which is a Microsoft product.
      What about Evernote and Dropbox? Pandora?
      What about bar code readers?
      What about shopping apps?

      I am picking on Windows Phone but it seems to be a big part of the problem. Tablets? Well Microsoft pushed them for years but they failed to catch on. Apple knocked it out of the park.

      What they need to do is make a dream product. Be bold and push the limits. They have a big pile of cash still and they better start investing it in some blue sky projects that will just blow peoples socks off.
      Or maybe turn the tablet and phone projects over to the XBox team.

      • Microsoft shouldn't even be in the phone market. Or the console game market, or tablets, or web search, or any of this ephemeral consumer crap. If they took all the money, time, and energy they've poured into these tar pits and put it into their core business, we wouldn't have monstrosities like Windows Vista. Ballmer's obsession with competing on every imaginable front is spreading them too thin. Apple and Google know this, and despite a certain propensity for the shotgun approach at Google, both of them k

    • by ron_ivi (607351) <sdotno.cheapcomplexdevices@com> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:40PM (#35140934)
      Look at what happened to many tech companies (Intel, HP, Yahoo, etc) when they replaced the tech-founder-CEOs with suits. Growth stopped and the company stagnates. Same with Microsoft.
    • by crovira (10242) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:45PM (#35140998) Homepage

      IBM still makes mainframes as well as software consulting. They reinvented themselves and it worked.

      I don't see Microsoft ever letting go of Windows and they'll crash holding onto 'em too. Microsoft's got an R&D division that the people selling product never talk to.

      It costs to much if they do.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Going from marketing guys to engineers isn't going to help. It's just exchanging one problem for another. It might be better to put in some people with common sense who are beholden to neither side and able to mediate a sensible strategy somewhere between those two extremes.

  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:17PM (#35140608)
    taking cues from tech savvy people. What a curious concept.
    • Re:Tech Company... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @04:00PM (#35141992) Journal

      Technically, the Google Nexus One is a beautiful, high-performing, genius-simple device.

      But as a business it was a total flop. Why? Because Schmidt assumed that if you make a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door; that is, until they realize it's not the same as their previous mousetrap and it doesn't work perfectly and they can't get hold of anyone in your company to tell them how to deal with their issues. At that point it doesn't matter whether it's a Google Phone or an actual mousetrap, the technology part is over and the business part is going to determine if it goes anywhere.

      Meanwhile, over at Microsoft, they're still selling buggy, vulnerable Windows NT in a 7th-generation wrapper and kicking the shit out of every other operating-system company on Earth.

      The moral: You can make a little money off your technical skills, but you can make a lot of money off your business skills.

  • by box4831 (1126771) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:20PM (#35140650)

    he didn't get his bonus last year because of the Kin debacle

    A CEO performed badly and *didn't* get a bonus? What kinda crazy topsy-turvy world do we live in now?

  • by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:21PM (#35140668) Homepage

    It's not like Ballmer doens't have tons of options as he was there from the beginning. Why doesn't he just bail on the cash like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin? It's a wonder this guy is still around, but if he really wanted to do it right he'd lead by example and put some drive back into the company.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      He most likely still believes in the company and wants to make his mark on it. Otherwise you're right, he would've followed his college buddies Gates and Allen and gone off to do something else.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:56PM (#35141146)
      If I was on the board, I would have screamed for Ballmer's dismissal in September 1999, when he drove the MS share price down by 3.8% in a single day by saying "There is such an overvaluation of technology stocks that it is absurd. I would include our stock in that category." Ballmer might be a good business person, but as far as setting the corporate culture, he is an epic fail. The big question is, who should replace him as CEO?
      • by gtall (79522)

        "The big question is, who should replace him as CEO?" Foghorn Leghorn.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        If I was on the board, I would have screamed for Ballmer's dismissal in September 1999, when he drove the MS share price down by 3.8% in a single day by saying "There is such an overvaluation of technology stocks that it is absurd. I would include our stock in that category."

        Except it was, what, October of 1999 when the value of tech stocks crashed because they were grossly overvalued. (OK, maybe it was a little longer than that.)

