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商业 - 科技

一位来自印度的IT精英,能否成为微软复兴的秘密武器?

Andrew Nusca 2016年11月25日

在谷歌和Facebook当道的今天,微软CEO纳德拉正在引领这家几乎被人遗忘的科技巨头实施一系列令人惊叹的变革。在重归全球最有价值公司的道路上,纳德拉已经看到了希望的曙光。

这是一个旋风席卷的秋日午后。突然涌现的云彩冷却了夕阳的红色光线,灰色的余晖照射进都柏林圣帕特里克学院的图书馆大厅,在几位正在那里慵懒地摆弄手机的学生的脸庞上投下一层层柔和的阴影。十几位孩子、教师和学院行政官员安静地坐在他们身后。他们正在等待微软公司首席执行官萨提亚·纳德拉的到来。这家总部位于西雅图地区的高科技巨头,曾经是这个星球上规模最大,最具权势的公司。

玻璃门旋转打开,纳德拉大步迈入,一群高级助手尾随其后。他径直走向正在等待的孩子们,一路上与几位学院官员握手致意。坐定后,他开始询问4位约莫10岁或11岁的孩子正在做什么。一位留着罗伯特·普兰特式发型的男孩痴迷地盯着一部平板电脑,支支吾吾地解释他在沙盒游戏《我的世界》(Minecraft)中用编码设计的三维世界。纳德拉咧嘴大笑。“棒极了!”他说。“我也需要一个。”这款游戏的开发商,是纳德拉接掌微软后打下的第一只猎物。

然后,纳德拉再次站起。他身高1米84左右,但拥有一个堪比长跑健将的精瘦身材,还留着光头。这两项特征更加凸显了他紧绷的轮廓,让他看上去更高。纳德拉每天早上都会跑30分钟。为了避免让他49岁的膝盖免受混凝土的蹂躏,他更青睐在跑步机上健身。他一直以极大的戒心保护这段宝贵的时间;纳德拉每天的日程都排得满满当当,这是他为数不多的几个能够独自思索的时刻之一。

A blustery autumn afternoon in Dublin. Sudden clouds have cooled the red rays of a setting sun, and the resulting grays cast soft shadows on the faces of students lazily thumbing their smartphones in the lobby of the library at St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra. Behind them more than a dozen children, teachers, and administrators sit quietly. They’re awaiting the arrival of Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, the Seattle-area technology titan that was once the largest and most powerful company on the planet.

Glass doors swing open and in strides Nadella, a clutch of senior staffers in his wake. He makes a beeline toward the waiting schoolchildren, pumping the hands of several administrators along the way. He sits and asks four students, each about 10 or 11 years old, what they have been working on. A boy with Robert Plant locks indulges, gesturing to a tablet computer as he haltingly explains the three-dimensional world he has coded in the game Minecraft—Nadella’s first major acquisition as Microsoft’s CEO. Nadella responds with a huge grin. “Amazing,” he says. “I need one of those.”

And then Nadella is on his feet again. He’s six feet tall, but he’s got the lean physique of a long-distance athlete and a shaved head, both of which accentuate his taut silhouette, making him seem taller. Nadella runs 30 minutes each morning, preferring the treadmill to spare his 49-year-old knees from the ravages of concrete. He is deeply protective of this time; it’s one of the few moments in his highly orchestrated day when he’s alone with his thoughts.

纳德拉正在都柏林与几个孩童讨论Minecraft编码的精妙之处。此次欧洲之行并不仅仅是礼节性访问,他还想借此机会了解客户使用微软产品的方式。 

但纳德拉始终预留时间与孩子们会面——部分是因为他们是下一代客户,部分是因为这样做有利于他“接地气”。纳德拉走向另一组孩子,然后将注意力转移到一位双目失明的青少年学生身上。这位小姑娘一直在利用微软Cortana语音助手构建无障碍功能。她面露微笑地背诵起菜单选项:“嘿,Cortana。我的要领。”尽管他还没有完全倒过跨大西洋时差,但纳德拉被深深地迷住了。“太棒了。”他说。“很高兴看到你不断突破自身能力的边界。”他感谢她,随即转向下一组学生。

“我对无障碍功能有一种特别的激情,还专门花费相当长时间研究这个问题。”纳德拉后来告诉我。他有两个女儿和一个儿子;儿子有特殊需要。“这位小姑娘向我展示的,其实是她如何以一位开发人员的身份建造她可以在日常生活中使用的生产力工具。在人生中,有一件事是确定的:在某个时点,我们所有人都需要辅助工具。”如果微软能够提供这些工具,那自然再好不过。

