Kara Swisher

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Amid Worries About Strategery, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson Tries to Soothe the Savaged Troops (Memo Time!)

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, who has developed a tough-talk reputation within Yahoo of late, went all sweet — well, less crabby, I guess — the day after the layoffs in which 2,000 employees were fired.

After dressing down top execs the night before the cuts by telling them the bad situation was due to their poor performance as leaders, his internal letter to the troops was also a bit cut-and-dried, with the not-very-sympathetic admonishment, “change is never easy.”

Not exactly what someone who just got their pink slip — or saw a close colleague get axed — likes to hear!

Today, Thompson opted to go with the softer side of Scott, in an internal memo I obtained titled “time to move forward.” It includes a promise to deliver a real strategic plan next week at an “All Hands” meeting. (I have previously reported that he was rolling out a new structure next week.)

Yahoo’s activist shareholder Third Point admonished Thompson yesterday for not having such a plan in place before making such widespread layoffs, which shed 14 percent of the workforce from the Silicon Valley Internet giant.

“While this action was unfortunately necessary and widely expected, Third Point, Yahoo!’s largest outside shareholder, is disappointed that this round of cuts occurred before CEO Scott Thompson has articulated his strategic plan for the Company,” it wrote in a letter (embedded below). “Shareholders deserve a management team and board who have a vision and strategic plan.”

Internally, there was also a lot of grumbling over the lack of a vision before the layoffs and worries that Thompson does not have a clear path for Yahoo.

“It’s like going into war and killing a big chunk of troops right before, without a plan in place about how to win,” said one person, in a common sentiment I heard from employees. “Everyone left feels shell-shocked and with no direction.”

In recent meetings about various options, including selling off a variety of Yahoo’s businesses, the former president of eBay’s PayPal payments unit has focused on a range of ideas, especially adding more commerce and data to the mix.

Apparently, all will be revealed next week, in what Thompson called “comprehensive plans for Yahoo!’s future.”

Thompson also did a little cheerleading:

“We can do this. We will do this! One thing I’ve heard repeatedly since I got here is that everyone wants to win again…I have seen big turnarounds before, and this company has the foundation, the spirit, the backbone, and the creativity to get it done,” he wrote. “Personally, I can’t wait to get moving.”

That’s good, because shareholders and employees have been waiting a long time for any forward momentum at Yahoo.

Here’s the memo below in its entirety:

From: Scott Thompson
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 1:15 PM
To:
Subject: time to move forward…

Yahoos –

This was a tough week. Thank you all for supporting each other through a difficult time.

As hard as big changes like this can be, I was encouraged to hear support from so many of you who really understand our need to operate differently. That said, I also know many of you still have a lot of questions about where we’re headed and how fast we can get there. I shared a few thoughts in my note earlier this week and you’ll hear more at our All Hands next week.

We deliberately separated this week’s employee action from next week’s discussion of our strategy. The reason was simple: we felt it was only fair and respectful to those who are leaving and transitioning to take care of each of them before turning to our future.

Starting next week we will begin looking forward and our All Hands is just the beginning. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me and other leaders about our comprehensive plans for Yahoo!’s future. The immediate next step for all of us is to get clear on our goals, and then take action and move.

There’s a lot to do and that’s why I can’t stress enough that we all need to focus on getting stuff done. Getting stuff done is short hand for eliminating bureaucracy and barriers so we can all innovate as fast as our customers and the industry require. That’s pretty fast.

Our users want fun, informative, engaging experiences on all screens that they feel were designed just for them. Advertisers want it to be much easier to work with us and they want measurable ROI on their spending. We can do all that. But we won’t win by talking about the opportunity. We’ll win by putting our customers first, creating high-quality experiences, and iterating on them quickly. Great user and advertiser experiences are what will ignite excitement around our brand and get us growing again.

You’ll receive the official invite to our All Hands shortly and we want to know what’s on your mind in advance. If you have questions before we meet next week, please check Backyard for information and answers to your questions. If you don’t see the answers, please post questions on Backyard, or you can email questions directly to the leadership team.

We can do this. We will do this! One thing I’ve heard repeatedly since I got here is that everyone wants to win again. There is so much passion for Yahoo! — for what it was and for what we all believe it can be. Even after all you’ve been through, there’s a hard core crew of Yahoos who believe in this company and in its ability to thrive. I have seen big turnarounds before, and this company has the foundation, the spirit, the backbone, and the creativity to get it done.

Personally, I can’t wait to get moving.

Scott

And here’s the Third Point letter from yesterday:

TP April 4 Statement

Finally, here is a video of a “Reporters’ Roundtable” I did last week on CNET:


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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald