Microsoft needed to search for its soul

dsc_0002Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has written a book about how he had to “rediscover Microsoft’s soul” when he took the top job in 2014.

The book with the racy title Hit Refresh depicts Nadella as an Indian boy rising through the hierarchy at Microsoft to the chief executive spot.

At a launch event in London, Nadella said that he had to re-establish the purpose and goal of the vendor and take it beyond its PC roots.

“When I joined Microsoft in 1992 we used to talk about getting a PC in every home and in every desk as our mission. It was tangible, clear, succinct and in some sense very empowering because it was clear what the company was for and what we were trying to get done.

“Even by the late nineties, at least in the developed world, we had more or less achieved that, and after that it was a bit unclear – what is our purpose?

“So that was what I thought was important to start asking in 2014, it’s quite an existential question, why does Microsoft exist?”

Nadella said that, on this existential journey, he went right back to the first product Microsoft created – interpreters for the Altair 8800 – and formed a culture within the company that would lead to its focus not just being on technology.

“Those are the two things I’ve focused most on”, he said. “The sense of purpose and mission, and the culture. Those are the two bookends.

“Of course you have to get a lot of things in the middle right – your products, your technology, your business strategy… but what is ignored is what are the necessary conditions for you to get those things right? I believe it’s that sense of purpose and culture.”

Apparently Nadella after questing for the soul of Microsoft, vanquishing a few dragons, rescuing a few products from trolls, reshaped the company’s mission statement to focus more on people. It now reads: “At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”

Apparently these sorts of mission statement’s pass for a soul.

Nadella said that, “moving forward”, Microsoft has given itself three pillars with which to achieve this mission – AI, mixed reality and quantum computing.