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The Yahoo Culture Chicken Clash

Cock Fight Lots of attention about Yahoo's new CEO, Marissa MayerFamous journalists tell us she plans to improve the culture of Yahoo. She already fired her Chief of HR to kick start the culture change.  Brought in a new Chief of HR who started this past week ( Say Hello to Jacqueline Reses). What advice do you have for Jacqueline and Marissa?  Let's start with questions.  Here are my first 2...

1. How many chickens have the 2 of you ate in your lifetime?

2. Describe the culture of Yahoo?

Both questions are fuzzy.  Both require guesses.  Lots of guesses on the culture part because both, Marissa and Jacqueline, are new at Yahoo.  Not sure about the chicken question.  Depends on their diet I guess.  But back to culture.  Many people at Yahoo will need to give input.  About 10 of them should get in a room.  Talk, then draw and write what it looks like.  Draw the current, not desired picture.  Once finished. Honor it. Honor the strengths and weaknesses of it.

Perhaps Yahoo people are good at process.  Describe the behaviors involved with being good at process.  Perhaps Yahoo people get things done at ad hoc meetings or non-company sponsored events.  Describe the behaviors that go on at these meetings.  Honor this. This is the current of the river.  Marissa and her degrees from famous universities CAN NOT change this.  Many a good man or woman have died trying.

Instead.  Marissa lay out the new behaviors you want.  You and your people will suck at these new behaviors.  Most likely you are extreme type A and want to be perfect at everything you do.   You will want to do these new behaviors perfect the first time.  Just like learning a new language. You will stumble on your face and look bad.  You will be exposed and feel stupid.  Once you accept this, you can change this.

Yahoo needs to create something big to bring us to their site.  Don't know about you, but I cancelled my yahoo email address years ago.   I barely use their Yahoo Finance page or Flickr (photo credit above: Roberto Trm).  Marissa will be asking her people to create new products.  This is the new behavior part I mentioned above.  Anyone involved with new products will have to accept failure.  Learn and get better.  No checking it over and over before you test it.  Learn it. Do it. Then learn what you did.  Repeat. Laugh if you can.

Marissa needs to lay out 3-5 behaviors she wants to change in the first 6 months.  Tell her team, husband, new baby, friends and social media followers about it.  Then do a 5 year and 10 year lay out.  Hell go for a 20 year layout, Marissa.  You are young.  You have enough road ahead of you to see that.

If Jacqueline the HR Pro is any good... she will figure out how HR technologies can help communicate and share these behavioral changes.  Find or use current software for on-going recognition, coaching and feedback.  Do not rely quartely meetings to communicate the change.  That is almost as effective as using your family reunions as a way to change some of your racist family members views and behaviors.  Make sure your people are working on stuff that fires them up.  This will keep them motivated.  As part of your talent management strategy, make people want to come work for you.

Lastly.  We in #HR know this change makes the current people at Yahoo afraid to change.  Too many demons in their past.  Other people think they will lose their jobs. New people will be hired to take over the world.  It is a culture clash with free lunch and engineers armed with iPhones and Droids.  So you are the HR Pro at Yahoo.  What would you tell Marissa and Jacqueline to do? How many chickens have you ate in your lifetime?