Research In Motion feared 'morons from the outside' would destroy the company, board member says.
Research In Motion's long-time co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, stepped down from their leadership posts last month to allow a company insider, Thorsten Heins, to take their place. The decision didn't happen overnight--it took years, for a reason: there was no one else RIM's board trusted to get the job done right.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail, RIM director Roger Martin--who, by the way, is also the dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management--insisted that there's no way RIM would have given the CEO job to an outsider.
"I laugh at the vast majority of critics when they say, 'Oh, you should have made this CEO transition, like, four years ago,'" he said. "Yeah, right--like, to who?"
Martin seems to be implying that there was no one prepared to handle the challenges of being RIM's CEO until they stumbled onto Thorsten Heins. In effect, Martin says there was never anyone worthy of the post.
But why not hire from the outside, you might ask. After all, surely tapping the global job pool could find a laudable leader. Not so, says Martin.
"So we're supposed to hand it over to children, or morons from the outside who will destroy the company?" he said. "Or should we try to build our way to having succession?"
Obviously, RIM has chosen the latter path. Martin said that Heins didn't really become visible to the CEOs and the board of directors until last fall--and that it was Lazaridis' and Balsillie's decision to move on the transition once Heins emerged as a good fit.
According to Martin, RIM grew so fast so quickly, that it was unable to develop a deep and talented managerial base. Balsillie called Martin about five years ago about joining the board. The company was having trouble scaling internally and asked Martin for help.
"If we were to say to Jim and Mike [five years ago], 'Well, we're the board and you should go away now,' they would have laughed at us," said Martin. He firmly believes that there was no one internally or externally who could have replaced Lazaridis and Balsillie.
RIM's investors might disagree. The company's stock has lost more than three-quarters of its value in the last year as consumers and professionals (RIM's former bread and butter) switched to iPhones and Android devices.
Martin--who was fully of money quotes during his chat with The Globe and Mail--said RIM was astounded that people wanted such devices.
"People were saying we can't make powerful phones like Apple. Yes, we can, but we couldn't believe consumers would put up with that kind of battery inefficiency and that kind of network inefficiency."
Put up with it they have. Between Android and iOS, 500 million people have chosen less efficient but more powerful devices. Obviously, not everyone has the same priorities that RIM's management does.
Now that Thorsten Heins is in charge of the BlackBerry maker, does it have the right priorities?
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