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Former Windows boss lands teaching gig at Harvard

Steven Sinofsky, who ran the Windows division for six years but left after sparring with some Microsoft executives, tweets that he will return to Harvard Business School to teach this spring.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read
Steven Sinofsky talks up Microsoft's Surface tablet at the Microsoft's unveiling event in New York in October. Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

Steven Sinofsky, who recently left Microsoftafter running the Windows division for six years, tweeted this morning that he will teach at Harvard Business School this spring.

"Excited to return to @HarvardHBS to teach again this spring!" Sinofsky wrote. "New perspectives, recharge, share experiences, write."

In response to a question on Twitter, Sinofsky said he intends to teach "product development" as well as write articles about the topic.

Sinofsky has some history at Harvard Business School. He served as a "visiting scholar" there in 1998. He also co-authored a book on organizational management with Marco Iansiti, an HBS professor, called "One Strategy: Organization, Planning, and Decision Making."

A polarizing figure, Sinofsky departed Microsoft after disagreements with several executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer. But Sinofsky also has his supporters, many of whom point to his success in turning around the Windows division, which, when he took it over, was reeling from the debacle of developing the much-delayed Windows Vista.

The centerpiece of Sinofsky's management style, and a likely topic for his teaching, is creating what's known in management circles as a "functional organization." That's a system that creates reporting lines around job functions -- such as product management, development, and software testing. It runs counter to "product organizations," where multidisciplinary teams work on specific feature sets together. In their book, Sinofsky and Iansiti argue that functional organizations create clearer road maps for workers to march toward a final goal.

In reply to a question sent via Twitter, Sinofsky said his title will be "Executive in Residence." And he said he'll work on research and writing in addition to teaching "(product development), planning, collaboration, and more." Sinofsky faced some criticism at Microsoft for not being particularly collaborative with those outside the Windows division. He didn't say if he'd teach beyond this spring.

Updated at 10:21 a.m. PT to include Sinofsky's reply, via Twitter, about his title and job expectations.