Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Would Bob Galvin Say About Today's Motorola?

Over the last 4 weeks, since I've launched the Motorola "Plan B" Campaign for a stronger company and better returns for shareholders, many Motorolans have reached out to me by commenting on this blog, sending me emails, or - in some cases - calling me up directly.

Each opportunity I have to interact with them allows me - as a shareholder - to hear about how my investment is functioning from the inside. The view I've received from many different sources is not a particularly encouraging one. Disappointment, cynicism, and fear are rampant.

Whenever I talk to employees - and I did the same during the Yahoo! campaign - I always ask them who on the current management team they like (as opposed to only focusing on the aspects of the company they dislike). None of the current members of the Motorola Senior Leadership Team has ever been named for me. The best I've heard back is that people respect the finance and legal groups (as a whole).

However, I would say 1 out of every 2 Motorolans I speak to mentions the name Bob Galvin. Bob is, of course, the son of Motorola's founder Paul Galvin. He was CEO from 1956 to the early 90s. Until a few years ago, he was also on the Motorola board. Today, he's 85 -- and as sharp as ever, from what I hear. Along with his son, Chris, he is officially outside Motorola.

I don't know Bob Galvin. I've never met him. But, I was struck at how his name kept coming up in my conversations. And it wasn't only from the 30 year vets. One employee, who hasn't yet celebrated his 2nd anniversary with the company, talked about how his legacy still casts a long shadow through the halls and the offices of the company and how his name was mentioned often during these difficult days the company is now facing.

Why? What is Bob Galvin's legacy?

I found some interesting info about him on his American National Business Hall of Fame entry.

  1. Bob learned the business from the ground-up and from mentors -- not by doing stints at McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. In addition to formal management training Bob Galvin learned the business by working in lower level jobs and by receiving mentoring from older employees. Among his most important mentors was Paul Galvin.
  2. Paul Galvin passed on 2 keys to building a successful entrepreneurial culture within Motorola. (1) Do not fear failure! In other words, entrepreneurs take risks and risk takers will inevitably experience some failures. Fear of failure can prevent a potential entrepreneur from taking risks. (2) Recognize the signs! In other words, recognize the possibility of failure and move quickly to cut losses once it is clear that a new project will not become profitable.
  3. He was not a one-man show. Instead, Bob Galvin maintained an egalitarian culture in which managers at all levels were encouraged to develop a sense of proprietorship and a willingness to engage in open discussion.
  4. Bob Galvin felt that the key to Motorola's long-term prosperity was effectively serving its customers, employees, shareholders, and community. (FOR) CUSTOMERS, (our objectives are) to serve every customer better than our competitors with products and services of excellent value and quality , and thereby earn continued enthusiastic trust and support. (FOR) PEOPLE (our objectives are) to treat each employee with dignity, as an individual; to maintain an open atmosphere where direct communication with employees affords the opportunity to contribute to the maximum of their potential and fosters unity of purpose with Motorola; to provide personal opportunities for training and development to ensure the most capable and effective work force; to respect senior service; to compensate fairly by salary and benefits and, where possible, incentives; and to practice the commonly accepted policies of equal opportunity and affirmative action. (FOR) SHAREHOLDERS, (our objective is) to have our shareholders prosper and, therefore, make our equity securities an attractive investment. (FOR OUR) COMMUNITY, (our objective is) to be a good corporate citizen by contributing to the economic and social well-being of every community and country in which we operate. The corporation will encourage its employees to actively participate in community affairs.
  5. Bob Galvin's Motorola's culture was based on participation, proactive empowerment, and personal accountability. He called everyone by their first name, wore shirt sleeves, and encouraged open discussion. While disagreement was considered a healthy sign at Motorola, Bob Galvin insisted on constant respect for people and uncompromising integrity. The hoped for result was the kind of trust that leads to creativity and hence long run survival.

All good solid principles to run a successful company by. It makes you wonder what Bob Galvin would say about today's Motorola from his vantage point.

It also makes you wonder how many times Ed Zander has sought him out to discuss the issues facing the company. Of course, every CEO must run an organization in the manner they see fit. But there is no shame in privately seeking out a past employee or leader -- especially the Founder's successful and respected son -- to seek counsel.

Alas, I would guess that's not happened here.

Here I must confess a personal bias: I have infinitely more respect for a founder (or a son of a founder) than a "professional manager." There are some excellent and very successful professional managers in the world, but a founder is a special person. To start with nothing and create a multi-billion dollar industry titan is a stunning accomplishment.

Carly Fiorna would have done well to seek out and win over HP's founders, rather than proudly seek to do things her way.

Ed Zander would have done well -- especially coming in from the outside to the communications industry -- to emulate the principles that made Motorola so successful under Bob Galvin.

Sometimes, change is good and appropriate (such as now, which is why we launched "Plan B" for Motorola). Sometimes, successful priniciples are timeless. God, grant us the wisdom to know the difference.

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Anonymous said...


mark said...

anyone knows how many stocks (%) are still propiety of Galvin familiy?

Anonymous said...

This Corporation was built by three generations based on three simple and clearly communicated principles: “Total Customer Satisfaction”, “Uncompromising Integrity in Everything We Do” and “Constant Respect To Every Employee”. A few years ago, these changed, also in a simply communicated way: “Screw the nano, I love my job and hate my customers”, “I don’t know and will not know what the lawyers’ position is”, “You told me the first and last time what you heard and saw around you”. The only good news is, we still live in a world where the market does not appreciate this kind of attitude, even if some of the analysts do.

djpondsy said...

all of the ivy league nitwits who predicted that all that was wrong with Moto was the Galvins should stand up and sniff the crap now. technology companies are made by the people, and people alone, ridicule them whenever they fail, but without them there is no company. BTW the last known moneymaker for Moto was the Razr and that had its birth in the Galvin era. Zander didn't pull it out of his body ~5 months after he took over. go figure.