Marissa Mayer and her leadership team at Yahoo! made news (and waves) last week by announcing to all the Yahoo’ers that the Company was abandoning the typical tech staffing model of “distance working” (whether home-based or alternate geography-based) and returning all employees to the Mothership/Hive model of old. Widely criticized as anti-progressive, anti-parent, Neanderthal command and control, retrograde leadership — I completely disagree and think she made absolutely the right call.
“You can’t change what you don’t understand….”
Yahoo is a broken company — and Job #1 is to get the Company turned around and re-positioned for success. To do this Marissa needs everyone on her team to see the same challenges, embrace the same changes and execute against the same plan. That just can’t happen either fast, or well, with folks scattered all over the place marching to echos of old, or orders they make up on their own. It’s a lot easier to fire up the troops and set out to take a new hill when everyone is starting from the same spot at the same moment with the same battle cry. It all starts with getting everyone on the same page.
“Chemistry is something that happens between people…” Lars Ulrich Metallica
Stone and flint have to rub together to create sparks. “Tele-engagement” may be likable, productive and even cost-effective but it’s neither innovative nor exciting (Admit it — we’ve all found ourselves banging our heads on our desks during long, painful conference calls). For Yahoo!, normal isn’t coming back — and Marissa is smart enough to know that the organization needs a nurturing but collective kick in the head — and butt. Come together, feel the buzz, be excited about who you work with and what we’re doing, collaborate on the fly — that’s what the new normal needs to become. We need to change and we need to change now.
“R&D is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing…” Wernher Von Braun
Every company needs to feed R&D. The problem with R&D though, is that it needs to be balanced with relentless execution — and I don’t just mean doing the appropriate things the proper way — I mean the breathless stampede of a large committed army running 100 miles per hour with their hair on fire determined to build weapons to stick in the sides of the heads of the competitors before those folks come and steal our kid’s Cheerios. In a world of unlimited resources everything gets done — but with resource constraints come resource re-allocation and re-prioritization. Marissa may not yet know whether she needs to spend more or spend less — but she surely knows Yahoo! needs to spend different — with money, time, talent and technology. Calling everyone back to Mecca helps reset the bar on what’s necessary and what’s not.
“We didn’t work this hard to get where we are today, we worked this hard to get where we’re going next”
Yahoo! is starting over — taking what’s been built and pointing the Company in a new direction. Everything that everyone has done is appreciated and celebrated — but it’s gut check time. Marissa is telling the entire workforce that its time to re-sign up or step off the train. What’s most important to her is doing whatever is necessary to regain Yahoo’s greatness. If that’s not what’s most important to each and every Yahoo! associate — then that’s OK — but she’s going to leave you behind. In some ways, having the associates “clock back in physically” is the table ante to figure out who wants to stick around and play the next hand.
In many ways, I think this is a brilliant move and message.
Thanks Doug. I spent the week reading and thinking about the brouhaha created over this event. I didn’t consider the context like you did which, of course, made sense. Our company became completely virtual almost one year ago. Yes, working remotely has tremendous benefits but it does have its limitations and downsides (Another discussion perhaps?). It may be that the of art of leading a virtual company will precipitate the next iteration of management books, courses, conferences, etc. All on line of course.
Well said. Doug I’m pretty sure the proper credit on the “We didn’t work this hard to get where we are…” quote belongs to you… At least that’s who I attributed to in the past when I’ve re-quoted it. Pretty certain I heard it when you were telling us at CPS to take 5 minutes to celebrate CPS becoming a $Billion revenue company, but that there was but a milestone…. Good times!