When One System Fails Another
Blog: Form Follows Function
Ten days ago, when I wrote the post “Uber and the Cost of a Culture of Corruption”, I said that assuming there will be negative consequences (both legal and financial) from the incidents in the news, then it is in Uber’s best interests to fix the problem that led to them in the first place. The negative consequences are now becoming visible in the form of people abandoning ship.
Over the weekend, Uber’s president, Jeff Jones, resigned with the following statement:
I joined Uber because of its Mission, and the challenge to build global capabilities that would help the company mature and thrive long-term.
It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.
There are thousands of amazing people at the company, and I truly wish everyone well.
Travis Kalanick’s announcement to Uber’s employees, while factually accurate (the decision did come after the announcement of the search for a COO), doesn’t quite convey Jones’ reasons for leaving:
I wanted to let you know that Jeff Jones has decided to resign from Uber.
Jeff joined Uber in October 2016 from being CMO at retailer Target. In 6 months, he made an important impact on the company—from his focus on being driver obsessed to delivering our first brand reputation study, which will help set our course in the coming months and year.
After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn’t see his future at Uber. It is unfortunate that this was announced through the press but I thought it was important to send all of you an email before providing comment publicly.
Rachel, Pierre and Mac will continue to lead the Global Ops teams, reporting to me until we have signed a COO. Troy Stevenson, who leads CommOps, and Shalin Amin who leads brand design will report to Rachel Holt. Ab Gupta will report to Andrew MacDonald.
Jones is not the only Uber executive to resign this weekend. Brian McClendon, vice president in charge of Uber’s mapping, is “…leaving to return to his hometown in Kansas”.
These resignations are also not the only recent executive casualties. Ed Baker, vice president of product and growth, had also announced his departure earlier this month amid questions regarding his conduct with other Uber employees. This came after senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal was asked to resign when it was discovered that he failed to disclose that he was investigated for sexual harassment while at Google.
It’s cliché to talk about people as assets, but for companies like Uber, their talent really does comprise the majority of their value. While the media will take note of high-profile departures like these, it would be a mistake to consider them the entirety of the damage. How many lesser known employees have left or will be leaving as a result of the recent scandals? How much potential talent will pass by opportunities at Uber due to what’s happened? In particular, how much harder will this make Kalanick’s search for a Chief Operating Officer who can turn things around?
If the talent drain is not quickly plugged, what happens to the quality of Uber’s service?
This situation perfectly illustrates the theme of organizations as systems. Uber’s software and business model have done well for it, but the culture created by the lack of leadership and lack of ethics of its management may well sink it. One bad component can bring down a system, whether software or social. The tragedy is that the innocent would be harmed along with the guilty.