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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yahoo! Fix? - It's Not About the Chief, It's About the Indians





Yahoo is all the rage again, this time it's b/c Carol Bartz is out and everyone has an opinion on how to fix Yahoo's problem...For all of those who think a product visionary (Steve Jobs) is the answer...it's not about the chief, it's about the indians.  The tech community talks a lot of shit about how Yahoo! is done.  They aren't.  They've got the biggest email user-base in the US (where they do well in content), are in fantastic positions in several markets abroad (in content and email) and make tons of money.  The next CEO needs to figure out how to retain, excite and recruit guys like Paul Tarjan (Yahoo! Resignation Video below).


Approximately 2.5 years ago, every day TechCrunch was flooded with who's leaving Yahoo! now articles.  Some people left for Facebook/other startups, some founded their own ventures and others jumped to other tech giants.  People jumping around isn't new or necessarily news worthy.  After all, certain types of people always leave big companies, they just don't fit and can't stay.  Their thrill comes from figuring out solutions, as opposed to executing/maintaining established systems.  With some of those types, even if you have cool projects in the pipeline, a lot them just like changing things up or want to launch their own venture.  On the other side of the spectrum, many people will never leave the company they work for.  They are good / great at their job, settled into their responsibilities and work-to-live, as opposed to those who live-to-work.  There is nothing wrong with either types of employees or their professional proclivities.  What we saw with Yahoo!, and the sign that their culture was broken, was when the movers-and-shakers, the creative/quirky people, the ones who epitomize your culture (the stereotypical company XYZ employee we refer to when we talk about your company) and those management wanted to cultivate into future company leaders, up and left, in droves.  That exodus was the sign the culture was broken and no one with the power to do so cared enough to fix it.  When the culture that brought them to Yahoo! was gone and it became clear it wasn't returning, everything got tainted and they could only stomach it so long, before they left.  

What's left is a money making machine, that's not beyond repair.  However, greatness comes from your companies culture and Yahoo! has to get that back internally, before they can project an external image that attracts the types of people that left, back in the future.

How can they do that?  They have to break a few eggs.  Yahoo! has a lot of talented engineers, why not empower and motivate them to start solving problems?  Yahoo needs to spend a small fortune (how about the $10 million they don't have to pay Bartz for disparaging them?) on an all-hands event that expresses their appreciation for their current employees,  rallies the troops, forces product managers to experiment on their products and ends with announcing a new initiative that rewards and allows individuals to incubate Yahoo!'s future products.  Then, hold a small-group Hackathon, see what floats to the top and support the most promising projects.  Then, hold the hackathons every month (keep them themed.  One month is new features for existing products, then mobile, then deals, then whatever) and keep supporting the best projects.  That will build morale, buzz and excitement & that's what'll attract others to Yahoo!.  Oh yeah, you'll probably get some great products / features out of it too (and don't forget to tip your innovators).

Kinda sounds like a place I'd like to work.



  

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