Maniacal Focus

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If your company has a competitive weakness, you should make it your number one priority to overcome that weakness. Even better is to turn it around and make it a strength.

A few years ago Microsoft recognized that the Internet was becoming an important part of computing. They also realized that their Internet offerings were weak. In a series of memos, Bill Gates decreed that the Internet was the single focus for Microsoft. Internet Explorer went from being a second rate browser to the best and most used browser. Office allows Web collaboration. The XBox is poised to become a hub that connects all home computing devices together and to the Internet. Passport has aims to become the login screen for millions of Web sites. Microsoft attacked their weakness with determination and turned it into an advantage.

Now Microsoft has confessed to the security problems with their products. Brian Valentine has been tasked with not only improving the security of Microsoft products, but with improving the security of the computing industry as a whole. Better Living Through Software says "Brian is famous internally for being a 'hammer guy.' That is, he is the 50,000 pound daisycutter bomb that gets dropped when you absolutely cannot afford to miss."

A leaked memo from Bill Gates has echoes of his Internet focus emails. Security is "more important than any other part of our work. When we face a choice between adding features and resolving security issues, we need to choose security. Our products should emphasize security right out of the box."

Your organization should take a clue from Gates and company. Recognize your weaknesses. Acknowledge them. And then put aside all else and focus on eliminating them.

Update: Wired News has the entire text of the Bill Gates security memo.

Steven Garrity
January 19, 2002 12:32 PM

I think Bill Gates' apparent control over his company is fascinating. Even the Bill-Gates-is-Satan crowd would have to admit that, for better or worse, his 1997 shift to the internet has been rediculously successful. I would recommend reading Douglas Copeland's Microserfs - it's more about about characters than it is about Microsoft, but if you find the behemoth strangly interesting like I do, you might enjoy it.

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