Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the Blackberry, went from being the new of the tech industry for its innovative phones to a company that is almost obsolete. I decided to used this as an example for this weeks discussion since the company is a Canadian company and the head office is only located an hour away from where I live. The company started in a small town of Waterloo, Canada about an hour away from the city of Toronto. Its founder, Mike Lizards, graduated with a technical degree from the local University of Waterloo, which today is the top computer science university in all of Canada.
He started the company 20 years ago. During the start up period, he brought in another Canadian, Jim Bilabials to help him run the business side of the operation. Many of you would remember the status symbols proudly carried by world leaders, executives and celebrities. Sad to say, Research in Motion has lost a significant amount of market share and the stock price has also plummeted. In fact, there have been rumors that the company is seeking buyers. What happened? Based on the concepts presented in this weeks reading, the primary cause for RIM’s downfall was system failure.
Whether you are still a BlackBerry loyalist or have moved on to something else, I hope we can all learn meeting from this painful failure. Concepts for this weeks reading I RIM’s system failure I By the time a problem becomes apparent it may be unnecessarily difficult to solve. (Meadows, 2008, p. 3) I BlackBerry went from being the phone everyone loved and wanted to the phone everyone loved to hate. When the BlackBerry became more sophisticated, there is also the infuriating hour glass icon which popped up too often. Users got into the habit of popping off the battery and restoring their crashing BlackBerry to life.
This restarting process seems to take an eternity. They also ignore the phone until it was too late. They ignored the competitors and took a “wait and see approach”. By this time, it was difficult for RIM to fix the problem or catch up to its competitors. I A diverse system with multiple pathways and redundancies is more stable and less vulnerable to external shock than a uniform system with little diversity (Meadows, 2008, p. P. 3-4) | The BlackBerry is predominantly a device for the office for North America. The company failed to actively win consumers overseas or to non business consumers. There were no China business strategies.
In contrast, 10% of Apple’s revenue came from mainland China and is expected to grow. Ignoring emerging markets was a failure on RIM’s business strategy. In addition, the company only really had one very successful product which was the BlackBerry phone. The tablet was a flop and failed miserably. A company can’t survive on one product. I Doing something that has always worked and suddenly discovered that currently action/strategy no longer works. (Meadows, 2008, p. 5) | Mike Lizards and Jim Bilabials were very experienced running a start- up with the mentality the “we are in this together”.
However, when the company grew to 20,000 employees, the strategy must also change since the system is now much more complex to manage. Two areas that did not change were empowering decision making and increasing start accountability But tee organizations encourage growth of their people in this manner which results in vast untapped resources so people will lose their commitment and the sense of mission with little of their energy and almost none of their spirit (Sense, 2006, P. 7) I The closed culture where “what Mike and Jim thinks” matters resulted in little innovation since the invention of the BlackBerry.
Larry Console, the SCOFF from 2001 to 2009 brought in new operational staff members before his retirement but never fully empowered them to do their Jobs. After the SCOFF left, Lizards started holding regular meetings with senior operations staff who previously reported to Console. Lizards set overly aggressive deadlines, announced launched dates publicly but the company was not able the meet them. No one had the breadth of experience to challenge or disagree with Lizards. Internal deadlines weren’t taken seriously and gaining consensus was difficult. As a result, innovation was at a snail pace.
They also failed to develop strong leaders that can bring a refreshing perspective to the company or product. I Great organizations are fleeing, enjoying their moment in the sun, then passing Tuttle back to the ranks of the mediocre. (Sense, 2006, p. 11) | RIM is a perfect example of a company which experienced great success. It was a global powerhouse that delivered mobile e-mail to the masses and sparking a revolution in mobile communication. However, by the late 2009, it was clear that the phone and Android had redefined the semaphore arena and RIM needed to adapt.
The company had to target consumers more aggressively, not Just business customers. The company needed to have more applications; it needed to be less about communication but more about consuming media. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for RIM and it will to able to maintain even its mediocre status (that is my personal opinion! ). Their refusal to look at Apple and Android as competition is likely the one biggest mistake they made. I Today’s problems come from yesterdays “solutions” (Sense, 2006, p. 59) | Those who owned or still have a BlackBerry can vouch the usefulness of the device.
BlackBerry 7 operating system did bring huge improvements to the web browser but as website design became more complex, it also became inadequate in recent years. I If the leaders at RIM look back at some of the system issues mentioned above and acted on them, the company may be in a better position today. Current business environment is intense, complex and very competitive. Any company along with its subsystems working in isolation will not survive and sustain themselves in this complex world. Reference Meadows, D. H. (2008). Thinking in systems: A primer.
White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green. Sense, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The art ; practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday. Marlene, I continue to be amazed at the extent of your contributions and effort. Your application to Blackberry might be one of the better assessments (from an outsider) that I have seen and I have indeed studied them a great deal. You noted Meadows on the issue of timing with respect to problems revealing themselves. A question for us all is how to we avoid getting to that place at all. Fantastic work.
Your replies were well done. I think about and use Apple a great deal today in addressing systems issues in my undergraduate classes. It is a g one because almost all to them nave smartness on their desk. Great effort Marlene. Dry B Discussion 2: Shared Reflection: Breaking Free from Organizational Constraints After 1 58 years in business as a major New York investment bank, Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. Investors had lost confidence after the company revealed enormous losses in its mortgage banking unit. Attempts to rescue the company failed, and it filed for bankruptcy.
The economy was already distressed, but Lineman’s failure helped trigger the steep and prolonged decline that has been called the “Great Recession” (Davidson, 2012). How did poor results in one unit, mortgage banking, bring down a major, diversified bank? How did the collapse of one bank bring down the global economy? Lineman’s misfortune illustrates the interconnectedness of banking, which is a system, as well as how failures in the banking system can spread through a larger system, the economy. As Meadows states in Thinking in Systems, a “system is more than the sum of its parts” (2008, p. 12).