然后,纳德拉动身离开。微软CEO与每组孩子仅交流了几分钟,他像暴风一样撕裂了整个房间。等到那些二十岁出头,正在圣帕特里克学院周围徜徉的大学生意识到一位大人物莅临校园时,他已经消失了——消失在下一个房间、下一座城市、下一个国家。在这趟为期4天的旋风之旅中,纳德拉将遍访欧洲大陆,走进微软最大的一些市场。

2014年2月,纳德拉取代史蒂文·鲍尔默,出任微软首席执行官。他当时所继承的,是一家陷入“增长危机”的公司——这是客气的说法。不客气地说,彼时的微软正处于生死存亡的紧要关头。环球证券研究公司分析师周德瑞在2010年一份写给客户的研究报告中表示,“微软无法与新一代用户建立联系。”于一家高科技公司而言,再没有比这句话更邪恶的诅咒了。

坐拥Windows和Office的微软公司,正在迅速接近成立40周年。这个庞然大物拥有令军事独裁者垂涎三尺的现金储备,以及商学院学生梦寐以求的市场份额。在第二任CEO领导下,这家公司接连推出新产品,从Bing搜索引擎,到Zune播放器,再到Kin和Lumia移动设备,不一而足。但这些产品创造的收入,根本无法企及首位CEO兼联合创始人比尔·盖茨治下的微软推出的那些重磅产品。

进入鲍尔默任期的暮年时,微软仍然是有史以来最成功、最富有的桌面软件公司——只不过,高科技世界的热点当时已转至搜索引擎、社交网络、移动设备和云计算。在21世纪头10年,微软一直是世界上最有价值的公司,其市值一度超过6000亿美元。2010年,在历经传奇CEO史蒂夫·乔布斯引领的变革之后,苹果公司硬生生地从微软手中抢走这一头衔。到这个时点,微软在其历史上首次面临核心业务下滑的前景。

自从纳德拉接过微软的最高权杖以来,这家昔日的王者一直在经历令人惊叹的变革。他接手的是一家专注于个人计算,但企业和云计算业务正显露希望的公司。然后,纳德拉彻底翻转了这个等式。在过去三年,微软剥离了从诺基亚手中收购的价值94亿美元的手机业务,并将其Bing映射数据资产出售给了优步。该公司斥资数十亿美元在全球各地建设数据中心,以支持其现在的“云就绪”产品。在变革原有的软件业务方面,微软也实现了本质性跨越——从永久许可(收入是一次性事件)转变为订阅(收入可再次发生)。

在纳德拉的带领下,微软甚至达成了公司历史上最大一笔收购交易:豪掷262亿美元,收购商业网络公司LinkedIn。这是一张金额巨大的支票。此外,鉴于该公司令人唏嘘的收购记录,“微软历史上最大一笔收购交易”也是一个可疑的头衔。公平地说,乐观情绪已经重新降临雷德蒙德(微软总部所在地)。“对于微软来说,萨提亚是一位伟大的领导者。”鲍尔默说。他仍然是这家公司最大的个人股东。“萨提亚以一种有助于推动公司议程的方式,改变了开发商、行业参与者和投资者对微软的认知,他在这方面做得很棒。”他补充说。

就在其竞争对手,CEO蒂姆·库克执掌的苹果公司近来饱受创新力枯竭等批评之际,微软开始展露锋芒。(市值6000亿美元的苹果,仍然是全球最有价值的公司。)10月份,微软股价冲破它在令人晕眩的互联网泡沫时代创造的历史最高价位:59.56美元——当时正值这家公司毫无争议的10年统治期的尾声。没必要计较的是,由于激进的股票回购计划减少了股份数量,微软目前的市值约为4600亿美元,仍然远低于昔日的峰值。

然而,股价回升并非小事。十多年来,微软股票犹如行尸走肉。仿佛在一夜间,这家公司满血归来。其掌舵者是一位身材精瘦,喜欢冥想这个世界的学生。他酷爱提问,不会被诸如与竞争对手对垒这种琐碎的追求扰乱心绪。

坐落于巴黎第17区的巴黎会议大厅,是一栋略显笨重,有棱有角,源自1970年代的建筑。其所在地是鲁纳游乐场的旧址,后者是法国首都有史以来兴建的规模最大的游乐园。在20世纪初,这里是休闲天堂。现如今,它早已成为一处贸易圣地。巴黎会议大厅共8层,拥有逾34.4万平方英尺,熠熠生辉的展览空间。

