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Say What? Wading Through the Nonsense In Microsoft's Re-Org Memo 165

Posted by timothy
from the spend-more-time-with-family dept.
curtwoodward writes "Steve Ballmer's attempt to reorganize Microsoft into a more focused company will define his legacy as CEO. So you'd think the wordsmiths in Redmond would take a little time ensuring their message was crystal-clear, right? Not exactly. Ballmer's big, gung-ho memo to Microsofties, posted on the company's website, is chock full of nonsense and corporate executive doublespeak — or, as Ballmer might say, `high-value experiences' that will `involve repartitioning the work' and `drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution.' Huh?" Honest language in corporate communications is a rare quality. I suspect there's a special language-butchering training course that most C-level executives enthusiastically complete.
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Say What? Wading Through the Nonsense In Microsoft's Re-Org Memo

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  • http://www.dack.com/web/bullshit.html [dack.com] Easy, no need to hire copywriters anymore.
    • by siddesu (698447)
      Ostap Bender lives!
    • by cultiv8 (1660093) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:05PM (#44271291) Homepage
      I was in times square yesterday, the news ticker said "Steve Ballmer re-asserts direction of Microsoft". I am beginning to believe you're right.
      • Well what is he gonna say? "Hi, I want Wall street to kiss my behind and love me like they do Apple so I'm gonna burn the company to the ground by being MORE expensive, MORE cellphone like (since iPhone is kicking our behinds) and with more walled gardens and even higher apps! What could possibly go wrong, it works for Apple right?"

        I wonder if in 5 years we'll take of "The Ballmer Effect" where a CEO has such a disconnect from reality that he'll torch the company trying to make it something it isn't. if Ballmer reads this let me make this perfectly clear, okay? Hey Steve...if I wanted a tablet I'D BUY A FRICKING TABLET so stop trying to jam a tablet UI onto my PC, okay buddy? And we sure as hell ain't paying apple money for Windows Steve, that plan is as retarded as Walmart raising prices 5000% and thinking that means they can compete with Macy's, its a different demographic dude and you can't slap a coat of paint on a Pinto and sell it for Porsche money, its just not gonna work, its a giant bloated failwhale on the beach of life.

        • The Real Memo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by deanklear (2529024) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @07:17PM (#44272513)

          Dear business community:

          Please pay no attention to the news that we are sending pretty much everything you type directly to the NSA in exchange for buckets of cash and favors. Especially you, China! Losing our entire strategy for southeast Asia would probably hurt the stock price. Hah! If those idiots knew!

          Also, for those of you who like Windows 8 except for the forced UI change, you're shit out of luck. It's a thing I've said is good, therefore it is good, and the millions of customers desperately fleeing the platform have no effect on how I view that decision. Because I'm a really smart business guy. Look, I'm in a suit and tie!

          All the best,
          Steve Ballmer

          • Don't be silly. The versions localized for Asia already send it straight to the Ministry of State Secy&^:M
            @...;/
            no carrier

    • no need to hire copywriters

      You used that spelling in the correct context[1]. Is you one of them there fancy-ass book-larned college boys?

      [1] i.e. not as in trademarks and patents.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yay, certain companies should definitely use that generator - the first thing Ive got was "maximize sexy interfaces". Sounds much better than the usual human-generated "penis enlargement" phrase i am getting in spam...

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Reminds me of the old Dilbert Mission Statement generator. Loads of fun.

    • Microsoft is buying time. They need to downsize by at least 25,000 employees. And to prevent the key employees from jumping away now, they are eliminating that urge by dangling carrots.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This shit is just like the bullshit out of that : http://cbsg.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/live

    • by timothy (36799) Works for Slashdot

      So they're using open source software in the executive suite -- hurrah! ;)

    • Believe it or not, I have that bookmarked and I throw a phrase from there in meetings every now and then just for kicks. Nobody ever dares say anything. They'd look stupid if they say "I don't understand that" and are afraid to mess up if they make a positive comment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:23PM (#44271025)

    Ballmer will make you want to take back those nasty things you said about Bill Gates in the late '90s.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I suspect there's a special language-butchering training course that most C-level executives enthusiastically complete.

    Yes, the prerequisite is a minimum of two years as an editor for slashdot.

    • by meerling (1487879)
      And here I thought they just used a corptalk plugin for MS Office to automate the process.
      If there's a way to automagically decryt that garbage back into intelligible speech, it could be the new way of confusing the jerks spying on our email. As a side benefit, it'll probably make the government spybots overload a few vital components if they try to read enough of them. :)
  • Ever wonder? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:27PM (#44271047)

    Have you ever watched an interview with Ballmer and after thought to yourself "Did he actually answer any questions?"
    Ballmer: "We pass the TCP/IP stack into a business flow analysis helping our customers make better decisions!" /Ballmer smiles.
    Interviewer: "Wow, you guys are busy. Way over my head."
    Ballmer: "Just look for it this fall on stores. You'll be pleased we fixed the UDP experience problems with VB."

