This past year has been an interesting one for Microsoft to say the least. With the board of directors shuffle, a new CEO trying to gain some traction, and a work-force reduction in progress, it’s no wonder why people are starting to take notice. Change can be difficult for many of us – especially when we’ve been part of a company culture for many years. The more comfortable we become in our environments, the harder it is for us to make the necessary shifts when change is necessary. (Yes, I said necessary)
Microsoft recent troubles didn’t just happen overnight. They were created from many years of successes, mistakes, loss of direction, and senior leadership egos. The company culture issues of today were the result of many years of industry domination and complacency. Teams that were responsible for the innovation of so many great products, are now siloed into groups where collaboration is stifled, preventing ideas from being born and developed. When Mr. Nadella took over last year, he immediately began the process of streamlining, downsizing and refocusing efforts to improve current products, and create a new culture where innovation is priority one. I commend Mr. Nadella for his bravery in his attempt to challenge the staus quo, and establish necessary initiatives to begin the change process.
Although the process of change and reinvention has begun, the Microsoft culture is and will continue to be stuck in the past. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching leaders, individual contributors and teams within the MS company culture. In general, people are screaming for things to change, but they don’t know what that change looks like, or the path they need to carve out to get there. Leaders are so busy protecting turf, they have forgotten how to lead their teams forward. One constant theme I hear after a team is impacted by a layoff or re-org is the perception to backfill a position with someone that has previous MS experience. Hence, here lies a piece of the issue of why the culture is stuck – replacing a tenured employee or contractor with another employee or contractor who has no other experience outside the MS environment. How can you change the culture, if you keep recycling the core group of people who helped create the cloudy situation that exists today? Why not bring in people who can offer fresh perspectives? People who have experienced other corporate cultures, and who are not afraid of challenging the status quo?
There is a silent battle brewing between those who crave change, and those who resist it. Who will win the battle? Remember that change of this magnitude takes time, patience, and perseverance. The answer lies within each member of the MS team. The winner, or outcome of this cultural change process will determine the future success or failure of Microsoft.