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Most of you are aware of the leadership challenges and changes at Uber, the company some of us love or hate.

It all started with founder Travis Kalanick, who rose with the company as its first CEO and really defined the hard knock culture that ultimately took him down.  Things got too crazy and Kalanick was out, replaced by the Uber board by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi - primary to bring grown up leadership to the company that defined an entirely new business segment (ridesharing). Uber

And for the most part, Khosrowshahi has done that.  If you've watched any TV recently, you've seen him featured in Uber commercials saying that the company is rebuilding itself in a responsible way.  

Khosrowshahi is the equivalent of a dad in this rebuild.  And sometimes Dads try to be hip and it all goes to hell.  Such was the case recently at Uber, when Khosrowshahi penned a memo asking "WHO HAS THE D", which immediately sent everyone with Snapchat (and perhaps even Instagram) loaded on their smartphone snickering.  More on this memo from Gizmodo:

"When he took over the company in August of last year, Dara Khosrowshahi was tasked with rehabilitating the fratboy image of Uber—a company where harassment was rampant, and internal memos had to advise employees how not to have sex with their coworkers. But based on a leaked memo, less than a year into the new CEO’s tenure, Khosrowshahi has been giving “the D” to staffers in meetings.

Fortunately we’re not talking about any sort of sexual impropriety (to the best of our knowledge). The memo, obtained by Business Insider, outlines a method to avoid bureaucratic bloat, where Khosrowshahi writes:

You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here’. This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same."

 You know—the D. As in, “you can stay and observe if you want to, but for the duration of this organizational planning meeting, I’m giving Brad the D.”
 
Oh boy, here we go.  More from the same article:
 
Dara's confusion seems based on a single Harvard Business Review article from January of 2006 titled, “Who Has the D?: How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance.” Here are some quotes from that turgid, 4,500-word piece that was certainly helpful to a businessperson somewhere:

“they must [...] elevate the issue to the person with the D.”

“the person with the D needs good business judgment”

“The buyers were given the D”

“there may be good reasons to locate the D”

“the D resided with headquarters”

“who is responsible for providing valuable input and who has the D”

“The theme here is a lack of clarity about who has the D”

Urban Dictionary cites “the D” as a synonym for penis—and by synecdoche, a form of sex—going back to 2004. Uber’s worst days may be behind it, but perhaps this is a sign the company is entering a golden age of public gaffes that are fun instead of deeply upsetting.

Yes. Uber is run by your dad.  And when Dads act cool and trendy, bad things can happen.

When Dads are CEOs and their communications leaders/PR/HR people are older Dads and Moms, memos like this happen.

Somewhere in the last month, Dara brought up "the D" in a leadership meeting.  He was frustrated by decision speed and the amount of meetings he saw in the company.  He thought they had grown to0 bloated in their concerns not to make mistakes.

He remembered the HBR article, and informed everyone on the leadership team that somebody "had to have the D".  He said he was going to send a memo the entire company.

No one stopped him, or said that aloud to themselves later and googled it.  Hilarious.

If this isn't a theme in the next season of HBO's Silicon Valley next year, I'm canceling my subscription.  

 

Comments

TimSackett

KD -

Love this so much! Because I'm a Dad and always embarrassing my sons with this kind of stupid stuff! I've got a couple of thoughts:

1. I would fire so many people over this! How did his support team allow this to go out without protecting him!?

2. At Applebee's we called this "Giving away your "A" card" - the decision tree being you have A, B, and C decisions, not "D"! "A" decisions were decisions you completely owned on your own. "B" decisions were decisions you shared with another party or even more than one party. "C" decisions you had no decisionmaking authority, crap was just going to happen to you!

I'm completely down with the D! Wait, no I'm not, I think. What is the D again?

T

Bill Kutik

I though the D was Desire to win. As a trained, tested and vetted NYC taxi-driver for six weeks after college, I pass on enterprises that disrupt the status quo simply by breaking the law....Bill

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