Over the last 12 months, several technology giants have made significant headlines for themselves – good, bad, and downright, painstakingly ugly. Some have captured our imaginations with ground-breaking innovations that have once again changed the landscape of social media use or the ideas of technology integration into business modeling. Others have made questionable or, some would say, glaringly poor choices with regards to specific product introductions, competitor acquisitions, or missed investment opportunities. And a select few have made more egregious, albeit often less-public, decisions that have already shown disastrous results, or are just now revealing potentially catastrophic effects. I know these are categorically ambiguous statements that my two-and-a-half-year old could surmise. So, let’s take a look at a global technology giant under a microscope, Microsoft.
At its face, it is probably safe to say that the majority of the end-user market pays little heed to corporate on-goings of Microsoft’s business, unless you are a shareholder in the company, or your buying patterns are moved by such things. Most of us look at investing in technology (i.e. devices, computers, software, etc.) based on reputation of functionality, reliability, and familiarity with those products. If you know a product works well and can benefit you personally and/or professionally, and is still a worthwhile investment, would you recoil at the register if you knew that the company’s working culture was causing self-destruction? I think it’s a safe assumption that most of us would not. However, there are valuable lessons to be learned by the behavior and, to an extent, the organizational operations of a company like Microsoft.
Frederick E. Allen, a writer on Forbes.com staff, puts a magnifying glass to the Operations infrastructure of Bill Gates’ brainchild that is actually preventing itself from continuing to do the one thing that has maintained it as a front-running corporation for decades, creative competition. It highlights the internal practice of “stack ranking”, which requires each business group to identify the strongest performer, the middle-of-the-pack performers, and the bottom-of-the-pile performer. Instead of thinking about innovations that will keep Microsoft ahead of its stout competitors, employees were working to not be at the bottom of their peer group.