By: David Armano
"I've heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.
I hate peanut butter. We all should."
So said Brad Garlinghouse (allegedly), a Yahoo senior vice president, according to the WSJ where a copy of the full "peanut butter manifesto" can be found. If you don't have a subscription, go here. The memo was written in mid November. Instead of writing about the recent re-org which Yahoo! announced, I thought it would be interesting to take look at the memo again.
"We have lost our passion to win. Far too many employees are "phoning" it in, lacking the passion and commitment to be a part of the solution. We sit idly by while -- at all levels -- employees are enabled to "hang around". Where is the accountability? Moreover, our compensation systems don't align to our overall success. Weak performers that have been around for years are rewarded. And many of our top performers aren't adequately recognized for their efforts."
This part in particular really sticks with me. Pun intended. Passion is lost when you spread anything too thin. Brad spends some time talking about a business strategy which tries to do everything and does nothing exceptionally well—resulting in frustrated, unproductive and less than engaged employees:
"As a result, the employees that we really need to stay (leaders, risk-takers, innovators, passionate) become discouraged and leave. Unfortunately many who opt to stay are not the ones who will lead us through the dramatic change that is needed."
I think Brad touches something that all companies need to be wary of. Spreading your employees too thin—especially the passionate, effective ones who throw themselves in their work and perform. The end result can be the same. At some point they'll become overworked, frustrated and tired of picking up the slack. Ultimately, they'll lose passion and leave.
Now let's take a look at Brad's solution (and isn't it great that he offered up one?):
1. Focus the vision.
2. Restore accountability and clarity of ownership.
3. Execute a radical reorganization.
You'll have to read the entire memo for the details but the theme of the solution is change. Change at all levels. A re-focusing of doing what Yahoo! is good at and excelling in those areas. A change in culture that rewards performers and weeds out low performers"
"My view is that far too often our compensation and rewards are just spreading more peanut butter. We need to be much more aggressive about performance based compensation. This will only help accelerate our ability to weed out our lowest performers and better reward our hungry, motivated and productive employees."
Now think about this memo which some speculate is directly ties to the recent re-org. Was this directed at share holders or was it a genuine move to publicly admit that there is a problem, and to call for change? In other words, was this transparency?
"I love Yahoo! I'm proud to admit that I bleed purple and yellow. I'm proud to admit that I shaved a Y in the back of my head."
To me this sounds like the plea of someone who loves what they do and the company they work for—and they couldn't sit on the sidelines of political correctness as they helplessly watched it go down a dangerous path. I could be totally wrong, but after reading the memo I think Brad was urging his fellow Yahoo-ers! to re-discover the passion they once knew and the greatness that comes with it. So with the news that Yahoo! is making some big changes, I hope they re-discover themselves and what made them great in the first place.