Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

April 22, 2016

Yahoo's Fatal Mistake 

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success Yahoo's Fatal MistakeGiven recent press reports, it’s somewhat eye-popping to recall the near-adulation that accompanied Marissa Mayer’s initial appointment as CEO at Yahoo (YHOO). I’ve nothing whatsoever against Ms. Mayer, but the truth is, it was obvious from the get-go that she didn’t have the leadership style necessary to turn around a failing behemoth. Why? Because of a consistent category error in the tech industry: mistaking a brilliant Processor (the last thing Yahoo needed) for a Visionary (precisely what Yahoo needed). And just like Yahoo’s co-founders, Jerry Yang and David Filo, Ms. Mayer is precisely that – a brilliant Processor. Perfect if what Yahoo needed was more systems and processes, but not good given what it actually needed was a vision and inspirational leadership. In fact, as I predicted in 2011 – even before Ms. Mayer had been chosen for the job – it was likely the board would choose a Processor, and that not only would the appointee fail, the mis-hire would in all likelihood presage the end of Yahoo. Why so? Because of another repeatable pattern, this one not restricted to the tech industry: A previous Visionary leader (in Yahoo’s case Carol Bartz) leads so aggressively that she burns off many of her colleagues, leaves amid acrimony, and a ticked-off board turns to a Processor as successor. And now we’ve seen the result. Yahoo has slid inexorably from Treadmill (the already over-bureaucratized state it was in when Ms. Mayer first arrived) into The Big Rut. And we know that once in The Big Rut, there is no escape. Never mind Ms. Mayer being toast – expect the acquisition and / or breakup of Yahoo any day now.

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  1. Spot on (as usual), Les. Our lens on the world has a major impact in the way we interpret the current reality, so Processors tend to see and be drawn to other Processors. A diversity of perspectives would have helped Yahoo! enormously, but I agree that the end game is at hand.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Joe! Yes, it’s too bad that Yahoo doubled down on taking the company toward the path of more process. Hopefully others in the tech industry will learn from Yahoo’s mistake before they repeat it. ~Sarah, Community Manager, Predictable Success

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