How any large company can blow it.

Fred Vogelstein’s article in Wired, How Yahoo Blew It, is a must read. It remains to be seen whether Yahoo can recover from it’s various mess ups, very pithily called a “clusterfuck” by a Yahoo insider. I hope they do recover because we need more than one strong player in search.

But it is a must read because the mistakes Yahoo made could be made by any large company. Endless meetings, inability to actually get stuff done, begging thirty different constituents to approve a project that is critical, idiots with little power exercising it to protect their own turf, people thinking of their groups first – the company second, endless presentations on the same topic… I could go on and on.

So, how do you get around this? I think the issue here is one of prioritization. Why didn’t Semel tell everyone that Panama was the most important project for the company? Why did the Panama team have to beg the homepage team to test placement?

In every company’s life, there will be a few moments where they must win – must be first to market, must get things done quickly with a great product. It is the CEO’s job to be able to identify these situations (Semel seems to have) and then ensure that execution is not bogged down due to the size and politics of the company (he clearly failed here). Even after Weiner was put in charge, there seem to have been several hurdles. The project should have been rammed through like everyone’s life depended on it.

But, culture and politics are very hard to fix. And in the end, that may be the reason they don’t recover.

Link via: Brad Feld

  • The problem with yahoo is not that it did too little – it did too much and ended up caving under the weight of its own portfolio. It just – wanted to be everyone at the same time – content provider, search king, portal monarch, job shop, tax advisor, ISP (??, pop vending machine ad infinitum. Probably sticking to what it did best (being the starting block for users on the web) could have been the best tonic for all these problems. Google took the opposite route – worked really hard at being the best in one arena (search) that drove users to look into alternative (though eminently forgettable) offerings from Google. You are right – Yahoo had no singular definitive killer app that uprooted the world off its axis – it just tried being the Jack of a million trades.

  • All I’ll say is that I lived the birth and gestation of Panama, and I left Yahoo in 2005.

  • Shripriya

    Oh, come on, Forth Ump, give us some good info. No one will know – this blog only has imaginary readers!

  • Yahoo is a terrific company. Its easy to write articles and blog posts saying they blew it – after the sky becomes clear after the web2.0 metoo clouds move away, yahoo’s efforts will become visible and clear.

    Yahoo has done only one mistake so far : not buying out disney in 99 when they had the market cap to do so. not buying google was not a mistake: that could never have happened.

  • Shripriya

    @ DrDoubt – clearly, Yahoo has a lot of stuff going for it. However, my post was as much about how *any* large company can let the sheer size (and issues that come with that size) let an opportunity pass it by and I used Yahoo as an example to prove that point.

    The thing they messed up was the launch of Panama, not passing on Google. I am sure we can all agree that it would have been in their best interest to have had it a long time ago.