We’ve been using Apple products for the past 16 years. We felt that Apple did something different to Microsoft in the design and experience space. Apple seemed to pay more attention to the little things: User Interfaces were simpler, User Experience was more consistent and the Customer Experience was top-notch. Apple said no to more than they said yes. Microsoft is closing the gap thanks to Satya Nadella.

Early in his book Satya alludes to the fact that Microsoft lots sight of Agile mindsets, Customer Experience and the Cloud. In his book, Satya details how he set out to change all. Byproduct of a kick ass team and modern offerings, listening to customers – Steve Balmer’s as CEO $36USD per share, Satya as CEO $296USD per share.

Start at the top

Starting at the top, Satya brought in Dr Gervais to work with his Senior Leadership Team. The first exercise asked the team if they would like to have “an extraordinary individual experience”. Everyone said yes, but no one wanted to be first. The room felt quiet and awkward. There was a fear: of being ridiculed; of failing; of not looking like the smartest person in the room.

If Satya’s world-class SLT had a culture of fear, other teams may not have the level of physiological safety that is required to build truely high performing teams.

What to watch out for: Ensure that your teams feel they can ask questions and ask for support at any point despite their level of experience and seniority. A favourite quote “there is no such thing as a silly question”.

Empathy & Authenticity

I took a lot away from this book about how empathetic Satya is. For a leader of his caliber to be so open about himself, his family, Microsoft and its partners is amazing. He said “My passion is to put empathy at the center of everything I pursue—from the products we launch, to the new markets we enter, to the employees, customers, and partners we work with.” It feels totally authentic to me, no need to question because I’ve seen the rapid way Microsoft have transformed their culture, their products and the way the lead the market.

Satya didn’t think it would be possible to lead the Microsoft that was needed sitting behind a desk behind a computer screen. “An empathetic leader needs to be out in the world” – connect with your customers. Put yourself in their shoes.

While interviewing for the CEO role Satya was prompted to “be clear that he was hungry for the job”. He sought guidance from Steve and was told “It’s too late to be different.”. If Satya had approached leading Microsoft as someone different they probably wouldn’t be where they are today, and he probably wouldn’t be CEO. As Steve Jobs said you can connect the dots looking backwards and looking at the dots leading towards the CEO role its clear, empty and authenticity were the foundations.

What to protect: Focus on what makes you special, you can’t fake empathy and authenticity, don’t change to the situation.

Agility & Customer Experience

Satya met with industry leaders to find out why they were able to move faster in various markets (such as search). The keys he found were Agility, Deployment speed, Nimbleness, get the Customer Experience right. Not just once, but every, single, day. Imposing a deadline for launching Bing did two things 1) Showed the market that Microsoft were moving quickly 2) Create a sense of shared urgency.

Satya: “We would aspire to help everyone be productive no matter where they are, regardless of the device they use. Data, apps, and settings—all content—needed to roam across computing experiences.”. 100% agree, this is what has turned companies like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify in to forces to be reckoned with, they don’t have team members that are thinking purely about the experience of the app/platform/system they are building but the end-to-end experience and how everything is connected.

What to invest in: Ensure that you enable your teams with the right tooling and platforms. Seek to remove anything that might challenge your teams Agility/Nimbleness, their ability to deploy multiple times per day. Connect everything you do to Customer Experience. Everyone has a customer, everyone can improve the interaction/experience. Create a sense or urgency with your teams. One of the biggest missed opportunities I have seen is not imposing a time box in the work we do.

Quick Customer Experience Test: Have everyone on your team (especially SLT) go through your product/platform onboarding end to end, Put yourself in the customers shoes and look for anything that doesn’t feel right. Break down improvements and feed into the pipeline for improvement. I’ve asked for experience signing up new services, new employees onboarding, customers logging faults, credit control. Does everything have the desired outcome and the best Customer Experience possible?

First team thinking

Satya: “We needed a senior leadership team (SLT) that would lean into each other’s problems, promote dialogue, and be effective. We needed everyone to view the SLT as his or her first team, not just another meeting they attended. We needed to be aligned on mission, strategy, and culture.”

What to promote: A concept of your ‘first team’. If you’ve got a product team and someone is a member of that their first thoughts should be to how to serve and support that team. I find often people falling back to support their hierarchal team or their discipline which means that there can be a misalignment of mission and strategy.