Every organization has its own distinctive culture. Culture of an organization is created unconsciously, based on the ethics and values of the top management or the founders of the organization. On rare occasions it is consciously created. Many times Microsoft has been described as having a developer-centric business culture.
Microsoft spends a lot of time and money each year on recruiting young university-trained software developers and on keeping them in the company. Microsoft goes out of its way to make these young developers feel special by way of special office space and interesting perks. Microsoft has also been accused of being a corporate cult. Employees end practically living at the software giant’s campus in Washington. People have been known to work 24 hours a day at Microsoft. The campus is set up in such a way that you never have to go home. The belief system of Microsoft makes it difficult for its employees to imagine they have a life away from work.
An interesting expression used in Microsoft is “eating our own dog food.” It refers to the company’s policy of using the latest Microsoft products inside the company in an effort to test them in natural situations. The company is also known for its hiring process called the “Microsoft interview” which is infamous for offbeat questions like “why is a manhole cover round?” In 1998, the government of the U.S. brought antitrust charges against Microsoft.
Bill, known for having terrorized lower staff with his temper was at the receiving end of a lot of negative media. Microsoft was found guilty but the finding was overturned on appeal and the government settled with Microsoft, imposing several restrictions on its business practices. Gates was persuaded into stepping aside as chief executive in favour of Steve Ballmer, who would be his partner in remaking Microsoft.
The new Microsoft would have a kinder, gentler culture. The rebooting of Microsoft ended in Microsoft being more open and being more respectful of both those within and in the outside world. The new Microsoft mantra was communication so those outside of Microsoft would both understand and appreciate its company policy.
Microsoft also holds the distinction of being the worldwide top company in per-employee donations. In 2006, Microsoft employees, not including Bill Gates had given over $2.5 billion dollars to nonprofit organizations worldwide. The new Microsoft has encouraged its workers to start living it up a bit.
It hires more employees with children as opposed to the bachelors who cloistered themselves at work 24/7 in the days gone by. While still remaining pledged to making great products, Microsoft has started cooperating with competitors on matters such as development of industry standards. However, the changes are largely cosmetic, and cultural reform at Microsoft remains a work in progress.