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Microsoft CEO Nadella aces first-100-day test

'A or A-,' says expert who spelled out to-do list in February

May 15, 2014 12:15 PM ET

Computerworld - If Satya Nadella celebrated his first 100 days as CEO of Microsoft today, no one could blame him, a corporate leadership expert said Thursday.

Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been in charge for 100 days as of today. (Photo: Microsoft)

"I'd give him very high marks, an A or A-, for his first 100 days," said Randy Ottinger, an executive vice president with Kotter International, a Cambridge Mass. consultancy that specializes in leadership change and setting corporate strategy.

Just a day after Nadella was named successor to Steve Ballmer, Ottinger and others argued that the new chief executive had to have a 100-day plan to jump start his time in the big chair. Nadella's 100th day as CEO is today.

"No question that there's a first 100 days for a new CEO," Ottinger said in February, giving a nod to the practice of many U.S. presidents, who implement a fast-moving plan to set their administrations' political tone and agenda.

Since Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term, when he pushed major pieces of his New Deal through Congress within months, pundits have graded politicians' opening 100 days, using it as a quick metric of leadership. It's the same in the corporate equivalent of the Oval Office.

Three months ago, Ottinger sketched out a to-do list for Nadella's first 100 days, saying that the new CEO had to pick his team, identify the biggest opportunities for Microsoft in a quickly-changing market, refashion the board and create a sense of urgency among not just senior leaders, but the entire workforce.

Ottinger was impressed by Nadella's performance in almost every area.

"I'd definitely give him an A on selecting his team," said Ottinger. "From the March 3 announcements on, Nadella made his decisions quickly."

That day, Microsoft announced a major shake-up of its senior leadership. Out was Tony Bates, who had led business development -- and been in the running for the CEO spot -- and Tami Reller, marketing boss and once co-chief of Windows. Mark Penn, the creator of the "Scroogled" attack ads, was shifted to chief strategy officer; Chris Capossela was made chief marketing officer.

"All of that within a month," said Ottinger, who ticked off other personnel changes, including Stephen Elop's return to Microsoft and Scott Guthrie's promotion to lead the cloud group Nadella had left.

"Making change is much easier for an insider," said Ottinger. "Nadella was able to make all these moves that quickly because he knew a lot of the players. I always would opt for an inside candidate. Outsiders are such a crapshoot. Companies have cultures, and it's so difficult if you're coming from the outside."



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