Stuart Scott had a stellar reputation when Microsoft recruited him in 2005 to be its CIO.
Scott had survived -- and thrived -- for 17 years inside GE, a company known for forced ranking even its best managers out of the organization to make room for fresh blood, and for its associations with management discipline and Six Sigma quality process improvements. Scott himself is a Six Sigma black belt and a graduate of GE's prestigious leadership development program. He was so well respected in the company that GE CIO Gary Reiner welcomed Scott back to the company after his brief stint with Webvan ended with the online grocer's bankruptcy.
That's why Reynold Lewke, an executive recruiter with Egon Zehnder International, was shocked when he heard that Microsoft had fired Scott. Lewke says he doesn't remember ever seeing a statement about an executive termination from Microsoft like the one the company released about Scott.
"I'm surprised that Microsoft would publish that and that something like this would occur because it seems so out of character from everything I've ever seen from Stuart," says Lewke, who has known Scott for seven years.
Given the unusual, unexpected and abrupt public event that Scott's departure from Microsoft has become, and given the complexity of Microsoft's organization, the management changes it has been through over the past two years and the strong personalities leading the company, executive recruiters say Microsoft may be best served by looking internally for a successor.
"I'm not at all certain that having an outsider who is not attuned to the history of Microsoft and its issues can come in and effect real change," says Lewke.
"CIOs these days have to be great sales people," says Shawn Banerji, a recruiter with Russell Reynolds Associates. "They have to sell their vision and back it up with results. They have to influence people. That's a tough thing to do when you come into an organization [as an outsider]." Especially at Microsoft, Banerji adds, which is known for its strong company culture and the strong personalities of its leaders, such as CEO Steve Ballmer, Kevin Turner, chief operating officer, research chief Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie, chief software architect.
"If someone comes from outside, they'll have to be a terrific listener," says Banerji. "I don't think someone could come in from outside and at the outset diagnose the organization." If they tried to do that, Banerji adds, they'd likely lock horns with the wilful members of the senior leadership team and possibly even get kicked out. "I would not short sell the intellect of the key stakeholders for one second," says Banerji.
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