Microsoft’s forced ranking system is being blamed for the demise of Microsoft.
“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.”
Supposing Microsoft had managed to hire technology’s top players into a single unit before they made their names elsewhere—Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon—regardless of performance, under one of the iterations of stack ranking, two of them would have to be rated as below average, with one deemed disastrous.
For that reason, executives said, a lot of Microsoft superstars did everything they could to avoid working alongside other top-notch developers, out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings. And the reviews had real-world consequences: those at the top received bonuses and promotions; those at the bottom usually received no cash or were shown the door.
I have worked in corporations during the forced ranking craze and it was no fun. Fortunately I was highly skilled IT technical person, so I was not deeply affected. It still left a very bitter taste.
Contrast this with working on a team with a unified goals. I have had several great projects. We covered each others gaps, double checked each others work, filled in at moment’s notice and cheered each other on. Everyone who has worked on such a team has said that it was the greatest experience and how they wish they could always work.
Working together is the theme of Democrats. The Me-First competitive nature shows in the Republican party politics, in the ducking of taxes, in lack of cooperation between business and government and in the multiple repeal attempts of Obamacare. Why would anyone trust a Republican? The social science of management says cooperation is a better method. The experience of Microsoft draws the same conclusion that working together is best.