Jim Balsillie addresses Open Letter to RIM Senior Management questions

By Bla1ze on 12 Jul 2011 09:15 pm EDT


When Research In Motion issued their response to the anonymous Open Letters sent to the RIM Senior Management Team, it wasn't received well by many folks out there. However, today at the Annual Meeting of Shareholders Jim Balsillie was asked directly for his comments on the situation, below is his response:

While not entirely different from the press release, jim Balsillie highlighted the fact that if employees have concerns within the company -- they are encouraged to engage within and that while those feelings may relate to some employee's, the vast majority do not feel the same way.

Reader comments

Jim Balsillie addresses Open Letter to RIM Senior Management questions


Great to hear a response, and I agree with it.

I do, however, wish the question and accompanying followup were asked by a person who could put it a little more elloquently.

Actually, I think Balsillie was pretty flippant in the answer.

If you read the open letter (quaint that they cite the newspaper and not the Internet source), the whole point is that there's a culture of intimidation in management that prevents open criticism. You get the impression from the letter that if he'd said that to his higher-up, he'd be clearing his desk before the end of the day.

Not to mention that Jim and Mike in the results call came across as unchallengeable divine leaders that make Steve Jobs look modest. We, and only we, can usher RIM into a new period of glory! Their rush to get that one investor motion off of the table said a lot.

Sure, but they're also men straining to keep their jobs and reputation. If they admitted that someone else could do their job they'd be out on the street in a heartbeat.

They have a lot riding on the new phones and the superphones. If they can pull it off they're heros, and become every bit of the 'rock star' that Steve Jobs is.

Perhaps a man with the initials J.B. might even resign at that point because he became famous enough to actually get his NHL franchise... It would be very tough for him to move 100km down the 401 to work at his new job every day. :)

This guy was a waste of everybodys time.
After a third time of coming to the mic, the staff told him nicely to let other people ask questions as we are limited for time.

REMEMBER - Over the next 3 months, RIM will be launching 7 NEW BlackBerry's (I've seen some there .... and they are FAST and AWESOME).

This will be their biggest rollout in BlackBerry history across 600+ carriers. WOW!

When will they come?
First carrier to approve certification will no doubt be the first one to get them!
Hurry up Telus ..... don't be last.


Commodus, very well stated. And I'd add that as a response to Jim's question around "was that a fair way of doing things?" that, yes, yes in fact it was.

Assuming this letter was truly written by a senior person at RIM, which by all accounts makes a lot of sense considering the negative news we've seen about the company over the last year or 2, then clearly Balsillie is missing the point.

If a culture change is needed and action wasn't already taking place internally to overcome their challenges, along with a general fear of potentially losing their job by saying something, then clearly the only way to get their attention was to publicly expose what is truly going on.

Balsillie needs to eat some humble pie and listen to the feedback of RIM's investors. I've invested quite a bit of money in RIM myself, and to hear him talk with such arrogance pisses me off. It's that attitude I feel that's cost a lot of us a good chunk of change.

Fire that employee !!!!!!!!

If he is not happy, then he can get a job elsewhere, but don't embarrass the MIGHTY RIM.

Not really an answer there. The Majority don't feel the same because they just need a job. They don't care about the product. People that care have concerns that they want to address to make the company work more efficiently for the consumer. And that's my 2 cents @Mgonzalo28

Steal a Swingline and go home. If your not happy with your company talk to them directly. If they don't listen to you chances are they arn't going to change. Writing a letter and then sharing it with the rest of the world to gain support for your "cause" probably won't change anything either. Go write a letter about something more important like Polar Bears and ice caps ( they actually need help).

Let Jim be RIM and get me my 9900 already plz. Its in Canada afterall, so they really can't be that mean to their employees. Eh.

Jimcmf -- you sound like a management toady, or is your long tongue planted firmly in your cheek?

They are still displaying the same arrogance as before which has got them in to the trouble that they are in at the moment.

Eat some humble pie Jimbo and start to listen to the smart people in the organisation and not the old staid network jockeys.

Jim didn't address the substance of the letter at all. If he could have he would have - citing facts & figures about milestones hit, employee suggestion programs resulting in new product/process changes, etc.

He had nada, and it showed.

What a tool. Total disrespect for the other shareholders.

- R.

I have to say that just because the letter was written by a coward, or by a disgruntled employee, or by someone unprofessional, or not an employee at all, do the statements / questions have merit in and of themselves?

Some of them do, and they haven't been answered. Or maybe they have.

What they don't want to do is get into a situation where trolls are writing "open letters" and they have to respond to them all. Well, it's like those guys at the Harry Potter premiere: signing the autograph books in the front row doesn't mean you have to keep signing until you die on your feet: you can answer the legitimate questions regardless of their source, then when people tire of the questioners ('open letter writers") you don't have to answer any more of them.

... but Jim's answer was a dodge. Perhaps Mike said more that wasn't in the embedded clip that addressed some of them?

Legitimate suggestions from the open letter:
1) Focus on the End User experience
They could have detailed what they're doing in this regard, or explain how it was already covered at the AGM. I personally would like to see "BlackBerry Stores" open in key high-profile shopping centres in major cities, where those needing tech support or wanting to see WORKING DEVICES (not plastic bricks) could go and try them out. Even have competitive demonstrations showing how BlackBerrys are superior in some ways to other platforms, which ties into....
4) Developers, not Carriers can now make or break us
I agree: RIM's working hard to improve developer relations and tools. Now, I think they could have articulated how, right then and there.
5) Need for serious marketing punch to create end user desire
Agreed again, but marketing strategy can't just be laid out in advance for all to see... it loses the element of surprise and novelty if everyone knows what's coming. I think the 'end user desire' issue can only be addressed by something radical, which is, effectively, not a BlackBerry any more: deviate from the BB form factor too much and it's not a BB anymore (unfortunately the Storm(s) illustrate this). So... maybe they should talk more about how they've accelerated their QNX-on-handhelds initiatives, and explained a bit more about the kinds of things we can expect from the TAT acquisition? Perhaps even a demo?

Now, this grossly ILLEGITIMATE point:
7) The press and analysts are pissing you off. Don’t snap. Now is the time for humility with a dash of paranoia.
Here's a case of "with employees like these, who needs myopic analysts?" If you don't want RIM to have "bad press" DON'T WRITE IT AND SEND IT TO BGR, douche. BGR gets lots of hits from "reports" or "articles" that are critical of RIM. LOTS of it. A for-profit site that sells ads gets traffic when they criticize RIM. It's easy to do. If they criticize Apple, people will call them crazy and tune out, but criticizing RIM is a new spectator sport, and BGR is the Don King of that particular little world.

On the other points, they are internal management / RIM insider issues that I can't speak to, but for Jim and Mike to speak to many of them is to say "Yep, our staff is incompetent and overpaid, and we have a toxic corporate culture". GREAT way to impress investors and motivate staff. I might have said "I'll accept criticism as a CEO... the buck stops here... but he's directly criticizing his own colleagues and other RIM employees, and in terms of accountability, and what he's done for RIM and the way he did it, I'll make sure he gets some up-close experience with RIM's accountability, I'll tell you that right now." But he can't say how fired the letter writer is without addressing the issues reasonably as-in "we're on it, twerp... like your open letter did anything actually useful, like make us aware of things we aren't yet aware of... so... you're so fired!" That would have been... acceptable.