Will an Apology Save Sony's Reputation? Not Anymore.
CEOs have big egos. It comes with the territory. After all, they have the levers of control in their hands. From...
- product focus and development (hello, R&D and marketing) to
- getting the product or service to market (there you are, operations and supply chain) to
- all the people required to make any of what they want happen (and that's the 'human capital' that gets so much pretty talk)...
CEOs get paid the big bucks for big delivery.
That's why, when a CEO apologizes, it's a big deal. Especially for them.
It also explains why the coverage of the Sony annual shareholders meeting focused as much - if not more - on Howard Stringer's apology to the shareholders than almost any other aspect of what the company is planning to do.
Sony has had more than its share of bad luck over the last few years - mostly based on bad decision-making.
They missed their chances to take the Walkman into new worlds - allowing Apple to build on Sony's idea and create the iPod.
They came late to music distribution and subscription - with their 'new' service for Bravia internet-connected televisions and PlayStation 3 game consoles finally launching this year.
And what about those PlayStations? Say "hacker" and someone will start talking about their ongoing fears and distrust of Sony since the company so badly mishandled the loss of over 100 million users' data of their various online entertainment services - including the credit card information of some.
To add insult to injury, GeoHot, the 21-year old who hacked the PS3's supposedly un-hackable system, just got a job with Facebook.
But it wasn't even the fact that the company's systems were hacked. That happens - and it will continue to happen.
It's that, when it happened, much like their corporate colleagues at Toyota and Johnson&Johnson, Sony chose not to step up to what was happening and, instead, hid until it couldn't hide any longer.
In the world of reputation, there's nothing worse. Because when things go wrong, if you stand up and show that you're on the case, you'll be forgiven far more than one would expect.
But, if you don't - and Stringer didn't - you get the kind of coverage he's getting today.
In the world of costs, this is one that could easily have been avoided - for Sony, its users, shareholders and for Stringer, himself.