054. Steve and Steven Get New Jobs

“When your new exec offers observations on the org, the next step is an org change.” –July 1998, my own thought bubble in meeting with SteveB in our first 1:1 when he became president.

Steve Ballmer was named Microsoft president in July 1998. There was not much fanfare because it seemed an entirely natural progression of his role at the company, partnership with Bill, and recognition of the incredible accomplishment in building a world-class sales force over the past few years leading that effort. At the start of his tenure, he set out on a schedule of 100 one-on-one meetings with people across the company. Just as I was about to meet with him, I was promoted to general manager of Office. How did the meeting go?

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Scanned article "Headaches greet Microsoft president: Ballmer's major challenges include customer satisfaction and rival's complaints"
The trade press tended to focus on products and customers, along with competitors. This story really went full “crisis” facing Steve. (Source: InfoWorld, July 27, 1998)

The full-page story in InfoWorld July 27, 1998 began ominously “Most new presidents can count on a 100-day honeymoon...but for newly appointed Microsoft president Steve Ballmer, that blissful period is probably going to be something less than 100 hours.” This wasn’t the typical coverage.

Scanned article "Ballmer named president of Microsoft"
We paid close attention to how the local press. The Seattle Times covered Microsoft deeply and nationally it was often assumed the local beat reporters had more insight and access to sources to inform the reporting. Along with plenty of history between the two, this articled cited a recent kerfuffle where Steve was quoted regarding the DOJ investigation. Click to enlarge. (Source: Seattle Times, July 21, 1998)

In fact, most of the coverage reflected the broadly shared internal view that Microsoft was growing up and needed an executive structure to match. It was growing up in precisely the way Steve had orchestrated and been leading—Microsoft was becoming an enterprise company. The coverage was by and large friendly and reminiscent of the close connection Bill and Steve had and the natural evolution of the role he had been playing in the company.

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