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Three Things Marissa Mayer Should Do Immediately


As a new CEO, you have to define what you want your new company to look like. That means unshackling the company from its history.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Like many folks, I was surprised to hear Marissa Mayer was taking over as CEO of Yahoo (YHOO). Not because I didn't think she was capable of being a CEO, but because it's Yahoo. This one move alone pretty much makes her the equivalent of Larry Brown in the NBA of tech companies.

With that being said, I immediately thought of three things I'd want to do right away if I were her:

1. It's your company now. Act like it. This sounds pretty simple, but given what Yahoo is now and the history of what it once was, this might be tougher than you think. As companies age and grow larger, they all tend to take on some common traits; internal fiefdoms emerge, products and processes that worked "way back when" are clung to, and there are layers and layers of approvals and vettings you must go through only to be told you need more approvals and vettings.

But as a new CEO, you have to define what you want your new company to look like. That means unshackling the company from its history.

Everything from its business model (Chris Dixon gave a good description in 7 Takes on the Marissa Mayer Pregnancy 'Issue' From Investing Experts) to its "peoplecentric" issues like work location, work hours, and how performance is measured, should be up for grabs. Because too many observers believe the current way of doing things isn't working. The board has to recognize this and so do the shareholders.

So if Yahoo shareholders or board member don't give you the latitude to put her imprint on the company, who will you give that latitude to, and when? Yahoo was started as an "us, everywhere, forever" company. But it's operating in a "me, here, now" world, which kind of dovetails to item 2.

2. Be prepared to fire people. In fact, be prepared to fire lots of people. That might sound harsh in this economy, but the fact of the matter is, Yahoo today is not the company it started out as.

Yahoo began as a search company, but it has become something much, much different. Between acquisitions of companies like Flickr that have amounted to next to nothing, to product and engineering talent being driven away in droves, you can't feel really good about how things have been managed on a day-to-day basis. That doesn't mean there isn't good talent there, but I sense that good talent is buried under a lot of lower, lower middle, middle, upper middle, and upper upper middle management.

Good talent has to be elevated and liberated. The key is finding out who that is inside the company and jettisoning the rest. And speaking of jettisoning, that takes me to my last item.

3. Start with the homepage. I'm not a UI/UX person. I can't even say I played one on TV. But I took this screen shot of Yahoo's homepage. It was like a timewarp. 2002 called and it wants its web page back. Because despite of the updated tech and some new products, I'm not sure if this page has changed all that much structurally in a long time:

There are so many links on the page you will probably forget what you came there for.

So, Marissa Mayer, will you be able to turn Yahoo around the way Larry Brown di with the Detroit Pistons? Or will this end the way Brown's time with the Charlotte Bobcats ended -- with dashed hopes and a mid-season departure?

We're about to find out. But win, lose, or draw, it's nice to see someone putting something on the line again, taking a risk on something bigger than themselves. While I didn't root for any teams Brown coached in the NBA, I'll be rooting Mayer on at Yahoo. In fact, I think some part of all of us will be.

Twitter: @japhychron
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