The New York Times has a fascinating piece by ex-Microsoftie Dick Brass on how interdepartmental fighting is causing the company to fail. Microsoft has turned into an anti-innovation company, he says.
Internecine warfare among Microsoft’s divisions has created a “dysfunctional” corporate culture that thwarts creativity instead of nurturing it. “The company routinely manages to frustrate the efforts of its visionary thinkers,” he writes.
Before leaving in 2004, Brass was in charge of Microsoft’s tablet initiative, but it was scuppered at every turn. Explains Brass:
When we were building the tablet PC in 2001, the vice president in charge of Office at the time decided he didn’t like the concept. The tablet required a stylus, and he much preferred keyboards to pens and thought our efforts doomed. To guarantee they were, he refused to modify the popular Office applications to work properly with the tablet. So if you wanted to enter a number into a spreadsheet or correct a word in an e-mail message, you had to write it in a special pop-up box, which then transferred the information to Office. Annoying, clumsy and slow.
It’s a fascinating read — and a great argument for why having a despot like Steve Jobs is a good idea. Companies need a singular vision to execute on the tough stuff, like creating new product categories. And this is why Apple over and over has set the standards with the iPod, iPhone and iPad.