Saturday, January 24, 2009

Auto-summarizing Steve Ballmer's mail

Microsoft Word has an auto-summary feature that supposedly allows you to extract the most important information from a document and highlight it or generate an "executive summary".

For fun (and based on {R} mentioning this last night), I thought I'd see how Word does on Steve Ballmer's recent email announcing layoffs at Microsoft. Here's a link to his complete email.
With the default settings to extract the most important 25%, this is the summary you end up with:

In response to the realities of a deteriorating economy, we’re taking important steps to realign Microsoft’s business. Today we announced second quarter revenue of $16.6 billion. Our products provide great value to our customers. Our financial position is solid. We have made long-term investments that continue to pay off.

Our response to this environment must combine a commitment to long-term investments in innovation with prompt action to reduce our costs.

As a result, we reduced operating expenses during the quarter by $600 million. We
must make adjustments to ensure that our investments are tightly aligned with
current and future revenue opportunities. Our leaders all have specific goals to
manage costs prudently and thoughtfully.

To increase efficiency, we’re taking a series of aggressive steps. We’ll cut travel expenditures 20 percent and make significant reductions in spending on vendors and contingent staff. We’ve scaled back Puget Sound campus expansion and reduced marketing budgets.

Our priority remains doing right by our customers and our employees. The decision to eliminate jobs is a very difficult one. Thank you for your continued commitment and hard work.

WTF? No mention of any layoffs until an oblique reference at the very end. I guess the sentence from Steve's original email was too buried for Word to find it... The term "shit sandwich" comes to mind when reading Steve's email - positive-sounding wrapping around the tough message in the middle. For some reason, doing this when you're communicating with executives is frowned on - they want the juicy details bubbled up in the first paragraph. Might be nice if they did that when they communicated "down" to the company too...

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