The management reshaping of Research In Motion continues

RIM Management
By Chris Umiastowski on 6 Sep 2012 11:03 am EDT
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Ever since Thorsten Heins took the helm at RIM, we've been seeing a steady flow of changes in senior management. While so many others are quick to report executive departures as bad news, I'm more realistic.  

Whenever there is a CEO change at a company you are pretty much guaranteed to see a slew of further executive changes.  This is just how business works.  It works this way because business is fundamentally about relationships. When the guy at the top is replaced, everyone else has a new boss.  This new boss has different views, different styles, and different relationships.  

Some executives get let go.  Others volunteer to leave.  Even when an executive's job is terminated, it is usually not driven purely by performance.  Instead, terminations are often due to business plan disagreements or other business arguments that lead to relationship breakdowns.  And when an executive quits, it is rarely a pure expression of lack of faith.  Executives quit when they're not happy with a new business strategy, or feel capped in terms of promotion capability, or some other business-related problem that creates a more tense relationship with the boss.

Research In Motion has a very different management team today than it did under Jim and Mike.  There are new C-level officers in charge of marketing, operations and in the legal department.  Below the C-level we've seen even more change.  While RIM has lost some great talent such as Patrick Spence (global sales), and Al Panezic (VP enterprise product management and marketing), I think the bigger picture is more important.  RIM needs a team of executives and employees who are aligned towards the direction set by the CEO.  Despite the talent of those who have left, if they fundamentally disagreed with some aspect of RIM's direction, their heart wouldn't be in the job.  For that reason alone, it's best for personnel change to take place.  

Here's RIM's statement about the changes surrounding Al Panezic's departure:

In June 2012, Alan Panezic, Vice President, Enterprise Product Management & Marketing, left RIM following 12 years of service. In May 2012, Scott Totzke, Senior Vice President, accepted responsibility for Enterprise Product Management as part of his portfolio in the Enterprise Business Unit.  In addition, Peter Devenyi, SVP, Enterprise Software, continues to be responsible for all Research and Development activities associated with RIM's Enterprise software solutions. Scott Totzke has held leadership positions at RIM since 2001 and Peter Devenyi joined RIM in 2005. RIM recently hired Donna Henderson, VP, Enterprise Operations as part of the continued growth of the Enterprise leadership team. Donna previously held senior leadership positions at Xerox and AT&T.

Another high level change was the departure of Greg Wade, who ran the company's East Asia business.  Here is RIM's statement:

"I can confirm that Gregory Wade has left his position at Research In Motion Singapore Pte. We thank him for his contribution in building RIM's business in East Asia and wish him well for the future.

Urpo Karjalainen, Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific, will lead the entire Asia Pacific sales organisation, with full support from RIM's senior management team."

Recall that RIM was behind the failed "Wake Up" flash mob in Sydney, Australia, where a busload of people campaigned in front of Apple stores.  With a new Chief Marketing Officer in charge of the BlackBerry brand, it's quite possible that this new executive's style clashed with Wade's, who ultimately owns responsibility for the flash mob activity.

We have also confirmed that Peter Gould and Patrick Keiser have left RIM as of last week.  These two gentlemen were managing directors (MD) in charge of Brazil and the Latin American south cone, respectively.  

Again, it shouldn't be much of a surprise to see high level sales departures in a time when the RIM C-level team has undergone some much change.  New executives come in, they form new relationships, and they may clash with existing employees down the chain of command.   Whenever there is this much C-level change in an organization, it creates a snowball effect of change at lower layers.  It might be interesting to observe and speculate about, but it is also very normal.  

Be wary of anyone who makes the mistake of assuming that executive departures are a bad thing, representing loss of faith in a company.  Anyone writing such things about RIM these days is getting the cause and effect backwards.

Reader comments

The management reshaping of Research In Motion continues

51 Comments

Why is it strange? The article is about employees. Do you need every article to be about the board of directors so you can feel better about your opinions?

Why its strange? Let's see RIM stock price fell so long ago it took them to go under book value just to decide to come to this decision to cut jobs and restructure the board just to survive. In addition to looking for a companies that will license bb10. Sitting on 2.6 billion in the bank you think this company have the steam to keep up with companies like MSFT,GOOGLE,APPLE,SAMSUNG just to name a few. Its very strange for them to make key decisions this late in the game honestly.

