Windows To The World

Examine Your Mistakes

Microsofties relentlessly study their underdog products, failed marketing programs and missed forecasts. This is not to assign blame or prove why it was someone else's fault. Many of the company's best lessons have come from failures. Microsofties figure as long as they lost all that money, mind share or market share, they may as well learn something from it.

A Microsoft manager returned from a trade show and joyously sent out a piece of e-mail to his team, announcing their product had won nine out of 10 possible awards. Within a day, he received 40 e-mails back asking which award they had not won, and why. Such is the intensity of Microsoft's focus.

After each new software product ships, a "postmortem" is held. From the Latin words meaning "after death," a postmortem analyzes what went wrong and what went well during the life of a project. People are interviewed, reports written, actions and decisions analyzed, and the results are published so any lessons learned can be disseminated throughout the company. The same is done informally with marketing programs as results and measurements are available. And although these reports show the warts of the team, the product and the process, they are shared.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Windows To The World.

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