Research in Motion’s public battle

5 07 2011

When executives feel they have to go outside of a chain of command in order to voice concerns, we see perfect examples of the need for Operational Performance Management (OPM).  The current Research in Motion public battle is a great place to start.  An anonymous executive sent an open letter to Jonathan Geller, of The Boy Genius (BGR.com), to call out the current RIM culture.  What is more entertaining about this is the fact that RIM responds publicly, which only makes this sound like a bigger problem.

Highlights of the RIM letter:

  • You have many smart employees, many that have great ideas for the future, but unfortunately the culture at RIM does not allow us to speak openly without having to worry about the career-limiting effects.
  • We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice — the end user doesn’t care. We simply have to admit that Apple is nailing this and it is one of the reasons they have people lining up overnight at stores around the world, and products sold out for months. These people aren’t hypnotized zombies, they simply love beautifully designed products that are user centric and work how they are supposed to work.
  • Teams still aren’t talking together properly, no one is making or can make critical decisions, all the while everyone is working crazy hours and still far behind. We are demotivated.
  • Strategy is often in the things you decide not to do.
  • We simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren’t ready for the end user. It is hurting our brand tremendously. It takes guts to not allow a product to launch that may be 90% ready with a quarter end in sight, but it will pay off in the long term.
  • The truth is, no one in RIM dares to tell management how bad our tools still are. Even our closest dev partners do their best to say it politely, but they will never bite the hand that feeds them.
  • 25 million iPad users don’t care that it doesn’t have Flash or true multitasking, so why make that a focus in our campaigns? I’ll answer that for you: it’s because that’s all that differentiates our products and its lazy marketing. I’ve never seen someone buy product B because it has something product A doesn’t have. People buy product B because they want and lust after product B.
  • RIM has a lot of people who underperform but still stay in their roles. No one is accountable. Where is the guy responsible for the 9530 software? Still with us, still running some important software initiative. We will never achieve excellence with this culture. Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn’t mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role.
  • However, overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago. We laughed and said they are trying to put a computer on a phone, that it won’t work.
  • Reach out to all employees asking them on how we can make RIM better. Encourage input from ground-level teams—without repercussions—to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it.

All of these are examples of what happens in almost every business culture I have witnessed.  It is certainly not unique to RIM. If you think this is not happening within your business you are sorely mistaken.

What can you do….

  • Foster honest discussions.  Stop punishing those who do not follow the company line. Reward critical thought.  Ask people to do their homework prior to the meetings.
  • Listen.  Tap into the collective intelligence of the organization.  1,000 eyes see a lot.
  • Act out.  Stress your opinion if you have a dissenting idea.If you love your company and passionate about what you do, chances are your opinions probably do matter.
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