@iamjaygreene and @jimkerstetter of @CNETNews are not surprised by the departure of unpopular Windows boss Steven Sinofsky from Microsoft.
Some pundits (e.g. ZDnet’s Larry Dignan) had predicted that Sinofsfy would survive if Windows 8 was a
commercial success. By letting him go immediately after Windows 8 went live rather than waiting,
Ballmer has clearly signalled that it is not about Windows 8 success but
about something else.
In pieces written in the weeks before Sinofsky’s departure, Greene and Kerstetter mention the following issues.
- Sinofsky successfully battled with Ray Ozzie for control of Windows Live Mesh. Ray Ozzie left Microsoft immediately after Ballmer folded Windows Live Mesh into Sinofsky’s organization.
- According to unnamed critics within Microsoft, Sinofsky created a rigid product development process that puts more control in
his hands and diminishes Microsoft’s ability to innovate.
- In a similar fashion to Scott Forstall at Apple (who also lost his job recently), Sinofsky zealously promoted his group’s work at the expense of the rest of the company.
- Manu Cornet’s cartoon of Microsoft’s organization chart is thought to be a reference to Sinofsky.
But this story isn’t just about personality clashes and organizational politics. Sinofsky has championed an approach to organization structure, which he calls Functional Organization, and this is described in a book called “One Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making,” (2009) co-written with Harvard Business School professor Marco Iansiti.
The Functional Organization builds management reporting lines around job functions — such as
product management, development, software testing. This may be contrasted with a Product Organization where multi-disciplinary teams work on specific
feature sets together.
Sinofsky and Iansiti argue that functional
organizations create clearer road maps for workers to march toward a
final goal. However, critics within Microsoft disagree. Apparently referring to Sinofsky’s Functional Organization, Charlie Kindel, another ex-Microsoft executive is quoted as saying that “it represents a siloed perspective, it represents an us versus them perspective”. Another former senior executive (unnamed) has referred to the approach as “Soviet central-planning”, where tight control from the top squeezes out innovative thinking from below.
Announcing Sinofsky’s departure, and the appointment of Julie Larson-Green as his successor, Steve Ballmer wrote “The products and services we have
delivered to the market in
the past few months mark the launch of a new era at Microsoft. To
continue this success it is imperative that we continue
to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated
and rapid development cycles for our offerings. … Her unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to
effectively collaborate and drive a cross company agenda will serve us
well as she takes on this new leadership role”.
(BBC News 13 November 2012)
So is this the end of the Functional Organization in Microsoft? Martin Fowler talks about the oscillation between FunctionalStaffOrganization and
TechnicalStaffOrganization, essentially the same dynamics (he reckons) as drive the
boom-bust cycle of EnterpriseArchitecture. (PreferFunctionalStaffOrganization). So perhaps now the cross-company silo-busting agenda will have the ascendency for a little while.
Read more »