I've been reading the Mini-Microsoft blog for a couple of months now and recently considered unsubscribing. The main reason I haven't is that the recent story in Business Week about the blog has attracted a lot of readers which makes the comment threads interesting in a Slashdot kinda way. Since I couldn't locate an email address for the blog's author on the front page of the blog, I'll just post my comments here on why the blog jumped the shark for me.
Complaints about Symptoms instead of the Root Problems: A lot of the things complained about by the author of the Mini-Microsoft blog are symptoms of a single problem. About six years ago, Motley Fool ran an article entitled The 12 Simple Secrets of Microsoft Management which listed a number of characteristics of the company which made it successfull. The fourth item on the list is Require Failure and it states
In contrast, at Microsoft, failure is expected, and even required because risking failure is the only way to push the envelope. As a result, Microsofties relentlessly pursue success without fear of failure. And if they fail, they understand that the key is to fail quickly and not waste time.
One of the unfortunate things about a culture that turns a blind eye to failure is that this eventually there is no difference between requiring failure and a lack of accountability. A lot of the things Mini complains about point to an environment where a lack of accountability runs rampant. I'd rather see him ring the bell about these issues [which he does every once in a while] as opposed to meaningless distractions like complaining about vague ship dates or asking for mass firings because the company is "too large".
Microsoft is Lots of Little Companies: One thing that isn't clear from Mini's posts is that a number of the complaints he raises are organization specific. The culture in the Office group is different from that at MSN, the issues facing the people working in the Windows group are different from those facing the folks working on XBox. Mini's blog not only isn't representative but it doesn't seem like he pays much detail to what is happening outside of his group. For example, it is quite telling that he didn't know that the ship date for Visual Studio 2005 was announced a while ago. Given how many people within the company work on and are impacted by the shipping of Whidbey & Yukon, it seems clear that Mini doesn't pay much attention to what is going on outside of his group.
Stack Ranking: This point is a probably a repeat of my first one. First of all when it comes to performance reviews, I tend to agree with Joel Spolsky that Incentive Pay Considered Harmful. Joel wrote
And herein lies the rub. Most people think that they do pretty good work (even if they don't). It's just a little trick our minds play on us to keep life bearable. So if everybody thinks they do good work, and the reviews are merely correct (which is not very easy to achieve), then most people will be disappointed by their reviews. The cost of this in morale is hard to understate. On teams where performance reviews are done honestly, they tend to result in a week or so of depressed morale, moping, and some resignations. They tend to drive wedges between team members, often because the poorly-rated are jealous of the highly-rated, in a process that DeMarco and Lister call teamicide: the inadvertent destruction of jelled teams.
In general, systems where you try to competitively rank people and reward them based on their rankings suck. A lot. When you combine this with the current rewards associated with positive rankings at Microsoft, then you have a system that doubly sucks. I think Mini gets this but he keeps talking about alternative performance review systems even though there is lots of evidence that incentive pay systems simply do not work.
Those are the top three reasons that I find myself losing interest in keeping up with the Mini-Microsoft blog. However I'll probably keep reading because the comments now have me gawking at them regularly, sometimes even more than I do at Slashdot.