On taking over a failing, once loved company, go for it!
I'm not sure where to put this forum post, so mobile will do.
I've long wondered what workers at absolutely failing companies must think of as they drive to work each day, ordinary staffers, executives...the CEO him or herself. As they button up their shirts and check their hair in the mirror, what do they think? "Well, another day of being hopelessly behind the curve, without a snowballs chance in hell of catching up, bye dear *kiss* bye little Jimmy, be a good boy at school today, pay attention in class, and do all your homework, ok? ok. Bye!". They then walk over to their BMW/Mercedes, beep beep as the lights flash, they get in and drive off, while a tech news podcast plays, perhaps The Vergecast, or Vergecast Mobile, all about the state of their industry. "oh boy, Company X suuuuuure doesnt get it!" jokes one of the hosts. How does it feel? To be on your own? A now nearly complete unknown? Like a failing former monopoly?
Theres at least a handful of companies in the industry in this position, we dont need to name names, companies that used to be all powerful, unshakably dominant, they farted and it was like a volcano had gone off. Their every move shook the world, and affected millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of users. One day, the dominant companies will *directly* affect a billion or more users, Facebook is certainly getting close.
And then to one day be basically worthless, to be the butt of every joke, a laughingstock, it really must hurt hearing the weeks news as your luxury sedan pulls through the towering gates of company headquarters, winding through the gentle manmade tar-seal bends of the carefully planted and maintained "forest", as you see your logo carved from marble/forged from stainless steel, as the fountain shoots pillars of water up into the air, and the chartered stunt pilots put their generation before current fighter jets through the paces, creating a billowy version of your official photoshopped stagelit CEO portrait for the neighbouring tens of kilometres around to gaze up at in awe.
I'd assumed these people would feel like failures, like they were phonies, they'd lost their touch, as a baby boomer who suddenly realises they're wearing the animal skin biker jacket that "mom" never let them wear, sitting in their retro convertible.....but then they turn on the radio to hear Nicki Minaj talking about "stupid hoes", and realise they world has moved on, they should have grown out of that way of life.
I *do* think it must be difficult for company founders to get to grips with their companies demise, with a decade of languishing, of getting-its-ass-kicked-ery, case in point, RIM.
Research, No Motion.
How was this guy, as I know him
Seeing Mike Lazaridis like that is actually SHOCKING to me, that he once was a hands on, gifted engineer, instead of the tantrum-ing "we're NOT in trouble, we're RIM! We make the BLACKBERRY!" mogul who storms out of interviews, after whining "thats not fair" to the BBC interviewer, when asked about their security:
At the word "security," Lazaridis briefly furrowed his brow. He tilted his head and shifted in his chair. He blinked a half-dozen times, tightened and set his jaw, looked from the interviewer to the camera. As the question finished, he looked down and away. An off-screen voice said, "I'm sorry, Rory" as Lazaridis shook his head, saying, "That's just not fair, Rory."
As the off-screen PR voice asked if there was one more question, Lazaridis spoke up, his voice tight and deliberate. "‘Cause first of all, it's not a sec — we have no security problems. We've got the most secure platform — "
"Why's that not a fair question to ask?"
"Because you said — you implied that we have a security problem. We don't have a security problem," Lazaridis said.
"Well, you have an issue..."
Lazaridis again shook his head and looked down. "No, we don't." He blinked slowly and shrugged his shoulders. "We've just been singled out, because we're so successful around the world. It's an iconic product. It's used by business, it's used by leaders, it's used by celebrities, it's used by consumers, it's used by teenagers. I mean, we're just singled out," he said. "You know," he shrugged again, still grasping the Playbook with both hands, "just because of our success."
"Is that sorted out now? That issue is being dealt with?"
"We're dealing with a lot of issues. And I think that we're doing our best to deal with the kind of expectations that we're under," Lazaridis said.
"And you're confident that — we've got a lot of listeners and viewers in the Middle East and in India — you can confidently tell them that they're going to have no problems with being able to use their BlackBerrys, and you being able to give them assurance that everything is, uhm, secure?"
