Dana Theus: Yahoo, Change, and Cultural Design

Cultural Intelligence
If you somehow missed it, a media frenzy erupted after Yahoo announced that it will bring telecommuters home to the office.

Much of the noise came from the working-mom contingent upset at Marissa Mayer, a new mother and CEO in charge of bringing Yahoo back to life. However, for leaders to learn the true lessons of this brouhaha, we have to look beneath the headlines.

While I don’t hold Mayer accountable for representing the interests of all working moms, it’s fair to hold her accountable for shaping Yahoo’s corporate culture, which is what the move is intended to do. Yahoo’s policy memo made an attempt to explain that ending telecommuting is balanced by other policies designed to give employees perks and streamline the organization.

However, the memo’s greatest irony — which explains perhaps better than any other reason this move might have been necessary — are the words blazing across the top of the leaked memo: “DO NOT FORWARD.”

Maybe the leak was the result of one or two disgruntled employees — The New York Times reported that the memo was aimed at 200 employees — but it still speaks to a culture in need of tightening up.

Yahoo has been tight-lipped about the memo, saying only that the policy isn’t an industry referendum on work-at-home policies. However, sifting through the media-explosion fallout, it’s clear that this is one of many moves by Mayer to bring a more focused corporate culture to Yahoo. That said, it seems pretty ham-fisted. Looking at the memo from the point of view of corporate-culture design, here are some insights that other companies might want to emulate — or not.

Three things Yahoo is doing right

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