    Where is the actual story?

    • Have you ever watched an interview with Ballmer and after thought to yourself "Did he actually answer any questions?"

      He should have gone into politics.

      (Maybe this is him buffing up his portfolio.)

      • He should have gone into politics.

        Lawks a mercy!

        While he's not exactly the last person I'd want to be within arms length of the big red button, he's certainly not in the top half of the list.

        • by meerling (1487879)
          I can think of a lot of people I'd trust with the 'big red button'. Not one of them is a politician, but still, lots of people.
          • I'm no politician, but I'm not even sure I'd trust myself with it.

            Stephen Hawking? Maybe.

            • by Raenex (947668)

              Stephen Hawking? Maybe.

              Why? Because he couldn't reach it? That's the only reason I'd trust anybody.

  • by Snufu (1049644)

    D'OH!

  • It's doubly normal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aglider (2435074) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:34PM (#44271095) Homepage
    For both Microsoft and C-level execs.
  • It gets worse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:46PM (#44271189) Homepage Journal

    If you can actually parse the bull, it does have some actual meaning underneath it, and what it says isn't necessarily a good thing.

    "We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities. This will enable us to deliver the most capability—and be most efficient in development and operations—with the greatest coherence to all our key customers.”

    This says that smart people won't be able to work on small, high functioning teams like they need to. Instead, itsounds like they're going to break up teams and pool their people. This will have the effect of making everyone equally mediocre, which is not what they need.

    “Some of these changes will involve putting things together and others will involve repartitioning the work, but in all instances we will be more coherent for our users and developers.”

    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." What value does he deliver if everything is the same? This squashes out room for innovation.

    This memo is not only gobbledygook, it's hiding some really bad practices.

    • I agree with you and with Curt Woodward's final summation, "It makes sense, if you can stay awake." There is some meaning behind the catch phrases. I also agree with you that it about putting the overall company goals above the idiosyncratic.

      I disagree that this is necessarily bad or means removing small high functioning teams. The ability for a developer to create an application that functions is different environments, such as desk top, cloud and tablet is significant. What is means for Microsoft is under

      • by cusco (717999) <brian...bixby@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 13, 2013 @06:00PM (#44272121)
        From my own observation of MS there are no "small high functioning teams" there for very long. Any truly effective small team gets snapped up by an ambitious manager higher up the corporate pecking order, it gets re-directed (generally on a task unrelated to whatever their previous focus was), and then the team is either bloated by unnecessary personnel being added or it fragments.
        • There is a thought that MS is re-orging itself to be a copy of Apple's structure. [cnn.com] But from the reporter's opinion it won't work because it requires a feared and obsessive dictator at the top which Ballmer isn't and it is unlikely that Apple will continue with it's current structure.
    • Re:It gets worse (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Saturday July 13, 2013 @05:21PM (#44271981) Homepage

      "We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities. This will enable us to deliver the most capabilityâ"and be most efficient in development and operationsâ"with the greatest coherence to all our key customers.â

      This says that smart people won't be able to work on small, high functioning teams like they need to. Instead, itsounds like they're going to break up teams and pool their people.

      I think your translation is a bit off. What he is saying is that they are going to try and stop all the duplication of effort that has taken place in the past. MS has several different and independently developed UI toolkits, the advertising platforms for Bing and XBox 360 are separate. Even Windows CE and Windows Phone were not close enough to benefit from each other's development, so for example the version of .NET for CE is even more crippled and doesn't get updates that the Windows Phone version does.

      It's apparently taken 20 years to realize this. In some ways its more risky because it means picking a technology and running with it rather than having several and letting the most successful win. He is right though, it's better for customers. We got screwed by .NET for CE being abandoned, for example.

      • I think your translation is a bit off. What he is saying is that ...

        That there is so much room for debate says much about the clarity of the writing. In practice it means whatever somebody wants it to mean, which means that it means nothing.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        windows phone runs windows ce underneath so it definitely did benefit, that they have shitty politics about what to release on what has nothing to do with it.. also windows phone benefited from zune(which pretty much is the entire problem with the fucking platform).

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          They didn't back-port a lot of the updates from WP7 to CE7. For example we found that .NET on CE7 doesn't support a long and apparently random list of languages, including Portuguese and some eastern European ones. We put in a support request with MS and they said that there was no business case for them to port the fix back from WP7 to CE7, which basically seems to have been abandoned.