        There was a time when simply registering a .COM in Silicon Valley would get

    • A CEO not taking a $1 salary isn't a noble gesture demonstrating their commitment to the company and faith in the stock value going up.

      It's a tax dodge to limit their 'personal income'

    • by fermion (181285)
      To be fair, Jobs and many like him do not draw a salary because they have basic and serious equity with the company, i.e. they are founders. To be fair Ballmer should have enough stock with MS than any salary or bonus should be rounding error, but some people want money, even if it is chump change.

      Also to be fair MS has had very few extremely great products. What they had was a closed system of interconnected adequate software products. it was cheaper for many firms to buy these parts or all of this clo

    • by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:35PM (#35141610)
      Ballmer seems more concerned with a "scorched-earth" competition ethos than to actually compete. He seems to sincerely believe in destroying the competition to own the market. The problem is that he doesn't seem to notice that when the dust settles his competition is still standing if not charging him.
      • by Fastball (91927)

        Wish I had mod points. As concise an assessment of Ballmer's M.O. as has ever been written.

  • cartoon gates? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bold_Cucumber (458278) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:21PM (#35140670)

    Not tremendously relevant to the discussion, but what happened to the old borg-gates icon? I don't like the new one.

  • Redmond doesn't have a Walmart....

    • by Smivs (1197859)

      Redmond doesn't have a Walmart....

      ...yet.

    • Redmond doesn't have a Walmart....

      But there is a Costco (the Yup equivalent of Walmart). He can check the membership cards at the front door.

  • Well good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To (1059484) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:23PM (#35140698) Journal
    I don't simply dislike MS on principle, there's a few good reasons. Shifty market practices, bloated and unnecessary software, security issues everywhere, slow to innovate...I could go on. But believe it or not I'd rather like MS. If getting a few engineers a bit higher up in the system improves things in even the tiniest way then good. Cynically, I don't think it will, but here's hoping.
    • Re:Well good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TemporalBeing (803363) <bm_witness@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:47PM (#35141032) Homepage Journal
      For me to like MS again, not only would they have to resolve the issues you mentioned, but also completely and utterly abandon their EEE mentality; embracing standards for actual, real interoperability sake, not to modify them and make markets hostage to their will. MS could do very well as a company even on a level playing field if they really did (i) allow interoperability, (ii) didn't insist on everything being a MS only world, and (iii) actually started trying to compete on merits and good products as opposed to these cannibalistic tactics that they've employed ever since BillyG, Ballmer, and co founded MS.
      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        No, what they need to do is split applications and operating systems into 2 completely separate companies. Much like the AT&T split up, this would increase shareholder value.
    • by ifrag (984323)

      I don't simply dislike MS on principle, there's a few good reasons. Shifty market practices, bloated and unnecessary software, security issues everywhere, slow to innovate...I could go on. But believe it or not I'd rather like MS. If getting a few engineers a bit higher up in the system improves things in even the tiniest way then good. Cynically, I don't think it will, but here's hoping.

      Perhaps speaking in broad generalities, yes -- perhaps not always the best. In the end, it's really all about having developers for the platform, and having good tools to draw in developers. In my not so humble opinion, Visual Studio 2010 (VC++) is the best IDE I've ever used, full stop. Supports several great new features from the emerging C++0x standard (so at least one standard MS cares to follow), has very functional IntelliSense (auto-complete actually works like 99% of the time finally) coupled wit

  • by bjourne (1034822) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:25PM (#35140730) Homepage Journal
    Come on. The icon is retarded and it was several years ago since Gates was with MS.
  • So what's that got to do with managing Microsoft?

  • by coofercat (719737) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:29PM (#35140784) Homepage Journal

    I've seen this happen a few times, and it almost always fails. Either the top guys 'just get it', or they 'just get' that they need to equally represent finance, engineering, sales and administration by getting experts to help them. If he hasn't been getting it thus far, he's not going to now (probably), he'll just hire some people and make sure they're seen to be 'adding value', but won't actually achieve very much.

