Leadership Styles: Research in Motion (RIM)

Dateline: Jan 23, 2012. This morning we woke to the news that RIM is in crisis mode. In 2008, it had a stock share price of $148. Last week, shares closed at $17.24. Something had to give, and today it did, with the announcement that it’s co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis were stepping down. RIM started out with a BIG idea. Now it has to face a BIG crisis….and follow it quickly with another BIG idea. Does it have what it takes?

When we look at this through the lens of FACET Leadership™, some clear challenges arise:

  1. FOCUS: RIM obviously needs to regain it’s FOCUS. Right now, it needs to focus its attention on regaining the trust of it’s once loyal customer base. And it needs to revisit and answer the question, “who do we serve?” – corporate or consumer or both? Can the one brand serve both markets, or do they need to split the company up?
  2. AUTHENTICITY: This is the bedrock upon which all organizations exist. Are they trying to be themselves, or a poor imitation of their competitors? It certainly looked as though they were following the herd when they introduced the BB Playbook, and the market responded accordingly…who needs another tablet?
  3. COURAGE: RIM need to answer the question “What do we need to STOP doing; START doing and CONTINUE doing?” The most difficult question for any leadership team to effectively answer is the STOP doing one. The two resignations are a start, but they need to go beyond restructuring.
  4. EMPATHY: RIM needs once again to listen to it’s stakeholders. These resignations had been called for over a long period, and it felt like they were not listening to investors or customers. That has to change.
  5. TIMING: Perhaps the biggest weakness in recent years has been RIM’s poor timing of product innovations. Too little, too late. They keep talking about the forthcoming launch of the Blackberry 10. Will it implode like the Playbook? They need to time the launch so that it is not overshadowed by a competitior’s new product launch. Are you listening Apple?

I still believe that RIM can survive (after all, I’m Canadian), but I think it needs to carve a very clear niche for itself first. Stay tuned.