Kevin Turner@ Microsoft – is KT the new SteveB?

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I was in the Microsoft office in Aug 2005 when the announcement of Kevin Turner’s (KT) appointment to COO was made. Like many others I had quizzical look when everyone found out he was from Wal-Mart and wondered what the Microsoft leadership was thinking. Five years later, the intelligence of that move is starting to become clear.

Coming from the outside KT lacked the institutional arrogance that pervaded some corners of the Microsoft campus. When you run a till at Wal-Mart, you learn up close and personal about customer service and value and then as the CIO of the same world largest company you learn about global thinking, scale and every aspect of a global company. For an encore, you run a $37B division of Wal-Mart. Yes, it’s retail but still quite a business pedigree.

I was at Kevin’s first speech to the sales troops at Microsoft and he got a lukewarm welcome. His folksy, southern charm and polite manners were lost on most of the Microsoft sales community. So he changed it. Now, no one is confused when KT speaks about what he wants, what he expects and painting a vision to get there.

The quote that sold me personally on KT and made me think that yes indeed when SteveB goes off to some foundation to turn all his energy and billions into saving the world, that KT will indeed be a natural choice.

Microsoft CIO Conference

“And if there’s anything I can do to help you, Kevin.Turner@Microsoft.com, and there’s my phone number.[pointing to the screen] I’m a resource. I know that you’ve got a lot of people that support you, but certainly I want to make sure that you know you can reach me if needed, and certainly there are things that we don’t get to here in the Q & A, I’d love to hear from you.”

It wasn’t just the quote, it was the fact that since then I had met with 3 CIO’s who called or emailed KT with an issue or question. In each case, he personally called them back within 24 hours and tracked the issue to closure, all the while running a multi-billion dollar business.

KT understands that it’s not just the products, it’s the customer and the value that Microsoft can bring. It’s a philosophy that was engrained for 19 years at Wal-Mart, that he is bringing to Microsoft and yes ….changing the culture. That was what the MS executives saw in 2005 and knew that Microsoft needed from Kevin Turner.

I was on a call with a client executive last week and they made the comment “You don’t work for Microsoft, do you?”.  I was puzzled and indicated that I joined Microsoft in 2001 to which he replied.”Well I have never heard anyone from Microsoft talk about value like that…” . Yes, we are starting to…

As consultants we can learn from KT. Every conversation he has with customers is about value, every customer relationship is sacred and you innovate your products not to sell them to your customers, but for the value your customers will get from them.

There is no question that SteveB is iconic at Microsoft but there will come a day when he is ready to sit on the board instead of the CEO’s office. If that happened, I think Microsoft has at least one good option for the next version of CEO.

Microsoft apparently thinks so too.

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