- 3. Tolerating a Non-Performance Culture
It's obvious that every company has a unique culture. No one working there would be able to tell you step-by-step how it was created, and yet they all live and breathe it every day. The best cultures give that company an amazing advantage vs. its peers. The worst cultures hang around the company's neck and are next to impossible to shake. "When I first started at Yahoo!, people cared. They'd challenge you if they disagreed. That changed," said one ex-employee. Another added, "Transparency about problems or mistakes used to be rewarded. Not anymore. There were some people who made mistakes and ended up getting promoted." Over time, it appears most employees stopped pushing for the changes they wanted to see. When they tried and it fell on deaf ears, they backed down. "I think a lot of people also knew they wouldn't get similar jobs elsewhere and decided to keep quiet." The tone got set from the top, and it trickled down to permeate the organization.
- 4. Matrix Organizational Structure One of the recommendations that Yahoo!'s consultants made a few years ago was to institute a so-called matrix organizational structure across the company. A matrix structure was popular about 10-15 years ago, especially in engineering-oriented companies. It seeks to overcome the complexity of a large global organization by assigning multiple bosses to employees in different geographies working on similar product or functional tasks. In other words, you report up to two or more bosses -- a product or functional boss and a geographical boss. The intent of a matrix structure is that you understand what your local peers are working on as well as what your functional peers are working on globally. In theory, the company becomes tighter-knit, despite its size. In practice, matrix organizational structures have greatly fallen out of favor in the last five years because they create confusion about who is responsible for certain actions. The "shared" ownership of tasks and projects across multiple groups and bosses means that it's difficult to go back and assign blame for and learn from failures. Whose throat do you choke? "It was hard to point out who specifically was responsible for mistakes because of that," said one former employee. Thankfully, this structure has recently been done away with and products have now been centralized. Combined with the risk-averse culture described above, the legacy of this structure has been deadly for Yahoo!.