这是10月份的一天,阳光明媚。巴黎会议大厅一派熙熙攘攘的热闹景象。成天上万的人赶到这里,参加微软在法国举行的Microsoft Experiences年度客户会议。推广移动性和协作技术的彩色展位布满了展览区。参加者犹如赶场一般,在DevOps技术讲座和谈论数字银行的头脑风暴会议之间来回穿梭。

在一个名为“区块链黑客学院”的展区,纳德拉站在一群工程师中间。他正在查看一个展示能量监测软件的显示器,并不断地拷问一位高管相关问题。在展区附近,一位男子身穿俄罗斯方块形状的服饰,手舞足蹈地发放关于供应链可追溯性的手册。在都柏林,纳德拉会晤了他的未来客户;在巴黎,他正在探索未来的技术。“从比尔到史蒂夫,再到我,我们的世界观都具有‘长期相关性’特征。”他后来告诉我。“关键是击球率。有时候,你可能会三振出局,但在科技行业,你必须能够击中足够多的投球,才能在这个大联盟中生存下去。”

由于一大早与政府官员的会面时间延长,纳德拉今天的行程有点落后于预定计划。LinkedIn公司CEO杰夫·韦纳表示,“我经常说,萨提亚扮演的角色几乎跟国家元首没什么两样。”他还将纳德拉与苹果、Facebook和谷歌的CEO进行了一番对比。“蒂姆·库克、马克·扎克伯格和桑达尔·皮查伊的工作都是这样——就服务于多个选区而言,他们的角色跟国家元首颇为相似。”

But Nadella consistently reserves time for sessions with children—partly because they are the next generation of customers, and partly because it keeps him grounded. Nadella moves to another group of kids and then shifts his attention to a teenage student who is blind. The young woman has been working on building accessibility features using Cortana, Microsoft’s speech-activated digital assistant. She smiles and recites the menu options: “Hey Cortana. My essentials.” Despite his transatlantic jet lag Nadella is transfixed. “That’s awesome,” he says. “It’s fantastic to see you pushing the boundaries of what can be done.” He thanks her and turns toward the next group.

“I have a particular passion around accessibility, and this is something I spend quite a bit of cycles on,” Nadella tells me later. He has two daughters and a son; the son has special needs. “What she was showing me is essentially how she’s building out as a developer the tools that she can use in her everyday life to be productive. One thing is certain in life: All of us will need accessibility tools at some point.” All the better if Microsoft can provide them.

And then Nadella is gone. The executive spent just a few minutes with each group of children, tearing through the room like a tempest. By the time the twentysomething students milling around St. Patrick’s realize that an important person has descended upon their campus, he has disappeared—on to the next room, the next city, the next country in a whirlwind four-day tour that will take him to the European continent and through some of his company’s largest markets.

When Nadella replaced Steven Ballmer as Microsoft’s CEO in February 2014, he inherited what you might diplomatically call a growth crisis. Undiplomatically, you might call it an existential one. “Microsoft is unable to connect with the new generation of users,” wrote Global Equities analyst Trip Chowdhry in a 2010 research note to his clients, about as damning a sentence as you can muster for a technology company.

Microsoft, the behemoth of Windows and Office, was fast approaching its 40th anniversary. It had the kind of cash reserves that military dictators kill for and the market share of business-school dreams. But none of the new products the company had produced under its second CEO—from its Bing search engine to its Zune, Kin, and Lumia mobile devices—generated anywhere near the revenues of the smash hits created under its first, cofounder Bill Gates.

Microsoft entered the twilight of Ballmer’s tenure as the most successful and wealthiest desktop-software company the world had ever seen—at a time when the world had moved on to search engines, social networking, mobile devices, and cloud computing. For the first decade of the 21st century, Microsoft was the world’s most valuable company, topping out at more than $600 billion. Apple AAPL 0.59% ended that run in 2010, riding its legendary turnaround under CEO Steve Jobs. By this point, for the first time in its history Microsoft was facing the prospect of a decline in its core business.

Since Nadella took charge, the company has been engineering a stunning turnaround of its own. He has taken a company focused on personal computing but showing promise in its enterprise and cloud-computing businesses, and turned that equation on its head. In the past three years Microsoft sheared the $9.4 billion phone business it acquired from Nokia and sold its Bing mapping-data assets to Uber. It plowed billions into the construction of data centers around the globe to support its now cloud-ready products. And it made substantial leaps transforming its original software business from permanent licenses, where revenue is a one-time affair, to subscriptions, where revenue is recurring.

Nadella has even struck an audacious deal, plunking down $26.2 billion for business-networking company LinkedIn, the largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history. That’s a massive check to write, and “largest acquisition in Microsoft’s history” is a dubious title given the company’s, um, checkered track record in that realm. Optimism, it’s fair to say, has returned to Redmond. “Satya is a great leader for Microsoft,” says Ballmer, who is still the company’s largest individual shareholder. He adds that Nadella “has done a great job improving perceptions of the company in ways that can advance its agenda— with developers, industry participants, and investors.”

