After a long litany of troubles, Uber got a new CEO, former Expedia chief Dara Khosrowshahi, a new funding round, and some hope to finally get things on track. But a recent interview he gave shows another problem on the horizon.
Khosrowshahi told Kara Swisher from Recode at a conference that his biggest fear is "that the company's too dependent on me making decisions," as CNBC reported.
Is that crazy? Aren't CEOs hired to make decisions?
They are, but so are other people. It's a classic problem in management and delegation. When one person makes all the decisions, they become a bottleneck. Everything enters a narrow line and waits its turn.
I remember learning the point quickly when I was first in management. Even as an entrepreneur, you can find yourself the chief cook and bottle washer. You pride yourself in being on top of everything and getting tasks done.
But what works as a one person band falls apart when what you need is an orchestra.
Your pride in personal accomplishments becomes a limiting factor. It's impossible to get everything done. Others also need pride of accomplishment and ownership. You're keeping them from it and making their jobs far more difficult.
That's doesn't seem like the identical issue for Khosrowshahi. He's been a successful CEO for years. More importantly, he's the one who noticed the problem. No one else had to point it out to him.
However, he faces a variation of this. Uber is a company in a dangerous position. There are all the regulatory and legal issues, cultural faults with factors like significant sexual harassment, questions of whether drivers (many of whom seem dissatisfied) are contractors or employees, and money. Particularly money.
Despite having gained a total investment -- so far -- of $21.7 billion, which is astounding, the company still loses enormous sums, which is even more amazing. Uber ran $4.5 billion in red ink during 2017.
Even though the company claims to be moving toward profitability and a 2019 IPO, that is one stunning amount of money at stake. Khosrowshahi is the person who has to fix it. The entanglements include boosting revenues, retaining drivers, cutting costs, and who knows how much more. In other words, virtually every aspect of the business.
Oh, don't forget cash flow. Uber has enough cash on hand for about a year.
"Khosrowshahi says he has been overly focused on getting tasks accomplished and hasn't yet invested enough time in developing Uber's leadership," CNBC reported. You think? It's a wonder he can even consider whether he should have done it already.
And yet, he does think so and he's right. Until he can get a team of executives to think and work his way, so their decisions would be his decisions, he'll be second guessing everything.
There is, however, a different approach as well. Push the decisions back and let the executive staff make them. Ultimately they need to, and they might also come up with better solutions that the CEO.
The company has made many, many, many mistakes. Even still, Khosrowshahi should consider whether he's doing the right thing by trying to develop a set of decision clones, or if a slightly looser grip and more trust could win out. You can correct bad decisions and redirect choices. But when people get into the habit of thinking that they aren't allowed to make decisions and must go to you with everything, you're in dangerous waters.