Sep 172012
launch of the Windows Phone 7

The Seattle Times has an interesting interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this weekend where he discusses what has been one of the biggest years ever for his company.

Midway through the Seattle Times story there’s a telling exchange.

Q: What is Microsoft’s plan if Windows 8 doesn’t take off?

A: You know, Windows 8 is going to do great.

Q: No doubt at all?

A: I’m not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don’t have any. It’s a fantastic product. …

There is no plan B – Windows Phone is running late and their hardware partner Nokia is looking more foolish every day. Last week not only did they flub the launch of their latest phone, but they also managed to alienate the world’s tech media at the event.

It’s nice not to have doubts, but from outside the comfortable corporate headquarters Microsoft looks like they are struggling in this space.

Steve Ballmer might be more credible if he did admit to doubts and at least hint there is a plan B in their smartphone strategy.

Companies need leaders with doubts – doubts about their strategy, about their managers, about the economy and – most importantly – about their own infallibility.

One of the worst aspects of 1980s management ideology was the myth of the CEO superstar. Too many good businesses have been destroyed, and too much damage done to the global economy, by senior executives who have believed in their own infallibility.

Some doubts might help a business, particularly when that company is struggling with some serious threats.

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