Mental Floss

Weekend Word Wrap: what NOT to write, part ii

David K. Israel

In last week's Word Wrap, I poked fun at Lindsay Lohan's letter writing skills. Judging by a couple comments we received, some thought this was just an excuse to slap a racy photo of Lohan up on the blog. Well folks, I'm here to tell you this is simply not the case. If I wanted to slap a racy photo up just for the sake of it, I wouldn't need to soil an entire Word Wrap with it, I'd just put it up willy-nilly, like this:


But the truth is, the letter Lohan wrote fit the feature well, as does today's letter, a recent internal memo from Yahoo! senior vice president, Brad Garlinghouse; proving that a) here at the _floss, we'll expose split infinitives and mixed metaphors no matter what big shot authors "˜em, and b) a half-nude photo isn't a prerequisite for lampooning.

The entire text of Garlinghouse's memo can be found here, and my favorite highlights after the jump.

Yahoo Memo: The 'Peanut Butter Manifesto' November 18, 2006 I proudly bleed purple and yellow everyday! And like so many people here, I love this company But all is not well. Last Thursday's NY Times article was a blessing in the disguise of a painful public flogging. While it lacked accurate details, its conclusions rang true, and thus was a much needed wake up call. But also a call to action. A clear statement with which I, and far too many Yahoo's, agreed. And thankfully a reminder. A reminder that the measure of any person is not in how many times he or she falls down - but rather the spirit and resolve used to get back up. I've heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular. I hate peanut butter. We all should. Equally problematic, at what point in the organization does someone really OWN the success of their product or service or feature? Product, marketing, engineering, corporate strategy, financial operations... there are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it's not clear if anyone is in charge. This forces decisions to be pushed up - rather than down. It forces decisions by committee or consensus and discourages the innovators from breaking the mold... thinking outside the box. [ed. note: with such original word selection, it's clear this guy is a born leader, eh?] There's a reason why a centerfielder and a left fielder have clear areas of ownership. Pursuing the same ball repeatedly results in either collisions or dropped balls. Knowing that someone else is pursuing the ball and hoping to avoid that collision - we have become timid in our pursuit. Again, the ball drops. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis. We have lost our passion to win. Far too many employees are "phoning" it in, lacking the passion and commitment to be a part of the solution. We sit idly by while -- at all levels -- employees are enabled to "hang around". If we get back up, embrace dramatic change, we will win. a) We need to boldly and definitively declare what we are and what we are not. b) We need to exit (sell?) non core businesses and eliminate duplicative projects and businesses. My belief is that the smoothly spread peanut butter needs to turn into a deliberately sculpted strategy -- that is narrowly focused. My view is that far too often our compensation and rewards are just spreading more peanut butter. But we can't achieve this with baby step changes, We need to fundamentally rethink how we organize to win. Independent of specific proposals of what this reorganization should look like, two key principles must be represented: Blow up the matrix. [ed note: Wait! Could Garlinghouse be "the one"??] Empower a new generation and model of General Managers to be true general managers. I love Yahoo! I'm proud to admit that I bleed purple and yellow. [ed note: is there an echo in this memo?] I'm proud to admit that I shaved a Y in the back of my head. So let's get back up. Catch the balls. And stop eating peanut butter.