As the question concluded, Lazaridis looked down. At the word "secure" he glanced off-camera, shook his head, and said, "So, it's over. Interview's over." The PR voice said, "We're up on time." He looked back to his interviewer, still shaking his head. He looked down. "Please. You can't use that, Rory. That's just not fair." Again, quieter: "That's just not fair."
Then he looked up, his voice rising, "Sorry, it's not fair. We've dealt with this. Come on, this is a national security issue." He pointed to the camera and said, "Turn that off." Interview over."
But what if its not all doom and gloom? What if the huge, crippling failures at your trainwreck of a company *are not* your fault, but can easily be blamed on The Previous Guy? Then you've got it good!
Look at Apple CEO's, when the bozo's in charge drove Steve Jobs out in the late 80's, they had the Pepsi guy John Sculley , then Michael Spindler (who has barely a Wikipedia entry), Gil Amelio until Jobs finally returned.
"Walt: OK. But especially Windows in the ’90s began to take off.
Bill: By 1995, Windows became popular. The big debate wasn’t sort of Mac versus Windows. The big debate was character mode interface versus graphics mode interface. And when the 386 came and we got more memory and the speed was adequate and some development tools came along, that paradigm bet on GUI paid off for everybody who’d gotten in early and said, you know, this is the way that’s going to go.
Walt: But Apple wasn’t able to leverage its products?
Bill: After the 512K Mac was done, the product line just didn’t evolve as fast–Steve wasn’t there–as it needed to. And we were actually negotiating a deal to invest and make some commitments and things with Gil Amelio. No, seriously.
Kara: Don’t be mean to him.
Bill: I’m sorry?
Kara: Just saying the word Gil Amelio, you can see his…
Bill: So I was calling him up on the weekend and all this stuff and next thing I knew, Steve called me up and said, "Don’t worry about that negotiation with Gil Amelio. You can just talk to me now." And I said, "Wow."
"Steve: Gil was a nice guy, but he had a saying. He said, "Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom leaking water and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction.""
All Steve Jobs really had to do was blame everything bad on the last "bozos" in charge, and to take credit for the small projects already in the pipeline, *IF* they were successful! And if they predictably failed? Then it was "all that idiot Amelio/Spindler/Sculley's fault!" :-)
I wanted to write a quick forum post after rereading about Elop and the "burning platform" at Nokia, of how he could confidently stride in there, as someone who had nothing to do with the company, indeed, actually being from Microsoft, and write off all the failures, while carefully promoting the idea that there are budding geniuses inside the company, working for him:
""We have some brilliant sources of innovation inside Nokia, but we are not bringing it to market fast enough. We thought MeeGo would be a platform for winning high-end smartphones. However, at this rate, by the end of 2011, we might have only one MeeGo product in the market.""
"We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.""
Here I was wondering what it must be like to have single-handedly shipwrecked the company you were in charge of, that you'd built through your own brilliance a decade before, but I never considered what it must be like to be the guy in charge of turning it all around, who *isnt* responsible! When you've got your golden parachute packed, huge salary,massive bonuses just for showing up on time each day with matching socks, nothing that happens can be pinned on you! And if you somehow, against all odds succeed? Then you're a VISIONARY beyond compare, the greatest businessman (or businesswoman) of our time! All the print magazines still in print will have you on the cover, you'll get awards, people everywhere will know of your great deeds.
You're the celebrity who shows up dressed immaculately in designer fashions, to spend a minute wiping oil off thankful seal pups for the cameras, while everyone else gets only rocks to brush, all day, all week long.
Simpsons oil spill (via chimera3466)
And hence how Elop can be so damn proud of whatever he ends up doing, anything good, anything innovative that happens after the Ex Microsoft executive "decides to go to Nokia", and then essentially has "his new company" taken over by his "previous" company, locking it down as the lead Windows Phone hardware maker, why, the credit is all Elop's! Another raise! Another Time magazine cover! Another squadron of fighter jets pumping out coloured smoke in his daily aerial company greeting!
I tell you, as long as its not your fault, and you've constantly got one hand on the escape hatch, while you shower with your golden parachute on (just in case!), it sure must be good taking over a failing company :-)
Keep living the dream Stephen!
The Verge Interview: Stephen Elop at MWC 2012 (via TheVerge)