A tale of two cultures…

I read two interesting and contrasting articles today talking about two corporate giants, Microsoft & Google.  They both have very strong cultures and it is interesting to examine the impact of them.  I’m not pretending this is an in-depth analysis, just an interesting raising of the corporate veil to give a glimpse at what lies behind.

Here is an article which talks about the leadership style of Steve Ballmer and their use of their R&D.  Former Windows sales senior VP Joachim Kempin says in an interview that Ballmer apparently sees up-and-coming talent as a threat rather than a resource, and seeks to protect his position rather than nurture the opportunity it might represent.  He also talks about how the highly innovative Microsoft R&D department fails to exploit its intellectual wares because of fear of getting it wrong.  They apparently had a working tablet years ago, but let Apple make a fortune from that market.  The more senior you are there, the more attention you have to spend on corporate politics and arse-covering.

By contrast I read about Google, who are constantly trying new things, many of which they pull the plug on, but some are game changing such as their Android mobile system.  They didn’t seek to control this and keep it close; they made it open source and threw it to the four winds.  It is arguably the most important mobile platform today and has huge support in the influential and growing Far East markets. 

They are a data-crunching business and apparently they monitor their internal data with equal interest.  Their HR department, known as People Operations, noticed that they were losing more female staff than male ones and set out to find out why.  It was to do with their maternity leave policies.  They changed them, on-the-fly, and allowed new mothers five months leave with full pay to be used as required.  This stopped the leaking of female talent from the business. 

I’m sure there is much more that can be written about both cultures but the attitudes and fears for the those at the top has a huge impact on the rest of the business.  If the boss does it, then you can bet your bippy that others will do so too.  People talk a lot about leadership and it is usually talked about as a positive thing, it also casts a long shadow and can distort behaviour in very costly ways.  Be sure you look behind you to see what is growing in your shadow

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