As rival Apple—with a market capitalization of $600 billion, still the world’s most valuable company—weathers criticism of ennui under CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft has sharpened its focus under Nadella. In October the company’s shares surged past their all-time high price of $59.56, recorded in the heady days of the dotcom bubble and at the tail end of a decade that the company unquestionably ruled. Never mind that because of aggressive stock buybacks that reduced the company’s share count, Microsoft’s market cap is $460 billion, far below the old peak.

Still, the share-price resurgence was no small matter. For more than a decade Microsoft was a dead stock walking. Seemingly overnight the company was back with a vengeance. At its helm is a skinny, contemplative student of the world who revels in asking questions and couldn’t be bothered by so trivial a pursuit as warring with the company’s rivals.

The Palais Des Congrès, a hulking and angular 1970s-era convention center in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, was constructed on the former site of Luna Park, the largest amusement park ever built in the French capital. In the early 1900s the site was a monument to leisure. Today it is a temple to trade, with more than 344,000 square feet of glossy exhibition space on eight floors.

On a sunny October day, the Palais is humming with thousands of people who have come for Microsoft Experiences, the company’s annual customer conference in France. Brightly colored booths promoting mobility and collaboration technologies pack the exhibition area. Attendees scurry between technical talks on DevOps and brainstorms about digital banking.

Inside one session, the “Blockchain Hackademy,” Nadella stands at the center of a scrum of engineers. He inspects a display showing energy-monitoring software and peppers an executive with questions. Nearby, a man wearing a costume in the shape of a Tetris block dances and hands out brochures about supply chain traceability. In Dublin, Nadella met his future customers; in Paris he is scouting future technologies. “From Bill to Steve to me, the worldview we’ve had is ‘long-term relevance,’ ” he later tells me. “It’s the batting average. You may strike out sometimes, but you’ve got to be able to, in this tech business, catch enough of them to survive in the major leagues.”

Nadella is behind schedule today, owing to some extended meetings with government officials earlier in the morning. “I’ve oftentimes described the role that Satya is in as almost like a head of state,” says LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, comparing him to the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, and Google GOOGL -1.09% . “Tim Cook’s job, Mark’s job, Sundar’s job—it’s akin to that in terms of serving multiple constituencies.”

纳德拉准备在巴黎会议大厅发表演讲。 

微软CEO的日程安排表规定,他将在区块链展区停留30分钟,但仅仅几分钟后,他就从一个侧门消失了。纳德拉脸上时常挂着的那一丝笑意,已经让位于一种更加严峻的表情,他健步如飞地冲过拥挤的大厅,几位助手紧随其后。在熙熙攘攘的人丛中,我一不留神就跟丢了。费了一些周折后,我终于在一扇没有标记的门后面找到了这位微软掌门人。纳德拉正坐在那里准备他的主旨演讲,一边化妆,一边跟挑剔的首席撰稿人凯特林·麦凯布一起回顾演讲要点。

纳德拉的开场白与他本周发表的其他演讲并无二致。他首先会援引微软的使命——“予力全球每一人、每一组织,成就不凡。”接下来,这位微软CEO会指出,他自己在印度的早期生活恰恰预示着科技拥有推动社会民主化变革的力量。他随即话锋一转,悉心地描绘一个依附于所谓云计算的未来。他承认,这个未来或将呈现多种形式:“小屏幕,大屏幕,在你的客厅和会议室。”他会重复世界正面临“第四次工业革命”这一观点。(继机械、电气和数字革命之后,这场革命将通过云端支持的物联网模糊这三者的界限。)由于他身处数据隐私法律非常严格的欧洲,他会在每场演讲中着重强调“信任”一词,不少于三次。

本周,我将聆听这篇演讲的4个版本——分别在都柏林、巴黎、柏林和伦敦。大多数准备工作早在几个月前,就在微软总部开始了。在那里,纳德拉、麦凯布和公司工作室首先提出想法,然后在真实的观众面前进行测试。(这样做是“为了获得残酷且诚实的反馈。”他说。)在演讲现场,这位CEO只需温习旨在满足现场观众的本土化元素——在都柏林,本土化元素是微软与爱尔兰联合银行的合作伙伴关系;在巴黎,这部分内容则切换成微软与雷诺日产达成的一笔交易。

就在纳德拉准备在法国发表主旨演讲的时候,他的首席助理兼首席保镖,一位身材高大的普林斯顿人,站在门外守卫。每三分钟,一位助手就走过来,查询他的进展情况。过了一会儿,纳德拉终于现身,看上去比刚才稍微放松了些。他听到我的声音,驻足询问我感觉如何——毕竟,为了这篇报道,我已经跟随他在过去48小时内两度穿越国际边界,而且还要去两个国家。我反问他感觉怎样。“一半行程了,对吧?”他说。纳德拉所指的,当然是这趟旋风之旅。“还没到呢。”我回答说。他咯咯地笑了笑,似乎在自嘲我们共同的不幸,然后进入战斗。

从许多方面看,对于微软来说,纳德拉都是一位不同寻常的CEO人选,特别是考虑到这家科技巨头正处于转型的关键时刻。他在微软供职长达24年之久,是一位不折不扣的老臣子。他是一位电气工程师,而不是一位产品梦想家。

但经过一番仔细审视,你会发现,在这样一种建立在A型人格(是的,这正是其前任充分彰显的个性)之上的公司文化中,纳德拉竟然能够步步擢升——这本身就是一个刺目的例外。与纳德拉同年加入微软的布莱克·欧文指出,助推纳德拉崛起的,是一种罕见的技能。在出任GoDaddy公司CEO之前,他曾经在微软云计算部门与纳德拉一起共事。

“在微软,当你解释事情时,你会经历两种类型的对话。”欧文透露说。“在你陈述主张时,有一种人等待时机进行反驳。另一种人则抱着学习的目的仔细聆听。萨提亚属于后者。”早在他被任命为CEO之前,纳德拉“就能够暂且放下自己的质疑和观点,若有所思地聆听你的发言。为反驳而倾听与为学习而聆听之间,存在着巨大的差异。萨提亚总是轻声细语,但精力异常充沛,这的确是一种奇妙的组合。”

The CEO’s schedule stipulates that he’ll remain at the blockchain session for 30 minutes, but he disappears through a side door in only a handful. His usual half smile has given way to a grimmer expression, and he charges down the crowded hall with his staffers in tow. Nadella moves so quickly that I lose him in the throng. When I finally find him, he is seated behind an unmarked door, getting makeup for his keynote and reviewing points with Caitlin McCabe, his fastidious chief speechwriter.

Nadella’s address will begin the same way as all the others he delivers this week. He will first cite Microsoft’s mission to “empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more” and acknowledge his own beginnings in India as a sign of the power of technology to democratize society. He will quickly move to painting a future of computing anchored in the so-called cloud. He will acknowledge the various forms this future takes— “small screens, large screens, in your living rooms and your conference rooms”—and echo the view that the world is facing a “fourth Industrial Revolution.” (After mechanical, electrical, and digital, it’s a blurring of the three through the cloud-powered Internet of things.) And since he is in Europe, where data privacy laws are notably stringent, he will punctuate each address with no fewer than three mentions of the word “trust.”

I will listen to Nadella give a version of this speech four times this week—in Dublin, Paris, Berlin, and London. The bulk of his preparation happens months before at Microsoft headquarters. There Nadella, McCabe, and company workshop ideas and test them out on a real audience. (“To get the brutal, honest feedback,” he says.) Onsite, the CEO reviews only localized elements meant to cater to his audience—a partnership with Allied Irish Bank in Dublin, a deal with Renault-Nissan in Paris.

As Nadella prepares for his keynote speech in France, his chief of staff, a towering Princeton man who could double as a chief of security, stands guard outside the door. Every three minutes a staffer checks on his progress. Eventually Nadella emerges, slightly more at ease. He overhears my voice and pauses to ask how I’m doing, having followed him across international borders twice in 48 hours in pursuit of this story, with two more countries to go. I ask him in kind. “Halfway, is it?” he says, referring to his week’s breakneck schedule. “Not even,” I reply. He smiles and chuckles at our mutual misfortune, then marches into battle.

In many ways, Nadella was an unusual choice to lead Microsoft in a moment that called for transformation. He is a 24-year veteran of the company. He is an electrical engineer, not a product visionary.

But closer scrutiny reveals a man who managed to thrive as an exception to a corporate culture built on type-A personalities—the very kind that his predecessor embodied. It is a skill that helped propel Nadella’s unlikely rise, says Blake Irving, who joined Microsoft the same year as Nadella and went on to work with him in the company’s cloud-computing division before becoming CEO of GoDaddy.