    These 'top engineers' are going to come up with SuperWhizzo 1.0. They'll pitch it to him, and he'll either:
    1) Accept it because he's got to accept some technical ideas
    2) Reject it because he still just doesn't get it
    What he won't do is evaluate it on it's merits, and then facilitate it's execution because he's actually on-board with it.

    (Contrast this to what you know about how Apple works, for example)

  • Tech company CEO decides to put engineers in positions of responsibility.

    Brilliant, Holmes, brilliant! Why didn't we think of this before!
  • Once Microsoft's BoD realizes where the problem truly resides, then and only then will the problem be fixed.
  • by arikol (728226) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:32PM (#35140824) Journal

    Engineers making decisions?

    Because that worked so well for Nokia....

    Seriously, Nokia was an engineer driven company, which worked fine when all the issues were about new functionality and such, but when it came to fine polishing and figuring out non-engineering based problems they just stumbled around.

    Software engineers suffer from the same basic issue. They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards (inter-face, something which is the area where the user rubs against the technology), when the interface is the personification of the whole system, as well as the public face of the program and the company itself.

    Palm got this for a while, so did RIM, so does Apple (at the moment) and so does that Shuttleworth fellow (Ubuntu). Microsoft has never got this, and giving the engineers more power is not likely to fix the problem. Each specialised class of people is likely to view most problems as being solvable by their particular brand of hammer, and one of Microsoft's problems has been too much engineering/marketing against too little understanding of what the user actually needs to do. Use the engineering hammer to solve this problem and it is likely to get even worse.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)

      You know "engineer" also covers a position known as UI engineer? It might be a stretch to think that Microsoft's execs will actually make a GOOD selection, but it's not absolutely impossible. With experts in all the required fields driving the company, it could just work.

      Also, I'd much rather have engineer-driven companies than suit-driven ones. HP took a nosedive with the departure of Hewlett and Sony's products and policies have degraded with time as the founders left key spots. On the flip side, Google i

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem I see with Ballmer was he's merely a manager; he's not the leader that Gates was. He lacks the strategic vision and MS has been reacting to instead of leading the market the last 10 years. Take for instance the 'Vista Compatible' debacle. Some exec lower than J. Allard made the decision to reverse course and certify the Intel video chipsets as 'Vista Compatible' when they couldn't run Aero. This caused a lot of OEM grief and consumer confusion. Did Ballmer step in and address it before it b

    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:04PM (#35141252) Homepage

      "Software engineers suffer from the same basic issue. They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards (inter-face, something which is the area where the user rubs against the technology), when the interface is the personification of the whole system, as well as the public face of the program and the company itself."

      I think this perspective is heavily colored by the rise of software engineering as a mainstream career, and the youth-dominance of the late 90's early 00's. When I was a 28 year old code cowboy in 1998 NYC, working with other late 20's code cowboys, I would have heartily agreed with you. Now, however, those same cowboys (and I) are significantly more focused on ROI, usability, and discovering the customer's desires. Software engineering is maturing, and so are software engineers.

      Frankly, I have had as hard a time -- if not harder -- getting the sales people to put together a credible revenue projection to justify a new project as with getting engineers engaged in considering value for dollar. The engineers are interested in solving the problem once you show them it is just math and measurement. The sales people want to run with their gut and tend to be optimistic (admittedly; because that is important to successfully engaging a customer) about the probable revenue.

      • by Nyder (754090)

        Code cowboy?

        Seriously?

        Did you get on your horse and round up them code?

        Seriously dude, you were/are a programmer, your job is boring, quit trying to make it should exciting. It's not.

    • Microsoft's problems has been too much engineering/marketing against too little understanding of what the user actually needs to do.

      Maybe they should put an acutal user of ther software in charge? No, wait, they already tried it: http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/archives/141821.asp [seattlepi.com]

    • There's a pervasive mentality in a lot of businesses that it's management versus engineers, or marketers versus engineers, etc.. Each group seems to think that they have a monopoly on intelligence. I've spoken with some managers who truly believe the real brains are the suits, and that the engineering groups are commodities that can be replaced. They believe that effective management is responsible for a great product, but that poor sales is the result of poor engineering. On the other hand, I've known mo

    • by syousef (465911)

      Engineers making decisions?

      Because that worked so well for Nokia.... They tend to be so extremely technology oriented that they get completely lost in all the features that should be included, all the bells and whistles, and seem to regard an interface as something you paste on afterwards

      This stereotype is being modded up on slashdot? Seriously?

      Nokia's failures have everything to do with engineering. It's not just the UI. Symbian is out-dated, and it's not just the interface that's the problem.

      What you need is engineers with a UI focus. They exist. They are not mythical. The marketing guys at Apple and elsewhere couldn't put together a coherent and consistent user interface if their lives depended on it. It's engineers there too, even if the marketing guys have more input than elsewhere.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:32PM (#35140826) Homepage

    >"it appears that Ballmer planning to install engineers in high places to turn the company around."

    Except he won't listen to them. I'm wiling to bet people took risks with their careers to give Ballmer good advice over the years and he ignored them. I find it highly unlikely he's going to start listening now.

    This is either for show or so he's got someone else to blame for the next Zune and Windows mobile.

  • I am going to college and getting an IT Management degree with an emphasis in development. I am getting a minor in Marketing, and will go on for a Master's in Business Administration. I will have been in IT between workstation, server, and network admin as well as web development for 20 years or more when I get my degree. I am trying to get myself in a position to be able to interface well with developers and pitch the cool stuff to upper management to get buy in. I should have the business credentials

  • by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:47PM (#35141022)

    MS needs to toss its whole marketing team. The two best commercials they've ever done:

    1) The rip-off of "I'm a Mac" adds where the guy points at the polar bear (or was it a whale?) and says, "I'm a PC. And I'm trying to save that." There were more "I'm a PC" examples in that commercial and while not original, they got the point across that it's about the effective tools that MS provides and people use.

    2) The Windows 7 Phone "Really?" ad. Clever. 'Nuff said.

    Most of their speeches and marketing use industry, not public, buzzwords. They're on the "Our users love the Windows 7 Phone because it allows them to consume content quickly" kick right now. I'm sorry, I don't consume content. I check email. I watch movie trailers. I read Slashdot. I'm a person, not the Blob. If MS wants to market to people and not businesses, they need to target their ads. Two different groups, two different commercials.

    • by cozzbp (1845636)

      MS needs to toss its whole marketing team.

      If you don't believe this, then you obviously haven't seen the "To The Cloud!" commercials. When the majority of people don't even understand the commercial without having it explained to them, then you have a problem.

  • by mewsenews (251487) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:48PM (#35141042) Homepage
    Putting a few engineers in executive positions is not going to change a corporate culture that thinks stealing search results from Google is "innovation"
  • Initially .net was sort of an answer to Java. It had features that made programming easier. It broke away from activex and that was cool. But then the marketing machine seemed to have guided it from then on. It became a tool to try and get my programming to use more and more MS products. This didn't work for me so I turned to more and more open source. Not out of some philosophy involving openness and free love but simply because the open source products help me solve problems. Then I switched to Mac becaus
  • by alispguru (72689) <bane&gst,com> on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:55PM (#35141124) Journal

    And he is, except for one thing.

    Google has always been about engineering excellence, with market dominance being a welcome side effect. When it works, you get Gmail, when it doesn't work you get Wave.

    Microsoft has always been about market dominance through engineering mediocrity and barriers to entry. This has led to the teetering tower of kludge whose pinnacle is Windows 7.

    Microsoft CAN'T be engineering-driven the way Google is. Google can change its search engine implementation and strategy continuously and overnight. Microsoft can only change Windows in big increments, with lots of concern for backward compatibility.

    • by ScentCone (795499)

      Google can change its search engine implementation and strategy continuously and overnight. Microsoft can only change Windows in big increments, with lots of concern for backward compatibility.

