In his first interview since assuming the top job, Nadella talked to the New York Times about the need to get the most out of his leadership cadre. “I’m not evaluating them on what they say individually. None of them would be on this team if they didn’t have some fantastic attributes. I’m only evaluating us collectively as a team. Are we able to authentically communicate, and are we able to build on each person’s capabilities to the benefit of our organization?”
When asked specifically about Ballmer’s “One Microsoft” plan — which was geared to break down silos between often fractious Microsoft product groups — Nadella seemed to affirm the goals of fostering cooperation, but also said that cannot be accomplished via a changed org chart. It’s more about the company being able to recognize potential innovation early, even if it’s not a wild success, and let it flourish, he said.
In the tech business, in particular, he said:
” … something can be a real failure until it’s not. It’s just an absolute dud until it’s a hit. So you have to be able to sense those early indicators of success, and the leadership has to really lean in and not let things die on the vine. When you have a $70 billion business, something that’s $1 million can feel irrelevant. But that $1 million business might be the most relevant thing we are doing.”
That’s an important statement. Microsoft Windows and Office are huge multibillion cash cows still, but both are seen as on the wrong side of history. Nadella has said the company needs to do better in mobility and cloud where it is seen as an also-ran compared to Google(s goog), Apple(s aapl) and Amazon Web Services.
One of his first challenges will be to integrate Nokia’s smartphone business into Microsoft. The Nokia acquisition is due to close this quarter. Longer term, he needs to build Windows Azure into a formidable and popular cloud for enterprise use, countering incursions there by Amazon(S amzn) Web Services, and a looming threat from Google, HP(s hpq) and other players.