Yahoo, Death By 200 Paper Cuts

Back in April of 2009 when Carol Bartz joined Yahoo as the new CEO, she discussed the challenges of their product portfolio and brining discipline to their product management process.

Techcrunch is now reporting,

In an email to all staff last week, new chief product officer Blake Irving told employees that he would be sending a two page document outlining Yahoo’s overall product strategy moving forward by the end of July. Later employees will be able to dive deeper into a twenty page document, and later still a 200 page detailed product strategy document would be available.

My gut call is that this is not a good sign (yes, I know when the ship is already sinking, it isn’t exactly risky to say it is in trouble).  2 pages is an acceptable length for a strategy document.  I can even buy 20 pages for an in-depth overview of the various parts of the product portfolio strategy.  200 pages?  That to me sounds like death by presentation that most employees will take a pass on.

To use a gardening analogy, when you are overrun with weeds you have to take drastic steps to recover lost ground.  You can’t save everything, so sacrifices must be made and made quickly.  If the plant can be saved you save it,  but this is not a time for nurturing.  What you hope to do is to pick a few hearty plants to focus on and  try to build from there.

Back in 2007, I had a chance to hear Steve Miller speak while he was in the process of trying to turn around the auto part maker, Delphi.  What I remember most from his speech was the sense of urgency he conveyed when talking about his turnaround plan.  He knew that the only way to the save the business was to to take action quickly before it was too late to save any momentum.

I would like to see more action and less presentation coming out of Yahoo.  What does Yahoo stand for?  Which of their many,many products are they going to cut and which one are they going to bet the farm on? What’s going to be the rallying cry to galvanize the organization?

I personally think Yahoo has the resources and the brand equity to make the turnaround happen – plus wouldn’t a comeback from one of the pioneer’s of the Internet make for a great story?  Let’s hope that there is more than talk coming soon!

Photo Credit:  Flickr

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  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I'm not sure if it's an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”

    When determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter's generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can't get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.

  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”nnWhen determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter’s generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can’t get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.

  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”nnWhen determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter’s generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can’t get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.

  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”nnWhen determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter’s generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can’t get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.

  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”nnWhen determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter’s generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can’t get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.

  • Great point about a 200-page strategy document being a bad sign. It reminds me of the story of IBM, where having lots of Powerpoint slides was a source of pride. Then a new CEO came in and said that no presentations can be longer than 6 slides. None. I’m not sure if it’s an urban legend, but I heard the story that the GM of the Austin IBM office was giving his introductory presentation to the new CEO, and he thought the mandate only applied to his subordinates, so he prepared dozens of slides. At slide number 6, the CEO walked up to the projector and turned it off and said “I said six slides and I meant six slides.”nnWhen determining how a business can turn around, I often look back at Porter’s generic strategies. Yahoo can either become cheaper than the competition, more niche-focused than the competition, or differentiate from the competition. They certainly can’t get any cheaper than Google: free. There is not much opportunity that I can see for differentiation, since Google seems ahead of the curve on that. Maybe their only hope is to focus on a niche of customers rather than ALL web surfers. Something like: extra news coverage for news junkies, increased support for online stores for small business owners, etc.