Changing Direction Unlike Yahoo!

This past week, comedian Professor Irwin Corey celebrated his 102nd birthday. Happy birthday, Professor!

I once played in a big band that was the house band for a show he headlined at old Sheraton Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. His language got to be too coarse for the audience and his microphone was turned off soon after he started. He couldn’t believe that this happened.

I was reminded of a Corey line:

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we are going.”

How many companies, systems, processes and people are caught up in a less-than desirable state and seem paralyzed to take action to correct the deficiencies?

Let’s look at Yahoo! The company has been in the doldrums for years. New leadership and the board seemed to be unable to change direction and, as Corey states, they “ended up where they were going.” Off a bit of a cliff I’d say. I’m not sure a Microsoft acquisition would have significantly altered the trajectory other than to eliminate the board of directors.

Yahoo saw itself as a technology company. While it offered technology and was built on technology, it really wasn’t a technology company. And, I’d argue this is why the leadership team which came from technology wasn’t able to cross the chasm. And, so, it continued in a death spiral until Verizon swept in to buy it in a fire sale for about $5 billion.

Yahoo was never really able to answer the fundamental question, “Why are we in business?” Instead, it had a portfolio of technology companies that never took off and failed to realize their potential. Yahoo spent a lot on acquisitions but that yielded little benefit.

Those of us here in Silicon Valley knew that if Yahoo didn’t change direction, they’d end up where they were going. And, they arrived. It has been like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

Now, Yahoo will be a holding company with Alibaba in their portfolio. Not much excitement there.

Thought for the week:

“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” – Seth Godin

What do you think? I welcome your comments! Dave Gardner

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