Microsoft: the pitfalls of success

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Published on April 10, 2016 with No Comments

All tongues are wagging with news of Vanity Fair’s article on the fall of Microsoft or Microsoft’s decade of missed opportunities, as the case may be. Under Steve Ballmer, the one-time, tech giant is said to have faltered under the weight of its own success, caving in to egos and ineffective management strategies. The worst of all this Microsoft’s adherence to a sort of bell-curve, employee review system called, stack ranking. Instead of focusing on creating the best products, stack ranking was a morale busting practice that led employees to focus on visibility in order to avoid being at the failure end of the curve.

Along the way Microsoft developers crafted an e-reader only to have it dismissed for not looking like Windows and not compatible with Office. A Microsoft developer had an idea for Facebook-like technology but it was voted down by an older, out-of-touch manager. As the technology marketplace filled up with youthful, nimble startups, Microsoft is said to have fallen victim to its overly bureaucratic managerial style and the need to put profits ahead of everything else.

But not everyone is willing to cave in to the claims in the Vanity Fair article. Some assert that this is exactly what could be expected when the company does not bless an article. Unhappy members of the organization share their negative perspectives while ignoring other successes of the company. Microsoft products such as Xbox and by extension Kinect have been hugely successful but given short shrift in the article. Meanwhile, isn’t almost every computer, on every desktop, everywhere still running Windows? Also Microsoft has made sound business decisions whereby it gets revenues from Android sales, and it has some ownership in Facebook. And ultimately, it’s about the future where Microsoft might be able to dust itself off and “Surface” with new products – while abandoning stack ranking as a management technique.

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