I find Nortel Networks (NYSE:NT) at a crossroads. Will it take the road less traveled?

The numbers in its latest annual report tell a rather dark tale, especially when you discount all those one-time gains and charges to get a look at the bare-bones operational performance. Despite outward appearances, you can argue that the company is doing worse now than it did last year.

But here's the good news: I think the recently installed management team knows how to get this vessel back in ship-shape. That's the sense I get from reading through Nortel's full 10-K filing.

Compare and contrast with me. Last year, management filed its 10-K several weeks after releasing its full-year results; this year, it was a simultaneous event. It's a minor point, but it shows a certain eagerness to display the entire story, rather than wait until the market forgets about the company's results.

More to the point, the "management's discussion" section of last year's filing was a veritable business buzzword bingo card. The discussion centered on the kind of empty language that could apply to any turnaround candidate from Gap (NYSE:GPS) to Krispy Kreme (NYSE:KKD) to biotech outfit Cephalon (NASDAQ:CEPH). There's a quick nod to networking developments, but the strategy mostly sounds like this:

"Drive our business forward with a renewed focus on execution and operational excellence through (i) the transformation of our businesses and processes; (ii) integrity renewal and (iii) growth imperatives." Bingo! If the lawyers didn't write this outright, the old management team was running on intellectual fumes, and there isn't much evidence of a top communications company here. Hardly inspiring stuff.

This year, it sounds as though management cares about networking, knows what the risks and opportunities are, and wants to succeed. Listen to this excerpt: "We believe that the industry today stands at the threshold of a new era, fueled by increasing demand for pervasive personal broadband capabilities that provide extremely fast access to any application from any device and any location. We believe that this new era will be innovation-rich, driven by three trends -- hyperconnectivity, true broadband and the emergence of communications-enabled applications."

Then the document explains exactly what these growth drivers are. It's all there in plain English, a business plan you can understand and a clear sign of executive enthusiasm. Maybe the soul is back in Toronto. CEO Mike Zafirovski and his team have landed new global partnerships with solid companies like IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and that might make all the difference.

Turn around, Fool:

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but wouldn't mind holding a donut or two. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is always inspiring reading.