What gets me is how everytime There's a post by Chris everyone blames mike & jim forgetting the fact if it wasn't for them it wouldn't be a BlackBerry today. Nor would it be QNX in Waterloo running on a BlackBerry period.

there has been a call for blood to get rid of the old and in with the new, especially engineering know-how. Whether they like it or not, RIM is a tech company with a huge consumer-oriented business strategy, but the members of the Board have 'enterprise business' 'data efficiency' in mind, not 'consumer marketing','industrial desing' and 'lets use the latest CPU and autofocus camera sensor' philosophy.

Axing of Board members has been asked for for 2y. They are planning of adding new members, not axing the old ones.

In RIM's case, its hard to comment on management if you dont talk about the Board. Sad but true.

The board doesn't have a lot to do with the long term strategy, its more about governance and hiring the right senior execs to get it done... unless you are talking about outright selling the company - which just about everyone here would disagree with (trolls excluded of course).

Nice to read an article like this. I can relate, although on a much smaller scale. I've been at the same fast food restaurant for 6 six years and have seen a slew of GM's come and go and each one had "made it their own" in one way or another, including other employees being terminated, or just flat out didn't agree with the new boss's view. Good read. Thanx! :)

Par for the course. Change can be good in the long run, but a cohesive team and the relationship they have within makes all the difference. I've always said I can have the worst job ever, but the people you work with on a daily basis makes all the difference... they are why my work day goes so well.

I believe collectively we all make the job better. At day's end we go home then see each other the next day. Isn't it crappy we some times see our coworkers as often (if not more often) then our life partners?

Good article.
We all change jobs...sometimes we pack up and quit....its for the benefir of both the employee and employer...

The way the media has handled RIM's executive departures has always struck me as odd. The outlets have spent the last few years bashing RIM for their decisions and inability to keep up with competitors yet when the executives who were involved in the decline leave the company or are let go, the same writers will portray the departures as damaging to the company.

I agree with much of Chris' article. RIM has made major changes from the OS to the way the company is structured and that will cause friction and also make some employees expendable. It's a sign that real changes are taking place within the company.

It's very easy for these incidents to become a "no-win" situation; when they happen critics say they indicate instability, and when they don't happen the critics demand change.

Chris, I think you may be working too hard to make lemon aid. You seem to be trying to suggest that massive, C-level shakeup is normal with a new CEO. This is just patently false. It is only normal in a company that is in a desperate need for major change. It is not normal for a company that is doing well. As I recall, Apple recently had a CEO change. We heard about promotions. One or two stories about top people moving on to even bigger opportunities. We didn't hear about a mass exodus of C-level employees.

If the situation was that RIM's departing execs were recruited by others to become CEOs, that would be a different story. What we have seen are execs leaving their positions by choice or force, to nothing in particular. That is not what routinely happens with a CEO change in a healthy company.

"lemon aid," "patently wrong?"

You're not necessarily wrong though, even if you have some syntax errors and misused words.

they are needed changes, RIM was struggling in its old ways, bad habits need to die and be changed in order to rise up again

if you got to watch 60 mins on CBS here in the States over the weekend, you saw a segment on Sergio Marchionne's redesign of the C-Suites at Chrysler, that was very similar in tone and temperament to what Chris has above

After acquiring most of the "pieces" to the BB10 puzzle Mike & Jim were still fumbling. One thing is for sure, the changes that have occurred, have been for the most part good, BB10 got its roots planted. RIM needed a shake up in the worst way, with the internal letter (allegedly internal...lol), constant grumbling of techs, not to mention stock prices falling from the sky, it was past due. To me it was like Mike & Jim knew they had to do something big, but didn't know how to "get it into gear". I think this change has been good. Yeah they dropped the ball a few times with the PB and BB10 delay, but its a new OS build...

Well if C level execs leave their present job, let's be fair to them. They would have their own issues which we can't certainly comment on. Often times, there is a domino effect caused purely by some insight (good or bad). However, if we want a change at RIM, then this is it. Take it or leave it.

Yes, RIM is desperate for a change. And going by what they have done recently, I would say the new RIM is arguably doing the change it wanted. Those who say this change is bad, we would still be stuck with pagers and not have 'smartphones'. Change is here, face it like a man.

BlackBerry Curve 8520 | BlackBerry Torch 9810 |
Oh how I love the BlackBerry!! <3<3

From my perspective as a prior RIM employee who was fortunate enough to work with some highly skilled managers and techs, the company still faces one critical failing: What is RIM going forward? A manufacturing company (Nokia), a servcies/solutions company (IBM), or a sales/marketing company (Apple/Microsoft)?

