I remember Microsoft's 25th anniversary vividly because we were struggling to maintain the culture we wanted and Microsoft, even after a quarter of a century and over 50,000 employees, seemed to have sustained an incredible culture.
We saw this first hand because Microsoft was our customer and every day we would meet Microsofties who would make great decisions for their company. Decisions that were driven by the truth in the data. From time to time those decisions were not in the decision maker’s personal best interest – but the right decision was made anyway. It was impressive, awe inspiring even.
Unfortunately, that culture of company first, we are building something great faded after that. Some people blame Steve Ballmer, and indeed he was on the scene at the time. In his defense, Microsoft had started bringing in big company talent and simply could not separate the talent from the big company cultural virus attached. I am not sure anyone could have preserved the culture as the incoming tide of IBM and Walmart drowned Microsoft.
In this next decade, many great things were accomplished even with a me first, lick the cookie, don’t touch my stuff culture. From our vantage point outside the company, it sure seemed like every year the amount of effort required to accomplish the same result increased and the fun factor was clearly suffering. Microsoft went from the place everyone wanted to work to the place people came from.
Next year Microsoft will turn 40 and a new CEO will be at the helm. I don’t know Satya Nadella personally, but I am encouraged by Microsoft’s selection for several reasons.
Enterprise is the Engine: Microsoft is amazing at selling its products and services to businesses. Mr. Nadella knows that business. The board must have picked him with that at least partially in mind. I don’t know what the future holds, but the future is not the iPhone – that was yesterday’s future. Microsoft has to build from a position of strength and it has amazingly strong relationships with businesses.
Inspired, Purpose Driven, and Meaningful: Mr. Nadella’s first day email hit the sweet spot. To me it said: hey, let’s stop chasing our tails and do what we do best: make people more productive. His language rang true. One can feel a new brand promise is being formed and it will be true. People and Microsoft will not be wasting their time fighting on the playground, they will be inspired to do great things.
Why Not Us? True, this was not one of the questions in his email. It is also true that this is the moto of another local hero, the Seahawk's Number 3, Russell Wilson. Passed down from his father who inspired him to ask: Why not me? Microsoft is an awesome company with amazing people. Great things can be expected from them. Microsoft's third CEO could be just as inspiring as the man from the Seahawks that wears number 3.