How Microsoft Uses Stories to Transform their Culture

Image of Microsoft SEO Satya Nadella discussing "Microsoft Uses Stories To Transform Culture for the Doug Keeley blog

When CEO Satya Nadella took over the reins of Microsoft in 2014, the company was in dire need of a makeover. The stock had not moved in years. Its aggressive, competitive culture had created a cadre of mostly white male leaders fighting over their fiefdoms. And it had grown complacent relying on revenue from Windows.

Satya hit Refresh.

First he brought his leadership team together in a series of meetings in which they learned about each other by sharing personal stories. According to his book, the more they got to know each other, the more they started to cooperate instead of compete.

Then he gave the company a mission worth getting out of bed for: “To empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. “

I am proud to say that Microsoft has been a client for 15 years. The transformation of their culture has been nothing short of staggering.

A typical Microsoft presentation used to someone talking to a screen packed with words and numbers. Today it is more often someone telling a story about transformation, with photos and videos. Of course the numbers aren’t gone, nor are the engineering slides. But the stories are the glue that binds the culture and connects employees and partners to their mission.

At their recent conference in Las Vegas attended by 45,000 employees and partners, the keynotes had lots of snazzy demos of new technology – and an equal number of people standing alone onstage telling the story of how their life or business had been transformed by that technology. It was small instead of big, emotional instead of intellectual, and incredibly effective.

Modern businesses are the first tribes to not use stories intentionally to build culture. Microsoft, today the most valuable company in the world, is one of the exceptions. The tripling of its stock price should be proof to any leader that stories are the glue that builds culture. And strong culture is smart business.

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