A new CEO, even one from inside a company, typically purges at least part of the current leadership team, the senior executives who report directly to the chief executive, said Ottinger, who expects Nadella to do the same at Microsoft. A move like that would make the team his rather than accept a group that were, after all, beholden to Ballmer for their jobs.
Sticking with the people now in the top spots -- like COO Kevin Turner or Terry Myerson, who leads operating system development -- would be akin to a new president keeping his predecessor's cabinet intact. That's been done, but only in extreme cases, such as when FDR and JFK died in office and Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson stepped in.
Likewise, Nadella should push for changes in the board. "I'd expect the board would change," said Ottinger, echoing others who have pointed to the age of the board members, some who have served very long terms, as reasons for bringing in fresh blood. Half of the 10 members have served for 10 years or more, while their average age -- discounting Nadella -- is 61.
Nadella gave no hint Tuesday that he would push some of the current top executives or any board members out. Ballmer, however, made a point to emphasize that the senior leadership team (or SLT as he called it) was valuable, not a surprise since they were his choices. "I have absolutely no doubt that Microsoft is in good hands, with Satya and the rest of the SLT that is in place (emphasis in original)," Ballmer said in a short video posted to the company's website Tuesday.
Jim Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand, had somewhat similar advice for Nadella. CoreBrand is a brand reputation consultancy that tracks more than 1,000 global brands, and advises businesses on how to protect and enhance their name brands.
"We have a tremendous amount of insight into best practices and worst practices, how companies do things the right way and wrong way," said Gregory. "Microsoft suffers from a lack of vision, one of the most important things a new CEO can do, and what a company is all about. Ballmer struggled with that for a number of years. It's Nadella's job to project a vision and articulate that vision."
Easier said than done. What Gregory and Ottinger recommended was laudable, but how does Nadella do that?
"Talk to the major stakeholders, clearly Gates and Ballmer, ask them to articulate the vision they have of the company, what worked, what didn't work, and how he might be able to achieve goals where they fell short," said Gregory. "Talk to the line managers, ask them to identify the strengths of the company, where they think there are potential growth areas. Then craft your vision from that."
Ottinger pointed Nadella to a more top-down approach, suggesting that he collect information -- necessary because while he ran a major unit, he was not in charge of others -- then formulate his strategy and choose his priorities. "Nadella needs to get some real clarity of their big opportunities and then prioritize those opportunities," said Ottinger. "And those should be driven by a strategic view of the future, not a financial imperative."
Both stressed that speed was important, as was prioritizing initiatives, two characteristics missing from Microsoft for years.
"The reason why Ballmer is out is because the board wanted him to drive the ship faster than he was willing to do," said Ted Schadler, an industry analyst at Forrester Research, in a Tuesday interview. "He was not willing to push [workers] to go the extra mile."
And Microsoft seems to be, if not rudderless, then aiming at so many targets -- Amazon and Apple, Google and Samsung, consumers and enterprise, from Xbox and its video games to SQL Server in data centers -- that it ends up spreading its energies and resources so thinly it cannot make much headway anywhere.