Brummel bails: Another member of the Microsoft old guard to leave

Lisa Brummel, dubbed the 'most universally hated exec' at Microsoft for enforcing the hated stack ranking system, is set to retire

Another key member of the Microsoft old guard is leaving. Lisa Brummel who, rightly or wrongly, was associated in many employees' minds with the detested stack ranking system, leaves at the end of the year. With 25 years at Microsoft and almost a decade leading the Human Resources organization, she's one of the last of the Ballmer inner circle to hit the trail.

Andy Patrizio at Network World nailed employee sentiment two years ago by quoting an unnamed Microsoft employee who described Brummel as "perhaps the most universally hated exec in the place."

Microsoft finally stopped stack ranking a year ago, and you could hear the sigh of relief all over campus.

At Microsoft, stack ranking went through many phases, but in the end it forced managers to rank all of their employees on a scale from 1 to 5. An anonymous Microsoft employee explained the system on the Mini-Microsoft blog this way:

With the new 1 to 5 review score we have a new curve, too. 20% of you get a 1 (whoo-hoo!), 20% of you get a 2, 40% of you get a 3, 13% get a 4, and 7% get a 5. And probably fired.

Your review score is now a composite of: your results (where results, not effort, matters), what you did to get your results, and what your proven capability is. With an ideal that teamwork and feedback is now part of the review system, though it's not clear if feedback is mandatory via peer based reviews.

Opinions vary as to whether Brummel created Microsoft's version of the stack ranking system or merely enforced it with an iron hand. But legions of Microsoft employees will remember her for the system that forced co-workers to compete, not cooperate.

With Brummel out, focus now turns to other Ballmer-era execs who may not be long for Nadella's inner circle. I hear whispers about Eric Rudder and Stephen Elop.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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