I’ll say one thing for co-chief executives: two scapegoats are better than one. Since Research in Motion’s fortunes took a sharp turn for the worse last year, its dual-leadership structure has taken a beating. With the BlackBerry-maker’s decision last week to revert to one chief executive, the double-edged knives really came out for Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. Read more
The initial noises out of the shake-up at Research in Motion, although it was more far-reaching than had been expected, are not especially encouraging for the investors and analysts who want radical action.
Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the joint chairmen and chief executives of the maker of BlackBerries, have relinquished both roles. But they have handed over to an insider who looks determined to stick to the same course.
Thorsten Heins, the new chief executive, told the FT:
“I want to maintain the focus on enterprise, but we need to communicate a bit more with our consumers. We need to do more marketing.”
It’s more common to cite strategic than structural differences as a reason for resignation. But Carla Smits-Nusteling – one of the most prominent women in Dutch business – is quitting KPN, the telecoms group, because, in the words of Tuesday’s statement, “she does not agree with the internal governance of the company in the new executive structure”.
Ms Smits-Nusteling, KPN’s finance director, sat on its management board (which is itself overseen by a supervisory board, in the continental European style). KPN has expanded that board from three people to 12, by bringing in all the divisional heads.
This could be about power. After all, a one-third say in decisions about a company’s operational direction is different from a one-twelfth say. Jos Versteeg, an analyst at Theodoor Gilissen, a Dutch bank, told Dow Jones:
The new management structure might compromise some of [Ms Smits-Nusteling's] executive authorities, handing over more power to the CEO, which could be the reason for her dissatisfaction.
AT&T has spent the past few weeks denying that it was about to drop its bid for T-Mobile USA, despite the heavy regulatory opposition. It has now done precisely that.
I was originally against the deal, arguing in March that:
The US performs badly in fixed-line broadband services in terms of price and speed compared with other countries, hurt by Verizon and AT&T having shrugged off the imposition of competition. The last thing the US now needs is AT&T, which already has mobile operating margins of more than 40 per cent, pulling that trick again.
Come on, DoJ. Just say no.
The US Department of Justice subsequently came out against the deal, along with the Federal Communications Commission. AT&T has taken the medicine, paying the proposed deal’s $4bn break-up fee and going back to square one. Read more
American Airlines finally plummeted into bankruptcy last week, eight years after workers’ wage concessions seemed to have helped parent AMR plot a route out of disaster. Managers hadn’t wrung enough from the workforce in 2003, some claimed. The staff hadn’t pulled their weight since, said others. Many concurred that the “discipline” of bankruptcy would have been good for American. Read more
The news that AT&T is taking a $4bn charge to cover the break-up fee it will owe to Deutsche Telekom if its takeover of T-Mobile fails is concrete evidence of how badly it has done in its campaign to convince regulators. To which I say, good.
I have been against the AT&T and T-Mobile deal from the start, arguing that it would enable AT&T and Verizon to replicate in mobile the duopoly that they and the cable companies enjoy in fixed line telephony and broadband. Read more
Research in Motion’s offer to compensate its users affected by the BlackBerry network failure of the past week with $100 of free applications is a neat idea in that it costs the company far less than the apparent gain to its customers.
Given the zero cost of distribution and the fact that RIM only has to pay the wholesale cost to publishers of games such as Sims 3 – as well as gaining the benefit of hooking BlackBerry users into its ecosystem, it is a modest price to pay. Read more
I think most obituaries of Robert Galvin – who helped take Motorola from a family firm to a $11bn leader in mobile phones – understate his contribution to management practice, for he was, at the very least, the godfather of Six Sigma.
The omission is understandable. Six Sigma – which focuses managers obsessively on improving quality and eliminating defects – was the process improvement technique of choice for large companies in the 1990s, but it seems to have faded from public view recently. I spent a day at General Electric’s Crotonville leadership development centre in September and I didn’t hear Six Sigma mentioned once. Yet 15 years ago, when Jack Welch was in his pomp, the air would have been thick with boasts about how many “black belt” leaders of Six Sigma initiatives GE had bred. Read more