No Fear: Tales of a Change Agent, or Why I Couldn't Fix Nortel Networks
A Business Memoir
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A business memoir that explains Nortel Networks' demise. It is told from the perspective of Organization Development, by the former head of OD. In January of 2009, Nortel Networks, a hundred-year-old company with a market capitalization of over $200 Billion, that had peaked at $30 Billion in sales and employed over 100,000 people worldwide, declared bankruptcy! Unwilling to restructure, it liquidated its assets, bringing an astounding $8 Billion into the estate, mostly from the value of its intellectual property, its patents and products. Unfortunately, this money languishes in escrow, hurting retirees and pensioners, while bondholders and other creditors vie in courts around the world for a larger share. How could such an established, successful company, filled with so many smart, dedicated, loyal, hard working and driven employees have failed so completely? No Fear:Tales of a Change Agent explains a piece of the puzzle by gathering personal experiences and observations into a business memoir. For 17 years, the author worked continuously, relentlessly, to try to improve the company. He held both line and staff roles, led over a thousand people at one point, and yet spent several years in an individual contributor role, as an internal organization development consultant, working with the most senior executive team. He was well rewarded and appreciated, receiving promotions, bonuses and awards. But he was also frustrated, worried that the fear based culture would eventually doom the company. He tried to affect culture and leadership, the foundations needed to build large scale successful organizations in the Knowledge Age. He often succeeded, but only locally, with individual leaders and business groups, never enabling enough change at the company wide level and never gaining access to the most senior governing body, the Board of Directors. During his journey, he had promised many employees and colleagues that he would never stop trying to leverage the learning that he was getting from all the painful transitions, be they failed projects or downsizings. The essence of that learning is captured in this book. The illustrative anecdotes are set in business and market contexts to illustrate how a great, multinational corporation could fail from a weak culture. The book should prove enlightening to ex-Nortel employees, customers and shareholders, but also to Organization Development, Change Management and other Human Resource professionals. The reflections and conclusions are research and data based so that the external view of what happened is attuned with the author's internal view.