Friday, September 6, 2013

The Reign of Mayer

This is a short entry, written simply because I feel a need to document this beyond the 140 character limit on Twitter.

Marissa Mayer is great at being a reactionary leader.  She's stirred things up a bit, to be sure, but the vast majority of her work has revolved around correcting problems at Yahoo.  I am fairly certain you'll arrive at a similar conclusion after reading the very detailed and in depth history about her that was published by Business Insider a few weeks ago. 

Immediately after reading that, however, I wanted to author this but it slipped through the cracks.  This may have been to my benefit, though, given the brouhaha that has sprung up over the choice of a new company logo. Let's face it, folks:  this is a logo consisting of a five letter word followed by an exclamation point.  The most interesting thing about it is the color purple.  Why is so much attention being given to this when there isn't much difference between the proposed new logos and the existing logo?

The answer, described in the article, is that she's ultimately a researcher type.  She thrives on details, data, and the smallest minutiae.  I know the type well since I am the same type of thinker.  When I started my career at the awesome T. J. Watson Research Center I was encouraged to think outside the box but to be sure to always tie my work back to some business initiative, and that required approaching my work from every possible angle to ensure it was justified and had a high probability of generating revenue.  It's taken me a long time and a lot of effort to overcome this in order to allow me to view things from the perspective of having a longer timeline to acquire a return on whatever it is I am investing in.

So my question posed to my hypothetical audience of the Yahoo board is this:  why did you hire a COO when a CEO is needed?  I understand that Yahoo was in extraordinarily bad shape at the time and that good execution trumps a great plan, but sooner or later you will run out of things to correct and will have to demonstrate thought leadership if you want to regain the glory from days of old.  This is where I think your plan will fail, Yahoo.  With all due respect to what she's managed to accomplish in her relatively short tenure at the helm, the day is rapidly approaching when your shareholders are going to demand a greater ROE that is unattainable by correcting operational problems, and it'll be very evident on your Income Statement. 

Is this, perhaps, some conspiracy plot to correct things in the short term only to jettison her when a more strategic plan of action is ready to be started?  Who knows, but time will reveal the answer.

Thoughts?  Comments?

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