In an excellent piece penned by his good self John Chen has talked on Linked In on how to approach a turnaround within a company. It’s full of how the waste can go (the story of the phone accounts that someone forgot to turn off is particularly symptomatic of the sort of waste that builds up when a company gets flabby), getting a laser sharp focus and empowering employees with positivity.
Yep – it’s good stuff and we make no apologies for recreating it here:
The Keys to Executing a Turnaround the Right Way
If you were to ask any CEO, “Would you like to turn around a company?” the answer would likely be, “No way.”
When I took on the role of BlackBerry CEO one year ago, we were facing tremendous challenges as a company. The markets for devices and services had been changing dramatically for the past few years, and our positions in them had deteriorated. Addressing these realities required us to focus on one thing: innovation. Innovation is what the world demands of technology companies like BlackBerry. Building a stable platform for us to be able to focus on innovation again has been the foundation of our turnaround. The individual strategies to enable this flowed naturally from that imperative.
Create a Problem-Solving Culture
When an organization is in a funk, a lot of people understand the problems. Not too many people understand the way out of the problems.
When you only talk about the problems, you drag everyone down. Energy dissipates; hopelessness reigns.
A turnaround culture must be positive. Employees need to have the hunger – and confidence – to get things done. Everyone needs the same single-minded desire to win.
People have asked me, “Why do you want to do turnarounds?” I think it’s similar to working an emergency room. When a patient comes in, you don’t ask, “Why is that person hurt?” You help him or her get better.
That is the culture that’s needed: one that focuses on fixing things and finding solutions, not on the obstacles before you.
Maintain the Sense of Urgency
After you achieve several targets and hit some milestones, it’s easy to lose some of your urgency. That can be fatal to your ability to get things done.
When you’re in turnaround, every decision feels like it counts twice as much. That can lead some employees and managers to become stuck. That’s the trap called “paralysis by analysis.” Well, some parts of the analysis you don’t need to – and probably shouldn’t – complete.
If your front porch is on fire, you wouldn’t stop to calculate how long it would take for your house to burn down. You just go stop the fire.
In BlackBerry’s case, we cut costs dramatically and doubled down on reducing losses and growing profits. We still have a few water buckets on hand. But no one is cooking our funeral dinner on the flames, because we took action.
Take Care of your Company like it’s your Home
Things that are near and dear to us, we naturally take better care of: our family, our home, our health. We take care to ‘sweat the small stuff’, because we care. That’s the attitude I have about BlackBerry, and which I hope my employees have, too.
Here’s an example: At BlackBerry, we took a look at all of the phone accounts we were paying for. We found one manager who had eight telephone accounts for employees that had already left but which we were still paying for. Their accounts were never turned off.
This may seem small in the scheme of things. But the small things add up. Still, it’s not so much about the value. It’s the level of care. I wouldn’t pay for eight phone lines at my home if I’m only using one. And that sets the tone for everything else we do.
Every question has multiple answers; every problem has several solutions. Even decisions – every one involves some give and take. So don’t focus on finding the perfect strategy – most of the time, there isn’t one. Because with every benefit, there’s also always a cost.
At a prior company I turned around, we started investing in enterprise mobility at a time when we were only known as a provider of databases and data warehouses. That had many costs – switching development dollars to an unproven industry, as well as taking away management attention when we were in a data dogfight with our competitors. But it also had a huge benefit: giving us an early lead in what proved to be a very important space. That bet paid off, and was key to our eventually selling to SAP for $5.8 billion, 14 times our lowest valuation just after I took over as CEO.
When you know yourself, you know what your long-term goals and strategies are. That makes it easier for you to decide on good – note I didn’t say right – decisions. Right implies perfect. And consistent execution and hard work will outweigh any individually poor decision over the long haul. And I’m in it for the long haul.
Empower Employees to Take Risks
Many people know what’s the right thing to do, but are afraid to speak out. They see others making avoidable errors and think to themselves, “I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do,” without saying anything.
People either don’t want to deliver bad news, or they’re not willing to challenge enough – in a respectful way – on some of the decisions.
That culture has got to change.
