Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Satya Nadella's moment is now

I like to use current news items as "coaching moments". The big news in IT: Satya Nadella as Microsoft's new CEO, and his refocus for the company.

Bill Gates and (later) Steve Ballmer were the driving forces behind Microsoft's rise to market dominance since the 1980s. No one can deny that Microsoft successfully leveraged key strengths and opportunities to become the leading platform for business and home.

Part of successful leadership is identifying and developing the next generation of leaders. Except for this press release, there hasn't been demonstrable transition planning with Nadella's role, no visible development of a future leader to take Ballmer's place when he finally exited the company.

But now, as Nadella steps into his new role, what advice would you give him? He faces a daunting task: Google's Chromebooks directly compete with Windows laptops and desktops. Meanwhile, Apple is edging out Microsoft in the more important mobile market. Nadella needs to demonstrate that he can play on that field while remaining the dominant player on desktops and laptops. In short, Nadella needs to demonstrate he has a vision for his new role and for Microsoft's future.

My recommendation to Nadella: communicating through change. In successfully managing a change, steps 1 through 3 are usually "1. communication, 2. communication, 3. communication." The key is to provide a vision for what the change will deliver, and set an expectation for the general steps required to reach that vision. Even if your change is simply a transition of focus, it's still important to communicate openly about goals, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate and knows what will be expected of them.

Fortunately, Nadella seems to be doing just that. Quoting an article from Business Insider:
In an email to Microsoft employees today, CEO Satya Nadella outlined the core of the company’s strategy and vision and focus for the coming years. Nadella underscored his message to the world from earlier this year that Microsoft is a company focused on “ubiquitous computing and ambient intelligence” in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Today, Nadella took those vague basic concepts a step further.
The message: Microsoft provides computers, software and operating systems so you can get stuff done. That's a great first step! Next, I expect Nadella will sketch out his priorities for the next 6-12 months. We may also see an infusion of new talent. During this very public transition, I'd recommend Nadella remain transparent.

I usually suggest new CEOs (or any leader stepping in to a new role) will have a "honeymoon" period, typically 6 to 12 months, or until the company announces its first product lines delivered under the new leadership. However, the same article ("Satya Nadella Proves That Microsoft Hasn't Changed At All") expresses doubt about Nadella's leadership, suggesting his honeymoon may be over as soon as it began.

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