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Rescuing Nokia? A former exec has a radical plan

The Risku Manifesto - now in English

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The people

Risku’s manifesto is based around a new governance model. But will this need new governors, too?

Risku has some acidic views on Nokia’s current management – we’ll go on to that in a moment - but also some surprisingly warm tributes, too. His bigger theme is that throwing a sacrificial lamb to the wolves is not going to help. Structural and organisational changes need to be made, to release the talent from the bureaucracy.

This involves bringing in the co-pilot. Having a plurality of CEOs is not unusual. RIM has had two co-CEOs for over a decade; Google, if you believe the official line, has three: the two founders plus Schmidt.

“The CEO is not the main problem at Nokia, Nokia's main effort is to find a person with credibility and trust to lead 1500 designers and innovators in product creation and design” says Risku, “This new Chief Innovation/Creative/Design Officer should be a Nokian, or ex-Nokian or present Nokian with the vision, strategy and a plan to run Nokia's creative machine. This person would be the 'Steve Jobs' of Nokia with the CEO's support, and the widest mandate to create and run the product creation.

Risku's dual-headed governance model

“To avoid catastrophic nominations no American or foreigner should be the CIO/CCO because Nokia product creation from innovations through concepting to design is very Finnish issue. The American movement, American business culture with arrogance and aggression has paralysed Nokia since 2003.”

Americans come for the money and leave after five years, he says. The new co-CEO needs backing. “The CEO's role is to know how the machine runs, so nobody knows it better than a Nokia person. The biggest problem in recruitment is you give them two to four years but it's another two to four year delay if nothing happens.”

Upsetting the Finnish way of doing thing would be catastrophic, he predicts.

“Nokia is so Finnish. We have so many Americans, they're very good but arrogance and aggression is not the Finnish way of working.

“Americans bring in their own teams and it's a mess after two years.”

“Knowing NOK, hundreds of very creative people, so they should be a Finn, and an expert knowing what and how they are doing the work, and knowing the people personally.”

So what about the current executive leadership?

One phrase repeatedly came up in our conversation: The Peter Principle. This is the rule by which people are promoted to their own level of incompetence. Many, but not all of Nokia’s executives have attained this goal, claims Risku.

The squeamish may now avert their eyes.

Nokia’s leadership rated

For Risku, Compaq import Mary McDowell, who has overseen the Enterprise division for almost a decade, would be one of the first to go. I recall the Hildon strategy from 2001 to 2003 - never publicly disclosed - which would have combined push email with much more sophisticated devices than anything RIM or Microsoft could offer at the time. Blackberry cleaned up the corporate messaging space with much more primitive solutions – that worked.

Risku remembers the next push into enterprise.

“We went to the US with the E-series. Mary McDowell worked with that, but nothing happened, and it ramped down. So there is no Enterprise Solutions anymore. Nothing is managed. McDowell is so high level she doesn't know about the content and the substance.”

McDowell was also chief development strategist. It was one of the most important positions at Nokia. But nothing happened in development in the company.

“Arrogance and aggression is not the Finnish way of working”

A similar criticism follows Tero Ojanperä, currently the orbiting visionary.

“He's smart, a Doctor in radio signal processing, but he doesn't have street cred on the topics he's leading, he has nothing to do with music or visual things.

“While Ojanperä was CTO, no new technologies were brought to market. Since 2008 he has been the EVP working with the entertainment industries but he has brought no contracts, programs or products to N-Series or Ovi.”

The strongest criticism is reserved for the son of the former Finnish President, Marko Ahtisaari, chief design director. It’s an example of nepotism that Risku calls “business socialism”.

“Ahtisaari has destroyed Nokia design – it’s a real disaster. If you put Mr Beckham or Prince Charles into BP, nobody would understand why you'd done that. Ahtisaari is a name.”

“The message it sends for owners, journalists and investors is straight forward: any hobbyist can lead a billion dollar business design team”.

"OPK", or Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, is rated as a good manager and knows thousands of people personally, an invaluable asset, thinks Risku. It makes little sense to sacrifice the CEO and leave the structural problems unchanged - particularly the 500 VPs with largely radio engineering experience who (by the Peter Principle) have responsibility for areas beyond their expertise.

Should the board wish to offer Kallasvuo's head to appease investors, however, Risku suggests Ansi Vanjokki as an interim CEO, and to mentor a new generation.

"Vanjokki is a very good guy, very popular and his street credibility is high. He is reliable, competent in many things - but that knowledge is very old."

Board member Esko Aho should get a higher profile and a new role in investor relations. "Nobody cares about people who own Nokia shares today."

Overall, Risku is remarkably upbeat about the company's long term prospects, despite the malaise. Nokia has great technology assets, he concludes, and thanks to its designers, retains the ability to reduce complexity. But we don't see either - we don't see new technology, or new technology made easy.

Read more on Risku's website (Finnish - Google translation here] ®

Andrew welcomes your comments.

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