As Nokia’s new chief executive, Stephen Elop, took over in September 2010, he faced a formidable task: to regain the company’s lost ground in the smartphone segment of the global phone market, especially in the United States, while maintaining its worldwide dominance as the largest maker of mobile phones.
His biggest obstacle, according to Mr. Hakkarainen, a former manager responsible for marketing on the development team, as well as two other former employees and industry analysts, may well be Nokia’s stifling bureaucratic culture. In interviews, Mr. Hakkarainen and the other former employees depicted an organization so swollen by its early success that it grew complacent, slow and removed from consumer desires.
“Nokia in a sense is a victim of its own success,” said Jyrki Ali-Yrkko, an economist at the private Research Institute of the Finnish Economy. “It stayed with its playbook too long and didn’t change with the times. Now it’s time to make changes.”
Elop’s assessment of Nokia in February 2011:
“We fell behind, we missed big trends, and we lost time. At that time, we thought we were making the right decisions; but, with the benefit of hindsight, we now find ourselves years behind.
“There is intense heat coming from our competitors, more rapidly than we ever expected. Apple disrupted the market by redefining the smartphone and attracting developers to a closed, but very powerful ecosystem.”
“The Shenzhen region of China is able to produce phones at an unbelievable pace. By some accounts, this ecosystem now produces more than one third of the phones sold globally – taking share from us in emerging markets.”
“Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem.”
“We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally”
During the last 2 years Elop has swept away many layers of Nokia’s previous organisational structure. He has refocused the business on leadership (managers taking decisions and responsibility) and markets (innovation driven by people competing in key mobile phone segments). Decision-making has been delegated to local/national teams rather than relying on decisions by an overly-centralized senior management team. Goals and incentives for the senior leadership team are now more transparent. The new strategy brings clarity and a sense of direction to Nokia.
Nokia’s recently launched new 620, 820 and 920 Lumia Windows 8 smart phone range has succeeded in garnering generally positive reviews. It is changing the perception that the embattled company may yet regain its former glory as the world’s premier mobile phone maker says Ray Shaw who provides a review of the pros and cons of Nokia phones compared with its rivals.
But will this be enough? In order to survive and prosper against Apple and Samsung in the smartphone market, Nokia will need a customer-focused culture throughout its entire business (not just at the front end) to drive innovation and sustained growth and profitability. This requires embedded behavior change that goes beyond restructuring, beyond a refocused strategy and beyond decentralized decision making. It requires a completely new mindset where there is an understanding and belief, translated into behavior, that’s what is best for the customer is best for the business.
Imagine your business faces the challenges that Nokia faces. What would your priorities be?