Stephen Elop’s Brave Leap into the Dark

I see that Stephen Elop’s memo to Nokia employees about the current state of the company has been leaked. The 1,200-word message compares Nokia to a man on a burning oil platform, forced to jump into the icy water below or be burned as flames engulf the rig.

Mr Elop makes it plain that Nokia faces “explosions” from many sources: Apple, Android and low-cost Chinese manufacturers, falling market share, missed opportunities and undue bureaucracy. He also admits that the company has not been effective in countering these threats. It must now leap from the blazing platform or not survive. He asks that employees leap into an “uncertain future” as part of a new strategy that will be unveiled on Friday 11 February.

In my view, the memo is an extremely brave move. To come out and lay bare all your company’s problems means that they’re bigger than first thought. And using this as a strategy means you have nowhere to hide. You’ve listed all the problems, so now you how have to fix them and fix them as fast as possible.

Having spent a large proportion of my working life restructuring companies, most of them global operations, I know the pitfalls involved. You normally undertake the planning and preparation in secret and execute as fast as possible. Now Mr Elop and his board have to do this in the full knowledge that competitors and employees are watching him before he can act.

We must assume that a battle plan has already been drawn up, and that Friday will bring details, not just sound-bites.

Knowing Nokia, I suspect his biggest problem maybe from within; the Finnish giant isn’t known for its flexibility. This memo may be a warning shot for those intent on staying in the past.

Would I relish the task facing Mr Elop? I think the answer’s yes. Nokia’s a great company that has produced some great products and can do so again. It needs someone with strength and vision to lead the way and after reading Mr Elop’s internal memo, it certainly appears Nokia’s got the man for the job.