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Can Stephen Elop save Nokia?

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers

Nokia went from being the undisputed king of cell phones to a company doing nearly everything wrong. Nearly a year ago, CEO Stephen Elop came on board to turn around the company.

His strategy:

√ Bring innovations to market faster. The company’s former CEO ran an in­­decisive organization. Innovative ideas—such as a cell phone that works under­­­­­water or one that projects richer sound—have been sitting around people’s desks “because it’s too hard to get anything done around here,” Elop says. “If we can get some of this to market—that’s what gives me confidence.”

√ Reinvest in emerging markets. Nokia has a massive low-end phone business in emerging and not-yet-emerging markets in Asia and Africa, which brought in one-third of the company’s sales in 2010.

To loosen up funds, Elop made the difficult decision to dump Nokia’s homemade Symbian software, in favor of Microsoft’s nine-month-old Windows Phone 7 software. The change required lay­offs, and many engineers felt disappointed about abandoning their homespun software.

√ Overcommunicate. Because of the high emotional response to Elop’s disrup­tion, he’s been asking employees since his first day what they thought he should change, what should be left alone and what they feared he wouldn’t understand. One of his favorite responses: “At Nokia, everybody and nobody is accountable for nothing.”

Elop personally responded to each one, and word circulated that the new boss was serious about addressing concerns.

In return, he’s also asking employees to speak up more. “I’ve heard my colleagues speak more in the last four months than in the last 10 years,” says one executive, Mary McDowell.

√ Exude confidence. When announcing change, Elop uses a reasoned, you-know-this-as-well-as-I-do tone. To convince them that a comeback is under way, he quotes Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “First, you must believe in yourself.”

— Adapted from “Stephen Elop’s Nokia Adventure,” Peter Burrows, Bloomberg Businessweek.

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