I just read an interview of Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer in the New York Times that really caught my eye. Ballmer was asked the following question: “Fill in the blank. You want the culture of your company to be more __________?”
Here was his response:
Efficient. The right word is efficient. That’s the direction that every business leader is steering their corporate culture. Given the current economic climate and the uncertainty about how long the recession will last, this is a time when organizations need to do more with less, Microsoft is no exception…
My take: For Microsoft’s sake, I hope that Ballmer misspoke. For all of our sakes, I hope that he’s wrong.
I can’t imagine how awful it would be to work in a company if its culture was built around efficiency. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to be hyper-efficient. But that’s quite different from defining efficiency as the cornerstone of your corporate culture.
What type of an environment would it be if the most important thing that employees cared about, were measured on, and got promoted for was efficiency? The answer: Horrible.
There’s no doubt that Microsoft, like other companies, needs to do more with less in this economic downturn. But creating a culture focused around efficiency would be one of the worst responses to this environment.
So, as I said, hopefully Ballmer misspoke. If not, I anticipate a very difficult time for Microsoft as it struggles to retain employees (who get burned out) and customers (who want more than efficiency). And we can say goodbye to any innovation in Redmond. That’s just not efficient.
My suggestion to Ballmer: Redirect towards a customer-centric culture.
The bottom line: Efficiency may be a good goal, but it’s a terrible culture.