There is a lot of room for improvement - but it needs to start with a vision and new mission statement which is still missing from Thorsten.

BB10 won't make a difference without an understanding of what RIM is or does. And if they do not align their entire efforts around sales and what customer are expecting and are needing, they will fail. Showing devices to carriers is great, but customers now have iPhone5, Windows 8, and Samsung Galaxy S3 to choose from with Good, MobileIron and Airwatch support....so show your products to the customers! Customers need to see and feel the BB10 devices NOW, not next year, in order for RIM to survive.

How do you roll out new products without having seeding devicess for your own employees, major carriers and customers? How does marketing in each region spend most of the funds on consumer marekting, never targeting enterprise, the bread and butter of RIM? How do you justify forcing customers to purchase BES and BES licenses (or force BES 10 on them) when you make less than 3% of revenues from sales of BES, compared to the >50% of revenue and profit from an activated device? How do you justify removing Attachment Service - the compression feature your customers wanted to control data spend - on BB10, making BB10 phones act similar to the competitors?

RIM needs a focus, and very soon, from the top down - and spread to the world for all to hear. Right now, we hear......silence.

I appreciate your honest assessment. However, the delusional faction of the CrackBerry Nation refuse to face the truth; Research In Motion is a company without any business strategy, preferring instead to fly off in multiple directions without a cohesive strategy. On the issue of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and Client Access Licenses (CALs), a transition to free software and licenses makes sense because the revenue streams are (i) support contracts and (ii) monthly subscription fees received from the wireless carriers paid by the customers of those wireless carriers.

I think you and many wit that mind set is dillusional. If not then you haven't been paying real attention to the facts. I have not seen RIM, from the top down, be as laser focused as they have been since TH took over. The past co CEO's may have wandered but that is far from the case today. They've already addressed the software and liscencing issues. Come on man. Stop only reading what you want to see.

If you are disagreeing with the comment above it is you who are dillusional not him. RIM needs to commit to ONE area before it can start to expand itself. They need to focus on one thing right now (BB10).

A truly international company focuses on many facets of its business interests. Not one at a time. Get a sponsor and return to business school. BB10 is only a part of where RIM's strategy should be focused. Licensing, manufacturing, customer support, dev support... You know this!

Anyone who knows management theory (and isn't delusional - note spelling, GP!) knows that you must scrap the C products (losing money),concentrate on extracting the maximum cash from the B products (making money but no future) with minimum investment, and spend to accelerate and improve the A products (future revenues but significant up-front investment needed). That's so whether you are running a bakery or IBM, it's just the scale is different.
At the moment RIM is pushing the Curves like crazy in BRIC (I imagine they are profitable), running everything else but the 9900 on lifesupport, and focussing on putting together BB 10. And yes, that IS what they teach you at Harvard!

If you are disagreeing with the comment above it is you who are dillusional not him. RIM needs to commit to ONE area before it can start to expand itself. They need to focus on one thing right now (BB10).

You forgot about BB7 devices that are still being sold and made. More than one direction or task. Nobody is delusioonal. And you didn't have to post it twice either.

Worldwide management for marketing is just nonexistent. No traces of advertizing campaigns for new BB phones or PB tablets. When you get them it lasts only one week. No press announcements and practically zero strategy. They are still selling old 2007 BB phones everywhere, just as if they still were best in business. If RIM wants to make a difference with BB10, they better stop selling old phones in other countries just like in the USA and start a strong marketing campaign WORLDWIDE.

Anyways rant over, BB by choice.

Why would anyone advertise a phone that is about five months from launch? They're still laying down foundations with carrier and the dev community. Speaking of old phones in other countries, there are a lot of developing countries that don't even come close to having the network infrastucture that first world countries do, but where did you get information that RIM is "selling 2007 phones everywhere"? That's a little "out there" for a comment. There's no reason to sell a BB10 device in a market where it won't be used to its full potential.

That should be exactly what RIM executives think. Hence the lack of marketing for new BB devices. The iPhone is present in almost every country nowadays, even "developing countries". What do you say about that?

As for the information, it's what I live day to day. So I'd say your comment is "a little out there".

