Thorsten Heins is leaving BlackBerry. John S. Chen will be appointed as Executive Chair of BlackBerry's Board of Directors, responsible for the strategic direction, strategic relationships and organizational goals of BlackBerry. Mr Chen will also serve as Interim Chief Executive Officer pending completion of a search for a new Chief Executive Officer.
how can we expect John Chen to perform differently to the outgoing CEO? What actually is the job of the CEO at Blackberry
"The CEO shall be responsible for the management of the corporation and shall exercise overall control .The CEO shall, in all his actions, be responsible and accountable to the Board of Directors and subject to the general laws and other legal provisions of the countries in which the corporation operates"
In the twenty two months since he took the post he changed his strategy several times, from the outset it appeared he was trying for the consumer market, when this failed he edged towards the enterprise space. When this failed he cut the number of planned handsets and tried for the social software that was BBM. His launches of the Q and Z OS10 handsets were the wrong way round and should really have been launched at the same time. His various strategies failed and each failure made the situation worse.
His direct reports over promised and under delivered. His sales team failed to sell, his marketing team failed to market. He was taking advice from people who were not in touch with reality. He did not effectively manage his senior team or enforce targets for them to deliver and did not coach them or fire them then when they failed.
There is no doubt that a total change of culture is required at Blackberry, it is no longer a technological behemoth rolling over everyone in its path. It needed a culture akin to a start-up were deadlines are exceeded and technology is pushed beyond expectations. Instead we got over promises on launch dates and under delivery on launches. TH acted as if customers were begging for this wonderful new Blackberry invention whereas by the time the staggered launch's there very few were actually interested.
Since 2009 the writing has been on the wall regarding the change in consumer habits. Thorsten Heins should have been well aware of the way the market was changing and should have cut his operational expenses according to the market forces. Instead Capex and headcount increased until a to little to late emergency reaction was needed (and for gods sake don't mention the Jet!).
Over production of the Z10 caused a one billion dollar write down, the Playbook write down should have been a lesson learned. It showed the appetite was for new BB offerings was low.
The most damning failure at Blackberry is poor communication. The aborted BBM Launch was easily explained but instead the press were allowed to paint it as another example of BB incompetence.
When TH did communicate he was not above planting both feet firmly in his mouth. The list of Faux Paux is long and may coin the new phrase "he just uttered a Thorsten". For four years the press have called Blackberry "the struggling smartphone maker" or worse. For the CEO of an entity perceived as struggling he came out with some whoppers.
"Tablets will be dead in five years". Whereas at the time Tablet sales were and still are predicated to reach 34 Billion dollars by 2015, that is enough to put the effort in for now considering the short life cycle of tech products. I am not saying TH is wrong and he probably has a point but for him to say what he did after the failure of the Playbook smacked of sour grapes.
When he said "IOS is out dated". He was laughed out of town for that one! Maybe IOS is getting old now but Apple consumers love their products and the last launch sold 9 million units on the first weekend.
When TH said "We will sell tens of Millions of OS10 devices". Well that was just plain wrong and many investors took that as forward guidance, they invested and lost trust and money. He would have been much better off saying that they were off to a slow start and publicly shaking up his sales team.
Authentic communication builds trust, There are very few people who trusted Blackberry prior to the recent shake up and most are in a holding pattern waiting to hear the plan.
John Chen has a big job but the evidence of his past achievements show he is capable and professional. He is not afraid of making big decisions and everything he has said in the short time since he has took over makes perfect sense. He appears considered and articulate and has a firm grasp of the sort of person a successful CEO needs to be. If he can build stakeholders trust in the company he will succeed if he can't he will fail.
I for one wish him the best of luck!