What could be Microsoft’s biggest mistake when Steve Ballmer leaves in twelve months?
Organizations are suffering due to high CEO turnovers. In fact, Chief Executive turnover hit a three-year high in July, as reported by The Hill. No company is immune, including Microsoft. The organization recently announced that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will retire in twelve months (BloomBerg BusinessWeek).
Many critics aren’t saddened to see him go. The company’s stock price even jumped 8% as a result of the news. While no one disputes Ballmer’s many talents, lack of innovation and poor public speaking skills have been cited as reasons for his inability to give the organization the edge it needs. Hiring the appropriate replacement in twelve months is crucial, and botching that task could be a giant mistake.
So, what could be Microsoft’s biggest mistake in the next twelve months?
They could end up back at square one if they don’t prioritize culture and goal alignment. This cannot be stressed enough. While the potential candidates listed below may have completely revived other companies or be known for innovative thinking, if culture doesn’t fit, the Microsoft ship will sink.
Who will fill this Chief Executive position?
Microsoft’s lead Independent Director, John Thompson, will lead a committee (rumored to include Bill Gates) on the search. While the committee has twelve months to tackle this task, it won’t be a simple feat. In reality, this process should have already been started. Succession development should be an integrated part of day-to-day business functions. Rumors suggest internals have surfaced as possible candidates. But has the company invested in the growth of those specific candidates? If so it would be the best way to fill those big shoes, but no final announcement has been made.
What could have been is in the past. Microsoft has to move forward from the here and now. Succession planning, when done effectively, is a detailed but rewarding process. Forming a committee is a great first step. Exploring a pool of potential hires and compiling a possibility list is next. Names such as Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, among many more, have already been mentioned as potential candidates (Microsoft needs innovator-in-chief, USA Today).
But now the team will also need to prioritize skills. There isn’t a Steve Jobs caliber leader lurking around every corner, they must be sought out and nurtured. While Microsoft can weigh leadership qualities such as vision, knowledge, capacity to learn, flexibility, technical skills, public speaking ability, organizational capability, emotional intelligence and innovative tendency all day long, plucking the right fit goes much deeper.
That being said, who will fill this open Chief Executive Position?
If Microsoft plays their cards wisely, the replacement candidate will not only be skillful and innovative, but they will be a culture fit. In this situation, it should be noted that the organization is in the midst of a culture overhaul. So is the right candidate one of the old culture, or a completely brand new culture driver? These are two very big strategies for hiring for leadership. No matter what, the new leader with the right success record, has to meld with the long-term goals at Microsoft and stir in that direction quick, otherwise the outcomes will be set for failure.
The wheels are turning and time will tell, twelve months to be exact. Will they “ballm” or strike gold? As an organization with a strong history and capability for turnaround, Microsoft has the time and ability to fill this leadership role successfully.