Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Microsoft Does Away With Stack Ranking

Last year, Vanity Fair ran an article titled “Microsoft’s Lost Decade” by Kurt Eichenwald:

At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” 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. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Mary Jo Foley, for ZDNet:

Stack ranking — considered by a number of current and former Microsoft employees as a major detriment, both career- and morale-wise — is no more at the company.

Microsoft is announcing to its full-time employees on November 12 that there will be no more curve and no more reviewing “on the curve” at the company. 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.

I can’t think of better news for the internal culture of the company. I certainly hope this change finds its way into better products and services which are less reliant on the internal office politics of Microsoft.