When Bill Gates announced his decision to ease out of the day-to-day workings of Microsoft and move into full-time work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, many people wondered what impact that would have on the leading software manufacturer. Today, it appears that at least some of that impact will be to drive new people into leadership roles with the company.
Among the leaders moving away from Microsoft are Jeff Raikes, Bruce Jaffe, Jim Allchin, and Charles Fitzgerald. Stepping into new roles are Stephen Elop, Brian McAndrews, Kevin Turner, Tony Scott, and Ray Ozzie. Of that group, only Ray Ozzie is a core Microsoftie. The rest come to Microsoft from other corporate societies.
While it isn't unusual to see a changing of the guard, it seems that this change is somehow more important and more critical than any other. The institutional memory is walking out the door and is being replaced by newcomers to the Microsoft world.
That's a lot of institutional memory to lose, and it remains to be seen just how Microsoft will adjust. Without Fitzgerald, for example, who will serve as a reality check? "He was the only guy that was both connected and would raise his hand and say, 'This is stupid. We can't do this,'" says analyst Rob Enderle. "With Microsoft, there's a lot of high-flying visible folks who, for the most part, have made their career on saying yes [and] who suddenly have to make the decisions."
Looked at another way: New decision-makers will emerge—they must—and that's not necessarily a bad thing for a 30-year-old software company that's being challenged by younger, nimbler rivals, not the least of which is Google. Microsoft's hiring new talent just as fast as it's losing it.
There is no question that Microsoft is hiring great talent. Both Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes will ease out of their roles as opposed to an abrupt step away. This soft transition will allow significantly less disruption as the newcomers take on their tasks.
What impact do you see the transition having on Microsoft going forward? Do you think that the company will improve with fresh talent in senior roles, or do you think that it will just be business as usual?