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The Jelly Manifesto

Microsoft employees, like those at many other companies I would imagine, have a tradition of posting a farewell email to friends and co-workers when they leave the company.  Usually it’s a “so long, and thanks for all the great memories” affair.  However, I remember distinctly when my buddy Brandon Watson (now CEO of startup imsafer) sent his mail out in 1999.  It was a pretty pointed indictment of company practices and attitudes surrounding innovation, addressed to senior management.  Then, of course, young Brandon mailed it to a select few of his pals, me included.  I remember shaking my head and thinking “man, he’s got stones!”, and wondering how it would be received. It was a pretty gutsy move from a young guy who just wanted to make things happen and didn’t have the patience to wait until he’d paid his dues.

Enjoy the mail.  You’ll see a lot of parallels with Brad Garlinghouse’s recent Peanut Butter Manifesto, and I imagine that (now that Windows Vista and Office 2007 have shipped) there are a lot of similar conversations going on at Microsoft today.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Peter Childs November 28, 2006, 7:01 am

    If customers demanded innovation, companies would work hard to develop cultures to reward innovative people. Most industries don’t need to.

    We in tech (especially smaller companies) sometime forget how slow-moving most of society is. And we overlook the downside of innovation – how it often requires changing habits and that one change often sets off a chain of unintended changes.

    The other factor at work – as anyone who has read Christensen knows – is that innovation often requires companies to abandon known business models often for ones that have lower initial profit and a smaller customer base. The larger the company the harder it is to give up on that known revenue.

    My sense is that Microsoft understand this and what it’s customers value (consistency and application inter-operability} and focuses on delivering this. It likely uses the marketplace to determine when an innovation is mainstream enough to implement. May make life boring for innovators but seems to work well for MS.

    That said many, many companies – especially in the mid-size arena, could substantially increase their growth and markets by encouraging innovation within their organizations.

  • Brandon Watson November 28, 2006, 9:27 am

    It's funny how these things come back to haunt you.

    Consumers tend to be a bit slow moving, and Christensen has been quoted (ad nauseum if you ask me) about how hard it is to change things in large orgs. However, if we relied on the consumers to make all product decisions, we would still be living in the dark ages. There's a reason innovators are called innovators and consumers are called consumers, and not the other way around.

  • Paul Jardine November 28, 2006, 10:29 pm

    I read Brandon's memo and it looks quite similar to a number of exit interviews I've given in my career.
    The problem is that, as companies grow, more process gets introduced and more people start to become important through the control of that process.
    Google seems to be different, if you read some of the Steve Yegge stuff (http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2006/09/good-agile-bad-agile_27.html), in that they seem to embrace chaos to a larger extent.
    As someone who now owns their own company, it definitely would take a lot of balls to let people you barely know go and spend the company's money on some 'innovation'.
    I tend to have a 'Rule of Five'. No team has more than 5 people, no project has more than 5 teams, etc. It basically means that the company should never be more than 125 people. If my company ever reaches that level I'll probably hire an HR Manager….and that will be the beginning of the end! 😉

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