A challenge for Mini-Microsoft

Originally Posted on:Wednesday, 05 Oct 2005 20:33

I’ve been reading the mini-Microsoft blog for a few weeks now.  Although it was brought to my attention through the tremendously negative Business Week article, I’ve really been enjoying the thinking on the mini blog and others comments (Dare and Scoble) and wanted to share a few thoughts – and issue a challenge to mini.

“Indeed, there are areas of excitement within Microsoft.  One is MSN, the internet operation, where the search group is the underdog competing against Google.”  I’m glad that our fun, customer focused, entrepreneurial environment got mentioned.  It’s still amazing to me how far our reputation has changed since two years ago – and so much is still yet to come J

No Birds

2 ½ years ago, I was asked to be the technical leader for a new team that would build from scratch a world-class search engine.  Google already had a huge lead in quality and market share – and many people within Microsoft said “no way” or “Ken, you’re taking a no-win job” or “MSN doesn’t have the technical skills” or even “you’re going to have to use Linux…”  I call these people the “no-birds”.

Now, it’s important to distinguish the no-birds from people who are constructively criticizing.  No-birds are usually very creative and intelligent people, but their efforts are misguided.  All they care about is shooting down ideas.  They take pride in talking loudly, getting listened to, and are content measuring their impact based on any change in a plan – even if it’s just making things so confusing that nothing gets done.  They secretly are happy when things are screwed up.  They are worthless.

Constructive criticizers are people who point out weaknesses so that things can get better.  They feel bad pointing out a problem without proposing a specific solution.  Their ego’s are on the line with the team’s success.  They are vital.

Is mini a “no bird” or a constructive criticizer?  2 ½ years ago, would mini have said it’s great that Microsoft is trying as hard as it possibly can to build the world’s best search engine?  Or griped that there’s too much work to do, screamed about how we missed the boat on search, and pointed out 498 ways Microsoft’s culture will get in the way?  (and believe me – we are constantly changing our culture…)

Given my reading of mini’s blog, I’m giving mini credit for being a constructive force.  He basically comes out and says as much in his writings like: “Let’s slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine!”  He’s quoted as saying: “Microsoft has been wonderful to me, I really want to improve it.  I really want to make a difference.” 

I have strong opinions on many of the points discussed on Mini’s blog and in the comments.   But I’ll save those for another discussion.  Now, on to the challenge…

(For the record, Business Week quotes Mini talking about his wife, so I’m assuming Mini’s a he — everything stands equally well if it’s Ms or Mrs. Mini :-))

A Challenge to Mini

I have no idea who Mini is, but I would like to officially issue a challenge to him to come and do a totally anonymous informational interview with me.   If he passes our hiring bar, I am confident that we can provide him with a way to feel inspired by Microsoft and the work we’re doing.  We have many awesome features he can come and work on – and he’ll be able to ship them as soon as they’re ready since we update our service constantly. 

I, and the rest of the management team, will do our very best to provide cover for any bureaucracy that may stand in his way.  Mini will be free to innovate and ship software as fast as he is able to.  He will be able to challenge himself to see how good he can be.  He will be inspired and have a blast.  I can almost guarantee that success won’t be easy — but I can guarantee the opportunity to challenge himself.  If he does great work, he will get great rewards.

I offer a personal guarantee that I will keep Mini’s identity secret unless he releases me from that promise.  We hire many people into our team each month – so nobody would have to know about this except for Mini and me – even if he gets hired here.

What do you say Mini?  Are you serious about changing the world – or are you just talking?

Ken Moss

General Manager MSN Web Search

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