The business environment is dynamic, presenting various changes and challenges to company operations. In today’s fast-paced industrial economy, companies are increasingly faced with the threat of being thrown out of the market. Remaining competitive in the ambiguous business environment requires adaptability and focus. Blackberry, one of the historical mobile technology giants, has gone through rising and falling. Although the company had made breakthroughs in the mobile phone sector, it failed to address significant changes, resulting in its sudden fall (Muthukumar et al. 14). An organization’s leadership structure significantly affects change management through strategy development and implementation. Chima and Gutman’s 3-D change model, along with Kotter’s eight mistakes in change management, provide a platform on which Blackberry’s failure can be evaluated. The case study highlights obstacles to change, exposing the initiatives taken and their weakness while giving insight into the best organizational change approaches.
Change Theories and the Role of Leadership
Leadership is an essential element determining organizational growth and sustainability. In the face of change, leaders are the most important figures responsible for formulating vital strategies in enhancing competitiveness and keeping the company relevant in the market. Change is a process that requires strategic approaches to achieve the desired results. Change theories were formulated to explain how leaders adapt to changing business environments and the consequent implications. The inability to maintain major change notwithstanding significant resources invested in the change program (many of which are funded by upper management) and bright and committed personnel leading the change. In essence, executives who feel a pressing necessity for change are correct; businesses that fail to adapt to many changes face catastrophes (Chima and Gutman 1). Their alternatives are severely limited by then, and patients frequently decline despite heroic efforts.
Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model
In every step of the change process, leaders are expected to apply certain principles of operation. Kotter views the change management process as a series of vital steps with set completion times (Joseph Galli 124). Although many people imagine change to be a sudden shift in positions and influence, satisfaction is derived more through the process than the ultimate end. The most fundamental takeaway from productive situations is that change occurs in a sequence of phases that take a long time to complete. Joseph Galli argues that skipping steps gives the appearance of speed but seldom delivers acceptable results, and significant errors in any one of the stages can be fatal, decreasing momentum and destroying hard-won gains (124). Essentially, leaders should understand the phases of change and the most appropriate approaches in each stage.
The essential requirement of leadership in change management is to understand the need for action. According to Kotter, businesses fail when they do not create a sense of urgency is crucial since it motivates leaders to overcome fears and drive change (Joseph Galli 126). After identifying the need for action, leaders should then form an implementation team to move with the plan. Although a single person may be credited for the problem identification, a solution can only be found through team effort. Creating the vision and communicating it to the entire workforce are crucial steps. According to Joseph Galli (125), people often respond to what they can see and to which they can relate. After empowering others, goals and outcomes should be formulated to keep the momentum. The last step, and probably the most important, is tied to integrating the change process into the daily business operations. In the case of Blackberry, adapting to changes would have been easier following these eight steps.
Chima and Gutman’s 3-D Model
To effectively respond to change, individuals need to comprehend its nature. Over the years, change has been described differently depending on its dimensions and levels of impact. Chima and Gutman view change in a three-dimension perspective, describing it as perpetual, pervasive, and exponential. The perpetual nature of change denotes its continuity throughout life events. Change is ongoing and can affect multiple areas of life all at once, making it pervasive. Recently, breakthroughs in technology and human interactions have proved that change is exponential. In line with these perspectives, adaptive leaders have to identify the areas affected by the change and react promptly so as not to be overtaken by the process. According to Muthukumar et al., Blackberry’s failure resulted from the inability to understand the shift and respond swiftly (15). The exponential dimension of change has been the primary cause of business adaptability failure.
A Summary of Blackberry’s Events
Blackberry’s fall happened slowly through minor mistakes in its production events and processes. Between 1999 and 2007, the RIM (later BlackBerry) brand controlled the stock market trends and customer desires, wherein 850 and 957 models were upgraded to 950 and 957, respectively (Muthukumar et al. 15). The distinctive keyboard and the large screen transformed mobile technology. BlackBerry pioneered the integration of voice and data in 2002. For the optimum customer experience, the 5810 model was fitted with earbuds, and the 6810 and 6820 models were stacked up after that, with a short time break between them (Muthukumar et al. 15). At this time, the company was highly competitive, owning a higher market share than its competitors, Samsung and LG.
Within a few years, the company introduced gadgets with a camera, color screens, and a trackpad. BlackBerry appeared to be on the verge of reaching unimaginable heights. By 2013, the company changed its name to Blackberry and introduced the BBM messaging app, which was faced out by the introduction of social media (Muthukumar et al. 16). The company’s big blow and ultimate failure came from its perpetual revenue loss. Berry’s CEO, John Chen, officially confirmed in 2016 that the company had lost $372 million and had halted its smartphone production line, which was a huge blow (Muthukumar et al. 16). The highlighted events placed Blackberry ahead of competitors but also facilitated its big fall.
Obstacles, Challenges, and Problems
Understanding a company’s history facilitates current innovation practice and aids in future success. Muthukumar et al. highlight that before 2013, Blackberry was an iconic leader in the mobile technology sector, controlling 20 % of the global smartphone market (14). At a time when phones needed a powerful keyboard, Blackberry was the best and also the first to launch the messaging feature that placed it ahead of competitors, a point that aligns with the perpetual aspect of Chima and Gutman’s 3-D model (2). However, when technology in the communication sector shifted people’s focus from button phones to smartphones, the company failed to innovate promptly and was overtaken by competitors such as Samsung.
One of the biggest obstacles to change management was the company’s limited intellectual ability to facilitate prompt change implementation. This aligns with Kotter’s first mistake of the change process- failing to demonstrate urgency to change (Joseph Galli 125). The technological changes also required an improvement to the operating system. Blackberry maintained its design, which was significantly inferior to android and apple (Muthukumar et al. 17). Eventually, it lost its relevance among consumers and eventually fell out of the market. In summary, Blackberry’s failure is attributed to its inability to comprehend required changes and adjust its devices to meet market trends.
Leadership Capacities and Alternative Strategies
Addressing exponential change necessitates leadership skills and capacities to handle challenges. Although the company tried to keep up the competition by imitating its competitors, Muthukumar et al. argue that it only gave Blackberry an identity of a close-follower as opposed to a performer (17). Changing the name was a strategic move, but it did not rescue the company from failure. In response to the technology changes, Blackberry’s leaders would have provided a unique solution by investing in its technological capacity to improve the phone’s operating system and introduce the smartphone feature. Instead of maintaining its BBM tool, the leaders would have benchmarked in LG and apple to invest in social media communications. Notably, these alternatives would have enabled the company to maintain its position in the industry.
The case of Blackberry’s failure shows how a company can decline due to leadership’s incapacity to address changing customer demands, technological changes, and competitor trends. Since leaders are central in an organization’s change management, their inability to respond promptly to shifts can ultimately lead to organizational failure. Obstacles in the change process can be addressed by carefully recollecting a company’s history, current position, and available resources to respond to the needed adjustments.
Chima, Aneel, and Ron Gutman. “What It Takes to Lead Through an Era of Exponential Change.” Harvard Business Review, Web.
Joseph Galli, Brian. “Change Management Models: A Comparative Analysis and Concerns.” IEEE Engineering Management Review, vol. 46, no. 3, 2018, pp. 124-132.
Muthukumar Ramanathan, Lalitha Ramakrishnan, and C. S. G. Krishnamacharyulu. “Turnaround of BlackBerry.” Journal of Management Cases, vol. 19, no. 4, 2017, pp. 13-18.