Public debate of the Microsoft review system (stacking ranking), news and opinions on recruiting and the perceived shortage of software engineers made me think about the (people) ingredient for a successful project.
Like it is decried, the Microsoft review system is heavily skewed toward rewarding the hero and thought leader types of personality. The team player -except maybe for the lowest stock levels- will quickly end up at the bottom of the stack ranking, and will be very unlikely promoted. This because calibration is not only done across peers but also based on career stage profiles for each stock level describing precisely heroism and thought leadership required to be considered successful and to have a shot at promotion. Ironically the yearly Microsoft pool will ask a number of questions related to team work, which will scope poorly, then bottom and middle managers will be charged to improve these statistics. An impossible tasks as the source of the problem (the reward system giving next to no credit to teamwork) is way out of their reach to change.
The skew against team players continues in recruiting. As the economy is still somewhat uncertain, upper management restrict the recruiting headcount, such that every position fill is a high stake and middle managers are pressured into making each higher count, into hiring senior or above stock levels which must immediately stack rank competitively. i.e. no room for risk taking, no room for innovation, they are forced into recruiting the alpha personalities which have a shoot at being the hero of the day, justifying the precious headcount they used.
In my opinion, Microsoft would need to fix both its performance review system and its unspoken, unwritten recruitment policies. The recruitment policies would be the easiest to fix. Yes, widening the pool of candidates by looking oversea is nice, but more importantly we need to take a chance on our recruits. The career stage profiles need to acknowledge the three different contributors we need to succeed. We need the thought leaders to come up with the right vision, we need the team players to execute on that vision, we need the heroes to come to the rescue as problem inevitably arise. It’s not one or the other. It is all of the above. Maybe we need Barack Obama to take Steve B.’s job. Hey, he doesn’t have anything slated for 2016, does he?