“There are two types of conversations you’d have at Microsoft when you’d explain things,” Irving says. “One type of person waited for a break in the argument to argue back. The other listened to learn. That was Satya.” Well before he was named CEO, Nadella “could suspend his disbelief and opinion to listen to you thoughtfully. The slight difference between listening to argue and listening to learn is not subtle. It’s huge. Satya is soft-spoken but energetic, which is a weird combination.”

一位轻声细语的电气工程师如何在一种好斗的公司文化中异军突起?

萨提亚·纳德拉于1967年出生在印度海得拉巴。他是家里的独生子。纳德拉的父亲是印度行政服务局的一位官员;已故的母亲是一位梵文教授。他是在印度毛派游击队与英迪拉·甘地政府爆发冲突那段时期长大成人的。

这段内乱岁月塑造了纳德拉对如何动员变革的看法。“一天下午,我看到了两张时至今日仍然困扰我的照片。”2015年,在一场为印度总理莫迪举行的盛大晚宴上,他回忆道。“照片上有两个人,仰面朝天,躺在吊床上,他们身边放着两部晶体管收音机——飞利浦收音机。在接下来的几年里,我对这两个人有了更深入的了解。我当天看到的,是两位死去的革命者。那是1970年,发生在斯里加古兰县的事情。两人原本都是学校的教员,后来决定放弃教鞭。我一直思考他们的生活,以及遵循类似路径的其他人的生活。让我深思的是,这些人本可以借助科技的力量和其他资源实现怎样的成就。”在他出任微软CEO的第一个月,纳德拉就给其管理团队的每位成员赠送了一本名为《非暴力沟通》的著作。

他的孩提时代基本上都是在海得拉巴公立学校(简称HPS,一所设施豪华,专门服务于贵族子女的教育机构)度过的。在板球比赛间隙,纳德拉遇到了他的人生伴侣阿努帕玛,两人于1992年结为连理。从HPS毕业后,纳德拉在马尼帕理工学院获得电气工程学士学位。一丝不苟、进取心十足、好探究的安德鲁随后移居美国,在威斯康星大学密尔沃基分校学习计算机科学——他的硕士论文涉及图形着色和并行算法——并在Penta Technologies兼任软件工程师。毕业后,纳德拉搬到加州,就职于Sun微系统公司。彼时正值个人电脑时代的前夜,这家公司刚刚踏上崛起之路。25岁那年,微软挖走了纳德拉,把他带到雷德蒙德。

纳德拉那时“超级年轻,局促不安,似乎没有安全感,仍然尝试着发展他的潜力。”2014年,他的招聘经理理查德·泰特如是告诉《普吉特海湾商业杂志》。但他聪明绝顶,对于企业正在使用的计算机系统有着深刻的理解。“他是我们的秘密武器。”

直到到达伦敦,我才终于有机会坐下来与微软CEO好好聊聊。等到我抵达时,纳德拉几乎完成了日程安排的所有事项:政府会议,打勾;主旨演讲,打勾;与孩子一起参加教育活动,打勾。在英国伦敦一个不寻常的艳阳天,当纳德拉离开《经济学人》杂志办公室的时候,我抓住了他。他步履轻快,如沐春风,也许是因为他快要回家了。我们挤进一辆正在等待的黑色面包车,他的司机驱车前往伦敦西北34英里之外的卢顿机场。

我问纳德拉,这趟欧洲之行如何配合他两年前出任CEO以来实施的整体战略。他指出,微软在欧洲的云布局具有战术重要性,需要用“言语和行动”来消除障碍。(微软曾经是反垄断机构的眼中钉肉中刺;现在,它不再是那个块头最大,行为最恶劣的男孩了。于微软而言,这是个利好消息:监管当局对它的审查不再像过去那样严厉。这家公司正在惬意地旁观布鲁塞尔官员死磕谷歌母公司Alphabet和Facebook。就其本身而言,微软正在将其数据中心定位为一种旨在支持欧洲数据保护法的投资。)

纳德拉为他的海外使命阐明了一种更广泛的目的。“一位CEO能做什么?你必须对一个不确定的未来做出判断,并策划文化。”他说。“就这两者而言,我觉得我从这些旅行中学到了很多。”

这正是纳德拉所做的事情:他学习,其他人与他一道学习。在他到访的每个欧洲首都,这位CEO总是竭力提取各种情报。在从机场驶往酒店的旅途中,他不停地翻阅简报,以了解当地企业的经营状况。与合作伙伴一起用餐时,他不断地询问与目标市场相关的议题。(“他们都在琢磨我。这家伙究竟是怎样一个人?他会尝试着在这家公司完成什么事情?”他说。)与官员进行闭门会议期间,他用心领会政府的优先事项,并鼎力推动微软的利益。(“政府领导人总是直言不讳地表达他们对你的期望:‘好吧,这是你能帮到我们的地方。’”纳德拉说。在个人演讲中,他向普通员工阐明公司的优先事项。

Satya Nadella—officially Nadella Satyanarayana—was born in Hyderabad, India, in 1967. He is the only child of Bukkapuram Nadella Yugandher, an officer for the Indian Administrative Service, the country’s civil service agency, and the late Prabhavati Yugandhar, a professor of Sanskrit. He grew up at a time when communist guerrilla fighters called Naxalites clashed with the government of Indira Gandhi.

