Microsoft gets Accountability

Businessweek notes that Microsoft is embracing accountability. First there is this:.

Execs at the software giant hate setting expectations, lest they slip. So the company has been mum on the date, saying only that Vista will launch some time in the second half of 2006. Analysts have taken that to mean a shipment date some time near Christmas.

It turns out, the company plans to ship much sooner. According to an internal blog by Chris Jones, one of Microsoft's top Windows execs, the shipping target is Aug. 31. To be clear, that's not the day Vista will land on store shelves or be available on computers. Rather, that's the target to have software code complete and sent off to computer manufacturers. That way, they can test the software and start to build PCs in time for the holiday season.

Then Jones takes a step that most executives should take anyway.

Jones's blog post appears to address the question of low morale head on. "If you want my personal accountability, I will not take a bonus if we don't ship Vista with high quality and the soul intact by August 31st, 2006," Jones writes in a Sept. 28 blog post that was obtained by BusinessWeek Online. "If there is more I can do, let me know."

Indeed, Microsoft may be entering a period of greater accountability, something the company's critics say is long overdue. The Vista deadline isn't the only evidence. On Nov. 17, Microsoft announced that Doug Burgum is giving up his operational responsibility for the Microsoft Business Solutions group. He'll become chairman of the division, which sells software that helps small and mid-sized companies run their businesses.

The thing about executive pay isn't that people are upset when execs get big bonuses. It's just that they are upset when big bonuses are undeserved. In some companies there is less accountability at the top than there is at the bottom. Microsoft would do well to encourage Jones' attitude throughout the company.

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  • Albert Einstein advised “make everything as simple as possible… but no simpler.”

    To me the idea that Microsoft execs don’t embrace accountability because they don’t want to fail (“lest they slip”) is oversimplifying a much more complex situation.

    Reporters should ask “why” at least five times. Here’s the first one, “Why are they afraid of slipping?”