Most perception gaps I’ve encountered exist between the C team and the staff. It’s much rarer when a perception gap develops between the whole organization and the market, which seems to be the case with RIM.
Sure: it happens often that the organization thinks it’s perceived very positively by its customers when in fact they score very low on various surveys that actually ask the customers…but in most of these cases the perception gap is still there between the c-team and the staff, since most of the staff, especially the customer facing ones are highly aware of customer problems.
RIM’s an iconic organization in Canada with a mutual dedication and loyalty between the employees and the company which probably ranks way higher than the industry average; this is just an assumption I developed from having numerous conversations with RIM employees and employees of other companies.
I think the employees want to believe in the future, in management, and this is what blinds them. Recent reshuffling of responsibilities in marketing and consequent departures talk about a different picture at the helm… maybe the co-CEOs want to remain blind leaving no room for marketing guys who should be and want to be responsible for closing the perception gap between the company and the markets.
This way an avalanche is developing starting with marketing spreading over all the way to operations (the COO is on medical leave right now).
Operations is focused on product development and launches for now (rather unsuccessfully we must add) but without marketing, operations will be less and less aligned to the “world out there”… and make no mistake about it: appealing as it may seem, you can’t align the world to your operations…not long term anyways!
Message to the investors:
DON’T DEMAND HEADS (YET), DEMAND A CONCEPT!
Message to Jim and Mike: FIND SOMEBODY WHO HELPS YOU DEVELOP A CONCEPT!
And now a side note which should not be taken too seriously; it’s a cheap shot that I did for my own morning entertainment:
I looked at departing VP digital marketing & media (he’s going to Samsumg), Brian Wallance on linkedin ( http://linkd.in/lbhY1F ):
11 years at RIM; started at the good times although I don’t know in what role or capacity. So he probably wasn’t brought in to his role to bring perspective or thinking (the two is closely related).
he was the “social” guy who is supposed to know what people want…if he’s leaving as a result of his own decision, he may know something;
looked at his tweets, though (http://twitter.com/#!/bdwallace): pretty polite and boring stuff, nothing that resembles an opinion or a concept of any kind. Here’s an interesting one though from April 18 : “”Blah blah blah Brian, blah blah blah Brian” – what I am hearing on this conf call…”
Clicked on his “blog” link, I got twitter again…
And finally: looked at his picture: he has the same glasses as all marketing guys I have met in the past 10 years . The guy knows how to pose though
Draw your conclusions.
You are chairing a board and/or are the CEO of a company that has a brutal problem at hand, the kind that Nokia, RIM, Yahoo or to some degree HP faces in the technology arena nowadays: new players better understand the concept behind your business and consistently eat away your share of the pie; since you are stuck in the very pattern that made you successful or worst yet your patterns have been causing your troubles for years, time is not on your side.
What do you do?
If you take Yahoo’s, HP’s and Nokia’s example you try to solve this by hiring a new CEO (not sure if yahoo’s looking for a new CEO or a buyer right now. This point applies to when they hired Carol Bartz). If you follow RIM’s example, you’ll try to…. stick it out I guess.
Both hiring and sticking it out may work if you do it based on the right foundation. This foundation is painfully missing in most cases so fundamental questions are not being answered or worst yet, they are not being asked; questions that apply equally to hiring (leadership) and strategy.
When this foundation is not set up the context may very well be wrong for all your initiatives; when the context is wrong, the smartest people will inevitably fail or if they’re really smart they do everything in their power to create this context BEFORE they do anything at all. Step Zero!
What happened at Yahoo was that this foundation was simply missing; a clueless board brought in a (good) CEO to act like in a typical turnaround situation: cut cost, get rid of unprofitable businesses, focus on what’s supposed to be (arguable) strengths, etc. Yahoo’s situation was NOT a turnaround situation! When a company faces a strategic inflection point it’s more than turnaround: a new concept needs to be developed for a new strategy.
HP’s board is similar in that they have absolutely no concept moving forward. They just replaced one pure operations guy without the slightest trace of vision (Apotheker) with another (Whitman) to “lead HP”. Is that her mandate? …based on what exactly?? An important question to investors, employees and the new CEO.
If you do decide you will hire a new CEO, you must create your OWN concept so the CEO can develop the appropriate strategy.
If you can’t develop the concept, you’d better choose your next CEO based on whether (s)he can provide you with a convincing one. I don’t know how the hiring of Stephen Elop took place at Nokia, maybe it fell under this category, maybe not. Right now the company is not communicating anything that may hint at a concept behind the Windows 7 decision, which by itself doesn’t seem to be a long term strategy to me; if there isn’t any, Elop (just like Apotheker recently and Whitman soon at HP or Bartz at yahoo) will not stay longer than 3 years, but this is another story.
RIM is also making moves based on a strategy that seem to be lacking a foundation. Too much focus on competitive moves, too much reacting, bitter and stubborn fear lingering above the heads of the co-CEOs, not one initiative launched that’s based on a concept the company owns (unlike in their prime).
Doing anything without articulating the concept behind your strategy is like shooting in the dark: it smells like panic, it doesn’t look good and it’s flat out irresponsible!