The civil unrest shaped Nadella’s view on how to mobilize change. “One afternoon I saw two photographs that haunt me still,” he recalled at a 2015 dinner held in honor of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I saw pictures of two people who were lying, overturned, on charpoys [rope beds] with two transistor radios— Philips transistor radios— next to them. In subsequent years I came to understand much more about these two people. What I saw that day were two photographs of dead revolutionaries. The year was 1970, and the district was Srikakulam. They were schoolteachers who decided to leave teaching. I think about their lives and lives of others who have followed similar paths. I think about what those people could have achieved with the true empowerment of technology and other resources.” In his first month as CEO, Nadella gave each member of his management team a book called Nonviolent Communication.

For most of his childhood Nadella attended the Hyderabad Public School, an opulent institution founded to serve the children of aristocrats. Between cricket games Nadella met his wife, Anupama, whom he married in 1992. After HPS, Nadella obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology. Meticulous, driven, and inquisitive, Nadella then moved to the U.S. to study computer science at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee—his master’s thesis concerned graph coloring and parallel algorithms—and work as a software engineer at Penta Technologies. After graduation, Nadella relocated to California to take a job at Sun Microsystems, which was just beginning its ascent at the dawn of the era of personal computers. At 25, Microsoft poached him and brought him to Redmond.

Nadella was “super-young, awkward, and insecure, still trying to grow into the potential he had,” his hiring manager, Richard Tait, told the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2014. But he was incredibly smart and had a deep understanding of the computer systems that businesses were using. “He was a secret weapon for us.”

It isn’t until I get to London that I finally sit down with Microsoft’s CEO. By the time I arrive, Nadella has ticked almost every box on his daily schedule: government meetings, check; keynote speech, check; educational event with children, check. I catch him leaving the offices of the Economist on an unusually warm day in the British capital. There’s a spring in his step, perhaps because he’ll be home soon. We pile into a waiting black van, and his driver takes off toward Luton Airport, 34 miles northwest of London.

I ask Nadella how this European trip fits into his broader strategy since he became CEO two years ago. He notes the tactical importance of the company’s cloud build-out in Europe and the “words and actions” needed to smooth its progress. (Once an antitrust bête noire, Microsoft can enjoy one benefit of no longer being the biggest, baddest boy on the block: a bit less scrutiny from regulators. The company is now content to let Brussels officials tangle instead with Alphabet and Facebook FB -1.47% . For its part, Microsoft is positioning its data centers as investments that support European data-protection laws.)

Nadella articulates a broader purpose to his foreign missions. “What does a CEO get to do? You’ve got to pass judgment on an uncertain future and curate culture,” he says. “For both, I feel, I learn a lot from these trips.”

That’s what Nadella does: He learns, and others learn with him. The CEO extracted intelligence in each European capital. In car rides from the airport he received briefings on how regional businesses are faring. In meals with partners Nadella got up to speed on issues in a target market. (“They’re trying to size you up,” he says. “What is this guy like? What is he trying to get done with this company?”) In closed-door meetings with officials he digested government priorities and pushed Microsoft’s interests. (“Government leaders will give it to you straight: ‘Okay, here’s your relevance to me,’” Nadella says.) In solo speeches he clarified the company’s priorities to rank-and-file employees.

纳德拉在会议间歇欣赏巴黎商业区的天际线。 

“从根本上讲,我是一位信徒,这或许跟我成长的环境有关,我坚信跨国公司的作用。”他说。“你必须具备通盘考虑全球化运营的能力。如果一个营利性实体只是寻求利润,那么它就无法成为一家长期盈利的公司。我想这恐怕就是这门生意的吊诡之处。”

掌控一家在192个国家运营的公司的方向亦是如此。我问纳德拉他如何组建一支高级管理团队,以激发他在微软想看到的变革。2015年,他将微软的工程技术业务整合到三位高管名下,他们分别是特里·迈尔森、斯科特·古思里和陆奇(因个人健康原因,陆奇已离开微软),并送别了多位高管,其中包括前诺基亚CEO史蒂芬·埃洛普。他最终的管理团队,从首席财务官艾米·胡德到古思里(他早前接替纳德拉,成为云和企业级业务部门的主管),基本上都是公司的老臣子。微软真的能依靠内部人实施这场变革吗?历经十多年的摸索,这些对微软近年来最大的失误负有责任的高管,是否真的大彻大悟,终于明晰了这家科技巨头的发展方向?

