Back to the future: Microsoft is playing with old models. Are they mental or what?

I had the pleasure of hearing the CFO of Microsoft Chris Liddell speak today.  Chris is very much one of us Kiwis and he has made it to the top levels of organisational leadership on the international business stage.  Chris spoke of the 5 strategies that Microsoft is adopting to deal with the current financial position (is it still a crisis?):

  • Cash
  • Quality
  • Market Share
  • Innovation
  • Cost reduction

Where did all this come from?  Well it looks like pretty good common sense, but it seems that Microsoft have researched extensively the winners and losers from the 1929-37 Great Depression.  Those that survived, survived with a greater market share than at the beginning of the depression.  Those that invested in R&D were well placed for the 5-10 years ahead.  Microsoft has cut 5% of its workforce but has maintained its R&D spend.

R&D spend for them is typically 5-10 years into the future.

What does it mean?  Leadership is about looking forward isn’t it:  “There is only the future”, ” The past has gone”  we hear, and maybe even say.

Certainly Microsoft is a company looking forward.  But even this giant in international terms (hey they have $30b cash in the bank!) has taken time to reflect and look back for lessons from another era.

There are lessons here for organisations, battling to survive and retain focus.

And there are lessons for all of us at a personal level as we face our leadership challenges. We might ask:  are we learning from the past?  If so, what? Learned not do or to do something?  But what of those things that underpin our behaviours?

What are our mental models that shape our view of the world?  Are we prepared to look at them?  Do we even know what they are?

Thanks to Ali at TransTasman Business Circle for the invitation.  Please feel free to comment below. I’ll be writing more about mental models soon.

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