Monday, December 3, 2007

CEO departure - not a surprise

Ed Zander’s departure from Motorola, while not a surprise, is a sad testament to the fact that the company has not really found it’s footing in more than 15 years.

I sold to Motorola in the late 80s and early 90s while at Synopsys. Then it was a company focused on quality and the Malcolm Baldridge award. The people were high quality, but the pace was slow and there was not much vision for a unified strategy. Semiconductor was still strong – living on the back of the smash success 68000 and derivatives and all the action in those days was in the pager division. Cell phones were on the horizon but everyone had to have a pager.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago and Motorola seemed to be on a high with the Razr (definitely one of my favorite personal gadgets), but I remember doing a quick study of the company and deciding to stay away from it because it looked like a multi-division company growing on the back of a single product success. At least they had spun out the semi divisions into On and Freescale which were a capital drain and no longer fit the business model.

Now look at 2007 and consider that with corporate culture things rarely change in a big company. In FirstRain we pick up management arrivals, departures and internal transfers by identifying signals in the web that people are moving. We have been demoing using MOT for a month or so now because we picked up a significant senior management reorg in July and then some significant senior division level departures in November. I’d been watching these results and know that these types of patterns are often a portent that something’s up and the strategy isn’t working.

So reading this morning’s news that Ed is moving on was not a complete surprise. I feel for him though. Given the Motorola I have watched closely for 20 years now I think it would not be an easy company to run and breathe new life into. Hats off to him that he walked away from his possible settlement too.

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