December 24, 2002
Where do most of the worst business people come from? M.B.A. schools usually. Students with strong academic skills with the honored M.B.A. can do the accounting, statistical work, and market research analysis. But does that mean they have a "business mind," or good "business sense?" Absolutely not. (That's why a new test is being devised to determine the "common sense" abilities of MBAs). Gates is a perfect example of the many successful business people who didn't spend time in front of Ph.ds in ivory towers regurgitating "business theories and paradigms."
A look into the technological and mainly business side of Microsoft, the author breaks down the organization into the "how's, why's, and what's" of MSFT.
It's common knowledge that Gates is a genius in the technical realm, and MSFT is a behemoth organization that has the majority of market share. But how did Microsoft grow to where it is and thrive in this ever-changing and competitive industry? This book explains the business (more than technical) philosophy, model, and actual examples from products and projects. Interviews with former and current managers and employees are also included.
Again, it's common knowledge that Gates is exceptional at business. Ask their competitors. Note that Steve Jobs had a better product that was on the market earlier but he lacked the business, marketing, and management acumen. Gates not only seeks out brilliant techno minds but considers their business sense equally important, and this is heavily weighed when he decides to hire prospective candidates. Those hired are also individualists who will challenge him and other superiors, and argue and debate with him, in the search for the best idea or model. An employee gets Gate's respect, the author writes, "when his employees yell back." If Bill is converted by their arguments as opposed to his, he likewise changes course, taking the best route.
One of the most dangerous and damaging things to a company, and any organization, are "yes men." A company culture that rewards the "yes man/woman" mentality leads people to misrepresent themselves and their work, and the managers and ownership eventually become "out of the loop." This leads to uninformed decisions, cover-ups, resentment, and alienation that benefit no one.
This is written for the laymen, but can be a bit dry. Things such as shipping strategies, keeping teams small on projects, constant self analysis and critiques, and the reliance on customer feedback, are some of the many interlinking factors of the organization. The company likes people and departments that are interdependent upon one another to be physically close to one another. I.e., in the same building or on the same property, so if there is a problem or a need for clarification, they can see each other face to face to discuss it, instead of swapping emails, voicemails, and engaging in converence calls from across the country. Again, it's common knowledge that a major tenet of MSFT is to find out where the industry is going in the future, become the leader, and provide products with such strong quality that they become the "industry standard." The author even provides some organization charts to pin-up on your wall.
Not The Bad And The Ugly
The point of this book was to focus on the positives. The strategies and models that make the company pre-eminant. What is not in the book is: the common claim that the company is a monopoly, engages in unfair business practices, and limits the choice of consumers by ramming its product down their throats. There have been numerous charges and lawsuits that MSFT treats employees poorly. This company hires a lot of temps, work them overtime, plays with them, and then discards them. For the positives, read this book. For information on the not-so-great things about this organization, there are plenty of other books to read.