Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Even less Motorola leadership

After a big announcement like that of Ed Zander’s resignation, there are always other shoes that drop. Monday morning’s paper had a tiny blurb that Motorola CTO Padmasree Warrior had resigned, with the speculation that she’d left because she was tied to Zander’s failed strategy of seamless mobility. Sure enough, her Motorola biography (now gone but cached by Google) listed her efforts there:

An engineer at heart with a true knack for business, Padmasree’s charter is to drive innovation, prioritize technology programs and accelerate creative research to commercialization. Padmasree's operational responsibility is to lead Motorola’s global team of 26,000 engineers and direct Motorola Labs, Motorola’s software, emerging early-stage businesses and the corporation’s intellectual property portfolio.

Padmasree is recognized internationally as the thought leader who shaped the industry vision of “seamless mobility” for next generation communications. She is credited with crafting much of Motorola’s strategy around seamless mobility; to deliver easy uninterrupted access to everything people want in a flat and mobile world.
This morning’s paper brought news that she’d become CTO at Cisco, presumably part of its effort to expand its influence in mobile communications. There was universal admiration at how she’d traded up after only one day of unemployment. Warrior herself blogged at Cisco about how she welcomes the opportunities of driving its platform strategies. (Certainly it’s been a long time since Motorola drove any industry platforms).

However, Brad Reese, a Cisco-focused blogger, pilloried the decision to hire Warrior, blaming her for commoditizing Motorola’s RAZR and failing to respond to the challenge of the iPhone.

I know far less about Cisco that Mr. Reese, but as someone who follows the mobile phone industry, I’m not sure how much credit (or blame) the CTO gets for Motorola’s recent innovation results. Did the CTO have line-of-business control? How much did the CEO control the allocation of resources. And as for getting beaten by the iPhone, I think a lot of very well run mobile phone companies were left scrambling when the iPhone came out.

In my opinion, the success or failure of a CTO depends not only on his/her vision, but also on the charter bestowed by the CEO. And I’d bet a week’s pay that John Chambers is not going to let anyone commoditize his main Cisco brand (even though the Linksys brand is all about competing in commodity markets).

1 comment:

Jonathan Salem Baskin said...

Great post. I, too, am surprised by the free ride Warrior's (and, subsquently, Brown's parroting) of the 'seamless mobility' catch-phrase has received. It simply has no meaning, at least not from an operational perspective; great quote for a journalist or analyst, but Motorola has evidenced no ability to translate it into market-winning actions. I think you're so right about CEO commitment, but it begs the question: commitment to WHAT? I'm intrigued by what Brown might actually do differently at Motorola, and what Jon Rubinstein is actually going to do at Palm. I've written about it a bit at DIM BULB if you'd like to check it out: