Joe Wilcox on Microsoft’s Glut of Middle Managers

Insightful reporting based on interviews with current and former Microsoft employees:

“When I started at MSFT in 1996, there were six people between me and [Microsoft cofounder] Bill Gates,” Boris said. “In 2009, there were 13 people between me and [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer.” Fred said, “the number of managers between me and the CEO went from six to 10,” during the last decade. Another long-time Microsoftie, whom I’ll call Barry, saw his reports go from six to 12.

Fascinating stuff, too, about the bizarre incentive structure for Microsoft employees. I think this gets to the nut of exactly what’s wrong with Microsoft. They’ve evolved a powerful, deep bureaucracy that has lost any sort of focus on creating great products. Worse, for obvious reasons Microsoft’s management is unlikely to see itself as the problem. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Wednesday, 10 February 2010