Recently I found out that we no longer had office supplies on the floor of the building I work in. Now if you need to grab a pen or get a marker after your last one runs out in the middle of a meeting you need to go upstairs. Folks have given me the impression that this is due to the recent cost cutting drive across the company. At first, I couldn't figure out why disrupting people by making them go to another floor for office supplies would cut costs.
Then it hit me. When faced with having to go to another floor to find office supplies the average geek desk jockey will probably say "forget it" and do without. The immediate saving is less office supplies used. But I suspect this is only phase one of the plan. Most people at MSFT believe that on average 50% - 75% of projects and features an employee works on in his career in the b0rg cube never ship. This is all just wasted cash. The best way to nip this is in the bud by preventing people from being able to write down their ideas or whiteboard different ideas with coworkers thus spreading the meme about new projects or features. The amount of money saved by not investing in new money losing ventures like *** and **** would be immense. It all makes a weird kind of sense now.
Seriously though. I've been reading blog posts like Dangerous Transitions and Dangerous Thoughts which call for Microsoft to start performing targetted layoffs instead of cost cutting with skepticism. When I think of the ways Microsoft spends immense amounts of cash for little return I don't worry about John Doe the tester who files on average less bugs than the other members of his team or Jane Doe the developer who writes buggier code than the rest of her team. I think about things like MSN, XBox, the uncertainty around MBF after purchasing Great Plains for billions, embarking on overambitious attempts to rewrite most of the APIs in Windows in an effort that spans 3 product units, spending years working on ObjectSpaces then canning it because there was potential overlap with WinFS and various other white elephant projects.
All of the above cost from millions to billions of dollars and they are the result of decisions by folks in middle and upper management. I'm glad that Microsoft has decided not to punish rank and file employees for what are basically missteps by upper management in contravention to the typical way corporate America does business.
Ideally, we'd see our upper management address how they plan to avoid missteps like this in future instead of looking for minor bumps in the stock price and our paychecks by sacrificing some low level employees and coworkers.