Chapter 8 Teamwork and Communications
The Team with the RAZR’S Edge
In the fall of 2011, Motorola spun off its Mobile Devices division creating a new publically traded company, Motorola Mobility. The newly formed company’s executive team was under intense pressure to come out with a winner: a smartphone that could grab substantial market share from Apple’s iPhone 4S and Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus. To do this, the team oversaw the design of an Android version of the Motorola RAZR, which used to be the best-selling phone in the world. The hope of the executive team is that past customers who loved the RAZR will really love the new ultra-thin smartphone—the Droid RAZR. As with other products produced by Motorola, the Droid RAZR was designed by a team of individuals. To understand how this team approach is implemented at Motorola, let’s review the process used to design the original RAZR.
The mood was grim at Motorola in winter 2003, especially in the cell phone division: The company that for years had run ringtones around the competition had been bumped from the top spot in worldwide sales.This vignette is based on the following sources: Adam Lashinsky, “RAZR’s Edge,” Fortune, CNNMoney.com, June 1, 2006, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/06/12/8379239/index.htm (accessed October 11, 2011); Scott D. Anthony, “Motorola’s Bet on the RAZR’s Edge,” HBS Working Knowledge, September 12, 2005, http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/4992.html (accessed October 11, 2011); “The Leading Edge Is RAZR-Thin,” BusinessWeek, December 5, 2005, http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_49/b3962087.htm (accessed October 11, 2011); Arik Hessedahl, “Motorola vs. Nokia,” Forbes.com, January 19, 2004, at http://www.forbes.com/2004/01/19/cx_ah_0119mondaymatchup.html (accessed October 11, 2011); “Talk Like a Supermodel: Sexy Fashion Phones,” CNET.co.au, April 2008, http://www.cnet.com.au/talk-like-a-supermodel-sexy-fashion-phones-240058430.htm (accessed October 11, 2011); Vlad Balan, “10 Coolest Concept Phones Out There,” Cameraphones Plaza, April 17, 2007, http://www.cameraphonesplaza.com/10-coolest-concept-phones-out-there/ (accessed October 11, 2011); Mike Elgan, “All-Screen Clamshell Concept Phone: A Glimpse of the Future,” Computerworld Blogs, August 1, 2008, http://blogs.computerworld.com/all_screen_clamshell_concept_phone_a_glimpse_of_the_future (accessed October 11, 2011); “Motorola Gains on 10 Mn in RAZR Sales,” The Financial Express, January 19, 2006, http://www.financialexpress.com/old/latest_full_story.php?content_id=115012 (accessed October 11, 2011). Sporting a popular line of “candy bar” phones (the ones without the flip-top lids), the Finnish company Nokia had grabbed the lead in global market share, and Motorola found itself stuck in the number-three slot (Samsung had slipped into second place). Why had sales at Motorola been put on hold? Among other things, consumers were less than enthusiastic about the uninspired style of Motorola phones, and make no mistake about it—for a lot of people, style is just as important in picking a cell phone as its features list. As a reviewer for one industry publication puts it, “With some phones, we just want to see the look on people’s faces when we slide it out of our pockets to take a call.”
The Motorola RAZR: Thin is in, according to Motorola.
© 2010 Jupiterimages Corporation
And yet, there was a glimmer of hope at Motorola. Despite its recent lapse in cell phone fashion sense, Motorola (like just about every other maker of wireless hardware) still maintained a concept-phone unit—a group responsible for designing futuristic new product features such as speech-recognition capability, liquid batteries, flexible touchscreens, and touch-sensitive body covers. Now, in every concept-phone unit, developers are engaged in an ongoing struggle to balance the two often-opposing demands of cell phone design: how to build the smallest possible phone with the largest possible screen. The previous year, designers in the Motorola concept-phone unit had unveiled the rough model of an ultratrim phone—at 10 millimeters, about half the width of the average flip-top or “clamshell” design. It was on this concept that Motorola decided to stake the revival of its reputation as a cell phone maker who knew how to package functionality with a wow factor.
