Following Friday’s news of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s imminent
retirement, postmortems of his lackluster 13-year reign have
pointed to stack ranking — which, to be entirely fair, predated
him — as both a cause and a symptom of the corporation’s decline.
As a software developer and later development lead at Microsoft
between 1998–2003, I had to evaluate others and be evaluated
myself under this system. And I can say that yes, stack ranking is
as toxic for innovation and integrity and morale as media reports
made it out to be, and then some.
In a good culture, A players want to be surrounded by other A players. In stack ranking, A players want to be surrounded by B players.