If there ever was an executive onboarding situation that required shocking the existing culture, it’s Dara Khosrowshahi’s onboarding as CEO of Uber. He’s got the personal and corporate experience to do what is required to turn Uber around, and the mandate and the motivation to do just that. Expect him to leverage policies, guidelines and mindsets to drive short, mid and long-term cultural changes respectively.
Per today’s sister article on How To Balance Polices And Guidelines To Prompt Different Levels Of Employee Engagement, polices, guidelines, mindsets, frameworks and processes need to be balanced differently by situation and employee.
Per my earlier article on When And How To Shock An Organization For Its Own Good, Khosrowshahi should follow three steps:
1. Stop the bleeding.
2. Get the detractors out of the way.
3. Start building for the future.
This is where policies and guidelines are going to come into play.
Stop the bleeding
In stopping the bleeding, new polices are going to be Khosrowshahi’s primary tools. He has to change the prompts immediately. But he doesn’t have to invent this from scratch. Just getting Uber’s culture moving to be closer to Expedia’s will go a long way. He should take some of the mindsets and guidelines that people at Expedia live by and implement them as policies at Uber — particularly around how to treat other employees, allies and customers.
Get the detractors out of the way
He should expect some Uber employees to welcome these new policies, some to fight them and some to ignore them. He must require compliance. Giving employees the choice of complying or leaving. This will likely require some very public firing of some non-compliant employees to make the rest of the employees believe how serious Khosrowshahi is about the new policies. This is what is meant by getting the detractors out of the way.
Start building for the future
Building for the future has two parts.
Part I is going to be putting in place some guidelines for how people should act in areas where there is a little more flexibility than the areas for which Khosrowshahi will implement policies. These are important areas to change, just not quite as black and white as the first group. Here Khosrowshahi can allow people to adapt the guidelines to specific situations and help evolve the guidelines over time.
People that don’t follow the guidelines should face some negative consequences, but likely not termination. The guidelines will help change attitudes over the mid-term.
Part II is going to be working through his senior leadership and middle management team to start changing mindsets. This work paves the way for longer-term changes, built on the new policies and guidelines. Eventually, the mindsets may become guidelines. But, at first, they are the basis for discussions — more geared to gaining peoples’ commitment to a shared future than driving immediate change.
This will be hard work
One can only assume that Khosrowshahi and all involved understand how hard it is to make the fundamental culture change required for Uber to survive and how long it will take. Uber’s chances of success are small at best. For it to survive, several things have to take place.
1. Board Confidence. The board must have total confidence in Khosrowshahi and must demonstrate that in everything board members say and do. Of course they can give Khosrowshahi their advice. Of course they must continue to exercise their governance and compliance obligations. But they must let Khosrowshahi lead the cultural change.
2. Confidence in self. Khosrowshahi must create and have confidence in his own change management plan. Of course he’s going to make mistakes. Of course he’s going to adjust as he learns. But if he loses confidence or shows he’s lost confidence, the naysayers will overwhelm him.
3. Get help. Khosrowshahi will need help. If he’s got trusted advisors, consultants, or transition accelerators he’s worked with before, he should not hesitate to bring them in. Then he’s going to have to assess Uber’s leaders and figure out who can help and who cannot, building a new leadership team almost immediately.