Of course, you don’t want to take it to an extreme, where every tiny decision is open for debate. Nothing would get done if consensus needs to be reached all the time. There’s a time to engage your leaders appropriately, and those opportunities must be part of your culture. Because…
Everyone has a Role
If you empower employees, they will speak out on bad decisions or take the initiative to solve problems. No matter what their level, everyone can make a difference. They can help evangelize to customers, engage with partners, reduce costs and waste, and help on your overall strategy.
Creating this open-ness requires a few things. Leaders need to listen and be humble. And your organization cannot be too siloed or top-down. Otherwise, it makes it difficult for people to share their ideas.
Besides, you’re already paying your employees! Why not let them take initiative – you’ll get the results.
All in all, a turnaround culture is one that enables everyone to pitch in to get things done. That requires focusing on a goal, and empowering employees to take risks and go the extra mile.
That’s how you win.
So, there you go. A man who’s been there and done that opening the lid on how it’s done. And, of course, if you are in business, you can choose to take on board or ignore what he says.
Meanwhile, over at BGR, they had their own take on things…
Bear in mind that these people are so well informed that our Resident iDiot himself, their chief and soiled overlord, made a total twonk of himself on TV with the following statement prior to the Z3 launch:
Yep. The very same phone at which BlackBerry had booths placed at launch so customers could learn how to run Android apps.
You want to see it all again?
So, with that in mind, here’s what Brad Reed chipped in with:
BlackBerry CEO declares mission accomplished
It’s only been about a year since he started his tenure and his company is still losing money, but BlackBerry CEO John Chen thinks he’s already implemented a turnaround strategy that economics students will be reading about for decades. In an article posted on LinkedIn, Chen offers some “keys to executing a turnaround the right way” that draw on his year of experience as BlackBerry’s chief executive.
“When I took on the role of BlackBerry CEO one year ago, we were facing tremendous challenges as a company,” Chen writes. “The markets for devices and services had been changing dramatically for the past few years, and our positions in them had deteriorated. Addressing these realities required us to focus on one thing: innovation. Innovation is what the world demands of technology companies like BlackBerry. Building a stable platform for us to be able to focus on innovation again has been the foundation of our turnaround.”
It’s definitely true that BlackBerry is in a much better place than it was a year ago, although it could be argued that short of declaring bankruptcy, it would be hard for things to have been much worse. After all, the company had just tried and failed to put itself up for sale and had ousted former CEO Thorsten Heins.
That said, Chen certainly has helped the company stand on firmer ground by aggressively cutting costs and smartly refocussing BlackBerry’s mission solely on business customers who want devices that act (as the saying goes) as “tools not toys.” At this rate, Chen is still projecting the company will return to profitability next year, so it looks like the next few quarters will be crucial in determining whether the company’s turnaround has real legs.
Well, for a start, as you can see, he never said ‘Mission Accomplished’. But then accuracy as far as BlackBerry is concerned has never been a strong point over there.
Anyone with half a brain can see this turnaround has a little more than ‘legs’. A point lost, of course, on the commentors who chipped in with the following, replete with a bizarre picture of a sinking (or is that re-floating?) BlackBerry ship:
Turnaround? Bwahahahahaaaa! Can someone take this guy’s temperature? Ok I get it. He wants Lenovo to offer more money on the buyout deal. But a chinese negotiating with the chinese you sure know how it will pan out.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? That poor guy who keeps posting and begging for free- apps seems to think other wise.
This guy seriously needs to go. He’s as delusional as his predecessors. Like that idiot that claimed BlackBerry will leapfrog the competition. Pathetic.
Besides overrated security name one thing blackberry is doing better than the competition. They stuck a typewriter in a phone with a screen the size of American cheese and named it the Passport. If you consider that besting the competition then you’re right.
Can you run Blackberry apps on……oh wait BB doesn’t have any apps. It has to use Android apps.
Who knew that the BBRY CEO was a comedian?
At least, when George W said it, he really meant it…it was not true but he meant it! This clown….not so much. LoL!
LMAO. Taylor Swift will make more money from her album sales this week than BlackBerry will make from their device sales. They have a LONG way to go.
Is anyone still bothering to use BBM anymore? Sure, lots of people downloaded it to see what the PR was about, but seriously, at this point, who cares?
And then, of course, the poor souls are completly flattened by a few facts.
I say let’s let them be. Let’s not correct the iMbecilious ones.
It’s much, much, funnier to watch them twist in the wind.
Does it hurt much BGR?
You bet it does.