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Greg Turner*, a former RIM employee who worked on the mobile development team for two years, thought the co-CEO structure actually made sense, at least from a high level, given the different skill sets of Lazaridis and Balsillie.
"Fundamentally, I don't have a problem with the co-CEO structure because it allowed Mike [Lazaridis] to create these beautiful devices, and it allowed Jim [Balsillie] to go off to do the money things he had to do," Turner told CRN.
That said, Turner notes that Lazaridis and Balsillie were so different in personality and temperament that the co-chief structure didn't work for them, instead leading to a divide throughout the organization rather than a balanced feeling of yin and yang.
When you boiled it down, the two were so different that it seemed shocking they even got along at all. Apart from being a steadfast engineer, Lazaridis, who Turner described as a "you're-going-to-have-to-pry-RIM-from-my-cold-dead-fingers kind of guy," was abrupt, strong-minded and knew how to get what he wanted.
Balsillie, on the other hand, seemed flamboyant and long-winded. "He would kind of just ramble on for an hour and a half and not say anything," Turner said. "They have such different personalities, I honestly can't even imagine them working together."
Other former employees said the structure created dysfunction and bureaucracy within the company.
Former RIM employee Janet Rogers* joined RIM's technical sales team in the early 2000s. Back then, she said, the company was still fairly small and full of "pioneering-type people who were willing to take a risk and were really passionate about it."
But as the company grew, the stark differences between Lazaridis and Balsillie became palpable throughout the organization.
"Having two leaders instead of one, that created a very dysfunctional environment. There were always the technical people pitted against the salespeople," Rogers said. "That happens in a lot of these corporations ... but [at RIM] there wasn't a final decision-maker. And I would always say that that's a bad way to run a company."
People both inside and outside RIM would comment on the company having "Chinese walls," serving as barriers between the various segments, she said.
The bureaucratic feeling continued, and employee morale began to suffer. "A lot of times you would get penalized if you would be the person to speak up and say what was really true," Rogers told CRN. "And eventually you learned not to do that if you valued your job."