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Microsoft Kills Stack Ranking 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the voted-off-the-managerial-island dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft once demanded that its managers place their subordinates on a scale from 'top' to 'poor,' a practice that fueled some epic backstabbing within divisions. Last year, a Microsoft contractor with knowledge of the company's internal review processes told Slashdot that Microsoft was actively working to fix that system; just this week, the company announced that stack ranking was well and truly dead (and that's certainly one way to fix it). 'Lisa Brummel, head of human resources for the company, sent an e-mail to employees notifying them of the change today, according to my contacts,' ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley wrote. According to the memo, there are 'no more ratings,' 'no more curves,' and 'Managers and leaders will have flexibility to allocate rewards in the manner that best reflects the performance of their teams and individuals, as long as they stay within their compensation budget.' They're trying to encourage more teamwork and collaboration throughout the company. As we discussed on Saturday, Yahoo is adopting this method just as Microsoft is abandoning it."
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Microsoft Kills Stack Ranking

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:08PM (#45405311)

    You are a shitty manager if you need to resort to "stack ranking" or whatever.

    1. Your recruitment policies suck - that's a given for all of IT/Development/Software - industry - if you can't find qualified people, it's YOUR fault. If you do find "qualified" people and you still fail - look in the mirror.

    2. If they get hired and fail, then WTF is the problem? Unrealistic deadlines? Changing scope? Death marches?

    3. Every problem is management's fault. Period. End of story.

    Don't get me started on the idiocy of Silicon Valley: Kids, don't work there. They are milking the reputation of true innovators like the Dave Packard (Business guy) and Bill Hewlett.(engineer) - today, they are a bunch of marketing phony assholes and cunts - looking at your camel toe Ms Mayer .

    Silicone valley is for posers. Pass the word.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:12PM (#45405347)

    My ex-employer KPN (Netherlands) also does (did?) this; each manager was telling it just had to be in any group of at least 8 employees, and would then show a Gauss curve to prove it ... I'm happy I'm not there anymore.

  • Re:Hmmm interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gtall (79522) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:20PM (#45405451)

    I think in the beginning, there were plenty of employees that got rich off stock options. However, to my eye, management and stockholders got greedy. Management also considered themselves techno-stars when in reality, technology had passed them by and they never got the memo. Considering themselves techno-stars, many lessor employees must be techno-weenies and hence stack ranking was born.

    The only poetic justice was that Ballmer was stack-ranked as a non-performing asset and deemed expendable. They should have sacked Gates, he's the one who gave MS their sclerotic management culture, but he bailed before them chickens came home to roost.

  • It's horrible (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nightsky30 (3348843) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:29PM (#45405583)
    Lockheed Martin also employed stacked rankings. The local manager had no clue who people were. How can you even rank your employees when you have no idea who they are?!?!? I was called by another coworker's name multiple times. I finally called my manager out on it in front of everyone at a picnic. He didn't confuse me with the other individual after that... There was so much turnover we basically lost a contract due it and having to retrain new people ALL THE TIME. I don't blame those of us who left. Many people busted their asses and did an excellent job, only to be rated average or below because the manager had a certain number of slots to allocate certain rankings. AND THAT'S IF HE KNEW WHO THE FSCK YOU WERE!!!!!!
  • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:29PM (#45405585) Journal

    It surely needs to. I've said for quite some time that MS is doomed without some radical changes. Well, new CEO, major re-org, end of the reviled stack ranking, sure seems like they're trying! At this point it's clear that MS is re-inventing a different version of itself.

  • Lots do it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:32PM (#45405611)

    I worked at a large corporation whose name started with an A and ends with an E.
    They too had a ranking system, the lowest got sent to a certain team in our general group where they were needled to death over their stats and either quit or accumulated enough "black marks" to get canned.
    When the team rotation came around, the lower ranking people got suicidal, dread is the word of the day, when your name appeared on that "special team" list it was like getting sent to a death camp.

    That person is now tainted and must be shunned.

    I saw good techs go down for not having enough "personality" (flashbacks of *37 pieces of flair* from Office Space) and it was a dismal atmosphere.

    I left that sh*t hole, never got my turn on the death team.
    Frankly every large corporation I have worked for is the same in that they have all the makings of a cult... I mean if they wanted to go that way.

  • by lgw (121541) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:51PM (#45405881) Journal

    Always a good plan. But for MS I think this will be "MS 3.0" - Balmer's MS was very different from Gates'. TBD's MS looks like it will be quite different as well, one way or the other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:20PM (#45406209)

    The math department of the University of Waterloo had a dean who literally wrote the textbook for statistics. And he made it department policy to not allow bell curves in any grading in any math course. A bell curve is one model of behavior, and it can occur naturally. But when it does not occur, making data fit a bell curve is throwing away the actual data and replacing it with information that meets your expectations. If a class or team has a bifurcated distribution, or a strange skew from expected values, you want that information rolled up. And that's why the bell curve is useless for rating people.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:20PM (#45406213)

    That's not the problem. I mean, it's a problem. But the real problem is trying to apply numerical methods to personal subjective assessment.

    That's not a problem when done correctly and appropriately bold-faced. Interview one person and then ask a classroom of 30 to rank that interviewee on traits like extroversion, honesty, confidence, etc., and you'll get a pretty damn accurate assessment. It's called the 'wisdom of the crowds' -- average it all together and bang; Resaonably accurate assessment.

    There's a related example; Chicken sexing. Keep your mind out of the gutter, this is serious -- as you know, we need eggs. Lots of eggs. So we need a lot of hens. But there's a problem; Male and female chickens look almost identical. We cannot use machines to separate them, so it must be done by humans. But how then, if they're almost identical, do we tell the difference? As it turns out -- we take someone else who's a chicken sorter, stand behind the new guy, and say yes or no repeatedly until the answers are mostly yes. Although we cannot really tell any difference visually, somehow, we can get about a 96% accuracy rate out of humans by simply training them with yes/no answers. It defies all reason, but that's how they do it. And the thing is... the accuracy rate doesn't decrease as they in turn train the next new guy, etc. It remains constant across the population.

    You can't get any more subjective than chicken sex sorting -- really, I could put two of them in your hands and short of dissecting them, you wouldn't be able to find any difference. And yet... you can be trained to become highly accurate at separating these two nearly homogenous groups.

    I guess my point is, your argument is bunk. You can make personal subjective assessment accurate and valid; But you need to either do it with a group of people doing the assessment (many to one), or you need to be trained on how to identify key traits. You're absolutely right in that without formal and explicit training, human beings are about as accurate as a randomly wired neural network. But with training, it's a whole 'nother story.

    You can be trained to be very accurate in those "subjective" assessments. It just happens to be the case that the overwhelming majority of people aren't.

  • ... I used to regularly score 'above average', or in MSFT stack rankings, a 3.5 or 4.0 (the latter was hard to achieve if you weren't the golden-boy - required to balance the team score). This meant I would get a performance based bonus, which was great.

    I made the mistake of pushing for a promotion. I felt that because I was consistently out-performing my role, that I should be promoted. Eventually they promoted me and a few other guys. We got a 'Senior' title. Now comes the problem.

    The promotion only came with a 2% pay rise. The following annual performance review, it was now deemed that I was not exceeding my role (due to the new title), so I only scored a 3.0. This score means 'you met all your objectives'. Unfortunately, at the time, the policy was bonuses were only awarded to those exceeding their job description. I got no bonus. That year, or the following year. It probably left me on average $5k/year out of pocket.

    Moral to the story? Don't be an employee :-)

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir