What Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Can Teach You About Leading Your Team During Change


Just a few months into his tenure as Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella has transformed the company’s business and organizational culture.

From cutting out 18,000 jobs worldwide in an effort to restructure the organization, to launching new products in personal computing, the company is undergoing massive changes under Nadella’s leadership.

Necessary as they are, the transformations are far from easy. Microsoft is one of the oldest technology companies in the world. Its business and organizational culture is deeply entrenched; there is a traditional way of doing things over there. Unlike bringing change to a small start-up company, being at the forefront of change in such a large, all-encompassing organization requires extremely tenacious leadership.

Here are some lessons on change you can learn from Satya Nadella:

Get clear about where you are heading 

Change is only effective to the extent that there is a clear path and a clear destination. Where are you looking to go by implementing cultural change in your business? What is the goal of this transformation? What objectives are you looking to accomplish?

At the start of his tenure, Nadella was clear about the basis of his change initiative: he wanted to transform Microsoft into a mobile-first, cloud-first company. As such, the mission and vision of the company would be aligned with this goal.

Microsoft employs over 100,000 people around the world. Nadella’s vision for a mobile-first, cloud-first business will be implemented in Microsoft branches across the world.

Do not be afraid to make things leaner and simpler

Transformation is almost always about simplifying systems and structures.

Under Nadella’s predecessor, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft was a behemoth of a company that was lagging behind due to its multiple operations and wide-ranging personnel. Decisions were difficult to make and accountability was not an important part of the culture.

The bulkiness of Microsoft did not help the company to stay competitive in a cutthroat technology landscape. Nadella was bold enough to recommend a company-wide restructuring to simplify the flow of information and to keep the company lean enough for purposes of sustainability.

As a result, Microsoft will let go of 18,000 employees, abandon technology projects that are not in line with consumer demands and market trends and flatten out some organizational structures to make the management more accessible and receptive.

Anticipate the consequences of change and do it anyway

Since coming to office, Nadella has recommended and implemented wide-ranging changes in the way Microsoft innovates, interacts with customers and approaches competition.

sat2Without a doubt, these changes will transform the face of Microsoft, as we know it. More importantly, the changes will greatly impact employees on all levels of the company.

According to Nadella, it is important to stay focused on the cards you have been dealt with to accomplish the goals ahead. Implementing these comprehensive changes is no-easy feat; letting go of some employees is not an easy matter but it needs to be done for the long-term survival of the company.

Understand that innovation is inevitable

A company is built on the premise that it will continue to be sustainable under certain conditions. When these conditions change, then the business needs to be innovative and perceptive enough to the changing trends.

This applies to Microsoft too—for many years, the company had been a leader in personal computing technology; in fact, there was very little competition. Today, Microsoft is facing incredible competition from tech giants such as Apple, Google and Samsung on the mobile front. Innovation is crucial to Microsoft’s survival in the dynamic and highly competitive tech landscape.

For example, the iPhone and Android are leading the way in high-end mobile technology while Microsoft has largely lagged behind in this niche. As one of the many changes Nadella is implementing, he allowed Nokia to continue selling its Android devices. This integration is a move away from the past when Microsoft could not allow other mobile platforms to be used on Nokia mobile devices.

Involve everyone using a top-down and side-ways approach

Lastly, Nadella recognizes the need to make changes across the board and to include everyone in the process. He calls this the top-down, sideways approach. In this way, all levels of the organization undergo restructuring and a cultural shift to make the company leaner and more efficient.

This approach not only makes the management more accessible; it also infuses a culture of accountability in other levels of the organization.

Inclusivity makes transformation a little bit smoother for everyone in the company. So instead of targeting just one arm of the company, Nadella is on a mission to transform all aspects of Microsoft.

Leading During Change

Leading during change requires a crystal clear vision of where the business is heading. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made in the best interests of the business generally. Anticipate and understand there will naturally be some upheaval and be prepared for it. All businesses need to innovate and be at the forefront of there industry to stand the best chances of survival. When implementing change ensure there is communication at every step of the way (at all levels) so people feel involved and are accountable.

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