Microsoft’s board of directors has been under increasing scrutiny lately amid renewed calls for CEO Steve Ballmer to step down. So it was fascinating to see this Microsoft-produced video interview today with Charles Noski, a longtime member of the board. The piece doesn’t address the Ballmer question, but Noski provides an inside glimpse into the proceedings of the board and also into the general mindset of the group.
“We probably focus more time on, ‘Where do we need to respond? What do we need to do? Where should we be changing what we do?’ ” he explains toward the end of the video. “And of course our job as a board is not to make those specific decisions and to direct management to do all of these things.”
He continues, “But we’re a bit of a sounding board to challenge them, and to ask them to ask that next question and to think about that other alternative, and challenge them to come up with the best answer that will bring the most success to Microsoft. And it’s a pretty robust debate. And all of us, every one of the members of the board of directors, are engaged in that discussion.”
So how is Microsoft doing overall? Here’s what Noski says when asked that question.
We’re a really big company, and I think sometimes people look at smaller companies and say, gee, look at this big percentage growth, year over year. And if you’re very small, and you’re growing at a decent pace, those percentages sound pretty big. But if you think about how big Microsoft is, the fact that we’ve been able to grow — when I think back to the beginning of the last decade, we probably were doing about $25 billion in revenues.
We’re now up in the $60 to $70 billion in revenues. That’s a gigantic amount of growth for any company, whether in absolute terms or on a percentage basis. And so being as big as we are, if you’re going to grow 10 percent, that’s $6 billion a year. Think about how many companies aren’t $6 billion. And we’re going to grow a $6 billion company a year. That’s enormous. So in that context, I think we’ve done very well from a growth standpoint.
Having said that, there are some businesses where there’s great opportunity, where … we’re going to have a bigger and more compelling market position. That’s going to require us to innovate, to invest and to work harder than the competition to be successful. So we’ve done a good job, I give us a good grade. There’s a lot more to do, and we can do better.