Here’s Farhad Manjoo’s opening paragraph in his article Transformation at Yahoo Foiled by Marissa Mayer’s Inability to Bet the Farm. I’ve bolded the key line:
It’s not a big surprise that Marissa Mayer has failed to resurrect Yahoo. When the celebrated Google executive took over the web’s most iconic basket case in 2012, the odds were stacked against her. Turning around any company is difficult; turning around a tech company is nearly unheard-of. There’s just one example everyone can think of — Apple — but that effort took nearly a decade to show results, and anyway, if your requirement for success is to be like Steve Jobs, good luck to you.
I think that every now and then we have to go back to the basic of the basics. Here’s the critical question for any and every company — Do you have a product or service that people will pay for (and, the company can make a profit), right now, and in the days/months/years to come?
The problem with turnaround efforts is that sometimes the greatest turnaround artist in history would be unable to succeed at this particular turnaround. Why? Because the company is in trouble because it is selling yesterday’s product or service.
Now, I’m no expert on figuring out when tech companies are poised to grow or poised to die. But that last line in Mr. Manjoo’s paragraph is telling – the list of successful tech company turnarounds is a list of one, and the guy who pulled it off was truly one of a kind.
Let me put it this way. There are a lot of things good leadership and good management and good processes can do to help a company succeed. But, if the product or service is not what people want and will pay for today and for a lot of tomorrows, the best leadership and management and processes won’t do the trick.
In fact, about that Steve Jobs success story: let’s remember that the first thing he did when he came back to Apple and turned it around was to scrap practically all of its products.
And, then, he built the future.