Steve Ballmer announced today that he will be stepping down as CEO of Microsoft within the next twelve months. This comes a little over a month since Microsoft announced a massive reorganization which was aimed at breaking down old fiefdoms and setting a new course.
To quote the Microsoft press release:
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor.
No successor has been chosen yet. At least not one they’re willing to announce.
Regardless of how you feel about Ballmer’s ability to lead Microsoft, his ability to have his company adapt to the quickly shifting fulcrum from desktop to mobile, or his ability to address his customers and developers in a respectful manner; this is terrible timing.
Ballmer writes in his farewell memo:
There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.
No. It’s not.
They’ve just completely recreated the company in a pattern that’s totally alien to most organizations of their size. Indeed, the current configuration only seems to work for Apple. Which, arguably, grew into it completely organically. The structure of Apple certainly wasn’t created by fiat a month prior to a CEO hitting the bricks.
The only way that today’s news could have been good for Microsoft is to have announced a successor and to have said that the new structure was determined after long discussions with them. The only story that could be positive is that Ballmer and his successor, whoever they are, have worked closely together and now that the structure has changed there’ll be a year of handing over the reigns.
As it stands? Ballmer has completely shaken up the way that Microsoft has always worked. Now they don’t only need to find a new CEO who believes they can lead Microsoft out of the hole they’ve dug themselves but one who believes that the last decision that Steve Ballmer made, a company wide reorganization, is the way they, as the new leadership, want to run the company.
Microsoft is currently searching for a new CEO who’ll fit the straight jacket Steve Ballmer has left behind.
If you’re going to change leadership I suggest it’s a good idea to let the new leader figure out how to best run things. You don’t see outgoing national leaders being able to appoint the incoming cabinet. That looks like what Ballmer has just done.