After almost ten years in the startup world, I joined Microsoft in January '05. In year here so far, perhaps my toughest adjustment has been to the size and scale of this organization. It never ceases to amaze me how many customers we are fortunate enough to have worldwide. We affect thousands, if not millions of people with even the most casual decisions. It is a responsibility that humbles people here more than you'd think.
For that reason, I've learned, we have to act cautiously and prudently. Think of individual product managers at MS like a pilot who flies for fun during the day and flies commercial jets at night. During the day, the pilot might take a plane out for a joyride and do some pretty daring things, stunts, tricks, etc. He does this because he's likely the only one in the plane and he's comfortable with the risks. For his commercial flights, however, the pilot would never take such risks. It's one thing to do loops in a private jet for fun, but it's another think entirely to take the same risks with hundreds of people aboard a plane.
Perhaps it is a bad analogy, but we are often criticized for not being nimble or creative. I certainly believed that of MS before joining the company. What I've learned is that MS is full of bright and often times creative, entrepreneurial people. They want to do the right thing for you the customer, and they often know what that is. What you get as a customer is generally a compromise between what you want and what the company can provide given the scale that we're dealing with.
I'll go into some of these issues as we go along -- either with present examples or with anecdotes of things I faced in 2005. Pardon the Bismarck reference, but you should know more about the "sausage factory" -- the dirty details of how and why we do the things that we do.