Learning from Microsoft: Why Bill Gates Can Never Return: Page 2

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Advice to the Microsoft Employee…

….Or to my younger self or anyone else in this position. Hoping for the return of a founder is not only pointless, the result will likely not be the success you anticipate.

Your real choices are to shut up and endure, get your resume’ ready and go job hunting, or get off your butt and try to fix what you can. Personally I’ve never been a shut up and endure kind of person but I’ve known a lot who are and they have been a whole lot less stressed out than I have been during times like this.

I’ve also both watched people do and have done the change company thing, only to find out that smaller and younger companies are often more screwed up themselves -- they just haven’t hit a wall yet. My wife didn’t appreciate Intel until she went to work for Kodak and then suddenly Intel looked pretty good.

Personally I like the kick-butt-and-take-names route but you need to do it more carefully than I did. You can’t be just the hellion of big problems (I got a little out of control) but instead work to actually find things within your own authority you can improve and forming informal groups to work on problems.

If the entire company were to collectively stop complaining and start working more on making things better than on finding folks with titles to blame, trust me, things would actually get better. Or at least you’d be working so hard you’d likely not notice as much how bad they are.

One of my best examples was at IBM where a huge number of us got together twice monthly to complain about product problems and argued over who owned them and whose budget the fix was to come out of. One month two first line managers came in over a weekend and worked until they fixed what we were arguing about. Sometimes it is that simple, someone just has to get off their ass, stop complaining, and fix something. If enough people do that…

Wrapping Up: It’s Your Time

Hoping for the return of a founder isn’t uncommon. I’ve been there myself, more than once actually. It’s easy to point at the suits (and I’ve been on both sides of that too) and suggest they’re the problem that needs to be fixed. However companies are hardly that simple and the first thing a good turnaround manager does is cut to the bone. And if you thought what you were living through up to that point was painful wait till you experience a true purge.

A better path is to either find a place where you can be happier or work to turn where you are into a happier place. There is risk to becoming an employee activist but folks in power don’t like employees that bad mouth executives either. And at least if you focus on the problems and not the people you might actually fix something. In the end, though, it is up to all of us to make or fix the companies we want to work in, whining about the problems just doesn’t get that job done.

So, again, Bill Gates, the one the Microsoft employees hope to return is gone, the company he built is gone and neither will return. Both have simply changed too much. There is an opportunity to make Microsoft into something greater than it currently is and uniquely representative of the folks that work there now.

It is up to those folks, much like it was up to the original founders initially, to make that happen. Sometimes you have to realize that the adults won’t come back and save you because it is up to you this time.


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Tags: Windows, Microsoft, IT management, HP, Enterprise


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