Analyzing one of American corporate history’s greatest mysteries—the lost decade of Microsoft—two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.’s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at the company that “could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success.” Relying on dozens of interviews and internal corporate records—including e-mails between executives at the company’s highest ranks—Eichenwald offers an unprecedented view of life inside Microsoft during the reign of its current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, in the August issue. Today, a single Apple product—the iPhone—generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.
Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
When Eichenwald asks Brian Cody, a former Microsoft engineer, whether a review of him was ever based on the quality of his work, Cody says, “It was always much less about how I could become a better engineer and much more about my need to improve my visibility among other managers.” Ed McCahill, who worked at Microsoft as a marketing manager for 16 years, says, “You look at the Windows Phone and you can’t help but wonder, How did Microsoft squander the lead they had with the Windows CE devices? They had a great lead, they were years ahead. And they completely blew it. And they completely blew it because of the bureaucracy.”
Starting next year, this vaunted Microsoft employee evaluation system comes to New York State public education under the guise of APPR.
Every year, two out of every ten teachers will be rated "highly effective," three will be rated "effective," three will be rated "developing" and two will be rated "ineffective."
Those "I-rated" two years in a row will be fired.
Sounds an awful lot like the employee evaluation system at Microsoft that has stifled creativity, caused employees to compete against each other, and just over all been a miserable failure.
How did this happen?
How did New York State (and many other states in the nation) come to pass a teacher evaluation system based upon a fatally flawed employee evaluation system at Microsoft.
Well, malanthropist Bill Gates thinks he knows best on everything, so whatever Microsoft uses to evaluate its own employees must be great to use to evaluate everybody else as well.
And Gates throws billions every year into his malanthropic work on education through his Gates Foundation, so he has managed to enshrine this system in state after state by heavily influencing the Obama administration's Race to the Top program.
And now, the employee evaluation system that has seriously harmed Microsoft as a company comes to New York's public schools.
It will not work out any better there than it has at Microsoft.
At what point do people start saying "If Bill Gates thinks this is a good idea, we'd better look twice at it because it probably isn't!"?
H/T: Teacher Out, commenter on Diane Ravitch's blogpost, "I Am Puzzled By The Gates Foundation."