• September 8, 2009

    Peanut Butter Manifesto author, Brad Garlinghouse to join AOL

    The person who first sounded public alarm bells at Yahoo!, former Sr. Vice President Brad Garlinghouse, was recently hired by AOL as President of Internet and Mobile Communications. Answerable to CEO Tim Armstrong, Garlinghouse enters AOL in what appears to be a resurgent period for the once (and future?) Internet powerhouse. Tapped to head AOL's team in Mountain View, Garlinghouse will immediately take over AOL's popular instant messenger application and email system. He will also head up the west coast offices of AOL Ventures, the venture capital division of AOL. Garlinghouse was the author of the November 2006 memo, The Peanut Butter Manifesto. Conveniently leaked to the Wall St. Journal around the same time it was mass forwarded throughout Yahoo!'s then enormous executive team, the Peanut Butter Manifesto marked the beginning of this long and depressive phase of Yahoo!'s corporate history. When publicly published, the Peanut Butter Manifesto caused a wave of analysis of Yahoo!'s business, direction and planning. The memo identified three specific problems Yahoo! faced as a conglomerate type of corporation.

    1/ "We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. 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."
    2/ "We lack clarity of ownership and accountability. The most painful manifestation of this is the massive redundancy that exists throughout the organization. We now operate in an organizational structure -- admittedly created with the best of intentions -- that has become overly bureaucratic. For far too many employees, there is another person with dramatically similar and overlapping responsibilities. This slows us down and burdens the company with unnecessary costs."
    3/ "We lack decisiveness. Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis."
    The memo went on to suggest several cures to Garlinghouse's dire prognosis. Unfortunately, the only point that appeared to stick was the one calling for "... a radical reorganization". Yahoo! experienced several re-orgs in the 2.5 years following the leak of the memo. History shows, those re-orgs did not work. Garlinghouse's manifesto ended on an upbeat note which could easily apply to his new position as it did to his former one.
    We may have fallen down, but the race is a marathon and not a sprint. I don't pretend that this will be easy. It will take courage, conviction, insight and tremendous commitment. I very much look forward to the challenge. So let's get back up. Catch the balls. And stop eating peanut butter.
    Best of luck to him in his new (AOL) Venture(s).