Why Storytelling Matters – Satya Nadella’s Email

Named as the new CEO of Microsoft on Feb, 2014

Named as the new CEO of Microsoft on Feb, 2014
Photo via: http://www.microsoft.com/

On February 4, 2014, Satya Nadella was named Microsoft’s new CEO. (Read here)

He posted an email to all Microsoft employees the same day.

This is a brilliant display of storytelling and how it can communicate vision and mission.

The Message Should be Simple

There is a uniform theme to the email: don’t bank on the company’s past successes but innovate to survive.

“Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.”

This is the vision Nadella sets for the entire company. Where Microsoft needs to be in the future is to innovate by following and leading the evolution of technology. The vision is to be established as a leader in mobile and cloud computing.

Through this email, Nadella clearly communicates the aim of all future products at Microsoft should “[empower] people to ‘do more.'” This singular, yet broad, mission is the compass for the company’s future direction, and it’s brilliantly simple.

All future decisions and plans of the company can be remarkably simple. All you have to do is ask two questions:

  • Will this product empower people to do more?
  • Does this help us in mobile and cloud computing?

Form and Function

The loosely chronological order and subheadings help get the message across quickly. In this case, form and function work splendidly together. By beginning with a recount of his background and why he chose to work at Microsoft, Nadella establishes rapport immediately and evokes an emotional response. The brief story creates a personal connection. At the same time, in a simple few sentences he answers why the vision is important and where it came from; also explaining how the mission is distilled from the vision.

Public Apology

In one of my tweets (above), I rushed to a conclusion saying a designer may serve better at the helms. After reading this email, I should apologize and retract that statement. Nadella’s ability to create and communicate a vision and mission is a strong indicator that he will be successful as the CEO of Microsoft.

I wish you all the best.