On reading Sinofsky: thoughts

OM_biggerThis morning Steven Sinofsky posted again to his blog, this time on “Managing through disagreement”.  The post, clocking in at a mere 2,772 words, is interesting on a number of levels.  First, Steven Sinofsky is well known as a brilliant manager of software development, having brought Office into the modern age, and having “fixed” Windows Vista.  To gain some insight into how he thinks, and what he thinks is important, is a unique opportunity that up until now was largely reserved for those inside Microsoft, privy to his legendary internal blog posts.

Sinofsky in this post dissects disagreements: their potential causes, their hidden pitfalls, and ways to effectively manage them.  It’s interesting stuff if you’re interested in management, even if it is a bit dry as Sinofsky has stripped almost all real-life anecdotes out of the discussion (as he no doubt is required to do under what are probably numerous and restrictive NDAs, even if he were the type to “talk out of school”, which he most decidedly isn’t).  There’s an ad running on local radio here for an online university which promises its teachers teach by example: “let me tell you about something I learned in my first year in management”, and some of that real world example is missing in Sinofsky’s writing, where it would be very illuminating.  Too bad.

It’s also almost impossible not to try to “read between the lines” in Sinofsky’s writing, especially given his abrupt departure from Microsoft, and the cloud which surrounded his leaving.  Is there anything in these nearly three thousand words that would give us a hint as to what happened?  Did Sinofsky’s style, his defense of certain management techniques and vague references to disagreements while managing software development, give anything away as to why he left the company?  Again, without the context of real-world examples, it’s difficult to tell (and precisely the point, if you’re Sinofsky).  Still, the game of reading between the lines is going to be fun as Sinofsky continues to write, especially as we gain some context both in how well Windows 8, Windows RT, and Microsoft Surface do in the marketplace, and word (hopefully) filters out as to what the circumstances were that led to Sinofsky’s departure.

We’ll leave it to you to dissect this latest post and Sinofsky’s future blogging, but for now we’re fascinated by the insights we’re gaining by reading his take on management and product development, and by wondering what it all might mean.