New leaders often prove they’re willing to make bold moves by immediately shaking things up. We saw a prime example yesterday when Microsoft’s newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella confirmed that both Tony Bates, the former Skype CEO who joined Microsoft as EVP of development and evangelism after the acquisition, and Tami Reller, EVP of marketing, will be moving on.
The removal of Tony Bates is particularly interesting because he was rumored to be in the running for CEO, which clearly didn’t pan out. Is it best for leaders to remove their competition once they assume their position or to integrate them into their team? For example, President Obama was willing to name Hilary Clinton Secretary of State after beating her in the 2008 presidential election. On one hand, you put them in a position to potentially undermine you. On another, it’s a sign of confidence, acceptance and open-mindedness.
I suppose the current state of the office or organization a leader is taking over plays an important role. Microsoft has been struggling in recent years and a total shakeup might be the only way to get back on track.
Anyway, here is the note Nadella sent to Microsoft employees breaking the news:
In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many of you – in person, on Yammer, and in groups in Redmond as well as in our Boston and Northern California offices. (Thank you for all the questions and please keep the input coming!) I’ve also been able to get on the road meeting with customers and investors, which has been really helpful as well.
One of my consistent themes has been a point I made in my original mail – we all need to do our best work, have broad impact and find real meaning in the work we do. Coming together as teams fuels this on a day-to-day basis. And having the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) set both pace and example means a lot to me.
I have discussed this point in various forms with the SLT and have asked for their “all in” commitment as we embark on the next chapter for the company. We need to drive clarity, alignment and intensity across all our work. With that as a backdrop, I want to share a set of changes to the leadership team:
Tony Bates has decided this is the right time for him to look for his next opportunity. Tony came to the company via the Skype acquisition, where he was CEO of Skype, and did a great job of successfully landing that team and continuing to build the service in a high impact way. He also stepped up to the new opportunity of leading the Business Development and Evangelism team over the past eight months. I’ve appreciated Tony’s insights and perspective, and wish him well in his journey. I know he is just a Skype call or message away. Eric Rudder will serve as interim leader responsible for Business Development and Evangelism, while continuing in his role on Advanced Technology.
I have decided we need a single leader running marketing for the company, and have asked Chris Capossela to take on this role as EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, reporting to me. I have talked about the premium we need to place on getting very, very focused on things that we can uniquely do. How we articulate our value, how we market our message, how we deliver that value to customers through our advertising and other channels, all have to tie into an overarching strategy. Chris brings a wealth of experience to this need, serving in senior leadership roles across the marketing function for many years. He is a strong organizational leader, and the work he has done with retailers, operators and OEMs on a global basis gives him real visibility and insight into how consumers are buying and using our products. He has been at the center of our devices and services transformation in SMSG as the worldwide leader of the Consumer Channels Group (CCG), starting with the formation and building of CCG, to overseeing the launch of numerous consumer products from Windows 8/8.1, Surface and Xbox One. Chris will be promoted to EVP and join the SLT as a part of his new role and will remain as acting lead for CCG until his replacement is named.
This change in marketing structure provides an opportunity for Mark Penn to play a new leadership role at the company as EVP, Chief Strategy Officer. Mark brings a blend of data analysis and creativity that has led to new ways of working and strong market outcomes such as the “Honestly” campaign and the Super Bowl ad, both of which were widely cited as examples of high impact advertising across the industry. His focus on using data to quickly evaluate and evolve our campaigns has driven new insights and understanding. Mark and his team also will continue to provide input in the area of competitive research and analysis. I am looking forward to applying Mark’s unique skill set across a broader set of challenges facing the company, from new product ideas to helping shape the overall areas of strategic investment. He will be a member of and an advisor to the SLT and will continue to report to me.
Tami Reller agrees with the go-forward approach of a single marketing leader and will support Chris through his transition into his new role. She will then take time off and pursue other interests outside the company. Tami’s contributions to Microsoft are significant; she’s held multiple CFO jobs across the company, for Microsoft Dynamics, the Product and Services Division and Windows. She led marketing, finance and business strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. Over the past eight months, she’s led the Marketing Group, bringing many distinct teams together to form a cohesive organization. I have had the good fortune of working with Tami ever since she joined Microsoft and have valued her contributions and look forward to seeing what she does next.
Lastly, I wanted to share a final thought from a book I recently finished about the University of Washington rowing team that won the Olympics in 1936 that was written by Daniel James Brown, who worked at Microsoft for over a decade. It’s a great story of how commitment, determination, and optimism among groups can create history. There is a very evocative description in the book about a team of rowers working together at the highest level – he calls it “the swing of the boat”:
“There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others….Poetry, that’s what a good swing looks like.”
As a company, as a leadership team, as individuals, that is our goal – to find our swing. As an SLT and across the company we are on our way.