Over the last few months, I’ve followed Yahoo’s CEO situation. In January, Yahoo hired Scott Thompson. While he was the CEO, he made major spending cuts and laid of many people as an attempt to bring the company back from financial woes. His approach demotivated the company and created tension between him and the employees. It didn’t take long for his approach to get noticed by the board of directors. In May, Scott was terminated as the CEO as a result of his leadership style and some integrity issues that were brought to light.
Following Scott Thompson’s firing, Ross Levinsohn took over as the interim CEO. Ross Levinsohn continued some of the initiatives that Scott Thompson started. Since he was only the interim CEO, he was replaced by Marissa Mayer in the end of July. Marissa is a very young CEO at 37 years old, but she was the 20th employee at Google where she became one of their top executives at a young age. She has now been challenged to turn Yahoo around. The board of directors is not expecting her to change Yahoo overnight because there are many areas that need to be improved. When she took over, she was told she would have time to make the transition required for the company to be successful.
Since she started, people have been anxiously awaiting the announcement of her big new strategic plan. To put her plan together, she has visited many areas of the company and plans to visit all areas. She wants to have a comprehensive understanding of Yahoo and their core business models. Once she completes a thorough review of the company, she will introduce her strategic plan.
So, what Would You Do As The CEO?
Because I don’t know all the details of the Yahoo situation, I would like this question to be a broad question for what to do as a new CEO. As a new CEO, it would be easy to come in thinking that since the organization was not run properly in the past and you were chosen to take over that you automatically have all the answers. It could be easy to dictate to all the employees what changes you are going to make and demand that they are followed. You could have the threat that if people don’t follow your initiatives, they will be fired. You could even use a few employees as the example and fire them so that everyone knows you are serious. From what I have seen, however, this approach tends to rub employees the wrong way. Employees oftentimes feel that when this method is used, it makes them feel ignorant.
First, I would learn the existing processes by meeting with all departments. I would start with a thorough review of all the existing processes and try to find out the “why?” behind them. To do this, I would approach it in a similar way as Ms. Mayer. I would start out by visiting all the departments to find out what they did, why they did it, and the results of the process. I would ask what problems/challenges resulted from the current processes and what recommendations they had for fixing them. I understand there would be limitations on my ability to get to know everyone within each department depending on the size of the company. I would, however, do my best to understand every department and know how each department interacted with the other departments before I made sweeping changes to the organization.
Second, I would identify the existing focus of the company. Each company has a specific focus. Some companies focus on innovation, while others focus on services that serve the needs of the customers. As I met with the departments, the focus should be made clear. The company’s focus would penetrate every department and determine why and how they did what they did. An example is that if the focus was on safety, the company would probably meet regularly to discuss the hazards of their job and how they could be minimized. They would also spend time and money to make processes more safe.
Third, I would determine what changes were necessary within company and let people know they were the companies biggest asset. Once I learned what each department did, what they felt worked and didn’t work, their recommended fixes, and the overall focus of the company, I would put together a strategic plan to make changes. I would do all I could to improve the processes that needed to be fixed. Where necessary, I would put together committees to focus on eliminating the inefficiencies of each department. I would set specific goals and time lines for completion so the committees would know what was expected of them.
As the committees recommended changes involving personnel, I would let the employees know they were the most important asset of the company and would be treated that way. If there were areas of the company that had too many employees, I would relocate the employees to other areas of the company that needed more resources so they wouldn’t have to be let go. If there weren’t other areas with needs, I would have the employees work to expand what they were doing to make the company more successful. If that didn’t work, I would think of another way to put them to work because the employees are the biggest asset.
Although I only started with three on this post, there would also be other things I would do as I took over as the CEO of the company. What would you do as the CEO? What would your first move be? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!