Weekend read: What went wrong at Motorola?

Apple is the hottest technology firm at the moment but it will die. It nearly did before. They all go. The unassailable get assailed. IBM was the big deal, now it isn’t. Microsoft ruled the world and now it’s more tolerated.

That’s not to say that Microsoft isn’t earning a lot of money. But it’s earning less and the facade that it was innovative hasn’t so much been seen through as turned away from. You don’t expect Microsoft to do anything interesting.

I mean, even if you’re into this stuff, you don’t expect Microsoft to do anything interesting. If you have no taste for technology, I lost you right back on line one anyway.

But I love this stuff and not because it’s technology. All tech does is speed up the process: companies that used to rise and fall over decades now boom up and collapse back much quicker if they are technology ones.

I went to some talk once where a speaker used Dell as an example of a fantastic business success story and a model for anyone who wanted to do any kind of business. Ahem, I said, haven’t you updated your slides recently? Dell really is a fascinating business studies case now because of all this speaker said plus the number of times the company shot itself in the foot and just how well it aimed. It’s no longer the model to follow but it is one to keep an eye on.

Whereas I knew nothing about Motorola. It did phones, I think I had one once, and I knew it made TV sets because there’s a reference to it in A Billion for Boris, Mary Rodgers’ little known sequel to Freaky Friday. Otherwise, zip.

Which makes this Chicago Magazine feature deeply absorbing. How a company became a great success but:

…great success can lead to great trouble. Interviews with key players in and around Motorola and its spinoffs indicate that the problems began when management jettisoned a powerful corporate culture that had been inculcated over decades. When healthy internal competition degenerated into damaging infighting. “I loved most of my time there,” says Mike DiNanno, a former controller of several Motorola divisions, who worked at the company from 1984 to 2003. “But I hated the last few years.”

What Happened to Motorola – Ted C Fishman, Chicago Magazine (25 August 2014)

Do get a coffee and read the whole feature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blue Captcha Image