Kodak Lays Off More Employees After Failing to Execute Quickly Enough Picture this: Kodak, the company whose brand is synonymous with taking pictures ("A Kodak Moment" and "We take pictures. Further.") finds itself producing more negatives than film. The Rochester, NY-based company announced it will soon lay off 10,000 employees, in addition to the 12,000-15,000 it targeted about 18 months ago. A snapshot of its current financial picture certainly isn't pretty. Many pundits (definition: people who have a comment for everything, even if they don't know that much about it) believe it's because the company failed to predict how rapidly digital photography would take hold. Apparently, Kodak just couldn't catch up, never mind lead the trend away from film. It hung on too long to the notion that people would continue to embrace the paradigm Kodak itself created. I really hate to see this happen. I've been a big fan of Kodak for the 30-plus years that I've practiced photography as a hobby. I've taken literally thousands of pictures, especially of my family. In fact, my husband says there really is no need for us to own a video camera. "You take so many pictures, you can just stack them and run your thumb down the side to create a frame-by-frame video," he often teases. And even though I switched to using a digital camera five years ago, my mother-in-law STILL always asks, "Do you have enough film in your digital camera to take some pictures for me?" I no longer try to explain, but instead just reply, "I'm sure I do." I suspect Kodak is guilty of the S in the SPUD that can drive companies to irrelevance: Scattered. It seems that Kodak's strategy got a bit out of focus. Trying to satisfy requirements and changing tastes of both hobbyists and commercial users made it difficult to execute its current strategy while also providing a vision for the future. Remember that the digital age affects most aspects of Kodak's business. In addition to the 35mm film traditionally used by hobbyists, other Kodak product lines have also been dramatically impacted: X-rays, graphic communications, printers and cinematography, for instance. In my little SPUD world, Kodak would be what I call "Hesi-taters." Fortunately, it's not too late for Kodak to recover and it appears to be taking the right steps to do so through a restructuring that emphasizes an acceleration of its transformation to a digital business model. The truth is, in the digital markets where it does compete, Kodak kicks some serious butt. They obviously bring the same quality to new market opportunities that made them tremendously successful in the first place. So, what can we learn from Kodak's unfortunate experience? Don't be too slow to move away from the tried and true. The race usually goes to the swiftest. Maybe it's time to look at your business frame-by-frame, so to speak. Just as great photographers keep only the photos that serve a real purpose, smart business people understand the need to build on the past, rather than just revere it. If you want to be strategic instead of scattered, picture a focused strategy, then snap to it!


At July 25, 2005 2:16 PM, Anonymous Sam Horn said...

Hello Marilynn:

Great job on what I hope will be the first of many fascinating examples of how we can remain relevant.

Loved your use of metaphorical language to explain, frame by frame, where Kodak went wrong -- and how we can avoid their unfortunate turn of events.

At July 26, 2005 12:50 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Remaining relevent is a challenge in my business. The audiences keep getting younger and younger. So do the decision-makers!

Great case study. Thanks! I've bookmarked your site.

At July 26, 2005 3:03 PM, Blogger Marilynn Mobley said...


Thanks for your nice comments. Please feel free to suggest any subjects you'd like to see me tackle on this blog. Come back soon - and often!

At July 26, 2005 3:07 PM, Blogger Marilynn Mobley said...


I know what you mean about the audiences getting younger and younger. In my last job, I managed employees who were 15-20 years younger than I am. Wow! The things I learned from them! It was a great experience. In fact, they were part of the inspiration for this blog. I hope this format will draw many of them, who will add their own insightful comments.

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