Say What? 12 Moments of Nonsense in Microsoft’s Reorganization Memo

Microsoft’s attempt to radically shake up its corporate structure, getting rid of warring divisions and uniting the company behind a common “devices and services” mission, has dominated tech-industry news this week.

And you can read the details yourself, straight from the CEO’s mouth, in the all-staff memo that the company posted online.

It can be a revealing look at how one of the business world’s biggest names sees its past and its future. But sadly, like almost any corporate missive, this monumental memo from CEO Steve Ballmer is larded up with jargon, acronyms, catchphrases, and the stilted business-school gobbledygook that makes executives feel smarter.

Here are the dozen most confusing, impenetrable, and hilariously unreadable moments from the boss’s big gung-ho letter to Microsofties worldwide. Let’s hope they can understand him better than we can looking in from the outside.

—“The frontier of high-value scenarios we enable will march outward, but we have strengths and proven capabilities on which we will draw.”

I wanted to love this line, but even an admirable attempt at some visual scene-setting (frontiers marching ever outward!) can’t fix a would-be buzzphrase like “high-value scenarios.” Especially when you’re about to beat people over the head with that whole high-value part. Such as …

—“We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities. This will enable us to deliver the most capability—and be most efficient in development and operations—with the greatest coherence to all our key customers.”

It’s a shame that this passage is so hard to understand, because it gets right to the heart of what Ballmer says he’s trying to accomplish in this reorganization: Break a past structure of warring factions and unite everyone in a single mission. Also, mentioning the word “coherence” in an utterly incoherent paragraph is just funny.

—“We will plan across the company, so we can better deliver compelling integrated devices and services for the high-value experiences and core technologies around which we organize.”

Better planning! Sounds great. The rest of it isn’t exactly a rallying cry that people are going to be hanging in their cubicles.

—“Some of these changes will involve putting things together and others will involve repartitioning the work, but in all instances we will be more coherent for our users and developers.”

Apparently it seemed too negative to say that some of the changes will also involve taking things apart. But I wouldn’t say “repartitioning the work” is exactly comforting. Luckily, we can see that coherence is once again a high-value activity.

—“The evangelism and business development team will drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution.”

No idea.

—“DPE, Corporate Strategy and the business development efforts formerly in the BGs will become part of this new group. OEM will remain in SMSG with Kevin Turner with a dotted line to Tony who will work closely with Nick Parker on key OEM relationships.”

To be fair, this is a subsection of a bullet point about former Skype boss Tony Bates’s new job, which will be sales and “evangelism” with other manufacturers and developers. So it’s real down-in-the-weeds stuff about who reports to whom, the things day-to-day employees want to know. Still, you could give them a break from the acronyms.

—“Most disciplines and product groups will have a core that delivers key technology or services and then a piece that lines up with the initiatives.”

Here’s where Ballmer starts getting into all that process and deliverables and lines-of-reporting stuff that Harvard MBAs just love. I’m sure it makes sense to someone.

—“Each major initiative will have a champion who will be a direct report to me or one of my direct reports. The champion will organize to drive a cross-company team for success, but my whole staff will have commitment to the initiative’s success.”

Champions, you say? Bring on the “Gladiator” games! This is another important point lost in interminable business-speak: It sounds like, despite the new divisions and vice presidents, Ballmer will have his own agents working to make sure everyone is on the right track. Sounds like kind of a fun job, actually.

—“Our focus on high-value activities—serious fun, meetings, tasks, research, information assurance and IT/Dev workloads—also will get top-level championship.”

Then again, I would not want to be the one assigned to top-level championship of tasks and meetings. That does not sound like serious fun.

—“In the new, rapid-turn world, we need to communicate in ways that don’t just exchange information but drive agility, action, ownership and accountability.”

You’ve got to love a passage about communication that makes almost no sense, and also attempts to coin a pointless phrase like “rapid-turn world.” A masterpiece of the genre.

—“We will help businesses that find themselves in a new world of ever-mounting information to manage that information through greater enterprise information assurance.”

Now we’re really cooking. When Microsoft starts talking that sweet, sweet enterprise IT market talk, no CIO can resist. I mean, who hasn’t sat up all night begging and pleading to the universe for greater enterprise information assurance in this new world, where information is ever-mounting? That’s what I thought.

—“In other words, better execution and innovation through strategy and goal and discipline and engineering coherence.”

Another moment that should be much more thrilling—you’re summing up the whole message here. It’s an opportunity to talk to people like you’re sitting with them at the kitchen table, not reading a PowerPoint slide. It makes sense, if you can stay awake.

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