Sinofsky Leaving Microsoft and that’s a Good Thing (Updated)

The brilliant yet alienating Steven Sinofsky is leaving Microsoft.
Photo Credit: Dell, Inc.

The man responsible for turning Microsoft Office into a perpetually winning franchise and delivering Windows 7 and 8 on time after the train wreck that was Longhorn/Vista is leaving Microsoft.

This is a Good Thing.

Sinofsky can build a plan and execute on it like no one else but he is also very inflexible. He is a kingdom builder rather than a team player at a time when Microsoft needs to coordinate product strategy across all its  product lines.

In today’s competitive environment, with Apple and Google delivering new major software versions at an annual or even quicker pace, Microsoft doesn’t have the time required for Sinofsky’s methodology. I was on a Microsoft team that built an A/B testing platform at the time Sinofsky took over the Windows Live online business and Sinofsky hated the idea of A/B testing because it didn’t fit his concept of coming up with the perfect plan and having teams execute on it, in lockstep, to completion. What Sinofsky didn’t get was that the customers are the final arbiters of winning features and designs, not the developers. It’s better to have a fast cadence that allows for frequent design improvements via A/B testing and other customer feedback mechanisms.

Update Nov 13, 2012 @ 3:23 PM:

I just came across another article, from Ina Fried at AllThingsD in which Ballmer is quoted as saying that:

“[Microsoft needs] more integrated and rapid development cycles.”

The funny thing about this is that about three years ago I sat in a meeting where Steve Ballmer said just the opposite. Back then he claimed that the frequency of a development cadence didn’t matter as long as it was consistent and delivered on its plans. In hindsight, I’m guessing that Ballmer was repeating a claim made by Sinofsky–a claim that Ballmer no longer believes.

News Articles:

  1. Business Insider: Sinofsky says “I wasn’t fired, I quit!”
  2. CNET: Sinofsky battled with executives, alienated workers in groups outside his Windows empire, and created a toxic environment.
  3. CNET: Mary Jo Foley, one of the best, most tenured and nicest people covering Microsoft, notes that she has been treated as “persona non grata” by the Windows org under Sinofsky. Mary Jo reports on Sinofsky’s replacement Julie Larson-Green.
  4. Mary Jo has a second article on ZDNet with more reasoning beyond Sinofsky’s departure.
  5. Mary Jo’s colleague Ed Bott, another long time Microsoft observer, has some great insider quotes:
  6. AllThingsD goes into depth on how Sinofsky’s infighting with other executives and inability to collaborate finally led to his departure.
  7. Ina Fried at AllThingsD reports that Ballmer called out the need for “more integrated and rapid development cycles.”

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