Insights | 4 MIN READ

Giving Microsoft Back its WHY

For what seems like forever, I’ve been showing clients and audiences around the world about the importance of WHY [thank you Simon Sinek for the encouragement and insights].

And one of the most telling (and compelling) moments is when I contrast Steve Jobs’ speech to his team on 8 January 1998 — where Apple was 3 months from bankruptcy and its share price was $2.57 — to that now infamous ‘chicken dance’ routine of former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer.

See the two videos below to see the point clearly:


STEVE BALLMER (He actually screams “C’mon, give it up for me!” at one point)

Little wonder is it that Microsoft ‘lost it’ in so many ways and Apple ‘got it’.

And it highlights what can happen when the Founder leaves — the WHY that powered the business can leave with them.

The question is then …….. how do you get it back?

Well, certainly not by ‘high-fiving’ and chicken-dancing.

But new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella seems to have a GREAT chance of doing it, based on his opening note to his team around the world.

You can view the full email here but let me just get to some crucial bits of it. First, of course, the way he opens up. Check this for humility:

A great start

Today is a very humbling day for me.

It reminds me of my very first day at Microsoft, 22 years ago.

Like you, I had a choice about where to come to work. I came here because I believed Microsoft was the best company in the world. I saw then how clearly we empower people to do magical things with our creations and ultimately make the world a better place.

I knew there was no better company to join if I wanted to make a difference.

This is the very same inspiration that continues to drive me today.

That needs no comment — it leaves chicken-dancing dead.

The first WHY

And then, magically enough, he gets straight to his first WHY. Like this:

Why am I here?
I am here for the same reason I think most people join Microsoft — to change the world through technology that empowers people to do amazing things.

I know it can sound hyperbolic — and yet it’s true. We have done it, we’re doing it today, and we are the team that will do it again.

The Broader WHY

I just love the way he involves, resonates and inspires here. ‘WHYs’ do that, of course. So then he moves from his why to the broader one:

Why are we here?
In our early history, our mission was about the PC on every desk and home, a goal we have mostly achieved in the developed world.

Today we’re focused on a broader range of devices. The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things.

That’s a really nice reminder of the initial WHY that got quoted so often (it was so compelling!)

Building on it

And then Nadella really starts to build momentum. This is a stunning ‘segue’:

Qi Lu (Microsoft Exec VP) captured it well in a recent meeting when he said that Microsoft uniquely empowers people to “do more.” This doesn’t mean that we need to do more things, but that the work we do empowers the world to do more of what they care about — get stuff done, have fun, communicate and accomplish great things.

This is the core of who we are, and driving this core value in all that we do — be it the cloud or device experiences — is why we are here.


Satya Nadella, current CEO of Microsoft (Appointed 4 Feb 2014)

And then he makes it even bigger and ‘real’ ….

Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can’t ask for a better foundation.

Let’s build on this foundation together.

And then the real WHY in ‘meaning’

Finally, I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.

When Mr. Ballmer announced his resignation, the stock ROSE 17.5%. (Ballmer’s net worth reportedly rose an additional $1.2 Billion that day.) And the stock has continued to rise since then.

Of course, for most of us, it’s not about the stock price rising or falling. It’s about a company that doesn’t just do ‘stuff’. It’s about a company that delivers (and tells stories about) stuff that matters.

Seems to me that Mr. Nadella gets that. And (in another hat tip to Simon Sinek) he understand it truly does start with why.


About Paul Dunn

Paul is the chairman at B1G1 and a hugely respected and admired business leader too. He’s a 4-times TEDx speaker and he frequently travels around the world inspiring businesses with B1G1 and his amazing business insights.