Microsoft’s Nadella gives some glimpses behind the curtain in new book ‘Hit Refresh’

CEO Satya Nadella details his effort to spark a renaissance at Microsoft in a book that combines semiofficial company history, memoir and rumination on the state of technology and society.

The day he introduced himself to his Microsoft co-workers as their new chief executive, Satya Nadella knew he faced a skeptical audience.

Employees were demoralized. Internal polls showed they were unhappy with the direction of the company after a decade of lost ground to the likes of Apple and Google.

And they didn’t believe Nadella, or any of the other insiders in the running to replace the retiring Steve Ballmer, could fix things.

“Many felt the company was losing its soul,” Nadella writes of the moment in February 2014 when he took the helm at the Redmond technology giant. “We needed a renewal, a renaissance.”

Nadella details his effort to spark that renaissance at Microsoft in “Hit Refresh,” a book that is, by turns, semiofficial history of Microsoft, memoir and rumination on the state of technology and society.

The 50-year-old was virtually unknown outside of technology circles when he took Microsoft’s top job.

His book, which arrives 3½ years into his tenure, comes after he’s helped stabilize a company that just a few years ago was seen at risk of sliding into irrelevance. The move toward web-delivered software that started under Nadella’s predecessor has gained steam, with analysts now charting a future for Microsoft beyond the PC age.

In Nadella’s telling, that wasn’t accomplished by specific strategic decisions as much as by the curation of a culture more open to new ideas and risks.

And for a company long reluctant to admit its shortcomings outside the walls, Nadella’s account paints a frank picture of a diseased corporate culture. A cartoon that went viral and portrayed Microsoft’s business groups aiming guns at each other nagged at Nadella. But, he acknowledged, it had an element of truth to it.

The worst part, Nadella said in an interview, was that some employees had started to internalize Microsoft’s tarnished image.

“We started to believe, perhaps, the caricatures that were being painted outside,” he said. “That is…

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