When Microsoft finally completes Steve Ballmer’s last-ever super-soaraway acquisition, some 32,000 lucky Nokians will be magically transformed into Microsofties. For a company shrinking as fast as Nokia, it’s amazing there are so many people still there.
But Microsoft may be acquiring fewer top-notch designers than it thinks and more Vogon-style bureaucrats.
According to Finnish journalist Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen, Nokia started to seize up from bureaucratic sclerosis 10 years ago when former CEO Jorma Ollila made the decision to elephant gun rivals into submission with 50 or 60 new phones a year.
That necessitated a fashionable matrix-style organisation, where different divisions are expected to work together to produce their respective products. Instead, though, it merely put clueless bureaucrats in charge who got their kicks from covering their backsides, while putting the brakes on anyone else’s developments in case they needed resources for something else.
Under the new structure, bureaucrats multiplied faster than rabbits in the Australian outback, with around 300 vice presidents and senior vice presidents by 2010 when Stephen Elop was crowned CEO. The company, meanwhile, just pumped out an assortment of similar, but ordinary (at best) phones.
“Jorma Ollila neither saw nor understood the enormous degree to which the organisation had become politicised from within,” Heikkinen quotes one insider. His successor, the beancounting lawyer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, made it even easier for these managers to say “no”, rather than “yes” to any new development.
That left other companies to develop the real ground-breaking technologies in mobile phones and the rest, as they say, is history.