086. The Memo (Part 2)
Agility = Execution + Impact — one of several one-liners I would employ in the process of articulating how the team could improve
The previous section detailed the raw observations on Windows and Services culture I saw after weeks of hearing about the situation from as many people as I could. I could not just put that out there without specifics of what I thought could improve. I had to put some structure on what I learned and to offer optimism and aspirations.
Back to 085. The Memo (Part 1)
Reflecting on this moment of both optimism and fear, today I look at the candor I expressed with a bit of amazement. I wrote with detail and assertiveness yet seemed to forget that I was writing about one of the most successful businesses ever created. I was writing about hundreds of billions of dollars of market capitalization. I was writing about many friends. At the same time, there was so much that needed to be improved or more specifically to be repaired. I think what really motivated me were all those 1:1s I did and hearing all the different people expressing their pain and troubles, knowing things could be better. This was not a team that was dug in ready to resist change. It was a team waiting for change. It just needed to be the right kind of change.
That reality made this much easier. I felt if I could document what was going wrong and the broad population agreed then I was on a path to addressing challenges. If I could articulate reasonable aspirational goals, then what remained was to build a product plan on that rebuilt foundation of trust in management.
I was quite worried that both the problems described and the aspirations I would document would seem cliché. With BillG in particular, over the years he had shown little patience for the broad topic of management. His world view was always that the business would be best served by taking on the most difficult technical problems and developers would be anxious to tackle such challenges. That recipe propelled Microsoft for twenty years of Windows but was failing us now. SteveB was never one for patience and while he would be receptive to these management challenges, he was far more anxious about a plan and the timeline for the next product to address the concerns that were mounting about Vista—the company hung in the balance. KevinJo had just orchestrated a massive restructuring of the global sales force before taking over most of product development. He was deeply in sync with the idea of identifying organizational problems then directly addressing those.
The memo, Observations, Aspirations, and Directions for Windows and Windows Live, proposed three main areas to address: decision-making, agile execution, and discipline excellence. Each was presented in a section with both observations and aspirations.
These points will sound like random musings from any generic book on management, both at the time I wrote them and reflecting on them today. The lesson learned, using the phrase from the previous section, is to demonstrate that these are more than clichés by citing specific examples that resonate with the employees who are being asked to operate differently and specifics on exactly how we will achieve aspirations.