Over the past few years, I have argued that Microsoft, under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, has made significant changes to its business culture. These changes are leading the company down a different and potentially more lucrative path that focuses on productivity, emphasizes cloud computing, and embraces an agnostic attitude toward operating systems.

While that change of culture is all well and good, Microsoft has reached a turning point in its evolution as a mobile-first, cloud-first software development company. From this point forward, Microsoft’s new culture must execute the strategy it has adopted–or suffer the consequences that come from failing to do so.

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Culture shock

In a February 2017 article in USA Today, Satya Nadella discussed how he has changed the culture at Microsoft and how the new culture is markedly different from the era of Steve Ballmer and even Bill Gates.

The article points out that in 1992, Microsoft’s stated mission was to put a PC in every household. If you consider smartphones and tablets as well as PCs, you could argue that, for the developed world at least, that mission has been all but completely accomplished. But so what. What comes next?

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This is why Microsoft’s current mission statement is bit more abstract and less goal specific:

“At Microsoft, our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. We consider our mission statement a commitment to our customers.”

Operating under a “customer first” philosophy frees Microsoft from the self-imposed and unnecessary burden of always trying to be better than a particular competitor. Making decisions solely on the basis of beating a competitor like Apple or Oracle, instead of making decisions based on what is best for your customers, stifles innovation and often leads companies down the slow spiral of decay and eventually death.

The “beat the competition at all costs” business strategy is not a good business strategy and never has been. Unfortunately, it is employed by too many companies–far too many slowly fading companies. The fact that Microsoft has rejected it bodes well for its future.

Bottom line

What Satya Nadella and his executive team at Microsoft have done to change the culture at the company has been remarkable. In just about every regard, the way Microsoft has approached the changing landscape of information technology has set the table for its future success.

However, now that the table is set, it is time for results. Microsoft must show that it can execute its business strategy, grow its business, and increase its market share. Customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders are not going to be satisfied with anything less. The honeymoon period where changing the culture was enough is over. The time to make something happen is upon us.

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Updated features in Windows 10, Azure, and Office 365 are a good start, and innovative products like the Surface Pro, Surface Studio, and Surface Dial show that Microsoft still has some creativity up its collective sleeves. But the company must keep moving forward. That’s the challenge of adopting an open-ended mission statement–it can never be completely fulfilled. The question as always, is what’s next?

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Your thoughts

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