A (supposed) senior executive at RIM (Research in Motion, the makers of Blackberries) anonymously posted eight recommendations on how RIM could recover from its sliding market position and hopefully gain a fighting chance of regaining some sort of market leadership. These lessons are equally applicable to just about any other business. Isn't it interesting how wisdom seems to render down to a few core components?

  1. Focus on the End User experience: "We often make product decisions based on strategic alignment, partner requests or even legal advice - the end user doesn't care." In other words, put the user experience first. Everything else is internally focused, and irrelevant to end users. Make it matter to your users!
  2. Recruit Senior Software Leaders and enable decision-making: not enough leadership, lack of specialist knowledge, unclear communications = long hours, lack of clear compelling goals and low morale. Get the people stuff right!
  3. Cut projects to the bone: "We simply must stop shipping incomplete products that aren't ready for the end user." Are you proud of what you put out? Rather than put out too many products, focus on few ones that you can produce superbly well. Do it right, do it properly, or go home!
  4. Developers, not Carriers, can now make or break us: "RIM spends way too much time worrying about how it looks to the networks and not focusing on creating the right tools that make the product look good to consumers." Get your priorities balanced the right way. Who do you spend more time pleasing? Regulators? Distributors? Channel partners? Or end users?
  5. Need for serious marketing punch to create end user desire: "A product's technical superiority does not equal desire, and therefore sales ... People don't buy 'what you do,' people buy 'why you do it'" Once you have met the basic requirements to play in a market, featuritis alone won't get you anywhere. What does your brand stand for?
  6. No accountability - Canadians are too nice: "Just because someone may have been a loyal RIM employee for 7 years, it doesn't mean they are the best Manager / Director / VP for that role." Nice is always good. But it cannot be an excuse to avoid dealing with the facts, or to reward non-performance. Are you incentivising the right people?
  7. Don't snap at the press, now is the time for humility with a dash of paranoia: "overconfidence clouds good decision-making. We missed not boldly reacting to the threat of iPhone when we saw it in January over four years ago." I don't know about the paranoia business. Perhaps this is better rephrased as a need for constant self-awareness, self-reflection and thoughtful contemplation of the world. You can never go wrong with these two either: Be nice to the press, and be humble. Arrogance, especially public displays, is simply setting yourself up for a fall eventually (Apple beware.) Are you being an arsehole?
  8. Democratise. Engage and interact with your employees -- please! "Encourage input from ground-level teams-without repercussions-to seek out honest feedback and really absorb it." You hire your people because of their expertise, their attention and commitment to what they do. So why would you not listen to them? Why would you actively put in place processes that alienate and demoralise them? Is your leadership vision and management team actually working? When was the last time you got down to the floor and understood what your people are feeling and doing?
  9. Bonus lesson - Listen and learn before it is too late: Listen to employees who give a damn about your business/organisation. Try not to get to the stage where they feel the need to post their suggestions publicly. But if they do, respond openly and genuinely try and see if you can learn something from it.

RIM did respond to the open letter. And that seems to be the only positive outcome. "It's ironic, and perhaps tragic, that in responding to a letter in which it's called out for not listening to its employees, RIM completely dismisses the matter altogether and tries to paint itself in a flowery manner. Nothing was learned or resolved, and certainly conditions there can't expect to get any better."


Read the full post on Engadget.