Nokia's leadership overhaul
Attendees to this year's Nokia World conference certainly have plenty to talk about over cocktails at the buffet line. The Finnish handset giant, the world's largest, named Microsoft executive Stephen Elop to be their new CEO Sept. 10, replacing Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. On Monday, its smartphone head, Anssi Vanjoki, resigned from the company, likely connected to an outsider getting the top job. And today, the company's chairman, Jorma Olilla, announced he would resign in 2012.
Talk about a leadership overhaul. While Vanjoki's resignation may not have been part of a master plan, the company is clearly seeking new leadership to help rejuvenate the ailing giant. The company's stock price has dropped 70% over the last three years, as Apple's iPhone and Motorola's Droid became the standard bearers for the category, stealing Nokia's once-held crown. New CEO Elop will surely want to handpick his own man to run Nokia's smartphone unit.
But the most important change is the one that happened today. Analysts rightly fretted that Elop would not be able to make the changes needed if Olilla retained his current job. The chairman ran Nokia for 14 years, and was credited with turning the engineering conglomerate into the world's largest handset maker.
As one commenter on this blog entry wisely posted, Vanjoki, Kallasvuo--and one could argue, Olilla--"were like the old Generals fighting the last war." The game has changed in mobile phones, from great industrial design and low-cost manufacturing (Nokia's strength) to smartphone applications and mobile services (Apple's and Android's forte).
But even if Olilla and Elop were to see eye to eye on the right mobile strategy for the future, Olilla would likely need to go. All too often, veteran chairmen who were extremely successful in the CEO role remain an impediment to the new guy in charge. At best, they're experienced sounding boards who are consulted on key decisions, leaving a grateful but still hamstrung CEO. At worst, they become outright meddlers, reminders of the old way, and true obstacles to transforming the company.
Of course, if this was an ordinary succession with a company already on the right track, leaving the chairman in charge would make sense. But when it's one in as bad a need of transformation as Nokia, Olilla is doing the right thing to resign. My only question is why he plans to stick around until 2012. Elop will need to move fast to catch up to Apple and Motorola's lead, and he doesn't need the weight of the past dragging him down.
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September 14, 2010; 11:51 AM ET |
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Posted by: dnjake | September 15, 2010 7:25 AM
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