Microsoft Values


(Warning:  This is squishy and abstract and has nothing to do with developer technology.)


I just came back from a management development course called “Values-based Leadership”.  The premise of the course is that by understanding one’s personal values and melding them with the company’s values, one can provide more credible and effective leadership.  I had a few thoughts and questions afterwards – I figure I’ll put them out to the world and see what comes back…


First of all, in case people don’t know Microsoft actually has company values :-), they are:



  • Integrity and honesty.
  • Passion for customers, partners, and technology.
  • Open and respectful with others and dedicated to making them better.
  • Willingness to take on big challenges and see them through.
  • Self-critical, questioning, and committed to personal excellence and self-improvement.
  • Accountable for commitments, results, and quality to customers, shareholders, partners, and employees.

These are listed at microsoft.com, but I was a little surprised just now to see that they aren’t explained in more depth.  There’s more information/depth internally. 


It was pretty interesting watching ~40 managers from around the company  tackle something as squishy as personal values.  There are lot of pretty analytical people in the company and at times we’d fall back to business questions, probably because we felt more comfortable there.  On the other hand, we did the classic MS technique – make a list, prioritize it, and then draw a line – to identify which values were important to each of us personally. 


During the class we assessed how we are doing in terms of understanding and living these values.  Our view wasn’t particularly surprising – we felt we do great on passion for technology and big challenges, but not so well on open and respectful or the ones around customers and partners.  There was a great discussion around how our customers/partners would rate us, i.e. were we being honest enough with ourselves.  This is one of my questions – how do you think we’re doing?  I was eager to ask this but when I saw how little external information there is about these I realized you may not have enough to have an opinion.  Open and respectful is an interesting one – the part that people sometimes struggle with internally is respectful.  Probably both are an issue externally. 


In general I think the values are great, but there are two areas I struggle a bit with.  First, I don’t think passionate is the right word with respect to customers and partners.  It reminds me a bit of a short-term affair – lots of passion, no commitment in the long-term.  The value is meant to get at things like caring deeply about understanding exactly what the customer need is and doing a great job addressing it.  But it misses – for me – the long-term commitment necessary to truly serve customers.  There is the value around accountability for commitments, but that’s sort of transaction-oriented – we’re accountable for the commitments we make, but that doesn’t mean we’re committed overall.  Going back to the premise of the class, I guess this is an opportunity for me to meld my personal value (commitment) with the company value (passionate) and provide leadership.  Here’s a question – passionate or commited? 


The second thing is a bit harder to describe (and maybe related to passionate/commited) – I’d like to see something around commitment to people.  Open and respectful partly gets at that – when you are truly commited to someone, you have the hard conversations and do it in a respectful way.  Accountability to the various stakeholders partly gets at it.  But as a manager there’s a situation I sometimes face that the values doesn’t get at – a person does great work for a while and ok work now but they’ve reached their potential and maybe I can replace them with someone with more potential.  Viewed through a commitment to people/individuals, I start thinking about the person’s family, the relationships our customers have with that individual, the wisdom the person can provide to those around him, etc.. Stating a value is never going to make that decision easy, but it would acknowledge that those other considerations are relevant. 


Do the company values make sense?  Did you know that the Evil Empire has values?  Do we walk the talk?  Is the trend headed in the right direction? 


 


Comments (8)

  1. Shane King says:

    Well, I’d have to say, the only value a publically traded company has is its stock price. 😉

    Legally speaking, that’s the value they have to watch, else their shareholders can sue. If having other values will make the Microsoft stock price rise, then sure, Microsoft has values.

    At the moment, Microsoft has realised it has an image problem. So it figures it needs to present a friendlier face. Hence the values are in at the moment.

    However, and call me a cynic on this one, if at any stage it becomes better for Microsoft to drop those values, you betcha they will. Any publically traded company would – they’re legally required to!

    So in short, I think Microsoft walks the talk as much as any other company. That is, I don’t trust them as far as I can kick them! 😉

    PS: That’s not to say individuals within Microsoft don’t have deeply held positive values. I’m talking about the amorphous entity of the company, not any individual.

  2. Relationship seems like the word you’re missing Mark. A "real" relationship, not the kind most sales companies are after, puts the other person first and seeks to make them the target of success.

    To me, that’s what "long term passion and commitment" translates to, and it’s not something most companies (outside of a select number of ISV’s and partners) experience on a regular basis.

    I really agree with you that the open and respectful one is a bit vague? Perhaps you should list, prioritize, draw a line with that?

    What comes to mind for you about these items? How do those attitudes get prioritized? How does that match with what you see currently within Microsoft?

    Could be a very revealing exercise 🙂

  3. Most people might not know this, but Microsoft has actual values it desires to convey, through each and every employee. # Integrity and honesty. # Passion for customers, partners, and technology. # Open and respectful with others and dedicated to making them better. # Willingness to take on big challenges and see them through. # Self-critical, questioning, and committed to personal excellence and self-improvement. # Accountable for commitments, results, and quality to customers, shareholders, partners, and employees. Interesting, eh? Mark Cligget had some thoughts on these after going to a recent seminar on corporate vs personal values His analysis was, basically: In general I think the values are great, but there are two areas I struggle a bit with. First, I don’t think passionate is the right word with respect to customers and partners. It reminds me a bit of a short-term affair – lots of passion, no commitment in the long-term. The value is meant to get at things like caring deeply about understanding exactly what the customer need is and doing a great job addressing it. … The second thing is a bit harder to describe (and maybe related to passionate/commited) – I’d like to see something around commitment to people. Open and respectful partly gets at that – when you are truly commited to someone, you have the hard conversations and do it in a respectful way. It’s always been one of my favourite thing about Microsoft bloggers: the ability to be real and human. I’m sure most employees are, but sadly most people don’t view Microsoft as either one. My comment to Mark on this entry was: Relationship seems like the word you’re missing Mark. A "real" relationship, not the kind most sales companies are after, puts the other person first and seeks to make them the target of success. To me, that’s what "long term passion and commitment" translates to, and it’s not something most companies (outside of a select number of ISV’s and partners) experience on a regular basis. I really agree with you that the open and respectful one is a bit vague? Perhaps you should list, prioritize, draw a line with that? What comes to mind for you about these items? How do those attitudes get prioritized? How does that match with what you see currently within Microsoft? Could be a very revealing exercise :)…

  4. Dating says:

    (Warning: This is squishy and abstract and has nothing to do with developer technology.) I just came back from a management development course called “Values-based Leadership”. The premise of the course is that by understanding one’s

  5. Weddings says:

    (Warning: This is squishy and abstract and has nothing to do with developer technology.) I just came back from a management development course called “Values-based Leadership”. The premise of the course is that by understanding one’s