Fixing Uber Will Require More Than Ousting Its Leader – The Atlantic

Replacing any CEO, especially one who is pushed out amidst controversy, is a significant task. Whoever Uber hires or promotes to fill the role could drastically alter operations, or continue to proliferate the same problems. Kropp says that replacing a founder-CEO is often an especially tricky task. In cases where the company is doing well and the CEO is well-loved, it makes sense to promote internally, someone who could potentially continue the current path. For established companies with CEO problems, it can serve to change tacks completely, bringing in an outsider. But for a startup such as Uber, a fairly young company with a CEO who left under very public and difficult circumstances, neither might be quite right. An internal hire may be seen as having accepted and contributed to the existing problems. An outsider may have a difficult time acclimating and understanding which factors make Uber special and unique, and are worth retaining. An outsider may also want to make their mark by completely changing the brand, and that can create corporate and cultural destruction in a different way. The sweet spot, Kropp says, would be someone who has worked at the company before, but then left and was successful elsewhere. And that’s not easy to come by.

In order to create real and lasting change, Uber will need to spend money, Kropp says, not just try to implement one-time changes. “A lot of companies try to talk themselves out of these sorts of cultural challenges. They’ll write memos, send notes, make presentations, saying things need to change. But at the end of the day, if you’re not spending money to try to change the problem, they likelihood that you’re actually able to change the culture is incredibly low.” Forcing the CEO out is certainly a bold step toward change, but Kropp says that alone won’t be enough. Instead, salvaging Uber will require constant investment and training for initiatives that will constantly reinforce the company’s new values, accepted behaviors, and expectations. They’ll need to hire people who align with the new values, and create new roles, such as the one Frances Frei, the new senior vice president of leadership and strategy, inhabits. They’ll also need to expand their budgets to help the people in those new roles build teams and implement big changes that can influence the culture. And they’ll have to implement ongoing methods of measuring progress and sussing out new problems. Without those continuing efforts, eventually muscle memory will kick in and everyone will go back to their same old behavior, new CEO or not.


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