Making the Case for M-SIG

After my post last night about the Management Excellence Community (MEC) initiatives that I am planning to promote in FY09 (and while waiting for a Windows install reboot), I was reading a back issue of the Harvard Business Review and came across a brief article in the Forethought section that serendipitously captures one of my primary reasons for wanting to build out a program of monthly Microsoft Special Interest Groups (M-SIG) here on campus. The article, called ‘Managing Corporate Social Networks’ by A. Kleinbaum and M. Tushman, begins with the following:

“Big companies are good at innovating within silos, but woefully bad at combining creative energies across divisions to build new business. As the Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Cohen once asked, How is it possible that Time Warner owned both Warner Music and AOL and didn’t create something like iTunes? The problem, we believe, is structural: Business-unit boundaries exist precisely because they create efficient structures for executing strategy. But silo focus and ruthless efficiency come at the cost of cross-divisional collaboration, so some innovation opportunities are either poorly executed or not seen at all. The solution, we think, lies not in reorganization but in informal communication through the social networks that exist throughout the company. These networks must be shaped and cultivated to efficiently find and exploit innovations.”

The intent of the M-SIG program is to cross-pollinate ideas, giving people recurring opportunities to plug into other groups, other product areas, ask questions, and share ideas. This concept is similar to the non-profit I co-founded in the East Bay back in 2002 (eBIG), which was fashioned after the much more successful Software Development Forum in San Jose — the main difference, of course, being that this will be a Microsoft-internal effort. It also ties into the Management Development Group’s (MDG) plans to develop a continuous learning program in FY09, which would align quite nicely with the M-SIG model.

I am jazzed to get this off the ground. Building the deck now, and hoping to get HR on board this month. I am also beginning to reach out to different groups about getting involved.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.