Uber: What Just Happened (and Why They’re About to Blow It)

Jun 20, 2017

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
Uber: What Just Happened

The last few days have effectively handed the car-sharing space to Uber’s competitors. It may take a while – my guess is 24-30 months or so – but expect the market to become increasingly disrupted and for Uber’s market share to markedly decrease.

Why? Not because of the (rightly) much-discussed, much-investigated, much-castigated abysmal working environment there, but because of the company’s proposed solution to that problem.

How Uber Got Here

Let’s recap: Through aggressive marketing and an unsavory leadership culture, Uber had almost reached the holy grail of market dominance: the equivalization (I know, not a word, but you know what I mean) of their company name with their industry’s core activity.

Just as ‘Google’ is now the accepted verb for web-based search (in search of an easy titter? Just suggest someone ‘Bing’ the next thing they’re looking for online), so Uber was within a micron of attaining the same equivalence with ‘calling an Uber’.

Now, after three days of organizational mayhem, I predict that that goal will begin to recede into the rearview mirror faster than a cab driver reversing out of an unsavory alleyway.

What Came Next

First, Uber’s board – themselves under pressure for not acting on reports of sexual harassment and other horrendous cultural misfires – lock themselves away to consider forcing the CEO, Travis Kalanick, into a leave of absence. Except someone leaks the whole protracted discussion to the press.

Next, a prominent (male) board member makes a sexist comment during the company all-hands meeting at which the decision to send Kalanick on garden leave is revealed. (Which is also leaked to the press, leading the board member to resign.)

But then, the coup de grace. Kalanick will indeed leave for three months – and in his place, Uber will be run by a committee of 14 execs.

Huh? Uber – a market-dominating, still-fast-growing, but brittle organization – will be run by committee?

The chance of success with this approach is zero.

Add in the fact that Kalanick, the exiled CEO, isn’t really going away – he’s still CEO, and will undoubtedly be lobbing in his 2 cents from the sidelines.

Listen, co-CEOs alone (essentially a committee of two) are themselves enough to kill any company, let alone a committee of 14. (Oh, and by the way, the proposed committee includes a number of executives who are rumored to have materially contributed to the unconscionable culture inside Uber.)

To be clear, the board are intuitively struggling to do the right thing in terms of attaining Predictable Success – making the difficult move from dark-side heroic leadership to High-Quality, Team-Based Decision-Making (HQTBDM), but handing over the reins to a committee not only isn’t the way to do it, it’s a surefire recipe for disaster.


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