RIM's new CEO: A man without a message

Research in Motion missed out on an important opportunity this week to define the next chapter in their corporate history. As RIM's co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped aside and COO Thorsten Heins took the reins, the company had a chance to set the stage for the future by putting these changes in context and charting the course for the next 12-18 months.

What Heins needed to do in his first set of media interviews was to convey two or three bold, decisive and simple messages to RIM's stakeholders about company's plans for staging a comeback. Unfortunately, judging by the quotes the business writers chose to print from his interviews, as well as the company's share price (which fell 6% the day following the announcement), Heins fell short in this regard.

At a time when people are clamouring for something big from RIM, Heins stated he would continue with his predecessors' strategy and that he plans "no seismic" changes. And for a company that has repeatedly dropped the ball in terms of execution over the past few years, he vowed to instill "discipline in the development process, flawless execution, quality and accountability in the system".

Odds are pretty good the term "flawless execution" may come back to bite the newly-minted CEO. After all, promising that you'll deliver perfection doesn't leave much wiggle room. RIM would be better served by under-promising and over-delivering at this stage in its attempted comeback. For the past two to three years, they've been doing the opposite.

So what kind of message was I hoping to hear from RIM's new chief? To be honest, I'm not sure. Without knowing specific details about the company's product pipeline and next generation of BlackBerries, it's hard to say. What I do know is that RIM had a huge opportunity to punctuate the beginning of this new chapter in their company's history. All they needed was a story. One or two lines to mark the beginning of the Thorsten Heins era and to give hope to millions of BlackBerry users and shareholders. Who knows? Maybe Heins is the man who can reinvent RIM and successfully navigate its second act. The problem, at least in these first few days, is that it doesn't come through in his media interviews.