Thursday, September 22, 2005

Microsoft Management Style

The following extract is taken from a "fireside chat"interview published on Microsoft website (full transcript and webcast here).
Ed Lazowska
Ray, you started at Microsoft in the middle of April, so you've passed your hundred day mark and the honeymoon is over. So as you've spent the last four weeks out of five here in Redmond and turned over the rocks, let me know what you've discovered about Microsoft that maybe you didn't expect and what things you did expect.
Ray Ozzie
I've worked with the company for many, many years, and I didn't expect to be surprised much in terms of the technology, because we've worked both at the edge of the organization and I've had relationships with people at the top for quite some years. What I think I had really no awareness of and I've gained a tremendous amount of respect for over the last couple months, is the management processes, the decision-making processes at the top to ensure execution while at the same time making significant investment decisions to ensure that we're staying on a growth path. It's very interesting on a meeting-by-meeting-by-meeting basis, understanding and watching people balance those two aspects of decisions.
Ed Lazowska So I wonder about this, because you talked to sort of smaller go-go companies, and they have a management style that, it seems to me, doesn't scale. And you've been with start-ups, with medium-sized companies, now you've looked at a very large company. Can you talk about sort of the scalability?
Ray Ozzie It feels, at every level of the company, more like a start-up, than it does a big company. I did work for IBM for a short stretch, and while I can't really compare the two, you can see down to the individual, the passion and the motivation of wanting to continue to move things forward, move things forward, go into this area while continuing to execute.

What does this interview tell you about Microsoft's management style?

Ray Ozzie is one of the top people in the software industry, who joined Microsoft recently when his company Groove Networks was taken over by Microsoft. At the time of this interview, he was nominally Microsoft's Chief Technical Officer. (He has since been promoted.) The man whom most people still regard as the real Chief Technical Officer (one Bill Gates) was also present at the fireside.

How does knowledge of the background change the way you read the interview?

Later in the interview, Bill Gates starts talking about technology.

Bill Gates
If there's a message of great importance, you might even want to be interrupted while you're watching TV, and so your IPTV screen scrolls a nice little message down at the bottom saying, you know, a new urgent piece of mail came in from a work colleague.

Does this comment give you a different picture of Microsoft's management style? Can you reconcile these different pictures?

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