Microsoft has regained its position as a leading tech company in recent years but the blocks it painstakingly built could come crumbling down if the company continues to release broken updates to Windows 10.
The prolific bugs that plague the operating system suggest a foundational problem within Microsoft, one that distinguished engineer James Whittaker, who worked for the software giant under Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella, blames on so-called "made men" within the company.
Whittaker published a blog post to Medium describing how made-men who thrived under Gates and Ballmer continue to bring down the company and blames Nadella for not taking a stronger stand against them. The engineer opens by hitting out at Microsoft's former CEOs, who he describes as "consummate know-it-alls," for putting in place a system wherein those who run Microsoft "looked the same, sounded the same and acted the same."
"They [Ballmer and Nedella] specialized in snap decisions and dominating their subordinates. But chalking up the shouting, on-the-spot firings and alleged chair-throwing as simply 'leader’s passion' misses a greater point: they perpetuated their toxic behavior by surrounding themselves almost exclusively with leaders who emulated that behavior," Whittaker wrote.
While Whittaker acknowledges some of the positive changes Nadella has brought about, including increased diversity, he criticizes the current CEO's "culture-forward vision" for not weeding out the predominantly white males who rose in rank under Ballmer and Gates and continue to perpetuate a "toxic management style." He goes as far as relating Nadella to a southern mayor "disavowing racism while standing in the shade cast by a statue of Robert E. Lee."
"Treating the culpables as untouchable sends a message to the current offenders that these behaviors are in bounds and those who practice them suffer no lingering effects," Whittaker wrote. "It does nothing to stop the fiscal regularity of companywide memos condemning ongoing sexism, racism and bullying."
As a result of Nadella's alleged failure to clean house, Windows and other Microsoft products have failed to live up to their potential, according to Whittaker, who says "It’s worth noting that cultural transformation didn’t happen in places, like Windows, where Nadella simply rearranged the made-men deck chairs. Instead of following his culture-change playbook, he simply swapped Windows’ made-men with Windows Phone’s made-men." He adds, "Windows continues its tradition of boring, buggy software and consistently fumbled updates."
If you're a fan of Microsoft or Windows, this might all sound bleak. Fortunately, Whittaker closes with some advice to Nadella, "If you want real and lasting cultural change, sweep away the made-men who succeeded under the previous culture and promote the people who look, act and think more like their employees than their managers."
Whether or not Whittaker's claims are accurate, the company needs to quickly discover a solution for the myriad problems facing Windows.