I’ve retreated a bit from cheerleading for you lately and in case there was any concern, I want to make something clear:
I still love you.
After all, we go back a long way. In the 1990s when things looked rough at The Stanley Works (now Stanley Black and Decker) I looked around to identify other employment prospects just in case. My research had been directing me to logistics and your US manufacturing/distribution facility in Fort Worth, Texas (now gone, sadly) quickly became a top candidate. And when Stanley decided to cut our US operations to the bone in 2002, you were the first to which I eagerly applied. I was encouraged that it was easy to talk to a human being in hiring departments, but discouraged that you cancelled opportunities almost as fast as you opened them… that’s how fast your business needs changed I found out.
Scary, but intriguing nonetheless. Still, I went nine months without steady work as a jobless recovery stifled the US.
I bounced a bit between 2003 and 2004. And in 2005 I was offered a chance to finally join your ranks. The thrill was indescribable. I was invited to join factory quality assurance for United States production and logistics. For a longtime product designer who had been moving into manufacturing support and information management, it was a dream come true. You handed me a role that rolled everything I had done into one nice, neat, promising package and empowered me to fight for quality.
I kid you not when I say that I often raced to get to work in the morning, so excited was I at the things you tasked me to do.
You took the rich training I had received at Texas Instruments and stretched it in wonderful ways. You leveraged my experience on Stanley’s global diversity council to extents I had not thought probable. You introduced me to a matrix working culture that scared some co-workers but drew me like a moth to a flame. You told me to cultivate strategic connections all over the planet. You made it clear I needed to finally get a passport and start seeing the world. After all, you were all over it. Your reach knew no boundaries.
And you were growing. Succeeding.
In those anything-is-possible days from 2005 to 2008, I was in the middle of your energizing efforts to grow the N Series devices and get them directly into the hands of US consumers. You failed due to various reasons that have been well-covered, but I still believe you could have made it work. Keeping the Alliance factory and its hundreds of passionate can-do employees would have been a big part of that.
Which gets me closer to the core of this letter. Since the 2008 re-organization you seem to have lost your way. You shook yourself up and stupidly lost many, many key contributors in the process. Those employees were your volunteer education and sales force, proudly showing off your latest devices to an interested public and extolling the virtues of unlocked feature-rich phones. We wore shirts and caps with Nokia logos to show pride in our chosen employer and freely advertise the Nokia name when US carriers would not.
You can’t buy that sort of publicity.
I admit I was upset with you when you eliminated global positions, including my own. You had challenged us to make virtual leadership and collaboration work. You sent us to expensive training and gave us the resources we required. You told us time zones and cultural differences were opportunities for creative hurdling. You insisted that networking was everything. We rose to your challenge and succeeded. Spectacularly, based on the metrics. But none of that mattered to you any more, and you retreated from a global way of working.
And now you are struggling through yet another reorganization. I hear from former colleagues that you’re risking the alienation of more trade customers, especially in the US. As an outsider now I have to question the wisdom of taking more people out of a process you had already trimmed too far. Haven’t you lost enough market share here already?
But maybe that’s a moot point, right? You did cut Japan loose rather than find your way to success there. Maybe markets are disposable to you now. Maybe you’ve given up being the industrious ant and taken up the role of the lazy grasshopper– and one that consumes its own customer base at that. Toss a few hundred million cheap phones at a developing market, and abandon it to competitors when the customers start demanding smarter devices. Scorched earth.
Maybe you really are just giving the US lip service as you wind down operations here. Surely giving up sponsorship of a popular concert hall in Grand Prairie, Texas indicates you’re not concerned about mindshare here. Maybe Verizon, who quickly assumed sponsorship, is.
You might be getting the idea at this point that I really don’t care. But nothing could be further than the truth. Didn’t I stick with the maemo.org community even after you made my job disappear? Haven’t I supported MeeGo even as it gets off to a rocky start?
And it isn’t just me. There are dozens and even hundreds of people who have supported Maemo through thick and thin, who are now taking you to task for missteps. We wouldn’t keep making the effort if we didn’t care.
Ironically, for a company so much about communications and connectivity, your messages have ranged from nonexistent when needed to misguided when you occasionally indulge us. We the community craft clear, detailed communications based on your mistakes or needs, and you respond with boilerplate legalese that may be technically accurate but misses the critical point by a kilometer.
Right or wrong, many are looking to you as the healthy alternative to the walled apple orchards. Maemo and MeeGo offer that promise. But if we’re expecting too much, let us know in clear, simple terms. Maybe we misunderstand your message.
You’ve got an image problem, Nokia, and it needs serious fixing. You need to figure out your identity and fast. You need to work on your mindshare, and fast. You need to start fostering some community and customer goodwill– yesterday. If your angry shareholders aren’t demanding action yet, they will very soon. 2011 isn’t looking good right now.
The best move you can make, in my humble ex-employee blogger opinion, is to heed the lesson of the emperor’s new clothes. Quit taking talking points from the mirror and start listening, seriously listening to those of us who still love you and are offering free, unvarnished advice.
Because if you’re paying for the pretty words that got you into this mess, you’re getting screwed.
Randall G. Arnold (aka Texrat)