Saturday, April 15, 2006

Berkun blog » Vista and Victimization and More

I've been catching up on some of my favorite reading after being away and then swamped at work -- today it's Scott Berkun.

In The Vista saga: an opinion, Scott gives his take on the delays of Vista at MS and what's being handled well or poorly, from his viewpoint as a former Windows PM. A couple points: "A slip is infinitely better than a panned product." and "Microsoft’s PR and public management of the Vista project has been reactive and weak." Here's a sample:

Centralized authority and MSFT culture. The most comical misperception about Microsoft is the management style - everyone think’s it’s a rigid hierarchy, when it’s mostly a consensus driven place. Everyone gets an opinion and senior managers are often more skilled at consensus management than leading teams. If there’s any one thing I’d point to for large failing projects is lack of successful central authority - With a project in trouble I’d move to centralize power in a smaller number of people and free them to run with the ball. The rub is that the culture doesn’t support this well - people still want a consensus mentality (something born of small team and start-up culture), they want to own their slice, even when it’s contributing to driving projects into the ground (or at least mediocrity). It’s in the fiber of the company and it’s hard to change.

Sinofsky is an inspired move. The MSFT culture, historically, is heavily polarized between Windows and Office. In my day Windows were the smart-ass cowboys who liked risks and breaking rules - not surprisingly Windows had a history of confused early projects that came together only on the home stretch. Office (again, in my day) were stereotypically smart, reliable, consistent A students, who won through plans more than passion. Sinofsky (formerly the Senior VP of Office, now VP of Windows) is the first major attempt I know of to bridge those philosophical and management differences: there’s something to be learned in both directions.

In another recent post, Berkun discusses a fascinating and cynical piece on Victimization Metrics for taking on projects.

Basically the idea is this (a now corrected paraphrase of his post):
A = Number of problems you see
B = Number of Problems you don’t have the power to solve
B / A = Victimization ratio.

So if you work in an environment where you can point out 10 problems, but are only capable/empowered to solve 4 of them (so 6 you are powerless on), your victimization ratio is 6 / 10 = 60%.

Not being cynical by nature, Scott adds a couple factors, and inverts the ratio to call it the "empowerment ratio" instead. Nice reading and timely given my current project load. :-)

Finally, his next book is on innovation; he has asked for and gotten a number of recommendations that make interesting reading. (In another post, he summarizes the Amazon sales figures of his project management book over a year as correlated with essay posting and other publicity events --slashdot had the largest influence on Amazon sales figures. Nice.)

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