How To Hit Refresh on Your Company for the Digital Era



“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu

One way to read Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, is to read it as a simple leadership guide with stories and examples.

Another way to read Hit Refresh is to read it as a guide on how to be a strategic leader for the Digital Era – and how to reimagine your company for success.

I know that there is a sea change, and when the world around you changes in big and bold ways, it can be difficult to see what’s behind those changes.

So I’m going to keep this very short and very focused so you can see the essential elements that will help you carve out an drive your Digital Transformation.

A Simple Walkthrough of Reshaping a Company for the Digital Era

Here is my take on how to read Hit Refresh as a great simple story of how Satya Nadella reimagined Microsoft:

  1. Refocused on creating a compelling mission – to do what Microsoft can uniquely do for the world
  2. Framed out with Steve Ballmer the Spheres of Strategic Focus:
    1. culture – the epicenter and backbone for the company for innovation/growth
    2. concepts – the vision for the products/services – coupled w/the mission
    3. capabilities – investing in the engineering/design as well as partners
  3. Put a deep focus on customer obsession as well as empathy (empathy is the essence of any great company – you can’t build great products or services without a sense of the pains, needs, and desired outcomes of what your future customers will pay you for).
  4. Put a deep focus on a growth mindset – to drive innovation, change, learning, and growth
  5. Focused on smart partnerships in the ecosystem to improve capabilities (collaboration over competition, inside and out)
  6. Framed transformation as four business initiatives:
    1. customers
    2. employees
    3. operations
    4. products/services
  7. Made strategic technical bets in terms of the future to drive value creation/capture for the digital era:
    1. Horizon 1: AI
    2. Horizon 2: Machine Learning
    3. Horizon 3: Quantum Computing

While that’s not everything, it really reflects a deep, inner core.

At the end of the day, your mission – why you exist – is the soul of your company.

And it’s your unique twist that will help you put a dent in the universe.

How To Apply Hit Refresh to Help You Lead Your Digital Transformation

With this simple frame, I could easily guide any CEO or company through their strategy for Digital Transformation.

I would rinse and repeat the same simple formula:

  1. I would coach the leaders to figure out their unique value in the Digital Era – to establish their mission (and a basis for vision.)  Mission is what you do, vision is where you want to go, or what’s the change you want to create.
  2. I would coach the leaders to drive culture change as priority/focus/initiative – and embrace a growth mindset and inclusion/diversity
  3. I would coach the leaders to invest in engineering, design, and data science (and put Digital Transformation Units, Digital Labs, and Continuous Innovation in place)
  4. I would coach the leaders to build strategic partnerships to complement their capabilities
  5. I would coach the leaders to organize their business initiatives into a portfolio of scenarios organized by the Digital Transformation frame:  customers, employees, operations, and products/services (and put Programs of Change in place)
  6. I would prioritize investments and bets on exploring new business models and customer experiences around AI and Mixed Reality (and visualization).

I think the insight into how Satya is driving the culture change along with building empathy, while driving a growth mindset, and an empowered workforce, and an inclusive approach to product and service design is creating waves of impact and transformation that are far reaching, and deep.

And, I believe that these are very exciting, tangible, and practical ideas that any strategic leaders can borrow, learn from, and act on.

Strategy is the Key to Success (But Only if You Do It)

Keep in mind that it’s one thing to know the strategies, and it’s another thing to do them.

As my strategy teacher said, strategy works when people use it.

Also, remember that strategy is only effective when it’s YOUR strategy, based on your market context, your strengths, etc. (all the classic strategy tools apply.)

You can borrow from other playbooks, but you still need to create and own your own.

Design Your Difference

While Michael Porter said that the essence of strategy is choosing what not to do, he also said that you really have to dare to be different:

“Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.”

For example, while Microsoft is an empowerment company, the part that really stands out for me is being a platform and a productivity company.

Not every company can be a platform company in the same way.  And not every company that is a platform company is focused on productivity through the lens of empowerment.

To me, that is the key that really helps drive a different in terms of connecting with customers, driving impact, and shaping the word.

The moral of the story here is – design your difference so you can reshape your company in the direction of a better tomorrow.

Get the Book

If you want to be a more strategic leader for the Digital Era, read Hit Refresh and internalize the stories to familiarize yourself with strategies and tactics Satya used to teach the elephant to dance:


You Might Also Like

Best Books on Digital Transformation
Chief Digital Officer Explained
Digital Transformation Defined
Digital Transformation Explained
Every Employee is a Digital Employee
How Leaders are Building Digital Skills
Satya Nadella on the Key to Longevity


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