The new President and Chief Executive of Nokia, effective September 21, is Stephen Elop–the former head of Microsoft’s Business Division (his departure effective immediately). He has previously held the following positions: COO of Juniper Networks (one year and one month); President, WWFO of Adobe Systems (one year and one month); CEO and other positions at Macromedia (7 years, 10 months); CIO of Boston Chicken (6 years); and CIO of Boston Chicken and Einstein Brothers Bagels (3 years).
Elop will lead an organization that has experienced significant change in its history. Nokia began as a paper mill in southern Finland in 1865; the second mill was located on the Nokianvirta River–hence, the name “Nokia.” The founder Fredrik Idestam is considered the father of Finland’s paper industry, according to the company website. The early history of Nokia focused on paper and electricity generation–not communications technology. The move to mobile didn’t begin until the late 1960s.
With a solid Finish connection and culture, Nokia has now chosen a Canadian citizen for its top position. With Nokia’s clearly stated Purpose–Connecting People–Elop will have the challenge to improve company profits and position and lead in finding new and better ways for connecting people. So what will change and how quickly and what does this mean to the culture of Nokia and its future?
Taking a leader from the outside–obviously indicates change. But choosing a leader outside the Finnish culture indicates an added complexity. Two levels of culture must be considered: first is the country culture. How does the Finnish culture differ from Elop’s background? He won’t be changing the country culture. And how in sync or out of sync is the current Nokia culture with the principles and values of Elop? It’s a positive statement that he plans to listen and learn about the company and its culture. But from a culture perspective, one would hope that he already has a good sense of the organizational culture. One would hope that the selection process focused on sharing the core Philosophy principles that are rooted in the company’s history and shared by employees. And surely the selection process discussed the need for strategy change which will directly impact the Priorities that all employees must share.
With Elop’s software experience and North American connections, Nokia may feel a new momentum that will bring change. Obviously, change is needed; the concerns that employees will focus on is what will change and how will the change impact “me.”