Unified vs Law of the Jungle

Steve Ballmer’s re-org from competing and separate units into a more cohesive and mutually-supporting structure should be good news for shareholders and supporters of Microsoft. Kind of a switch from a “law of the jungle” approach to a “unified” single-team approach.

The rationale behind the previous structure of competing business units was that competition breeds success and efficiency.  Based on Ballmer’s switch this apparently did not work as well as hoped.

Microsoft is not alone in this and it is a testament to the people who work there that the company remains a powerful provider of services and entertainment and will do so for years to come. In fact, as I’ve often said, Microsoft is far too easily maligned and not given enough credit for how the company has made the world a far more productive and interesting place, laying the groundwork for other companies to follow (hello Apple).

The company is pushing to hire younger and more flexible workers to support this more collaborative approach and create or maintain its momentum. I base this on the cascade of Facebook posts on the Microsoft Careers page – see below:

MSFT Careers Collagehorrible example of a company embracing the law of the jungle far too much, is Sears. CEO Eddie “Crazy Eddie” Lampert (not a nickname I chose but one chosen by his peers, apparently) broke down the venerable Sears organization into a scrum of competing entities, all fighting for survival while their competition moved forward and away from them. With a stock down 64% and a loss of $10,000,000,000 in sales, the company can rightly be considered the “Detroit” of retail.

Welcome to Sears

Like any organizational philosophy, “collaboration” can become just another buzz-word if not honestly and completely implemented. This includes having the right performance assessments, HR policies, and consistent leadership from everyone. Still, if I were to bet on what works best, I would comfortably put my money down on the company that has a unified org structure and clear goals over a company that celebrates management through gladiatorial excess.

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