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(Time to dust off ye olde account again)

This article, while making good points, is written with a slant: to sell a book.

Broadly speaking, Marissa's big weakness is that she's a tad naive. She thinks too logically, and believes that if she has a system in place, it will be followed in spirit by logically-thinking people like herself. This may have worked in Google, because Google was heavily engineer-focused during its early years; but Yahoo is different: it's a (nearly) 20-year old company, with many people who are lifers. They have honed their skills at survival; and as one middle manager put it to me, "I've seen lots of CEOs; she'll also be gone, but I'll still be here". She can come up with the best laid plans; but the middle management will do what it thinks is in its best interest. And they look out for themselves, always.

One of the major reasons why she embarked on the acquihire spree was to do an end-run around these people. She knows that if she has to count on them, she won't get anything done.

This is also why she initiated the 'stack ranking' process. Her goal was noble: to weed out the underperformers. And yes, they did weed out a fair bit of deadwood. But the elephant in the room went untouched: the middle managers. There is no accountability for them! I've seen people join a manager's team and quit (or switch) within months; by any objective evaluation, he should have been fired a long time ago. And yet he survives, because he's been there a long time and knows how to play the game. I have also seen stellar performers quit because their manager was not willing to go to bat for them in the calibration meetings, so they always ended up with "achieves" (which is average, and forms the bulk (70%) of the ratings).

This article cherry picks mistakes; but who amongst us hasn't made a mistake? The HdC hiring was a big mistake, for sure. But once again: she was being naive, and thought he could deliver, when all he was doing was blowing smoke up her ass. She still can't get her mind wrapped around the smoke-and-mirrors that is sales, which is why Sales is still suffering. She needs a powerful, no-holds-barred Sales head, so she can go back to being a Product person.

People in HN can diss her all they want, but I was at a trade show, and half the outfits (startups) I talked to wanted to be bought out by Yahoo. Money talks; and right now she has gob loads of it that'll give her a lot of rope.


I was at Yahoo briefly (8 months, never again !) and middle management at Yahoo was absolutely the problem. A single SVP had 20 VPs and around a 100 Directors and Senior directors most of whom were lifers and 'career bureaucrats'. Less than 1% would be employable at another tech company.

The status quo at Yahoo before Marissa suits them just fine and they will always find ways to twist any effort from the top to their benefit.

QPRs are a classic example. It was intended to weed out under performers, but as the parent comment pointed out, the middle managers were the under performers. So they just made QPR evaluations into a secret, subjective process which they then used as a club to beat engineers who dared oppose them. Worked out pretty well for them, not so well for Yahoo. Anyone who was worth a damn found a new job pretty quickly.

> Broadly speaking, Marissa's big weakness is that she's a tad naive.

Is naiveté something a CEO (of a massive company) should be given a pass on?

" De Castro would leave the company in January 2014. For about 15 months of work, he would be paid $109 million."

Costly mistakes.

But it happens at that level. You can't seriously expect anyone to go through life mistake-free. Look at Google's mistakes, for instance. How much money have they thrown after Google Glass?

If you hire someone that's a borderline con-man and lose $100 million dollars without making the most basic attempts of vetting him for the position, that's not an honest mistake.

> But the elephant in the room went untouched: the middle managers.

Microsoft occasionally does a "flattening" exercise where they go around and reduce the number of managers that exist.

Put a year moratorium on promotions to manager (sucks, existing managers get way overloaded), then a year later do another stack ranking exercise.

The reason to be bought by Yahoo is for the cash, not to be part of Yahoo. And what are the successes for such acquisitions?


I think most of these dates before Mayer took over however.

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