Posted on February 6th, 2014
Steve Ballmer announced his retirement as Microsoft CEO in late August, 2013. Satya Nadella – a 20+ year company veteran – was announced as his replacement this week.
To paraphrase the song in their Surface TV spots, we want to see him be brave. I wish him nothing but the best of luck. We need a strong Microsoft. (But clearly, no one needs or wants a Surface). And I have had a lot of friends that work there. Natella sounds like one of the smartest technology minds in an industry already full of scary smart minds, who should understand how to deliver against the vision he announced this week of “Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.”
But until he cleans up the bureaucratic, slow, political culture at Microsoft, the company’s results won’t change.
For those of you keeping score at home, it took Microsoft five months between CEO announcements. For an internal candidate.
Getting slower is exactly what Microsoft cannot afford at this point in its life. The company has been defending its cash cow franchises against extremely formidable competition. Not just Apple, Google, Amazon and Salesforce, but upstarts like Dropbox, Box, and others specialized in the conception, creation, launch + iteration of disruptive technology.
These companies have cultures that are all about swift, decisive action.
Most reports from inside the company led us to believe that the company stagnated during that time. Critical decisions weren’t made. Bureaucratic inertia crept in. Internal politics were probably worse than Washington DC. Imagine the sclerosis in any leaderless organization for 5 days – let alone 5 months.
When your culture is all about speed and failing fast, you can topple giants. When you’re a giant who relies on consensus and politics to make decisions, you’d better watch out for the cloud, mobile, and disruptive companies that are the opposite of what you are.
And when your founder Bill Gates – one of the brightest technology minds in history and now your technology advisor – can’t manage to install your flagship software on his own PC, there are bigger issues to fix.
Good luck Satya. Burn the boats. Maybe Clippy can come back to help you (and your technology advisor).