Thursday, August 02, 2012
I have heard that anti-trust law is
at least partially responsible for the decline of innovation coming out of
Microsoft, and I agree that it is.
But might another form of injustice have also contributed? Vanity Fair's Kurt Eichenwald makes a compelling case:
At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called "stack ranking." Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed--every one--cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system--also referred to as "the performance model," "the bell curve," or just "the employee review"--has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.Predictably, morale suffered and interpersonal dynamics became badly skewed, as Eichenwald shows in detail.
"If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review," said a former software developer. "It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies."
It is never fun to read about failure, but it is often instructive, and it can be interesting. Eichenwald's story is worth reading on both counts.