Earlier today Forbes posted an interview with John Chen. We have read a few of these interviews now, and while some may be stand out more than another, it’s generally the same information rehashed over and over. Many times I wonder if perhaps there was only one interview and the reporters just shared notes. This interview however had a jewel in it for me.
I was one of those that liked Thorsten Heins. I thought he was a personable enough guy. And he was tasked with doing the things that most people simply don’t want to do, the dirty work, and he did it. He brought BB10 to market, and he was also in charge when the rounds of layoffs started. We can argue all day about who’s fault it was and why this happened, and blame Heinz as he was in charge at the time, but in the end, we all know BlackBerry was in a downturn before Heins ever took the reigns, and he did many things that had to be done. But one of my complaints about BlackBerry during this time, was their reaction speed.
BlackBerry acted too slow. That has always been a problem with BlackBerry. The mobile phone world changed around them and they reacted too slowly. The PlayBook had issues, they reacted so slowly they never resolved all those issues before it’s end of life. The Z10 when it was released, had issues with battery life, random reboots, etc. and they reacted too slowly. It has become a point, that BlackBerry fans use the “coming soon” quote as a joke among ourselves.
It appears that Chen recognizes this and is addressing it directly while speaking with Forbes.
Why are tech turnarounds so hard? Because the amount of time you have to execute your plan can be dramatically changed by your competitors. There’s no time to recover from mistakes. You have to be right most of the time.
And that is the gold nugget in this article to me. Chen recognizes that the competitors are there moving forward and can change the whole world while you’re not looking. This is something Mike and Jim never seemed to get. He goes on to talk about how me manages his goals in to short, medium, and long term, so that if suddenly something changes, he can shift from one goal to another. This is something Thorsten seemed to be lacking.
I, like most BlackBerry fans hoped Thorsten could right the ship that is BlackBerry, and was dissapointed that he could not. Now I am hopeful Chen can do what Thorsten could not. And the more I see of him, the more I am starting to believe he might just be the guy to do it. Talk is fine, it lets us see what people hope to accomplish. In the beginning Thorsten spoke about his plans and it sounded great to me. But there was no action. Chen is talking about his plans, and yes, he sounds like he knows exactly what he’s doing, and even better, we see action from BlackBerry. The old faces leaving, the new faces arriving, the reorganization of the divisions, even suing the copycat Typo keyboard, now we are seeing action, and I’m excited to see how this turns out.