Microsoft’s New CEO Nadella on how to organize for innovation

In a wide-ranging interview with the NY Times, Nadella explained his views on how to organize for innovation.

Q. Your company has acknowledged that it needs to create much more of a unified “one Microsoft” culture. How are you going to do that?

A. One thing we’ve talked a lot about, even in the first leadership meeting, was, what’s the purpose of our leadership team? The framework we came up with is the notion that our purpose is to bring clarity, alignment and intensity. What is it that we want to get done? Are we aligned in order to be able to get it done? And are we pursuing that with intensity? That’s really the job.

Culturally, I think we have operated as if we had the formula figured out, and it was all about optimizing, in its various constituent parts, the formula. Now it is about discovering the new formula. So the question is: How do we take the intellectual capital of 130,000 people and innovate where none of the category definitions of the past will matter? Any organizational structure you have today is irrelevant because no competition or innovation is going to respect those boundaries. Everything now is going to have to be much more compressed in terms of both cycle times and response times.

So how do you create that self-organizing capability to drive innovation and be focused? And the high-tech business is perhaps one of the toughest ones, because 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.

To me, that is perhaps the big culture change — recognizing innovation and fostering its growth. It’s not going to come because of an org chart or the organizational boundaries. Most people have a very strong sense of organizational ownership, but I think what people have to own is an innovation agenda, and everything is shared in terms of the implementation.

Source:  NY Times

Information Overload in Water Systems

PM: What does not get measured does not get managed. This is a principle I subscribe to. But you need a second principle to make this work: Avoid information overload. Here is an example of how a company figure out how to analyze large amounts of data to identify useful information that can be acted upon.

Pipe Dreams: To plug leaks from the water supply, you first have to find them.
An effective way of detecting leaks [in municipal water systems], both accidental and deliberate, would therefore be welcome.
TaKaDu, a firm based near Tel Aviv, thinks it has one. The problem, in the view of its founder, Amir Peleg, is not a lack of data per se, but a lack of analysis. If anything, water companies—at least, those in the rich world—have too much information. A typical firm’s network may have hundreds, or even thousands, of sensors. The actual difficulty faced by water companies, Dr Peleg believes, is interpreting the signals those sensors are sending. It is impossible for people to handle all the incoming signals, and surprisingly hard for a computer, too.

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