The next step in developing a concept phone, of course, is actually building it. And this is where teamwork comes in. For one thing, you need a little diversity in your expertise. An electronic engineer, for example, knows how to apply energy to transmit information through a system but not how to apply physics to the design and manufacture of the system; that’s the specialty of a mechanical engineer. And engineers aren’t designers—the specialists who know how to enhance the marketability of a product by adding aesthetic value.
In addition, when you set out to build any kind of innovative high-tech product, you need to become a master of trade-offs—in Motorola’s case, the compromises resulting from the demands of state-of-the-art functionality on the one hand and fashionable design on the other. Negotiating trade-offs is a team sport: it takes at least two people, for example, to resolve such disputes as whether you can put the antenna of a cell phone inside its mouthpiece or whether you should put the caller-ID display inside or outside the flip-top.
The responsibility for assembling and managing the Motorola “thin-clam” team fell to veteran electronic engineer Roger Jellicoe. His mission: create the world’s thinnest phone, do it in one year, and try to keep it a secret. Before the project was completed, the team had grown to more than twenty members, and with increased creative input and enthusiasm came increased confidence and clout. Jellicoe, for instance, had been warned by company specialists in such matters that no phone wider than 49 millimeters could be held comfortably in the human hand. When the team had finally arrived at a satisfactory design that couldn’t work at less than 53 millimeters, they ignored the “49 millimeters warning,” built a model, handed it around, and came to a consensus: As one team member put it, “People could hold it in their hands and say, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t feel like a brick.’” Four millimeters, they decided, was an acceptable trade-off, and the new phone went to market at 53 millimeters.
Team members liked to call this process the “dance.” Sometimes it flowed smoothly and sometimes people stepped on one another’s toes, but for the most part, the team moved in lockstep toward its goal. After a series of trade-offs about what to call the final product (suggestions ranged from Razor Clam to V3), Motorola’s new RAZR was introduced in July 2004. Recall that the product was originally conceived as a high-tech toy—something to restore the luster to Motorola’s tarnished image. It wasn’t supposed to set sales records, and sales in the fourth quarter of 2004, though promising, were in fact fairly modest. Back in September, however, a new executive named Ron Garriques had taken over Motorola’s cell phone division, and one of his first decisions was to raise the bar for RAZR. Disregarding a 2005 budget that called for sales of two million units, Garriques pushed expected sales for the RAZR up to twenty million. The RAZR topped that target, shipped ten million in the first quarter of 2006, and hit the fifty-million mark at midyear. Talking on a RAZR, declared hip-hop luminary Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, “is like driving a Mercedes versus a regular ol’ ride.”
As for Jellicoe and his team, they were invited to attend an event hosted by top executives. As they walked into the room, they received a standing ovation—along with a cartload of stock options—and outside observers applauded them for revitalizing “the stodgy, engineering-driven, Midwestern company that was Motorola.” One of the reasons for the RAZR’s success, admits Jellicoe, “was that it took the world by surprise. Very few Motorola products do that.” After the introduction of the RAZR, perceptions of the company’s flair for fashion and innovation underwent a critical change: “Now,” reports Jellicoe, “whenever we say we have this secret program we’re working on, nobody wants to be left out….It’s kicked down some doors…and gets us noticed. It really is a tremendous brand builder. As for credibility in the marketplace, it’s been a very big win.” In fact, for a while it was the best selling phone in the world.
Will the Droid RAZR be as successful as the original RAZR? Only time will tell, but many are optimistic about its chances. In a November 2011 New York Times article, “Motorola’s Droid Razr Still Has It,” Roy Furchgott conveys the opinions of many in the tech field:
The new Droid RAZR has a lot to live up to. The original RAZR was a flip-phone marvel of sleek design. It became the best-selling phone in the United States until the iPhone knocked it from its perch. The new RAZR, while lacking the wow factor of the original, is still a credible heir to the name. Two things—speed and battery life—set the phone apart.Roy Furchgott, “Motorola’s Droid Razr Still Has It,” New York Times, November 28, 2011, http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/motorolas-droid-razr-still-has-it/ (accessed January 24, 2012).
And, if an incredibly fast download speed and approximately 12 hours of talk time and 250 hours of standby time are not enough to get customers onboard, they might be won over by the purple version.