Heroic Turnarounds: The US as a Template for Yahoo: Page 2

Posted November 18, 2008

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle

(Page 2 of 2)

In addition to being qualified these people must be loyal to the chief executive. No matter how talented someone is, they have to be able to take orders, otherwise the combined effort of the team will suffer. There is one CEO of a company or a country, and when there is more than one you tend to have an inability to reach timely decisions or execute them sharply when reached.

We should assess Obama’s and Yahoo's yet to be announced teams on the quality and loyalty of the members. For the given tasks assigned to them, do they have the skills to get the job done, and do they have a personal history that suggests they can follow a strong leader?

There is a saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In a turnaround you want folks around you that are trustworthy otherwise too much time is spent keeping them in line and not enough on correcting the massive number of problems a turnaround team has to deal with. The folks at the top don't have to be close friends, but they do need to be loyal to the same leader.


Turnarounds are incredibly complex and if they aren't done in the right order the process can actually reduce the likelihood of success. For the US and Yahoo the primary problems are likely economic and need to be handled first so the organizations have the resources to complete the full set of goals.

The goals, too, need to be well articulated and prioritized so that completing one contributes to the success of the following goals, or at least doesn’t reduce the likelihood for that success.

For instance, the US incentive programs are relatively fast and easy, but if not thought through properly, will only increase the US debt, which forms the basis for what is likely the biggest problem to be solved.

What a successful turnaround executive does is think through the phases and dependencies of the process. For instance, one of the differences between Carly Fiorina's failure and Hurd's success as HP CEOs was Hurd thought through the need to upgrade IT and to create a matrix control organization currently embodied in the office of the CTO. This planning assured HP's success and is one of the primary reasons HP won't be on the list for a bailout this year.

For the US, watch the strategy emerge and think about how it weaves together into a cohesive whole. If it doesn't the Obama presidency will fail; if it does success is more likely. He has been pragmatic in his approach so far and I believe he will do this right but we should take the opportunity to learn from his process regardless.

Wrapping Up: A Bright Future

Often companies and countries run along a path that slowly drops them into obsolescence. And they don’t get a wake-up call, or more accurately doesn't hear it, until it is way too late to do anything about the situation.

Great Britain declined from being the greatest power in the world, and AT&T the most powerful tech company. The original AT&T has been rebuilt almost from scratch and Great Britain is far from their peak.

Both the US and Yahoo have been fortunate, in a way, to receive a massive slap on the face before they were in danger of complete failure. This slap could be enough to motivate both entities into fixing problems that might not have been addressed until they are too late. The end result is a renewed strength and vitality if the efforts are successful.

But, this bright future will depend a lot of the respective turn around teams, the quality of their information, and the execution of a good strategy. It will also depend on the support of all of those connected to the effort and here, in a country or company, disloyalty, even if it is well meaning, can pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Change is a bitch, but to move from where we are to where we need to be we'll have to embrace and drive it. For the folks here in the US and those that work at Yahoo let's hope there are enough heroes driving the needed change to overcome those who will undoubtedly be positioned against it.

You can't avoid the future; it is always up to a few heroes to assure that we will enjoy it. Let's hope the ones we depend on are up to this challenge.

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Tags: Microsoft, Blackberry, HP, Yahoo, netscape

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