是的,纳德拉坚称——如果你修复好公司文化的话。他说,“我已经优化了那些想成为团队一份子的员工的工作环境。”多年来,微软“培养了许多想拥有绝对自主权的领导人。”不再如此。“要想掌控局面,你必须得作为一个团队工作。这是一个非常不一样的微软。我个人特别珍视这一点。”在他选定的领导人中,纳德拉尤为看重他们带来明晰、创造能量,并遏制发牢骚的冲动的能力。“我说,‘嘿,你瞧,你正在负责一个狗屎似的领域,你的工作是找到玫瑰花瓣,’而不是说,‘哦,我身处一个狗屎似的领域。’”他说。“得了吧,你是一位领导者。这就是你的份内工作。你不能抱怨约束条件。我们本就生活在一个充满各种约束的世界中。”

很快,我就碰到了自己的约束条件。这辆面包车减速,停靠在一条六车道高速公路旁——我该下车了。我问纳德拉,在我时速60英里的连珠炮式提问中,我是否错过了什么。他停顿了一下。“我有时候觉得,现在界定企业成功的尺度太过狭窄。”他说。“于一家企业而言,真正的成功并不仅仅是你为自己的核心支持者创造的盈余,它还包括更广泛的盈余。毕竟,什么是资本主义?推动更广泛的经济部门改善生产力,从而造福于全社会,才是资本主义的真谛。”

也许吧。到目前为止,纳德拉已经取得了巨大的进步。他现在终于赢得市场的信心和微软员工的善意。事实证明,尽管花费不菲,他为重新确定微软发展方向(云计算,而不是桌面业务)而付出的努力确属精明之举。在他出任微软首席执行官的三周年前夕,萨提亚·纳德拉意气风发,手感滚烫。然而,要想重新成为这个星球上规模最大,最具权势的公司,微软显然还要跋涉一段漫长而崎岖的旅程。(财富中文网)

译者:Kevin

“I’m a fundamental believer—because of maybe where I grew up—in the role of a multinational company,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to think about operating globally. If a for-profit entity is only profit seeking, then you’re not going to be a long-term profitable company. That’s kind of a paradox of business, I think.”

As is controlling the direction of a company that operates in 192 countries. I ask Nadella how he assembled his senior leadership team to spark the change he wanted to see at Microsoft. In 2015 he consolidated the company’s engineering efforts under three executives—Terry Myerson, Scott Guthrie, and Qi Lu (who has since left Microsoft for health reasons)—and bid adieu to several more, among them former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. His resulting management team, from CFO Amy Hood to Guthrie, whom Nadella earlier appointed to replace him as head of the Cloud and Enterprise Group, comprises mostly longtime company veterans. Can Microsoft really change from within? Has its moment of clarity, more than a decade in the making, truly arrived at the hands of people who also presided over some of Microsoft’s greatest flops?

Yes, Nadella maintains—if you fix the culture. “I’ve optimized for people who want to work as part of a team,” he says. For years Microsoft “cultivated leaders who wanted to run their own show.” No longer. “To run the show you have to work as a team. That’s a very different Microsoft. That’s at a premium for me.” In his chosen leaders Nadella prizes the abilities to bring clarity, create energy, and suppress the urge to whine. “I say, ‘Hey, look, you’re in a field of shit, and your job is to be able to find the rose petals,’ as opposed to saying, ‘Oh, I’m in a field of shit,’” he says. “C’mon! You’re a leader. That’s what it is. You can’t complain about constraints. We live in a constrained world.”

Before long I run up against my own constraints, and the van slows and pulls to the side of the six-lane highway to let me out. I ask Nadella if there’s anything I missed in my barrage of questions at 60 mph. He pauses. “I sometimes feel that business success is celebrated in much more narrow ways,” he says. “Real business success is not only surplus that you’ve created for your own core constituency but the broader surplus. After all, what is capitalism? Being able to get productivity gains that actually help the broader economy in society.”

Perhaps. So far Nadella has taken huge strides. He has managed to gain the market’s confidence and the goodwill of his own employees. His expensive push to reorient the company to the cloud rather than the desktop has proved shrewd. On the eve of his third anniversary of becoming Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella is riding a hot hand—but it’s a long, daunting road back to becoming the largest and most powerful company on the planet.

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