Ballmer suggests need for faster change leading him to step down

|By:, SA News Editor

"At the end of the day, we need to break a pattern. Face it, I'm a pattern," says Steve Ballmer (MSFT) during a WSJ interview regarding his decision to step down as Microsoft's CEO. "Maybe I'm an emblem of an old era ... the best way for Microsoft to enter a new era is a new leader who will accelerate change."

Both Ballmer and lead independent director John Thompson insist the oft-criticized Microsoft chief wasn't pushed out, but Thompson also says the board was "pushing [Ballmer] damn hard to go faster."

Even before announcing his planned departure, Ballmer was overhauling his management style in response to pressure, meeting with lieutenants in groups (as opposed to one-on-one) and calling for shorter and more frequent reports in an effort to increase collaboration.

The interview also provides more reason to think Alan Mulally is a top candidate to succeed Ballmer: Ballmer says a 4-hour talk with Mulally last Christmas Eve in which the Ford CEO stressed the importance of teamwork and brand simplification in remaking Ford acted as a wake-up call.

Seven months later, Ballmer announced a huge reorg. More recently, Microsoft axed a controversial employee-ranking system.

Yesterday: Microsoft reportedly narrowing CEO search