Microstiff - Microsoft Outings of the Third Kind

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Microstiff – My First Day as Microsoft’s Policy Wonk & Innovation Guru

Bill and I had finalized things just the week before. I was to become the new Policy Wonk and Innovation Guru at his beloved creation...Microsoft. In the fourth and final meeting and my first day at work, we were convening with the board, in the boardroom. Conversations were cordial and the talk was small as we awaited Bill’s entrance. I had been introduced to these esteemed board members barely minutes before Bill entered the room, tablet PC in hand, Zune tucked haphazardly in his shirt pocket protector.

As everyone sat back down, Bill wasted no time beginning. “Who the fuck forgot the water? I distinctly asked for bottled water!” We all looked at each other knowing it wasn’t any of us but, fearing, for a brief moment, that it surely was one of us. With a flick of his right forefinger, Bill began stroking the screen of his laptop. Within seconds, the clunk of…presumably…a Perrier hitting the plastic exit hole of a beverage dispenser stationed just outside the boardroom door…could be heard. In popped a secretarial type, wireless headphones in place, blinking and whining PDA in hand and, of course, the Perrier in the other. Bill snatched it from her hands and then he began…again.

“As you all know from my emails, Mike Microstiff here has hit what could be called the Bloggers mother load; he got me to read the one single Blog that changed my life and will soon change the lives of Microsofties and worldwide customers alike. I am here to say that Mike put together the exact words that others have tried to create for years and years, to no avail. He found my hot button in a few short sentences. I applaud him for that and you should too.”

A vigorous round of applause filled the air as I bowed my head in humility, a half smile on my face. The lights suddenly went off. Bill said, “Clap again to get them back on” and, sure enough, both the board members and then, the lights, obeyed. “Ah, another partner, another project, another feature”, I thought to myself.

It was during our 3rd meeting that Bill had finally grasped and let go of, you might say, the one principle which was to be religiously adhered to for this company to be saved from its slow bankrupt spiritual spiral into oblivion: Full Autonomy for Mike Microstiff for 18 months. No if’s, no and’s, no but’s. I report to no one; no one reports to me. All changes summarized and reviewed quarterly, in person, with the board to simply “check in” to see what’s happening. Guiding this single principle would be a simple, two page 18 month plan, sitting before each board member and Bill. There to review but not critique. Full autonomy. Carte Blanche.

On the notion that less damage could be done by a well intentioned hero in 18 months than all of the forces creating the problem have done in almost three decades…we had shaken hands and gone ahead. Brad had popped in the room, pin striped and silk tied with a 36 page contract. Bill had waived him off saying, “not this time, Brad. Not this time.” We both nodded and Brad looked down at his black tasseled loafers, shuffled a few times and then pulled out 3 pages from the tome and still Bill nodded “no”. Six more pages, then 10 and finally down to 5 pages and a final nod “no” and Brad left.

Back in the boardroom, we began to review the twelve steps on the two page, 18 month plan…

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