Microsoft is back.

The evidence is everywhere you look. The company’s Surface Pro 4 tablet is “hugely impressive” and “the best tablet-laptop hybrid around.” The company’s Azure cloud computing service is on pace to turn a profit for the first time this year. The company’s Glassdoor rating, which was once as low as 2.9, has bounced back to 3.9, well above industry averages. Even more impressive is Microsoft’s stock price, which as seen a 39% increase in value since February 2014, or roughly $168 billion in market capitalization.

Satya Nadella

Photo credit: Flickr, Bhupinder Nayyar

Satya Nadella, take a bow, you deserve it.

Since Mr. Nadella took the reins of Microsoft on February 4, 2014, he has reformed the company from technology has-been to innovation darling. Microsoft’s metamorphosis is, while awe inspiring in its results, not revolutionary in how Satya triggered it. Satya started with “Why.”

Satya Nadella Quote

Photo credit: Flickr, Wonderlane

I wrote a blog entitled “Satya’s Search for the Meaning of Microsoft” and in it I summarized the convoluted mess former CEO Steve Ballmer had left the company – it’s a great read. Satya’s biggest challenge in taking over Microsoft is that the company had no singular meaning – Microsoft was Windows, and Office, and Xbox, and Surface, and Retail, and Skype, and Nokia – dozens of business units that had no singular connection that united them as one.

Taking a page from Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why?”, Satya sought to re-establish Microsoft’s “Why?” the company’s reason for being. In his first email to the company, Sayta used the words “empower” and “world” nineteen times and has since repeatedly stated that Microsoft’s role is to “empower the world.” Using “empowering the world” as a beacon, Simon Sinek’s book then suggests that the “Why” will drive and define decisions that will impact the company from the inside out.

So how has Microsoft’s “Why” – “Empower the World” changed Microsoft and its decisions since Satya has taken over?

Here are just three examples:

  1. The “Why” has empowered Microsoft’s employees: Under Ballmer, Microsoft’s various business groups were all beholden to the company’s cash cow – Windows. Innovative products that did not contribute to the Windows business model were shut-down. However, under Satya’s reign, any product that “Empowers the world to do more” is sent to market. With that, all of Microsoft’s teams are working towards a singular goal and a slew of new innovative products including Skype Translation, Sway, and Delve have quickly launched to market.
  2. The “Why” has redefined Microsoft’s world: The world in Ballmer’s Microsoft was limited to the Microsoft world. Ballmer’s Microsoft refused to play nice with others and openly mocked rivals whenever given a chance – remember Scroogle? Satya Nadella’s Microsoft world is greatly expanded to new partners and customers. Microsoft’s Azure platform supports Linux, an operating system that Ballmer once called a “cancer.” Nadella has mended the fence with Salesforce and has ended nasty wars with Apple’s iOS and Android by building a cross platform development studio.
  3. The “Why” is “Empowering the World”: Inspired by Satya’s new “Why”, Microsoft has done the unthinkable and has given Windows away for free on any device smaller than 9”. The company is also giving an “Internet of Things” version of Windows for free to developers. Satya is often quoted as saying “Revenue is a lagging indicator, usage is a leading indicator” and by giving Windows away to the masses, Microsoft has empowered a whole lot of people.

Satya Nadella (93% Glassdoor approval rating) understood that Microsoft needed a meaning and quickly made finding the company’s “Why” his top priority. His job since day one has been to repeat “Empowering the World” to every Microsoft employee, partner, and shareholder as many times as humanly possible for it to sink in. Culture changes like the one Microsoft has gone through take time and the pace of the company’s transformation is exceedingly impressive. However, the best is yet to come from Microsoft as Mr. Nadella further defines Microsoft’s “Why” and “cloud to mobile” initiatives that may result in the company shedding even more of its consumer oriented business units (X-Box, Retail).

“Empowering the World,” is just the start.