Would a 3000-word memo get you all fired up?

Last week Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent out a 3000-word memo to employees about his vision for the future of the company. You can read it all on Business Insider. It got me thinking about how I’d have acted if I’d been in his shoes.

Nadella’s memo contains these rather highbrow words of wisdom: “Productive people and organisations are the primary drivers of individual fulfilment and economic growth and we need to do everything to make the experiences and platforms that enable this ubiquitous”. Very poetic, but if you ask me, a bit too intellectual. It’s important to communicate with your team on a level that everyone understands. I’m not suggesting ‘dumbing down’ but if you’re trying to inspire and your message isn’t clear you’ll fail.

If I asked you to explain what the future of your company looked like, would you say something like this? “We will transform the return on IT investment by enabling enterprises to combine their existing datacenters and our public cloud into one cohesive infrastructure backplane.”

I wouldn’t.

I’d try and tell a story, paint a picture with words. I’d describe the difficult situation that Jim the Infrastructure Manager finds himself in, having to continually justify his spend to the CFO; how the  Microsoft team put their creative minds together to develop the cloud and demonstrated to Jim how he could simply add to what he already had in place, making his life so much easier.

Stories are inspiring and people remember them, especially when they are personally relevant or told from the heart.

If I was addressing my team about the year ahead I’d be honest about the challenges we were facing together. I’d show my team that I trusted them to pull through and find ways to empower them to achieve our collective goals. In fact to be fair to Nadella, something like this would do: “Microsoft will light up digital work and life experiences in the most personal, intelligent, open and empowering ways.” But Nadella said nothing about the competition, perhaps ignoring the elephant in the room.

To inspire enmasse you need to be concise and say what you mean, but there’s a fine line. I’d probably omit this part which sounds a bit like a threat: “And if you want to thrive at Microsoft and make a world impact, you and your team must add numerous more changes…. that you will be enthusiastic about driving.”

The memo ends: “With the courage to transform individually, we will collectively transform this company and seize the great opportunity ahead”. Do you think this is visionary?


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