Former Microsoft VP: Microsoft Has Created a Dysfunctional Corporate Culture

Dick Brass
Dick Brass
Microsoft VP

Microsoft has created a "dysfunctional corporate culture," according to former vice president Dick Brass. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Mr. Brass laid out the case that Microsoft is coasting on the success of only two products, Office and Windows, and that the company's culture today discourages innovation and change.

"As they marvel at Apple's new iPad tablet computer, the technorati seem to be focusing on where this leaves Amazon's popular e-book business. But the much more important question is why Microsoft, America's most famous and prosperous technology company, no longer brings us the future," Mr. Brass wrote.

He believes that Microsoft is a great American success story, and that tech watchers should root for the company to return to its more innovative roots and stop reacting to change wrought by others. He adds the serious charge that even while the company is delivering record profits, in reality it is a company in decline.

"Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator. Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. Its image has never recovered from the antitrust prosecution of the 1990s," he wrote, adding that the company's advertising has is inept.

(He specifically criticizes the series of adds that included Bill Gates wiggling his butt with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, an ad campaign that this reporter praised as being a good beginning at Microsoft trying to reach out to its customers.)

At the heart of the problem, according to Mr. Brass, is Big Redmond's corporate culture where established divisions and vice presidents engage in turf warfare against any new projects and technology that they perceive as threatening their preeminence within the company.

The end result is that the best and brightest engineers and executives leave the company.

"At Microsoft," he wrote, "[competition] has created a dysfunctional corporate culture in which the big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It's not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft's music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left."