In his book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball," Gordon MacKenzie describes how companies become bureaucratic hairballs.

Microsoft has become a corporate bureaucracy which is now being compared to IBM. Gone are the days where employees are empowered. Instead, employees are now just numbers. Small cogs in the corporate machine. With over 50 thousand employees, each voice has become no more than a whisper. It has become the duty of management to corral this morass of intellectual horsepower.

When someone has a bright idea, managers are not encouraged to reward this behavior. Instead, if an employee thinks outside of the box, they will likely find themselves without a job. Employees have reported that when they go to Human Resources for help in finding the right fit for themselves within the machine, they are told that it is not the responsibility of HR to assist in such matters. When they go to Human Resources to file a grievance, they are told that such a process does not exist at Microsoft and that the matter should be taken up with the manager directly.

The growth of the hairball is no fault of Microsoft. This is a natural progression of corporate growth. As a company takes on new policies, it becomes a tangle of precedent and attitudes. Attitudes such as "we don't do it that way here" and "you are at a level below me so your ideas are not worthy."
Managers find themselves slaves to the hairball. Employees report that when they go to management with ideas, they are often told to keep quiet and work as directed. Some of the brighter bulbs in the bunch are under orders to not to talk to executives. This is a 20th century "factory" mentality and is justified by the excuse that Microsoft is good at shipping software and management knows how to do this in the most optimal way possible. "Just do it" management says.
Microsoft's Achilles heel is that it has become the world's leading software manufacturing machine and it leads market share. In this position, it has become arrogant and complacent. This could spell disaster for the Titanic of software. As one employee pointed out, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being fired, "Microsoft is a lot of smart people doing a lot of stupid things. What it lacks in vision it makes up for in acquisition, quality, and production."

Ironically, Microsoft touts innovation. It claims that it is an innovative company. Yet, as Bryan Chaffin points out: "Microsoft does not innovate and never has. Everything they have done has been done elsewhere first. They don't develop new products, they buy or usurp them." This may be true for the products and services it has already acquired and repackaged. Also, it has been said that the only way to outwit Microsoft is to innovate. If this is true, then Microsoft's weakness is that it waits for others to innovate and then because it has the resources, it can afford to buy up this innovation and repackage it.

Microsoft is testimony to good business. Bill Gates is not a Turing Award winner, but he is the richest man in America. If we look at the results, we see that money is the end product of his business acumen. We are all blessed by the software that presently exists as it has made our lives easier and certainly led to higher overall business productivity world wide.
But what is next? Is it to be another upgrade? Is it to be another feature? Is it to be another acquisition?
Contrary to the growing hairball, is much evidence which proves that innovation is required in order to survive in the modern marketplace. If Microsoft is to take a lead into the next century of computing software, it will need to listen better both to its employees and to its customers. The next step in the evolution of Microsoft should be compassion.

As Tim Sander's points out in his book "Love is the Killer App," compassion is requisite for growth. This means compassion for its employees and compassion for its customers. Management wonders why internal morale and its organizational health index is declining. Management wonders why there is a disconnect with customers. As Paul Eames put it so aptly in an article titled "Good Management" from 1949, "Brotherly love is the true incentive in good management." "Brotherly love widens and clarifies vision, attracts and reveals opportunity, provides balance and strength."

Microsoft can find true love for it's customers (our friends and neighbors) or eventually die a slow death.
From Joey Reiman's 1998 book "Thinking for a Living", page 110:
Management guru Tom Peters says, "Don't rock the boat. Sink it and start over." Creative destruction is fundamental to all change. The new can only be created by destroying the old. As Picasso said, "The painter must destroy. He must destroy to give it another life." Frank Lloyd Wright was so destructive that the New York Times called him "the anarchist of architecture." Anyone afraid of destroying the old to get to the new never will be able to achieve a worthwhile, breakthrough innovation.

Many companies hire an ideation firm because their own corporate culture works against unique thinking. The culture says, "Don't think outside the square, or you may find yourself outside the company." This is the kind of kind of culture that rewards stodgy thinking and dull, safe ideas. At the same time, it strangles great thinking.

Companies and environments that have a "certain" way of doing things - that are stuck in a rut of routine thinking - will undo any possibility of having breakthrough ideas.

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