Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hello, goodbye

Yesterday, the CEO of a fast growing fashion site, Polyvore, (which the team at Plumwillow closely watches) announced she was leaving the Company. She led the organization for all of 7 months.

Well connected and experienced in managing fast growing operations, on paper she must have been an ideal fit. As was the former president of Google's Asia/Pac and Latin American operations she must have been vetted by such well respected Polyvore VC's as Matrix and Benchmark, it makes you wonder how did this happen?

I've made this type of mistake before too. In my case, the error was in placing too much emphasis on background and experience, and not enough weight on fit with the current culture and team. I have found that when an 'outsider' is brought into a leadership role in a fast growing situation, it's so tempting to come with a perspective that the growth is 'in spite of doing so much wrong'. Rather than embracing the things that are going well, arch focus is turned to being a change agent. Lacking context, this can be a dangerous approach to having the founding team follow your vision and execution. It leads to a growing cancer which must be excised. Either the founders, or the new recruit must go.

In Apple's case, they fired Steve Jobs. Eric Schmidt deserves great kudos for navigating this dynamic at Google. John Shirley did the same at Microsoft.

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