      Well, then it's a good thing for Google that their search engine implementation isn't the selling of an operating system that has to run on a virtually unlimited mix of hardware. You could hardly have picked two more apples/oranges things to compare. In fact, you've pointed out exactly why it's hard to by Microsoft, and exactly why it's never the year of Linux on the desktop. Building an OS that works in a commodity computing world, while also serving complex corporate environments: it's hard. And you have

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @02:57PM (#35141158)

    That's been my experience with 25+ years in a major IT player. What engineers want, is someone that will listen to them. And someone who will grab them under the arms and pull them up and support them when things get ugly, and they get knocked out cold. It's quite simple actually, but it's quite amazing how few managers can do it right. I have seen a few cases exemplary performance. When I was in southern France, doing some firefighting on a project where the shit had hit the fan, and knocked the damn thing over. A couple of the employees there told me that they were coming in on the weekend to work on problems. This was not an order from the management there. Their attitude so impressed me, that I said, "I'll be in with you guys!" The second line manager got wind of the renegade action and showed up in the lab on the weekend. She didn't ask any questions about progress, but just discretely sat at a terminal, and did manager email stuff. And brought pastry snacks for the folks. But you had the feeling that she was there for us, in case we needed anything. One manager did a great job of filtering us from nasty emails about bad management decisions, that would be reversed anyway. Some folks in another department asked us, "Hey, did you see the email about capping our overtime pay?" There was another email a week later, that it was retracted. So our manager had tried to shield us from some unnecessary stress.

    On the other hand, my manager left the company. A manager from another department was appointed as his successor. He did nothing for a month, aside from forwarding management and policy notes that he received to us. He didn't even come by to introduce himself. Well, duh! I started the rumor that he didn't exist, but was actually some kind of ELIZA type forwarding engine. Then he invited is to a meeting.

    One brilliant engineer colleague of mine had excellent people skills, but declined to be put in the manager career path. He told me, "I don't want to explain to employees all day, why they can't have a bigger monitor."

    So, back to the point, Ballmer has a very aggressive ego. I'm not sure if he will be able to take advice from a "mere" engineer. And I'm not sure that good engineers will be able to take his abuse for long.

  • by romanval (556418) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:04PM (#35141254)
    Like it or not, computers are becoming appliances, so everything in the future needs to be designed with a UX in mind... which is why Apple places UX and OS designers in the top position, while all the engineers and salespeople work below them.
  • I was a blue badge there for a while. In six years not once did I see a senior exec walking the cubes / offices, asking for input, concerns or suggestions. That feedback loop is very important if management has the humility to consider input and integrate it.. Success generally comes from hard work, good principles, and luck. I'm sorry but as long as senior management is stifled by corporate arrogance, there can be no effective feedback loop.
  • ...the USA might actually survive a few more decades as a single, unified country.

  • no, MS needs a CEO with at least SOME vision. Ballmer has no vision, no concept of what could be. Only what is and to try and jump on trains as they go by.

    I can get MS moving again. I can see the looming techs MS should already be capitalizing on.

    Yes, I could run MS better then Ballmer, and I'm sure there are others.

    Shoving an engineer into a meeting is fine, but without vision, direction and the ability to redo until done it won't change a damn thing.

  • missing the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday February 08, 2011 @03:20PM (#35141410) Homepage Journal

    It's not about who is nominally in charge of a company. That's always been a secondary matter.

    It's who commands the respect within the company, and who gets listened to when he's got something to say.

    If marketing listens when engineering says "uh, that's actually not a very good idea", then things work out just fine. Oh, btw. - and vice versa.

    Problem with many CEOs, most C*Os and almost all management on the VP/director level is that they think they know everything, that business is a power game and that making your things happen is more important than making good things happen (or being unable to see that these are not identical).

    I've seen my share of these. My general take is that most low management people are heroes, even if they're assholes at the same time. Lots of top-level management is bright and cares, though most will gladly stab you in the back if it gains them anything. But middle and middle-to-high management is where they dump all the idiots, psychopaths and outright dangerous people. If you find a good person there (and they exist, I know a couple!) by all means hold on to them, they're an endangered species.

    So, Balmer, it's not what kind of people you put on what kind of chairs. It's if anyone listens to them, and that takes a lot more than giving them a nicer office.

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