Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it was doing away with its stack ranking system; this caused quite a flurry of press and all sorts of discussion. Specific to Microsoft, I never completely understood the outside observer’s fuss and scrutiny applied for stack ranking; it is a rather common tool for large organizations for managing performance.
In theory, stack ranking sounds like a reasonable process – appealing to a sense of meritocracy and offering points for validation. In practice, stack ranking was deeply unpopular at Microsoft.
For years, stack ranking was humming along just fine at Microsoft — during periods of high growth and / or high employee turnover. There were common practices in place keeping all in balance (including applying lower rankings to retirees, new employees or teams freshly re-organized into another team).
Doing away with stack ranking suggests three desired changes – slower people growth, imminent retention need, heightened desire for teamwork. Teamwork will go a long way for much needed agility to support a newly reorganized Microsoft .