July 15, 2014  /  Chris Hugill

Mr. Nadella’s recent “manifesto”, contrary to the popular reaction, isn’t just business as usual. Sure, his missive to Microsoft has generated some dismissive reactions. We hold a different view. In our work at CFAR, we are struck continually by the fact that sustained competitive advantage comes from who and how you are, not just from what you do.

Mr. Nadella speaks of increasing fluidity. Organizations today struggle to get the right information to the right people at the right time. Too many of the structures we create to manage people and process impede innovation rather than funneling it into a pipeline of novel value-creation.

But there are proven approaches to surfacing the hidden assets in organizations and creating the fluidity that Mr. Nadella articulated. First, leaders need to welcome courage, seeing it as a catalyst for future growth rather than a threat to that leader’s authority. The future is already happening in little pockets all over Microsoft, and Mr. Nadella and his team have an opportunity to seek it out and amplify it. There will be resistors to the vision that he lays out; rather than sidestepping them or eliminating them, working with resistance makes the effort stronger, not weaker.

Lastly, a manifesto can be powerful, and actions are even more powerful. Mr. Nadella tells us that, "culture change means we will do things differently.” We would add to that by suggesting that doing things differently will mean culture change.

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