Five things we learned about RIM’s boardroom strategy from Roger Martin’s Globe and Mail interview

Roger Martin holds a lot of titles: Research In Motion board member, dean of business at the University of Toronto, Toronto Life cover boy. Now he can add “spiller of secrets” to the list. In a frank exchange with the Globe and Mail’s Gordon Pitts, Martin derided RIM’s critics, talked about past failures and provided new details about last month’s executive shuffle. Martin’s top five insights about the struggling tech company, after the jump.

1. Hiring a superstar CEO would have been disastrous, no matter what critics say When Thorsten Heins replaced executive duo Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis last month, pundits sneered, insisting a well-known outsider would have made a better choice. Martin thinks that strategy—which failed for Dell, Hewlett-Packard and back in the 1980s, Apple—is stupid: “So we’re supposed to hand it over to children, or morons from the outside who will destroy the company? … Or should we try to build our way to having succession?”

2. But that doesn’t mean Thorsten Heins was a lock Heins joined RIM in 2007, yet Martin says it wasn’t until late last fall that he clearly emerged as RIM’s next leader. (Though, apparently, Heins envisioned it much, much earlier.)

3. Despite all the chatter about licensing BlackBerry software, it’s probably not going to happen Many pundits have proposed RIM stop making hardware and focus on licensing BlackBerry software. Martin, however, says that would be tantamount to repeating Apple’s disastrous move away from an integrated business model. He verbally beats down “the geniuses who have all these clever thoughts about business models,” asking them, “Have you no memory? Do you not even think?” Ouch.

4. Mike Lazaridis was responsible for BlackBerry’s crappy browser Martin says Lazaridis was obsessed with the efficient use of wireless networks, unwilling to improve browser experience because it would guzzle bandwidth and battery power. Martin rather immodestly casts himself as Cassandra, saying he anticipated the migration to more powerful phones and urged RIM to improve their browser.

5. The story is still that Lazaridis and Balsillie stepped down by choice Though the stock was tanking and investors were calling for the co-CEOs’ heads, Martin insists the board issued no ultimatum to the pair. He says they decided over the Christmas break they would resign because they were tired of the “brutal” pace, and they had a qualified successor and strong product pipeline in place. If you say so, Rog.

Roger Martin: Defying RIM’s critics [Globe and Mail]


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