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What did Satya do to energise Microsoft?

(Reading time 4 mins. Analyse using B4B Wheel to map Microsoft and Satya’s strategy)

Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places — as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.

This paragraph was somewhere in the middle of the first letter Satya Nadella wrote to Microsoft’s employees once he took over as CEO on 4th Feb 2014.

Steve Ballmer exited Microsoft in Aug 2013. Satya Nadella stepped in as the CEO around Feb 2014.

What has changed since then?

One word. Culture.

The approach. A shift from ego-centric 800 pound gorilla like approach to a clear thinking yoda like inclusive leadership.

A shift from ‘I am right, you are wrong‘ mindset to ‘let’s discuss and evolve together‘ progressive thinking.

In two years, Satya has led a cultural revolution at Microsoft that has brought a lot more compassion, a lot more energy around the way people feel and think about things.

Microsoft ‘power center‘ approach where every product group ruled the roost and thought in silos has truly given way to ‘One Microsoft‘ group think that has a unified mission.

To understand this even better, let’s compare and contrast Ballmer and Satya’s approach using Agility Nexus B4B Wheel.

Ballmer Era – End of Ego Centric Leadership

(In Ballmer Era – The culture, mission spoke is all red)

In 2000, when Steve Ballmer took charge, Microsoft bureaucracy was at its peak.

Microsoft’s managers fought bitter internal battles that resulted in the slow pace of development. The Windows and Office divisions were so powerful that they were keen to save their importance and kill innovation. Internal environment was a toxic stew of antagonism and warfare.

At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” The proverbial bell curve.

Steve also never groomed a successor. Virtually every Microsoft executive who was an heir apparent seemed to fly too close to the sun and ended up retiring or being forced out.

Culture spoke (in B4B Wheel) was broken real badIt was bloody red.

Moreover, Steve Ballmer’s ego-centric style didn’t help galvanise hearts and minds. He openly ridiculed the eco-system. Nothing wrong, it’s just that the world has moved on from one dimensional leadership style.

He made fun of the iPad when it came out, in 2010, and it went onto sell more than 55 million units. When Apple introduced the iPhone, Steve Ballmer laughed. “No chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” he said in 2007, adding that same year, “iPod is a hot brand—not Apple.

As for Google, Ballmer’s predictions were equally off base. In 2005 he proclaimed, “Google’s not a real company. It’s a house of cards.

Bad call Steve.

Microsoft’s mission was also out of sync with what was happening in the tech landscape. Though Steve shifted the company away from its “PC-first heritage” toward search, video games, and Internet calls he arguably failed to anticipate a huge wave.


When people were shifting work from desktop to mobile, Microsoft was too focussed on internal power struggles and also stuck in its own little world view that was limited to Microsoft agenda.

Steve Jobs eloquently summed up Microsoft’s weakness.

Winning business was more important than making great products. Microsoft never had the humanities and liberal arts in its DNA.

It was quite obvious. Steve Ballmer had to quit.

Satya’s Era – Beginning of Eco-centric Leadership

Satya who?

Satya comes from Hyderabad, India. An immigrant, who wanted a better life and had dreams in his eyes.

He brings middle class Indian values. People who emigrate after childhood inevitably bring the values, practices and perspectives of their first country with them to their second.

Satya brings quiet fortitude, analytical thinking, patience and inclusiveness to Microsoft. He loves cricket – a team sport.

In Feb 2014, he started making his moves.

He redefined the mission and fixed the culture spoke (in B4B Wheel) first. 

For the longest time, Microsoft’s mission was to put “a computer on every desk in every home.” In June 2015, Satya Nadella revealed a new mission statement that’s now printed on the back of every employee badge: to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.”

He injected empathy and inclusiveness into the organisation.

With a new mission statement, came a new worldview. With Windows no longer the focus of everyone within the company, Microsoft’s ‘mobile first, cloud first‘ powers all decisions in Microsoft today.

A happy company is a productive company. Microsoft employees are happy again.

Satya’s approval rating, as CEO of Microsoft, hit 88% by the end of 2015.

While Steve Ballmer was vocal, outwardly competitive (even combative), and aggressively focused on PCs and the past glory of Microsoft, Nadella has taken a quieter more strategic path – focusing Microsoft on the future.

His approach has been more cooperative with developers and competitors alike. Rather than act like a hard-charging dictator, he has expressed a willingness to listen that has been missing from Microsoft for quite a while.

In two short years, Satya has moved Microsoft from a company culture that was inside-out and top-down to one that is customer-focused, employee-and-partner-friendly, and innovative.

When you unite people, empower them, co-create along side – they get s*** done fast!

The emotional quotient spoke in B4B Wheel is now GREEN again. Microsoft stock is steadily growing under Satya’s watch.

In Summary:

Microsoft case clearly proves that ‘ego-centric’ thinking has given way to ‘eco-system’ thinking. In the social era, where employees and companies have to join hands to create value flows – traditional thinking centred around ‘me’ culture ain’t going to work.

It stymies innovation, creativity and group think. It chokes value creation.

Business have to now exist for other businesses to succeed. They have to join hands and see how they could jointly unlock value in the eco-system. It’s the era of Business FOR Business (B4B).

A B4B approach needs a ‘eco-system‘ thinking leader who brings strong values such as holistic system thinking, patience, inclusiveness, self awareness and deep empathy.

With this approach businesses, corporation and even countries can change to benefit the larger cause. We can create sustainable business models that allows every stake holders to co-exist and manifest their best along side our communities.

Satya is leading the way. My best wishes to Satya and team.

You simply rock.

Follow through my other articles on B4B idea

1) Are you a B2B or B4B Company? Find out. [5 Minutes read. Plenty of examples and inquiry].

2) Why B4B Selling is the way to go? [3 minute read. Challenges B2B seller’s thinking]

3) B4B Companies are H4H companies too [3 minutes read]

4) B4B companies don’t F##& up their culture [3 minutes read]

About Agility Nexus

Agility Nexus ( is a Sales and Business Consulting and Coaching company serving business leaders in Technology Industry to accelerate revenue generation. We consult, coach, train and solve problems at the intersection of marketing and sales. We blend various strategies including Emotional Intelligence to help sellers better connect, engage with customers and offer great customer experience.

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