Management Turnover as Change Agent

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CEO Watch List- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Update #1

Microsoft MSFT (NASDAQ) and particularly Steve Ballmer, the firm’s CEO, continues to find itself on the hot seat. More and more analysts and tech pundits are beginning to question the firm’s direction and leadership. Yesterday, Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital examined some of the problems facing Microsoft and it’s chief executive in her piece entitled, What to make of the Microsoft-Is-Falling-And-Can’t-Get-Up MemeOne year stock performance of Microsoft, Source: Swisher is by no means in the camp seriously worried about the firm’s immediate future but she suggests there is a real need for some change at the firm. According to Swisher,

Microsoft, as all tech companies do, needs to change, and a lot faster than it has so far; the company has been trying mightily to do so in search and recently, in mobile, where it is woefully far behind; its leadership under Ballmer, who took over from co-founder Bill Gates, has been meh enough to keep its stock moribund.

But, by no means recently–even if there is a better CEO for Microsoft out there than Ballmer–have I found the company execs ignorant about the tougher issues or unwilling to consider changes needed.

In fact, in its high-flying days, Microsoft did have a tin ear to criticism. No longer, and I would call its execs appropriately concerned about fixing its issues, although their efforts do suffer from the company’s massive size and inertia in making the right moves.

Thus, they certainly might not be successful at innovating, although these are the very kinds of problems Apple CEO Steve Jobs solved when he returned to a rotten company in what, in its current glory days, seems eons ago.

And Microsoft has been getting the same questions that are beginning to be asked about Google.

… That’s why–at this point–I can see no need for panic to set in about Microsoft…

… As for today, even though we are all terminal, the sky looks like it will remain intact at Microsoft for a little bit longer.

Swisher is rather pragmatic about Microsoft’s situation but pragmatism does not always reign particularly when you are talking about one of the largest and formerly most successful tech firms in history. Keep a close eye on Ballmer and Microsoft.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recommended Reading - CEO Succession Planning Lags Behind Research Finds, Stanford Graduate School of Business

The gap in succession planning at corporations continues to raise serious problems for companies. The Stanford Graduate School of Business’ June issue examined research on CEO succession planning conducted by Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm, and Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance. According to David Larker a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business,

“We found that this governance lapse stems primarily from a lack of focus: boards of directors just aren’t spending the time that is required to adequately prepare for a succession scenario.”

To get a summary of the research’s findings go to Stanford’s GSB News.

Monday, June 7, 2010

CEO Watch List- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft

I have resisted putting Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s MSFT (NASDAQ) CEO, on the Liberum CEO Watch List for sometime now. Ballmer’s ongoing startling statements about Microsoft and the industry along with his lack of innovation over the last number of years has begun to be examined by a number of specialists in the field. Rumors even are hearSteve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoftd about bringing Bill Gates back. While it is hard to believe Ballmer is really at risk, maybe he should be. Just today, Adam Lashinsky, the Senior Editor for Fortune wrote a piece in which he said,

One year stock performance of MicrosoftHe (Ballmer) is presiding over the umpteenth reorganization of the company he has run for years, having succeeded his pal, Bill Gates. His online business, whose Bing search engine is making modest gains against industry leader Google, lost more than $700 million last quarter.

Yet here was Ballmer traveling down a semantical rabbit hole over the future of the PCs. In Ballmerworld, it doesn’t matter that the PC is shrinking in relevance. Any device is a computer, and people will want to use Windows because they’re so familiar with it. By the way, Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest release, is crushing it, further proof that computer users love Microsoft.

CEOs certainly are paid to put on a happy face and represent as well as possible. But hearing Ballmer at the Wall Street Journal’s D conference left me with one question: What is the guy smoking? Windows 7 has been a “success” in part because Microsoft’s previous effort, Vista, was such a stinker. Businesses the world over held off so long on upgrading their PCs that once Microsoft got it right they had no choice but to start replacing obsolete equipment.Semantics aside, Ballmer knows as well as anyone that the future of personal-computer industry is in mobile devices. Here, Microsoft’s hand is so weak that its most important global equipment partner, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), is buying a beleaguered smartphone maker, Palm (PALM), for its superior mobile operating system.

Ballmer really needs to show he understands his marketplace and his competition and how he expects to deal with it. So far, in this regard he has been a dismal failure. Under his tutelage the stock has not really shown much shine either.Stay tuned.


Silicon Alley - Meet The New CEO Of Microsoft