Github acquisition by Microsoft: Managing in the Knowledge Age

Enter big, bad, old world, clunky Microsoft who acquired Github last year and the Internet exploded with jokes. Both Bill Gates and Steve Balmer were tough industrial age managers and Satya Nadella realized that the world had changed- see “How Microsoft got its groove back.”

Think of any failing  sector like retail, conglomerates  (GE) and you find highly educated  leaders trying to implement Business School knowledge that was developed in the Industrial Age. Here is how the industrial age and its management worked

You find a customer need or have a technology (eg Henry Ford and the car) and build a factory. Now you are locked in to your assembly line and are committed to optimize, optimize as you make more and more rules for the employee. Meanwhile the employee has changed ….

In the last decade, younger folks worldwide have the internet, mobile phone and are constantly on social media. Younger people are more than willing to pursue what they love, despite lesser pay.At worst, food, clothing and shelter in the basement is available through parents . Millennials see lesser value for expensive brands compared to the baby boomers who grew up in the industrial age. Since affording expensive brands is not a priority, high income is not as meaningful for millennials.

So how do you manage in the knowledge age?

The excellent article “These three management styles belong to the past” by Paulo Gallo  provides great pointers and here is our take:

  • Every employee must feel that this is their organization: This is the holy grail of management and very hard to do. Genuinely asking employees for solutions and considering those suggestions very seriously makes employees feel valued. Once you get a suggestion and decide to do something different merely communicating your reasons to the employee can help the sense of ownership. People want to be heard and will come back to contribute on a project even if that’s not what they initially suggested.
  • Command and control is out- shared vision and purpose is in: Since no employee in the knowledge age is an assembly line worker it becomes critical to unlock the “happy” intellectual energy of the individual.  A sense of greater purpose across the organization must exist that is different from the old “vision” thing. The purpose must be reinforced at every turn. And this purpose needs to go beyond profit to something nobler. The mere fact that your business exists and you have ongoing customers indicates that you are making a difference to your customer. Simply asking how you are making the world better? is a get way to get started on  articulating your organization’s purpose.

The underlying logic of change at Microsoft under Satya Nadella is an inspiration for all organizations.

About StratoServe for Growth Strategy.