Unless you work for a carrier, you really wouldn't know about their marketing. In the developed world, carriers buy phones, not end users. Then they get sold to you.
HP failed with webOS because they promoted it to the public - well, actually IT departments - but the carriers wouldn't bite.

Good article, Chris.
People complain when there is no change, people complain when there is change.
I have faith in Thor.
We all like to play 'Monday Morning Quarterback ', but we don't really know what is going on.
It's been a long wait and it is hard to wait.
But. 2 years is actually a short time to put together an entirely new platform from scratch. Apple took 3-5 years and they ripped off iOS from QNX. 5 years and they couldn't get it right.
So, we wait, and it's hard.
But, after BB X releases, things get faster. The platform is there, and they can work with it, putting together the latest and greatest.
It's going to take time for Thor to get EVERYTHING the way he wants it, but as has been said, "He has the heart of an engineer, and the mind of a German businessman ".
Good combination. And the Germans love quality. Not too bad at business, either.
So, I remain faithful and I wait, 'cause I want...
BB X - FTW.

Yemson you make a great point. There are many fantastic products and solutions that come out of RIM, but no one ever hears about them...so they get dropped because of lack of support, lack of traction. Is marketing research done to determine these solutions? not with any customers I ever had, or with any that my co-workers ever worked on. RIM was a closed system: Mike or Jim or an exec or someone said "isn't this a great idea?" and everyone said "Yes! let's build it..if we build it, they will come!"

Someone forgot to include customers, marketing and sales in that equation. If you don't have sales, you don't have revnue, no revenue no profits, no profits, you get sold or close down.

BlackBerrry Stereo Gateway? BlackBerry Visor? Fusion? Unite! Atomic Trackball? Storm/Touch? BlackBerry Style? Mobile Voce Server? BES Express? BlackBerry Professional? Even the new BES Direct Connect using MPLS to RIM NOC - except for a press release and a booth at BlackBerry wOrld know one knows about this. Heck, BES suport is a profit center, but was never included or required on a purchase....why not include that in the BES service fee instead of an annual cost?

Sorry now I am ranting....Of course, RIM marketing is a joke - spending $4-$7 million on Jennifer Lopez/Marc Antony show in South America (just as they got divorced) - nice branding, but how many sales did that get RIM? and the marketing people behind these items keep getting promoted or keep their jobs as sales people are let go! Count how many billboards RIM has, vs Samsung, Apple, etc. Look at the RIM ads that are on TV (what ads?) - there is nothing showing the reasons for Why BlackBerry....just "Be Bold".

Exactly my point. If I didn't see it on Crackberry, I would't have any idea of the Music Gateaway, mini keyboard or any other product RIM sells. Heck I was away in USA while the PB 4g was launched, and I heard about it one week later, when I read it on CB!

Something is really wrong here and it's not RIM quality devices or service for sure.

Interesting article Chris.

I guess all is well at RIM. Time to invest heavily! I feel so much better.

The reality is that the company is clinging to life by a thread. I hope they can pull off a miracle but the cards are stacked against them (with or without their new team).

My wife and I have been through several "C" level changes at fortune 30 companies. The first thing is, they all want some of "their people" around them, so that creates some change. Depending on how that goes, you usually see more change, and down at the levels no one reports on, even more. Some of it is people, some is structural. The most consistent thing we have noticed though is, that it takes about 18 months. That being said Thor is moving pretty quickly, of course he had a mess day one, so that will move your butt a bit faster.

They also give hints. I am going to get these quotes as close as I can remember, but the gist is there.

1. "We are little fat around around our middle"= I am going to streamline us and lay some people off.

2. Something about the suppliers and supply chain contracts being complex or chaotic= I am going to fire some suppliers and renegotiate some contracts.

3. Something about the product line being crowded/ confused, etc.= I am going to end of life a bunch of SKU's.

I mention the last one because it hasn't happened yet, but wait a couple of months after bb10 phones come out. He will take several models out.

I am very impressed with this guy, the pressure must be fierce!

Managing director (Brasil) position is open? Heck, hire me! Let me help with making BB10 the #1 platform in Brasil. It is way easier that getting 10% market share in the US, that I tell you!

Impressive article chris. Damn trolls always seem to find a way to shit on it, but they'll never know/learn or realize the truth. I at least read every word and don't spout bullshit. :)

PS. Got my blackberry unlocked, in the case I get a BB10 device and/or sell this 9900 after getting it, or when traveling overseas.