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Worth Reading #6: Jeff Matthews: How Not to Manage Microsoft…Like a Car Company (March 22, 2010)

Jeff Matthews:

Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up: How Not to Manage Microsoft…Like a Car Company: As far back as April, 2006 we here at NotMakingThisUp reported on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s refusal to spring for iPods for his children, and his insistence that they not use Google.... “No, I do not. Nor do my children.... I’ve got my kids brainwashed: You don’t use Google, and you don’t use an iPod.”... We likened Ballmer’s approach to that of the old car companies, thusly:

Such a blinders-on, head-in-the-sand, not-invented-here mindset has heretofore been more closely associated with Detroit, where auto executives drive only their own company’s best cars. Small wonder the bigs at GM, Ford and Chrysler failed to grasp, before it was too late, the quality and innovation that allowed Toyota and other imports to eat their collective lunch.

Little did we know that Steve Ballmer’s father once worked for Ford. That’s right. In “Forbidden Fruit: Microsoft Workers Hide Their iPhones” the weekend Wall Street Journal describes—and we are not making this up—“the perils of being an iPhone user at Microsoft”:

Kevin Turner, chief operating officer…said he discouraged Microsoft's sales force from using the iPhone... "What's good for the field is good for Redmond," Mr. Turner said, recalls one of the people who heard his comments. Mr. Ballmer took a similar stance at the meeting. He told executives that he grew up in Detroit, where his father worked for Ford Motor Co., and that his family always drove Fords, according to several people at the meeting.

Ballmer’s father, of course, was not alone. All the car companies used to feed spanking-new, smokin’-hot, top-of-the-line models to ‘the suits.’ That’s why the suits never saw the Japanese coming. And Ballmer—like father, like son, it would seem—is doing the same for Microsoft.... Seems to us that if Bill Gates is as smart as Warren Buffett thinks, and if Bill Gates really wants to see his legacy survive, he should buy Steve Ballmer an iPad and an iPhone and an iPod...