    • Doesn't "We will strive for a single experience for everything in a personâ(TM)s life that matters. One experience, one company, one set of learnings, one set of apps, and one personal library of entertainment, photos and information everywhere. One store for everything. Microsoft has the clear opportunity to offer consumers a unified experience across all aspects of their life, whether the screen is a small wearable, a phone, a tablet, an 85-inch display or other screens and devices we have not yet ev
    • we will be more coherent

      They're going to work on lasers!

    • If you can actually parse the bull, it does have some actual meaning underneath it, and what it says isn't necessarily a good thing.

      "We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities. This will enable us to deliver the most capability—and be most efficient in development and operations—with the greatest coherence to all our key customers.”

      This says that smart people won't be able to work on small, high functioning teams like they need to. Instead, itsounds like they're going to break up teams and pool their people. This will have the effect of making everyone equally mediocre, which is not what they need.

      “Some of these changes will involve putting things together and others will involve repartitioning the work, but in all instances we will be more coherent for our users and developers.”

      "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." What value does he deliver if everything is the same? This squashes out room for innovation.

      This memo is not only gobbledygook, it's hiding some really bad practices.

      It is actually a bit worse than that: until now, most of MS change since windows XP has bees either a continuous effort to wring money out of old things (xp/vista/win7/win8, and the various Office versions), or some hideously expensive "hard copy" of established markets (Xbox), or lastly, buying markets outright (Skype).

      The quality of strategy no1 has been chancy at best: yes, customers still pay the MS tax, but let's have a spurt of piety and say that corporations simply no longer look forward to the

  • Executives and managers like to use double-speak in order to obfusticate messages. A good example is a company being more global-oriented. That mean "no local" and ultimately your job will be outsourced.
  • So good (Score:4, Funny)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @02:53PM (#44271229) Journal
  • I deal with that doublespeak so much that ready Curt's summary made me spray coffee. Damn that hurt, but I will be smiling the rest of the day.

    I have gotten more than a few dirty looks for playing buzzword bingo.
  • by boorack (1345877) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:01PM (#44271269)
    Every person who lived in soviet block remembers similiar slogans. It was everywhere: in communist factories, on the streets, everywhere. For me current form of corporate capitalism is very similiar to old communist system. These are two sides of the same coin: centralization. Corporate central planning masquerading itself as "free market" (which it isn't) with almost the same side effects, parasites (party comrades in old system, corporate CEOs in new system) and inefficiencies. This will fall sooner or later in the same way old soviet system has fallen.
    • If anyone thought that capitalism leads to free market, they have ample evidence now that this is not the case.

      Free markets are the result of lightweight regulation - if you eliminate all regulation altogether, the natural result of capitalism is concentration of power (because capitalism is, by definition, concentration of wealth in a few hands).

  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:05PM (#44271289)

    Microsoft can't seem to do anything right on the consumer front, and while pushing customers into the cloud may get them a nice reliable monthly subscription from a lot of shops, it's also a dangerous gambit, as it increases the odds that shops will abandon the Windows desktop OS or eventually move their services to another provider.

    It's a very dangerous time for Microsoft right now. They'll still be selling a whole fark ton of software/services, but if they don't grow at the rate that Wall Street expects them too, their stock will start taking a beating and then the spiral starts.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:15PM (#44271327)

    Scott McNealy was well known for this.... at Sun, "put all our wood behind 1 arrow" was one of his favorite phrases.

    Microsoft's market cap is 299B; Oracle's is 144B, so at least they aren't destined to be purchased by Oracle yet...

  • by A10Mechanic (1056868) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:17PM (#44271335)
    Shaka. When the walls fell.
  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @03:27PM (#44271397)

    We will be replacing all of the employees with small shell scripts. The ones we can't, we will be outsourcing your
    jobs to Elbonia, until there are no employees remaining that are not upper management.

    Then we will declare bankruptcy, pocket all the profits until we re-emerge as a shell company sellining
    rights to our name.

    Oh and XboxOne.

  • Hurr Durr Herp Derp

  • some executives were getting noticed too much, so I decided to fire a couple and shake up the rest so that there is no-one to challenge my position as CEO.
  • Holy Crap! It's wholly crap. My eyes glazed over from the first paragraph. It was literally painful to do anything other than skim the first sentence of a paragraph.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @04:00PM (#44271597)

    Ballmer's big, gung-ho memo to Microsofties, posted on the company's website, is chock full of nonsense and corporate executive doublespeak — or, as Ballmer might say, `high-value experiences' that will `involve repartitioning the work' and `drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution.' Huh?"

