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Incredible Foolishness at Yahoo

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When ex-Google executive Marissa Mayer took the reigns as the new CEO of Yahoo!, I was rooting for her. But a memo leaked this week makes it look like her plan is to run the company into the ground.

Mayer had everything going for her when she took office. She is the first person to head the company since 2009 who actually had a technical background. (Seriously, look it up. Mayer has a masters in Computer Science from Stanford.)

She’s also young. Born in 1975, she’s currently the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Mayer is also a woman in a field dominated by men. And famously, she took the job knowing she was pregnant.

Everything looked good. Mayer came from a company known for brilliant employees and a positive culture. So this smiling face was supposed to what would save Yahoo from destroying itself:

Marissa Mayer

However, the first hint that Marissa Mayer might not be best choice surfaced in September. I blogged about her process improvement strategy:

Marissa Mayer, the new boss at Yahoo, has a new strategy for catapulting the company forward. According to one source, her plan is to set expectations impossibly high and dismiss people unwilling to meet them.

This scenario [potentially] highlights a lack of judgment in management. She has indirectly told her workers that they are unqualified. She is also establishing a precedent as someone who refuses to trust an estimate at face value.

If the employees accept the challenge, the result will be exhaustion and probably failure. If another group steps up—who knows less about the project because it wasn’t their idea—the result will likely be exhaustion and failure.

It wasn’t clear at the time if the story was 100% true. But a recent leaked memo (courtesy AllThingsD) from reveals a surprising turn:


Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more productive, efficient and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.

Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to come.

It’s hard to know where to begin. Yahoo is supposed to be a technology company. It’s a bit hard to know for certain. One blogger has been tracking their mission and vision statement, which has changed over twenty times since they started. But here’s what it seems to be, from Yahoo’s own materials:

Yahoo! is the premier digital media company.

Yahoo! creates deeply personal digital experiences that keep more than half a billion people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the globe. That’s how we deliver your world, your way…

Doesn’t seem like they should be requiring that people be in the office, does it?

Should a company famous for connecting people to each other no matter where they are in the world require people to drive into the office?

Should an organization whose goal has been to use the latest communication and collaboration technology be one that depends on random cafeteria conversations?

Should a company trying to invent the future get stuck in the thinking of the past?

I don’t think so. Marissa Mayer, this is your wake-up call.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


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