I woke up this morning and took a walk around Tsim Sha Tsui. I took some pictures and got some exercise. I'm trying to ward of a cold that is desperately trying to take over my Hong Kong trip.
I plopped myself down in a Starbucks and got ready to write about urban planning, walkability and Kowloon when ... no USB cable for the camera.
Lucky for me it's an historic day. Today is the day of the Peanut Butter manifesto - when, willingly or not, Yahoo! open-sourced their business strategy.
I've written quite a bit about Yahoo! and how I thought it lacked coherence. Bard Garlinghouse writes a small memo, which I choose to believe was intentionally leaked. I choose to believe that because I want to believe that Yahoo! is smart. Leaking this is smart. They get tons of free advice from bloggers - many of whom have started companies, worked on problems like this, and have valuable input.
I humor myself by joining these ranks.
We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone. We've known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it. We are scared to be left out. We are reactive instead of charting an unwavering course. We are separated into silos that far too frequently don't talk to each other. And when we do talk, it isn't to collaborate on a clearly focused strategy, but rather to argue and fight about ownership, strategies and tactics.
The being frightened part is true. Being a major player doesn't feel good enough when the other major players gang up on you. Yahoo! needs to understand that they are already huge, already have brand recognition, already have great products.
Yahoo! seems to need to be taken out for a walk in the park, with a reassuring hug and "You're a good person, Yahoo! Really you are."
As far as reactive, Google just bought YouTube for $1.65 billion precisely to stop Yahoo! from buying it. It was an ill-advised purchase made by a company that is equally reactive, but currently loaded with Yahoo!'s previous hubris. But that, to me, says Yahoo! is still perceived as a threat by Google and Google is willing to spend a whole lot of money to neutralize that threat.
This can make Yahoo! feel attacked, but I'd suggest they feel worthy of attack.
Brad also says:
Equally problematic, at what point in the organization does someone really OWN the success of their product or service or feature? Product, marketing, engineering, corporate strategy, financial operations... there are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it's not clear if anyone is in charge. This forces decisions to be pushed up - rather than down. It forces decisions by committee or consensus and discourages the innovators from breaking the mold... thinking outside the box.
I have no idea what he's talking about here. He seems to be calling for centralization and decentralization simultaneously. And, I'm sorry, people should be caned for saying "thinking outside the box."
Here would be my suggestion for enterprise-wide empowerment of Yahooligans:
1. Create an internal wiki or similar group decision making tool.
2. Create a game wherein everyone in the company devises the perfect unifying vision of Yahoo
3. Let the game refine the vision
4. Be in awe at the resulting vision
5. Let the Vision become CEO
6. Ask the staff, "what do you want to work on?"
7. Balance time between what team members want to work on and some assigned tasks that no one wanted to work on.
8. Keep the vision fresh and in focus
9. Set an aggressive and slightly unreasonable schedule.
10. Almost make the schedule.
Ownership is bullshit. Ownership is fleeting. Ownership, centralized in one person, creates politics.
Yahoo! staff, for the most part, want the company to succeed, they want a mission, and they want to play their part.
That is true ownership.
I could list what I think the vision for Yahoo! should be. In fact, I have very strong feelings about it. I also truly believe that if Yahoo! can do this, they will make Google look like a chaotic upstart and Microsoft look like a sluggish elitist.
Yahoo! can do it.
But Greg is right when he notes:
We lack decisiveness. Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis.
Yahoo!'s internal politics lead to apathy. Obtaining a decision is much more cumbersome than going to get some coffee and ignoring the inspiration.
The inclination of Yahoo! will be to get consultants to make a top-down approach to overhauling the organization. Yahoo! has a great crowd from which to derive wisdom. Yahoo! needs to live up to their "!" and make overhauling the company part of the game.
And, you know what Greg, you do that and you won't have to worry about this one:
3. Execute a radical reorganization
a) The current business unit structure must go away.
b) We must dramatically decentralize and eliminate as much of the matrix as possible.
c) We must reduce our headcount by 15-20%.
These problems will sort themselves out through the process. If headcount is truly an issue, go with attrition. But if you have a good vision and it is honestly owned by the membership, your productivity will increase, profitability will increase and the headcount will be necessary.
I must say, though, having that as a bullet point in the leaked manifesto sure is going to make a healthy process more challenging.
Lastly, some will notice that my suggested process is somewhat like the Google business model. The main difference here is it's more democratized. There should be no Brin/Page box at the top of the org chart.
The org chart should be a perfect network which, when viewed from a distance, is the shape of the vision.
Hmm, is it any wonder that my solution would be to make Yahoo! a self-governing community?
Written at the Star House Starbucks in Kowloon, Hong Kong with Windows Live Writer.