Mulally and Microsoft

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

When news broke on Tuesday that some groups were lobbying for Alan Mulally to get a look as the next CEO of Microsoft, I was pretty positive.  Since then Jon Talton has written a more nuanced and cautionary view of this, suggesting, among other things, that celebrity CEOs are not always able to perform the miracles people are hoping for, and also that the history of CEOs switching fields and succeeding is sketchy.  These are good points, but I still find myself in the Mulally camp for two reasons.

One, in turning around Ford, Mulally demonstrated the ability to do what I think is one of the most important things a CEO can do.  He changed the culture.  To illustrate this let me relate a story that Mulally told at a lunch benefit for Leadership Tomorrow last year (disclosure: I’m on the board of Leadership Tomorrow, and Alan Mulally is one of the more well-known graduates of the program).  He related how when he came to Ford he was introduced to their weekly  status meeting, in which management representatives across the globe phoned in to a telecon for a status report.  And, in familiar corporate fashion, each representative was to indicate, via a green-yellow-red chart, how things were going with his or her domain.  At the first meeting, everything was green.  This from a company that was losing billions.  At that meeting Mulally stressed that what he wanted was the real story, and that no heads would roll because of it. Continue reading