    Relax. I'm sure Ballmer didn't write anything. Rather it's the work of market-droids trying to justify their MBAs with buzz words - anything to keep the chairs on the floor and not in the air. I will comment on one quote, however:

    “We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities..."

    So when will this start? :-)

  • I'm not sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Torodung (31985) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @04:09PM (#44271635) Journal

    I'm not sure Balmer realizes he is no longer in B-school. He seems to like to surround himself with like-minded B-school buddies, and runs Microsoft like it's the fraternity Mu Sigma Alpha. This kind of bizarro, "in"-group lingo doesn't actually fly when you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in what appears to be a consolidation/contraction phase and a profit-taking decline. This buddy mentality is the last thing "MS House" needs.

    Plainspoken English matters in business when there is a crisis at hand. This kind of platitude laden memo belongs in a company that is not hungry and is cruising along with a high-quality, high-growth business strategy. Then you can talk biz-orgs theory all you like, however you may please.

    My 2 cents. That penny is depreciated to the inflation standard of the year 2500, I would guess, but I find this kind of gamesmanship worrying.

    I want MS to adapt and succeed. It has every reason to. It doesn't seem to be doing so. It seems to be resting on its laurels, and has been for a decade.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      To be fair, he graduated from Harvard and is the CEO of the largest software corporation in the world, while you are some guy who posts anti-government rants onto technology discussion boards. He is much more qualified to talk about what's acceptable when you're the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, just as you are much more qualified to discuss being an internet weirdo.

      • by Osgeld (1900440)

        he didnt exactly earn that position though, just some clown buddy buddy with the owner, and has no experience outside of MS his entire life

      • by Torodung (31985)

        Hey, glad to see you're working on your rage issues, if not your tact. You have no idea who I AM.

  • What I gathered from the memo is two-fold:

    1, Drive as much business as they can to the subscription model
    2. All products will be tightly integrated and dependent on proprietary interactions

    The first gives them the constant revenue stream. The second one destroys modular computing in that if you upgrade one area running Microsoft software, you are almost forced to upgrade all areas. That cost (we used to call it the forklift upgrade in mainframe days) will drive more businesses towards the subscription mod

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @04:41PM (#44271765)

    "We have powered devices for many years through Windows PCs and Xbox."

    What the heck is that actually supposed to mean?

    • Perhaps "entering, then later leaving" [wiktionary.org] -- as in: "We have powered devices for many years [starting with in the days of the Altair and the TRS-80] through Windows PCs and Xbox [which are now equally obsolete]" ...?
    • by Nyder (754090)

      "We have powered devices for many years through Windows PCs and Xbox."

      What the heck is that actually supposed to mean?

      I think it means they have powered Xbox Controllers and mice and keyboards, usb harddrives/sticks/flash chips and the kinetic.

      Basically, if you can plug it into the Xbox or Windows PC and it powers up, MS has been there for ya. I guess they are an electric company now.

  • Poetry... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 13, 2013 @04:47PM (#44271801)

    What people fail to realize is that these memos are poetry; they're meant to be poetry and are to be poetry and nothing factual at all.
    Their meaning is designed to be interpreted by the mood of how the reader feels about their position in the company. This is a taught
    skill. Anyone expecting to gleam facts is seriously barking up the wrong tree.

    I though everybody knew this?

  • by Dan East (318230) on Saturday July 13, 2013 @06:16PM (#44272185) Homepage Journal

    MS is trying to follow in the mistakes made by Sony. I wouldn't buy Sony DVD players for many years. Why not? Because they wouldn't play VCD or DivX. And why wouldn't they? Because the division of Sony that produces films made sure that wouldn't happen, as VCD and DivX were often used for piracy. Thus the hardware was crippled as a result of the overarching strategy of the company as a whole. They compromised in one area with the theory that somehow the other part of the company would profit more (which is of course incorrect in this case).

    The more a diverse company attempts to function as a single entity, the less flexibility the divisions have to compete on a level playing field with companies that aren't so encumbered. It's clear that Sony is finally waking up a little, as they have been quick to point out how the new PS3 allows offline gaming and resaleability of used titles. It's very, very rare for Sony to come across as an advocate for consumers' rights, so that was quite a big change for them.

    So in other words, I think this philosophy is going to hurt MS in the long run.

  • Sounds like they are planning to create more hardware of their own and focus on supporting that hardware.

    So are they planning to sell the Xbox One as a combo PC/Console?

  • (the extended course in language butchery)

  • by Meski (774546)
    Another long-winded motherhood statement full of corporate buzzwords.

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