Double vision in the Briar patch

Volume 11 Letter 11

The old saying that every cloud has a silver lining is certainly true today. With the recent service outage of Blackberry smart phones, traffic accidents in Dubai dropped by 20% while Abu Dhabi reported a 40% decrease in fender benders. Police attribute the temporary decrease to the fact that fewer people could text-and-drive.1 While good news for drivers, four days of lost service was just one more piece of bad news for Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of the Blackberry smart phone. Lost service and the market bust of the much vaunted Blackberry Playbook have preceded the free fall of Blackberry business subscribers as now it appears both Apple and Android have out smarted the Blackberry smart phone guys with superior enterprise strategies. All this is leaving the berry crop in the briar patch a little thin.


At the top of the pyramid taking the blame are two CEO’s. With two leaders at the helm there is no cohesive strategic direction as groups supporting each leader vie for power. Throughout history shared leadership has proved to be a recipe for disaster and it’s repeating itself before our eyes at Blackberry. What may have worked early on isn’t working now as Blackberry has gone into survival mode, laying off people and throwing “hail Mary” products at the market in the vain hope that something – anything… will stick.

However as Blackberry’s “Briar Patch” burns, RIM continues to work on far too many projects. A snapshot of their current R&D portfolio reveals that RIM is working on operating system (OS) 2.0 for the Playbook, on the QNX OS (if it ever gets completed) and on maintaining BlackBerry OS 6 and OS 7. If all that doesn’t make your head spin they also recently announced yet another operating system is in the works!

Many pundits have written about the woes of Blackberry and what they should do about their products. However, in times of crisis, one thing is certain. Good leadership is needed with clear product and market priorities. Two leaders – even two friends as the leaders at Blackberry are, are still one leader too many. If history has taught us anything it is that groups – even groups of two- won’t make the tough decisions needed for fear of upsetting others. Projects that need to be cut aren’t cut and needed resources that could be better used somewhere else aren’t. As Napoleon so aptly stated “Better one bad general than two good ones”.

How can Blackberry possibly fix this:

  1. One CEO, one leader, one vision: Groups are afraid of risk – individuals aren’t! Blackberry needs to make some bold decisions – a group won’t make them.
  2. Pare down the Portfolio and the R&D: That will upset some but better to make some upset than the whole “briar patch” go down while everyone is trying to be polite
  3. Stop the insanity – Focus on a fewer markets and serve them well: Apply resources where they can make a difference rather than always trying to catch up.
  4. Stop trying to beat Apple: The Playbook was a direct response to Apple’s iPad – focus on your market’s needs (that’s the business market in case the rabbits there need reminding) not on Apple’s market.

In our world which is full of independent thinkers people are starved for direction. They want leader’s who are clear, concise and inspiring so they can feel in control and ready to fight. A committee can’t do that! Each briar patch needs one leader, one vision one team! Double vision is creating double trouble at Blackberry.

Technology BlackBerry’s New OS: Too Little, Too Late?
Research in Motion has announced a new Operating System, “BBX.”
DAVID ZAX 10/20/2011

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